The Alfresco 4.0 Community Edition has been out since October, with an upcoming Enterprise release in the next month or so. Alfresco has dubbed Alfresco 4.0 as “the most significant release” of Alfresco to date. Instead of summarizing the major new functionality features and enhancements, below are some new features in the core Alfresco repository which will be provided in the upcoming release and how they compare to functionality provided on the Documentum platform:
File System Transfer Receiver / Social Content Publishing
Alfresco has always provided the ability to publish to a file system as part of the AVM. This functionality has finally been added to the core DM repository. For purposes such as WCM, this is great for publishing static images and content. This is an extension of the existing Transfer Service developed to publish to runtime Alfresco instances. Additionally Social Content Publishing provides a framework to publish to external content delivery services such as Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SlideShare, etc. If required, the framework allows to create and register custom publishing channels, whether they are internal or external in nature.
In the Documentum product suite, Interactive Deployment Services (formerly Site Caching Services) drives content publishing. By default, content is published to a file system and metadata to a set of database tables. The release of Interactive Deployment Services added an integration of xDB to allow for two way communication, similar to the use of an Alfresco Runtime repository.
Interactive Deployment Services is licensed as a separate repository component, whereas Alfresco has included this as part of the core repository functionality. The File System Transfer Receiver by default does not publish metadata to a set of database tables, but could easily be done by extending Transfer Services capability or leveraging an Alfresco Runtime instance. Publishing metadata to Solr or NoSQL databases are common approaches as well.
Alfresco has now added Solr integration in the Alfresco platform. Lucene has long been an integral part of the core Alfresco repository, indexing content and metadata for search. In some situations, In-transaction indexing could hamper repository performance for bulk imports. Solr can now be deployed separate from the repository for better performance and scalability.
This reminds me of the progression of full text search in the “old” days when Documentum used to leverage Verity for full text search. Verity was deployed as part of the repository, and not separated out. It wasn’t until FAST was introduced that a separate server was required. With the release of xPlore, this is also the case, and makes sense given the memory and I/O resources required to index content. So far, xPlore is a huge improvement over FAST, in regards to performance and scalability.
From a feature perspective, both the xPlore and Alfresco Solr integrations are very similar. First, both can scale independently as the repository grows. Second, metadata, content (for Full Text), and security ACLs are also indexed to provide faster search performance. Third, they follow a model of eventual consistency, asynchronously indexing content which may vary depending upon the load of the indexer. Finally, faceted search capabilities are also provided, giving guided search based on defined attributes.
Although generally both xPlore and Alfresco’s Solr integreation are similar in terms of functionality provided, there are differences in the underlying architecture. xPlore is compromised of both Lucene and an integration with xDB (formerly the x-Hive database), whereas Alfresco is leveraging Solr, an open source search platform based on Lucene. xPlore therefore leverages xQuery, translated to Lucence queries, as its primary query language, and Alfresco leverages Lucene directly.
One difference we’ve noticed between the repositories is that, since Alfresco’s SOLR integration is “eventually consistent”, it is not trivial to guarantee the accuracy of search results relative to the data in the system at a given moment. While Documentum’s xPlore index is also designed to be eventually consistent, DQL provides a means of querying transactionally consistent metadata by querying directly against the database. This is something to consider for application developers, and can be worked around but not necessarily an issue for end users.
In Alfresco, attributes may now be encrypted, providing an additional layer of security to prevent viewing of secure metadata unless you have the proper access. Alfresco provides mechanisms to generate the Keystore and apply them and register them with the repository. Documentum does not provide individual attribute encryption instead Documentum Trusted Content Services encrypts the file store where the physical content is located. Alfresco has not yet exposed encryption at the file store, but could be handled at the operating system or storage level.
Documentum offers Trusted Content Services, which has always included file store level encryption of content, but not at the metadata later. Alfresco has not yet exposed encryption at the filestore level as well. It seems that both database and filestore encryption could be accomplished to the OS or Database level as well, but would be nice to see both implemented in both repositories.
In the next post I’ll focus on Alfresco 4.0 Workflow and Share features and functionality.