The idea that a content management system could be a service that you access over the Web is not all that new. After all, just look at all the people using WordPress to share their every thought, or Clickability to manage their Web sites.
But content management systems in the enterprise pose some unique challenges so it's interesting to watch Alfresco bringing what amounts to a new type of enterprise application to the cloud.
Alfresco is a provider of an open source enterprise content management system (ECM) that competes with EMC Documentum, IBM, Autonomy, Oracle, Open Text and Vignette.
Because it's open source, the people that run Alfresco have no qualms about licensing revenue models that might be adversely affected by a cloud computing model. So for them, moving to the cloud essentially amounts to funding a more efficient model for distributing free software. Alfresco makes its money by consulting with customers on how best to implement and use Alfresco, as opposed to counting user licenses.
The other thing that makes Alfresco in the cloud interesting is that ECM systems are notoriously difficult to first set up, and then actually derive some value from. If the cloud computing model simplifies the setup, then the amount of time it takes to get value out of the ECM system should be sharply reduced.
What should ultimately facilitate all this content management in the cloud is a Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification that has the backing of EMC, Microsoft, IBM and Alfresco. The development of CMIS is being led by the OASIS Group and as it continues to evolve it should facilitate the transporting of content not only across diverse systems, but between ECM implementations on premise and those in the cloud.
ECM is just another type of process that is finding a home in the cloud. Ultimately, as more ECM services become available via the cloud, we'll see a lot more meaningful adoption of ECM as part of a general effort to bring some order to our collective content chaos.