Alfresco Supports Microsoft SharePoint's Protocol: Thanks, EU

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 31, 2008

We've written about Microsoft's pledges to become more interoperable, and I've agreed with other observers that much of Microsoft's motivation for these new moves comes from the trouble it's gotten into with the EU and the Justice Department. As part of complying with the EU's demands, the company has released the specifications for the Microsoft Office interfaces, and now we're seeing some of the benefits spill over into open source. Alfresco, which makes open source enterprise content management (ECM) software, has added SharePoint interoperability to the beta of its Labs 3 offering, downloadable now. Microsoft SharePoint is a browser-based collaboration and document managment platform, and I like it. Here's the upshot.

As a result of its legal problems with the EU, Microsoft was forced to expose key  protocols for Microsoft Office. Previously, Microsoft offerings such as SharePoint tended to tie in very tightly with Office, but other platforms couldn't leverage SharePoint's content sharing and collaboration features. This is a shame, because SharePoint is very useful as a shared online document repository for teams--often traveling teams--to collaborate with. It's been used by two of the sales organizations at companies I've worked at, and often saved team members from doing inefficient things like storing multiple copies of the same documents, creating versioning messes, etc.

To be specific, Alfresco Labs 3 now supports SharePoint Protocol. This means that users of Microsoft Office applications and Alfresco can seamlessly use all applications together in many ways, and collaborate, in SharePoint fashion, on on-demand online documents.

Martin Heller at InfoWorld has posted a good screenshot here, showing how this works. Click to enlarge it. He shows Microsoft Word accessing a document in Alfresco using SharePoint Protocol (basically emulating SharePoint).

“With the massive growth of SharePoint, customers are seeking an open alternative that delivers equivalent benefits but with true platform choice,” said John Newton, CTO of Alfresco Software.  “Alfresco Labs 3 is the first ECM product to implement the SharePoint protocol and provides users with the same access from Microsoft Office, while giving companies the freedom of choice in their hardware, database, operating system, application server and portal products."

As Martin Heller notes, Alfresco's CTO and Chairman John Newton co-founded enterprise content management company Documentum. Open Road blogger Matt Asay is also VP of Business Development at the company. Alfresco sent over some notable points about what Labs 3 offers:

  1. ·         Microsoft Office SharePoint protocol support requiring no additional client installation
  2. ·         Alfresco Surf platform for building dynamic, REST-oriented web applications and collaborative web sites
  3. ·         RESTful API delivering content and collaboration services for customizing and developing Alfresco applications
  4. ·         Preview of Alfresco Share, a new social computing application
  5. ·         Document library which scales to over 100 million documents

I'm a fan of SharePoint and the collaboration it enables. This looks like a good move from Alfresco and lets hope the EU's two-fisted stance toward Microsoft results in more of this kind of sharing.