The ECM company Alfresco ought to occupy a special place in the open source pantheon for readers of this blog. As well as being one of the leading companies in its category, it shows how free software can meet the most demanding enterprise needs and – most importantly, perhaps – it's British by birth and location. As such, it offers a great example to others who might be contemplating an open source start-up, and proves that you don't have to be based in California to succeed in the world of computing.
Of course, one of the challenges for the company is to continue its success, and that means moving ever onward and upward. Yesterday, I attended the Alfresco UK Meetup – not, alas, in the open air as the name might suggest. This was part sales pitch, part update, and part roadmap.
The update was mainly confirming the continuing progress of Alfresco. According to the company, there have been more than 2 million downloads of the code, and Alfresco now has more than 1,100 customers, 150,000 community members, 74,000 live sites and over a million active users. It's also been adding more big name companies to its portfolio.
Even the UK Cabinet Office was mentioned in this context, which is good news. But Alfresco's CEO, John Powell, told me that local government remains firmly in the grip of Microsoft, with the latter's SharePoint proving dangerously seductive to people looking for apparently quick and easy solutions – and oblivious of the further lock-in it implies.
This confirms that local government remains something of a disaster area for open source, although Sirius' Mark Taylor has been battling there for a while, and finally seems to be winning a few converts (although reluctant to talk about them for the moment: I look forward to hearing more in due course.)
Two things struck me about Alfresco's future roadmap. The first is how active Alfresco is these days: it seems to be advancing on many fronts (including the trendy area of cloud computing).
The second is that it clearly wants to move closer to the heart of the enterprise. That's excellent news for open source, because there's still a residual impression that it's great for infrastructure, but not so relevant for business-oriented applications. Alfresco's success in playing a greater role in this area would help to dispel that misapprehension, and pave the way for other open source products – a further reflection of its important role in this sector.