Alfresco ECM Launches Open Cloud API for Mobile Apps

Alfresco has released a new open API for its cloud-based Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform, Alfresco in the Cloud. The new API is designed to provide developers who are building apps for iOS and Android (as well as the cloud) with a "true enterprise alternative to consumer file-sharing APIs," such as Dropbox, Box and iCloud.

Alfresco's open source ECM platform is well-known among developers of content-centric business apps. But the company is hoping the new API will attract a wider audience of mobile and cloud developers. The first enterprise cloud integration to use the new API, Alfresco Connector for Salesforce, was unveiled at the annual Dreamforce conference in September.

"The Salesforce connector integrates with things like opportunities and contacts -- all the different types of objects inside Salesforce," Alfresco's CTO John Newton told ADTmag. "And we actually get the meta-data -- the context -- and add that to the documents and to the workflow. If it's, say, a high-value contract, we can treat that differently. That's not something you can do in a simple file-sharing service like Dropbox, or even [Salesforce's own] Chatterbox."

Alfresco also announced an integration of its cloud and on-premise (Alfresco Enterprise) platforms as Alfresco One. The company billed the combined solution as the first to provide mobile, cloud, and on-premise sync capabilities on a single platform.

"We took a cloud-based solution that is very easy to set up and very adaptable, and then integrated that with an on-premise private instance of Alfresco," Newton said, "then we synchronized, not just the content, but the business processes, as well. It's the same application, just two different delivery mechanisms."

Alfresco debuted its API for Alfresco in the Cloud at the annual JavaOne conference. The company plans to follow up the release with software development kits (SDKs) designed to make it easier for developers to embed Alfresco capabilities in their iOS and Android applications.

Alfresco's platforms are based on the Apache Software Foundation's (ASF) Apache Chemistry project, an open source implementations of the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification (which has nothing to do with actual chemistry). The project aims to define a domain model, Web Services, and RESTful AtomPub bindings that can be used by applications to work with multiple content management (CM) repositories.

The CMIS interface is designed to be layered on top of existing CM systems and their existing programmatic interfaces, Newton explained. The spec isn't meant to prescribe how specific features should be implemented within those CM systems, but to define a generic set of capabilities provided by a CM system and a set of services for working with those capabilities.

Alfresco is a U.K.-based company founded in 2005 by Newton (a co-founder of Documentum) and John Powell, former COO of Business Objects. Newton is also the Chair of the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM). The company's catch phrase, "cloud connected content," characterizes its evolving approach to ECM, he said.

"We invented document management to go beyond simple file sharing, to add context and business process, to ensure the accuracy and productivity of the information," he said. "The old shared drives just didn't give that to you, and what we've really got now with all these file sharing applications is the shared-drive problem in the cloud."

The new API for Alfresco in the Cloud is available now. Developers can request an API key on the company's Web site here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].