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Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

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Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

I am a Documentum developer and would like to possibly consider learning and promoting adoption of Alfresco, but I have a few problems/questions.

1) I'm trying to decide between Alfresco and Nuxeo. Alfresco seems to have more momentum (pardon the Documentum pun) in US, but at least Nuxeo is fully Open Source, meaning all the source including bug fixes that have not been included in a release are always available. Having worked with Documentum, I can imagine that it becomes easy, maybe even profitable to provide releases that are rushed, and then quickly provide bug fixes afterward that are not available to the community. Hiding any of the code, even if it is bug fixes just doesn't seem like true open source to me. This seems to provide an incentive to provide a continuously broke release with fixes already being packaged to be released a few weeks later to the paying customers.

2) How would someone like myself, who is a Documentum developer, get the supported versions of Alfresco without paying a bunch of money. My goal would be to create interest in Alfresco and promote it. How can alfresco do that in an Open Source way, if the developers who need to be promoting the application to companies don't have access to bug fixes when they become available?

3) Other than market exposure, and give the fully Open approach of Nuxeo, why would someone choose Alfresco instead?

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

heislord5 wrote:

1) I'm trying to decide between Alfresco and Nuxeo. Alfresco seems to have more momentum (pardon the Documentum pun) in US, but at least Nuxeo is fully Open Source, meaning all the source including bug fixes that have not been included in a release are always available. Having worked with Documentum, I can imagine that it becomes easy, maybe even profitable to provide releases that are rushed, and then quickly provide bug fixes afterward that are not available to the community. Hiding any of the code, even if it is bug fixes just doesn't seem like true open source to me. This seems to provide an incentive to provide a continuously broke release with fixes already being packaged to be released a few weeks later to the paying customers.

While I tend to agree that it makes sense to open the repository for read access so that people can see what is going I think there are a relatively small number of people who are interested in this access. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be there. I know Paul has answered this question before but I can't seem to find the post.

I don't think there is much incentive for Alfresco to provide buggy code. These and many other open source developers take their work seriously and there is no good for Alfresco or any one developer that can come from releasing more bugs then what happen to make it through the process -- that argument doesn't hold up.

I think the fact is that Alfresco doesn't release it's bug fixes to the community first or at the same time because of priority and process. First paying customers are the priority -- Meaning the code has to be patched tested, certified and then delivered to paying customers -- then when the heat is off the focus can be turned to the community. And second the process -- Alfresco doesn't develop in the wild -- I wish they did but they don't -- They develop on a closed branch and then release it when it is ready.

I can think of one valid reason -- cost. If they release the code prior to deeming it ready, they then have to support it. Basically the more source code there is out there, the more they have to support -- that costs money (yep the community costs money to support) Take a look at Kevinr's posting numbers, Gavin's, Davec's etc.... They are doing community support all the time and that costs money. If they keep the code walled off, get it to a reasonable state and then release it, they can cut back on cost. What they may be missing is an opportunity for QA and free bug fixes but the proof is in the numbers.

heislord5 wrote:

2) How would someone like myself, who is a Documentum developer, get the supported versions of Alfresco without paying a bunch of money. My goal would be to create interest in Alfresco and promote it. How can alfresco do that in an Open Source way, if the developers who need to be promoting the application to companies don't have access to bug fixes when they become available?

There just isn't enough of a delta between the community version and the enterprise version in the short window between the times they are release to make a big stink here IMO. There are two ways to get the supported code: pay for it or get a trial.

During long development cycles preview releases are released. I wish they were done more often but again -- this is something best judged by the numbers. How many people are really making use of the preview packages and how much effort does it take to produce them, support them in the community etc.

3) Other than market exposure, and give the fully Open approach of Nuxeo, why would someone choose Alfresco instead?

I'll have to leave this up to someone that knows more about Nuxeo (the product, the company and the community) than I do. I've tracked the product from time to time but I am sure someone else can give a better answer here than I can. I think you want to look at all of the aspects: company, community, and code.

Alfresco has a strong leadership and a very rapidly growing company, a blossoming community and great code. Does Nuxeo have that? I am not sure -- I hope so, we [the market] need good competition to make the space better.

-Russ
WEM Practice Director, Rivet Logic

Alfresco support, consulting, and training services.
http://www.rivetlogic.com

http://wiki.alfresco.com - Alfresco Wiki docs
http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Developer_Guide - Alfresco Developer Guide

Hi

So let me tell it the way it is. Most of the time we're developing against our "HEAD" code line - that's the one that everyone sees live in SVN. Any bug that's found and fixed goes straight into that code line. In the past, whenever we've got to the end of a release cycle, we create an Enterprise code line and do additional intensive testing and fixing. All fixes made in this code line are also merged to the HEAD code - sometimes immediately (always if a fix is provided by the Community), sometimes once we've got back into the next development cycle.

The Enterprise code line then continues as a stable code line for maintenance releases. People paying for support will raise issues and expect them to get fixed, which we do on this stable code line. These fixes also get merged across to HEAD.

There are nightly builds of HEAD made available from our Download page, so you can always grab the latest without having to build it yourself. For your case, you're going to have the fixes you crave. We will start to do more regular Community "releases", but we need to work out how best to manage it (we don't want to divert too much effort from development).

What this all means is that HEAD is always on the bleeding edge, while Enterprise code is more reliable and predictable. If someone's going to use Alfresco in production, then they're devaluing their business by skimping on paying for support. Fortunately, most sensible companies are paying for support and stability, so Alfresco has been able to grow strongly. Building Enterprise software isn't a hobby, it's a commitment that needs clever and experienced people.

So, take a look at Nutsio, that's how this Open Source thing is supposed to work. See where they've taken design ideas from us - who do you want to be with, the leader or the Alfresco wannabe? Make up your own mind [but take a look at the number of Documentum partners that are doing Alfresco implementations, and bear in mind the places where we're displacing Documentum and Interwoven ;-)]

And remember, *all* fixes we make are made available to the Community. We've made huge leaps of faith to keep our Community with us (e.g. going GPL). And the hours our core developers spend on the forums each day answering questions is exceptional. Take a look at Adobe's announcement about Open Sourcing Flex - why is Alfresco mentioned? - it's because we helped persuade them. Questioning our openess and commitment to Open Source is unfair.

Cheers
Paul.

Dr Paul Holmes-Higgin
Chief Product Officer

paulhh wrote:
*all* fixes we make are made available to the Community. We've made huge leaps of faith to keep our Community with us (e.g. going GPL). And the hours our core developers spend on the forums each day answering questions is exceptional. Take a look at Adobe's announcement about Open Sourcing Flex - why is Alfresco mentioned? - it's because we helped persuade them. Questioning our openess and commitment to Open Source is unfair.

Which brings up another point ... Alfresco has a track record of introspection and change. It's demonstrable. The company isn't open source because it's a sales gimmick, they are open source because it works. They have tried, learned, changed, tried again and on and on. In short, Alfresco is alive and it is evolving as it grows and as its environment changes. That is something you won't find in every open source company or even in most companies. Alfresco is still asking the questions today not acting on yesterday’s answers.

-Russ
WEM Practice Director, Rivet Logic

Alfresco support, consulting, and training services.
http://www.rivetlogic.com

http://wiki.alfresco.com - Alfresco Wiki docs
http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Developer_Guide - Alfresco Developer Guide

Thanks

No offense intended. I'm just trying to figure out which way I should be focusing. I'm kinda wary of ending up in a Fedora situation. The criticism I raised is one I read on the internet in my research about the openness of their Open Source, so my intention is to see what response could be given.

Honestly, I think you've done as much or more than I would with regard to being open source. Somewhere you have to create value for your support features and it makes good business sense to do what you do.

If you wanted to completely open it up, you could make both lines available independently to the community...but that wouldn't make sense from a business perspective. Ultimately you have to keep the lights on and pay bills and salaries which means making that separate stable & predictable line available to everyone no charge would probably be unwise.

paulhh wrote:
Hi
And remember, *all* fixes we make are made available to the Community. We've made huge leaps of faith to keep our Community with us (e.g. going GPL). And the hours our core developers spend on the forums each day answering questions is exceptional. Take a look at Adobe's announcement about Open Sourcing Flex - why is Alfresco mentioned? - it's because we helped persuade them. Questioning our openess and commitment to Open Source is unfair.

So are these bug fixes available only in HEAD? If so, as a practical matter, how would one separate these out to be applied to a stable branch, if one didn't want to track HEAD?

Having just written that, effectively what we'd be doing is tracking the 'Enterprise' branch, so I suppose the question is:

Why not open up the Enterprise branch?

This isn't necessarily to the detriment of Enterprise customers -- their bugs and priorities are the ones that determine the fixes that go into that branch.

Regards,
- SteveN

Quote:

Hiding any of the code, even if it is bug fixes just doesn't seem like true open source to me.

It isn't.

But it's not really just the bug fixes that are the problem. The current
situation means that potential contributors are instead wasting their time
working around issues because they can't see the source they need
'through the keyhole', and so are actively discouraged from committing time and effort to Alfresco.

Quote:

I think there are a relatively small number of people who are interested in this access.

I don't think that's actually true, Russ, but even if that were currently the case:

    as long as it reamins the case it means that Alfresco has failed to build a
    meaningful community around its product!

    increasingly, the non-availability of the code for any given build is
    becoming a deal breaker (I've seen this more than once).
    People who buy into open source want, surprise!, open source.
    Open-ish just doesn't cut it! I've seen plenty of Microsoft's
    source code, but this doesn't help me if my PC isn't working,
    particularly if the version I've seen isn't the one causing my problem

The talk of "doing community support all the time and that costs
money"
and having to "keep the lights on and pay bills and
salaries"
simply underlines the fact that the 'Community' is
currently seen as a burden rather than an asset (or perhaps as a
markeing asset that comes at a price), and as long as it is
regarded and/or treated in that way, it may very well remain so.

You may feel, Paul, that you have "made huge leaps of faith to keep our
Community with us", but the point here is that Alfresco hasn't really
made that leap of faith yet.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not questioning the fact that Alfresco wants
to do Open Source, and to do it well. However it's clear to me that, in
spite of having some high profile OS names on board, the company
as an entity hasn't really come to terms with OS yet.

There's a lot more to be said, but it's too late tonight and I'm too tired...

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

Thanks so much for making me aware of this competing product (Nuxeo, though it is much less mature). I was unaware that any other ECM existed that offered the capabilities (at least the ones i care about) that Alfresco has.

After seeing the fire storm of complaints on Slashdot about whether Alfresco really honors the meaning of opensource it made me realize the troubling reality that due to the non transparent way that they manage there subversion repositories and the (expected) unstable state of there HEAD branch, the prospect of getting a more stable build with current bug fixes is very unlikely.

I also see that they have some interesting features on the roadmap (v5.5) such as 21CFR Part 11 support via the (out-of-the-box) ability to digitally sign electronic document inside a workflow (approve/sign ; reject/sign). A feature that myself and others that work in heavily regulated industries (like Pharma) need and cannot imagine deploying any solution that lacks such a feature (see my post on minimum requirement of 21cfr part11....awareness of person signing doc ).

I would like to say that i am impressed with Alfresco and it is the most feature rich (also has far more developers). However there is a growing sentiment that it is not truly operating like an open source company with regards to code access and transparency and it is something that i believe will cause people to migrate to other solutions even less mature than Alfresco.

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

Come on, this is a bit cheeky - that sounds like an advert for Nutseo on our forums. Good luck with it, we have *no* worries about them. We're completely open about our model and it is open source.

Paul.

Dr Paul Holmes-Higgin
Chief Product Officer

Re: Alfresco vs Nutseo : True Open Source

Paul et al,

I do have a question about fixes being provided and how they are distributed. If fixes are happening in the Enterprise fork of the product and these same issues may be corrected by someone in the community, how are you resolving these two different fixes? It seems that the community isn't really being asked to participate in the product because if I do make any changes to source, they could be undermined by an 'official' fix that moves from Enterprise to Community at the next release date. Am I wrong?

Re: Alfresco vs Nutseo : True Open Source

Alfresco has full visibility into all commits (to both the labs and enterprise branches) so this is unlikely to become an issue in practice. On top of this, bug fixes are merged into the labs branch soon* after being fixed in enterprise, so the window between a fix being made and it appearing in the labs branch is usually small (typically of the order of days, although as with anything there are outlyers), further reducing the chances of this kind of conflict occurring in practice.

* where "soon" is defined to be "as soon as is possible, given the the engineers' workload" - it's in no one's interest for the labs and enterprise code bases to diverge too far, so there's a natural incentive to merge bug fixes across as quickly as circumstances allow.

Cheers,
Peter

Re: Alfresco: Open Source

It is worth making one thing very clear: if someone from the Community contributes a fix or a feature, that goes into the Community code first. Always.

We don't hide what fixes have been made in the Enterprise maintenance releases and they always get into the Community code. However, in the real world, where we are paying full-time, world-class developers we obviously have to concentrate on the commitments we make to people that pay for our Enterprise support and maintenance. If we don't, there will be no continually growing Alfresco. Look at the speed of development of most open source projects that are done by people who are not on it full-time and you'll see that it's usually glacial. You want to have your cake and eat it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_one%27s_cake_and_eat_it_too) for your "true" open source.

I think you'll see with the new application and framework that is coming with 3.0 that there will be much easier ways for people to contribute functionality and components without being Java gurus. The easier it is for more people to implement extensions, the more will become available to the Community.

Paul.

Dr Paul Holmes-Higgin
Chief Product Officer

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

paulhh wrote:
Come on, this is a bit cheeky - that sounds like an advert for Nutseo on our forums. Good luck with it, we have *no* worries about them. We're completely open about our model and it is open source.

Paul.


In retrospect i believe that it was wrong to make such grandiose statements about Nuxeo, frankly i have not used their product and i am sure it has its own ills. I did however state/imply that Alfresco is much more mature and I also (at the risk of sounding overly sycophantic) I believe it has an excellent engineering team.

My company likes Alfresco and while our initial pilot deployment was marred with problems (due to the instability of the HEAD branch code, the only branch available) we liked what we were able to do in/with the product, except for the obvious lack of support for 21CFR Part 11 style sign/approve and sign/reject and the absence of this feature on the published Roadmap (if/when we do purchase Alfresco there will have to be guarantees that 21CFR Part 11 is fully supported).

So maybe my not too subtle attempt at bringing to light my desires has only served to get the attention and raise the ire of a developer, but I would think that these are important issues being raised in this thread (also on slashdot) and while it maybe fine to say "feel free to move on to competitor X" I would think that a better approach would be to see if there are concerns that are of merit in the community that are worth investigating regarding licensing (ok, in my case features also).
I recently had this discussion with a senior member of the Compiere product group about the lack of product/documentation openness (unlike Alfresco there was no active "community") and this resulted in users migrating to other solutions and a fracturing of the community/product, they have since adopted a more open/transparent process.

The truth is, with the nature and complexity of ERPs (in the case of Compiere) and ECMs (i.e. holding valuable customer data) a user/company cannot afford downtime or outages and for that matter data-loss. These are products of information aggregation and all but the small mom and pop businesses will think twice about deploying these platforms without support contract.
So my argument is that Alfresco Inc. should listen to the concerns/rants and if possible offer solutions that are long term beneficial to the company and the testers/users (of the opensource version).

-Kurt
P.s. Also add 21CFR-P11 support to the roadmap !

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

Can I also add that while I see a lot of mention about access to code but not about stability releases

Can I refer you to
http://forums.alfresco.com/en/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=14330&p=47380&hilit=Stable+Version#p47380

Now I really like the essence of that post - community support is going to get better - but it clearly is not good at the moment - apparently there has not been a "stable" release since 2.1 and there have not been any patches to the 2.1 release.

Supporting paying customers understandably takes a priority - but there are bugs in 2.1 that are causing me trouble and I can vouch for the instability of the more recent community releases.

Re: Alfresco vs Nuxeo : True Open Source

kurtkbee wrote:
I would like to say that i am impressed with Alfresco and it is the most feature rich (also has far more developers). However there is a growing sentiment that it is not truly operating like an open source company with regards to code access and transparency and it is something that i believe will cause people to migrate to other solutions even less mature than Alfresco.

That would be unfortunate. It would also be foolish, IMHO. There are two good reasons that Nuxeo is not as good as Alfresco, and likely never will be:

1. It doesn't have engineers with as much talent and experience in ECM as Alfresco has.
2. It doesn't have a business model that will allow it to scale to the demanding enterprise requirements for which companies use Alfresco.

I understand that you would like to have Alfresco give you 100% of its code, 100% of the time, for 100% no cost. Believe me, I'd love the same thing from Apple: my Mac for free, plus all the software for free.

But don't you think it's fair to pay for value you receive from Alfresco? Let's face it: you are unlikely to contribute any code back to Alfresco. You're also clearly unlikely to contribute any cash back to Alfresco (or Nuxeo, for that matter). Why is it wrong for a company to seek to find ways to give ever-increasing amounts of code away for free, but also find ways to charge prospective customers for value received?

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