Some of our larger regulated industry (Pharma, Utliity…) clients are looking into Alfresco to see if it could be used to manage their controlled documentation and potentially replace Documentum. This post will present our most recent in-depth analysis based on common document control requirements.
The first question we commonly hear is: Does Alfresco contain all the necessary functionality?
The short answer is yes. Alfresco does contain all of the key content management components (versioning, lifecycle, workflow, security, etc.) that Documentum and other ECM solutions contain (See Table Below). To prove this out we recently took our High Performance Interface (HPI) and hooked it up to run on Alfresco. The demonstration, which will be posted in our knowledge base shortly, really shows off that Alfresco can handle the typical controlled documentation requirements. It also shows off how the user can be unaware of the technology platform that is being leveraged… HPI/Alfresco looks just like HPI/Documentum!
Many of our clients have customized the OOTB Documentum interfaces to enable business specific functionality (only allow delegation of a workflow task to users in my groups, specialized linked CR processing, etc.). Do not expect Alfresco to contain OOTB logic to support these types of customized business processes. Alfresco does have the framework (rules, actions, web services architecture, spring, etc.) to enable business-specific rules to be integrated as well as integrations with other third party products.
This table lists the Alfresco functionality evaluated. For more detailed information on any of the topics below, feel free to contact us.
|Functionality||Alfresco Contains Functionality||3rd Party Add On||Notes|
|Security||X||Supports role-based security, folder inheritance|
|Object Model, Properties, Value Assistance||X||Supports custom object types, properties, repeating, required, value assistance, etc. Note Alfresco’s use of aspects and data lists to make maintenance easier|
|Searching||X||Supports full text and property searches, wild cards, saved searches.|
|Reporting||X||Cognos, Custom, Business Objects, etc.|
|File Transfer Protocol||X||Uses standard HTTP file transfer protocol rather than UCF transfer applet that Documentum utilizes|
|Versioning||X||Supports major and minor versions|
|Audit Trail||X||Contains a built in audit trail or user can write events to own audit table|
|Linking||X||Supports peer-to-peer and parent- child linking|
|Renditions||X||Can convert native file to PDF when a specific action is performed (i.e. check-in). Renditions stored as association or within a property|
|Rendering||X||X||Open Office, or others can be linked in|
|Lifecycles||X||Lifecycle state tracked in a property. Allows for more flexibility.|
|Workflow||X||Utilizes Activiti. Supports parallel and/or serial workflows, proxy, delegation, email notifications, notification for overdue or almost-due tasks, Part 11 Compliance, etc.|
|Configuration Ability||X||Many options in Alfresco platform utilizing rules, action, Spring , XML framework|
|Records Management||X||Alfresco contains a separate Records Manager product that is DoD 5015.02 certified.|
|Mobile||X||Alfresco is already wired for simple mobile integration (RESTful API, HTTP transfer protocol, etc.)|
|XML||X||X||Supports storing of XML content. Can integrate with XML authoring tools|
|Advanced Publishing||X||Custom job working with rendering solution|
|Advanced Forms||X||ActiveWizard, others…|
Etienne Jouvin says
About File Transfert Protocol, I think this is missing some point:
Alfresco uses Flash in the application Share.
But, you can also play with CIFS, Webdav, FTP. You can also contribute by an email to a specific mailbox.
Does Alfresco support Trusted Content Services style ACLs – with required groups and required group sets?
Our clients have used TCS in the past for both e-Signatures and encryption. Not one client uses required groups and group sets within their implementation. Alfresco does contain the capability to support both e-sigs with 3rd party software add-ons and encryption will be supported in Alfresco’s 4.0 release. Alfresco does this without using required groups and group set functionality. Feel free to contact me with any further questions.
Although not OOTB Alfresco provides developers with the ability to customise the authorisation mechanism. You’ll have to hack away at the Alfresco/Acegi stuff (security interceptors, etc). This approach will support all clients such as Share, WEBAD, CIFS, etc as it’s done at the repository layer.
This is the approach that the Records Management module takes. I’ve implemented similar functionality to required groups for a client that wanted a very specific security system.
How can one achieve this requirement in Alfresco? Previously in Documentum we added the required group, e.g. Secret to the ACL assigned to the content, to only allow users with security clearances of Secret to access this document.
Alfresco has behaviors and rule functionality, which is similar to the Documentum Business Object Framework. This could be one potential way to solve your problem.
To clarify the above post, it is our understanding that attribute/value encryption functionality will be updated in the upcoming Alfresco 4.0 release. Content encryption would still be a customization.
How good is encryption Key-Management in Alfresco?
e.g. in Documentum you have
A passphrase -> that encrypts the AEK -> that encrypts the repository key (in DB) -> that encrypts the filestore key (in DB) -> that encrypts the content
There is good separation here – e.g. Person 1 knows the passphrase, Person 2 has access to the server but not the DB & Person 3 has access to the DB not the AEK on the server
However there are little or no provisions for recycling keys – especially the AEK (which is the root)
So Alfresco does not currenlty provide content encryption in the repository, only encryption for attribute values. This is a new feature relased in the 4.0 platform. Alfresco leverages java key stores. A full description on how it works is on the Alfresco wiki here.
This list is based on evaluating Alfresco against Documentum capabilities. Are there any differentiating capabilities Alfresco provides which Documentum doesn’t?
The overall functionality seen and felt by end users (Search, Renditions, Workflow, Content Modeling, etc.) is very similar. There may be minor details that are different from the two such as automatic notifications when a workflow task is overdue. The differences are more prominent in the underlying architecture.
• Alfresco is Open Source. vs. other vendors being Closed Source. Open Source allows you to have more access to source code for troubleshooting.
• Alfresco has REST-based API’s and the ability to extend them, which may make it easier to integrate with other enterprise solutions
• Alfesco has a smaller installation footprint
• Different Price Points for each software