Friday, April 24, 2009

Alfresco UK Meetup

Yesterday I attended the Alfresco UK meetup at Sun's UK HQ in Camberley. There were several presentations from customers & partners, as well as from John Newton, CTO & John Powell, CEO of Alfresco.

The elephant in the room was Oracle of course. Both Newton & Powell addressed themselves to concerns about the consequences for Open Source of the proposed Oracle acquisition of Sun. Overnight Oracle would become one of the biggest players in the Open Source arena, even if only indirectly through its ownership of Java & MySQL. Newton was upbeat about the future of both under Oracle, not least because MySQL is fully open source - if we don't like what Oracle are doing, we can use the code to create another 'MySQL'. That said, the fact that were we talking about it illustrates the degree of uncertainty that Oracle's move has caused in the Open Source world.

This uncertainty has consquences. In uncertain times, companies need reassurance when making technology choices. Oracle need to make their position crystal clear with regard to both Java & MySQL - we need actions as well as words. This is a pressing need, because the global recession is actually an opportunity for Open Source solutions to illustrate that they enable companies/Govt departments to do more with less.

The best and most interesting presentation illustrated the last point above. A representative from Islington Council gave an overview of their experience of using Alfresco as a document management and intranet platform. Alfresco was originally thrown into the mix at the requirements analysis stage to act as a 'sanity check' against the three EDRM solutions that were already in use at Islington. In the end only Alfesco met all the requirements - Islington adopted Open Source almost by chance.

Only after adopting and using Alfresco did the opportunities that Alfresco offers for shared publishing, collaborative team working, project dashboards, community forums, etc become apparent. It was then that Islington decided to use Alfresco for their new intranet. Since then their adoption of Alfresco has repaid handsomely.

So, in consequence, perhaps Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun (& Java & MySQL) won't have any real downsides for Open Source, but we need this confirming asap, lest more Islington scenarios are missed due to uncertainty in the Open Source landscape.
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