Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Drupal and Alfresco

Jeff Potts has a nice post about how Alfresco and Drupal complement each other today but will wind up competing as Alfresco develops its front end capability (Alfresco is all back-end. Drupal is all front end). Jeff, who is writing a book on Alfesco and was the 2007 North American Contributor of the Year for Alfresco, lists five areas that we can expect Alfresco to improve on the front end.

When a project moves, it is important to consider where it is coming from (and potentially what it is leaving behind) as well as where it is going. Sometimes a product's heritage holds it back other times the product leaves a trail of frustrated customers. Both Drupal and Alfresco are on the move. Drupal has evolved to be more suitable for very large, commercial websites. Several people commented that Drupalcon 2008 in Boston saw a much greater commercial presence than earlier events. Drupal employers and Drupal related businesses are now active in the Drupal community and are helping to shape its future. But the Drupal community still has to consider the many small non-profit, departmental and personal sites running on the platform. Many of the improvements designed to help the enterprise will also help the small guy. Others times there may be conflict around priorities (do you spend more resources on improving caching and clustering or making it easier to install on Plesk or cPanel?).

Alfresco is facing similar questions but it is coming from the other direction. It's early base was the "ECM for the rest of us" market - medium to large companies doing simple document management. While the latest improvements on the WCM side are very excited to people wanting to build innovative Web 2.0-style web applications, they may be less relevant to the core customer base. Alfresco has a lot of resources, but they still need to make choices around prioritization.

It is all a matter of not being able to be all things to all people. Alfresco and Drupal are both fortunate to be in the positions that they are in. They both have achieved high levels of success in their original target market and are looking to expand their range. But it is not all about expansion, it is also about focus - what to focus on and what to turn away from.