Ready for the Enterprise?

A quick look at 10 Open Source Content Management Systems which are beginning to find their way inside Enterprise IT Departments.

1. Alfresco

Alfresco is the new kid on the block. (The first public release just hit the streets in October ’05.) The system positions itself as an open source alternative to Windows SharePoint Portal Server. It features a number of desirable document management features including workflow management and audit capabilities. The system is OS independent and can operate on a variety of databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle and SQL Server. Underneath it all lies a heart of Java.

Alfresco offers a dual licensing model, with a free Open Source version of the system and several commercial versions. The Open Source version has more limited user management, but is otherwise largely comparable with the commercial versions of the program.

License: Mozilla Public License (MPL)

2. Bricolage

Bricolage is an interesting system and atypical in a number of ways. The system uses one of the more unusual configurations in this list, employing Perl as the primary scripting language and running off the PostgreSQL RDBMS. It is powerful and highly configurable, but some users may find it to be less friendly to administer than other systems on this list. It’s powerful, but the power comes at the cost of some usability. The newest version (1.9.1) addresses one of the important shortcomings (the ability to edit an entire story in one textbox), but basic users will not doubt find the administration interface a bit daunting.

Bricolage allows for configurable workflow, complex user hierarchies, multiple output channels, and even supports rollback – a rare feature in Open Source systems. The multi-site management features are particularly impressive. On the downside, Bricolage is relatively boutique and does not have a wide variety of third party created extensions available. Limited commercial support is available.

License: BSD

3. DotNetNuke

DotNetNuke is a bit of an anomaly: an Open Source CMS built on Microsoft’s .NET platform (it employs ASP.NET and VB.NET). The system is supported by a significant community and as a result has available a number of modules which can extend the functionality of the core. DotNetNuke’s strengths lie in the power of the system and the ability to create good looking websites with flexible templating. The downsides most commonly cited are the necessity possessing the .NET skillset (to modify the system) and the existence of only a few third party firms offering professional support.

Despite the name, DotNetNuke is not part of the phpNuke, PostNuke family. The system actually began as a free demo application released by Microsoft as part of their efforts to promote the .NET platform.

License: BSD variant

4. Drupal

The Drupal system has quickly won a devoted following. The popularity stems from a variety of factors: the easy to use and widely available LAMP platform, the PHP-based code, the ability to run either MySQL or PostgreSQL, and the easy to use admin system. The community surrounding the Drupal project is large and has developed a wide assortment of modules for the platform. This system has been translated into a number of languages. Templating with the system is not necessarily the easiest, but should present no problems to anyone with PHP skills.

Drupal’s forte is community-oriented content and the site works very well at that level. The system has been the target of some criticism relating to security, but the vulnerabilities are frankly no worse than anyone else’s. Only limited commercial support is available through third parties.

License: GPL

5. EzPublish

Though not as widely known as some of the other systems on this list, ezPublish enjoys a good reputation and claims to have more than 1,000,000 downloads to date. The system is backed by a corporate partner, ezSystems, who bases their business model on a dual licensing scheme that allows them to sell a professional version of the product, along with add-ons and support. Without a large developer community to support it, eZPublish lacks the wide choices of add-ons you find with some of the other systems on this list, but you can find the most common items, including a large number of translations and solid commerce options.

While it is powerful, the system does receive some criticism for being less than user-friendly and a bit bulky. Still, that said, if you are looking for a hardy application with commercial support and backing, it is definitely worth looking at.

License: multiple licenses

6. Magnolia

Magnolia was launched just over 2 years ago and in that time has gone through some serious improvement and evolved into a powerful system. More framework than CMS, the current version is based on the Java Content Repository Standard JSR-170. The Magnolia Server (or Framework) includes options for content management, document management, and business process navigation (BPN). Backed by the firm obinary, Magnolia presents a rather complicated dual licensing model. The CMS component and Magnolia Server can be used free of charge, but document management and the BPN module are fee-based.

Magnolia is built around J2EE and while it can be run on all common operating systems, the JDK requirement will be a show stopper for some. As the system lacks a large developer community, extension modules are few and far between. Professional support, however, is available from obinary.

License: dual licenses

7. Mambo

Mambo is built on the LAMP platform and employs PHP as the scripting language. It is one of the most popular Open Source CMSes, largely due to the ease of installation, the ease of use, and the wealth of options for extending the core. The downsides from an enterprise perspective, however, are significant, as Mambo lacks the ability to handle complex workflow, highly granular user management, rollback or multiple site administration.

The system makes up for many of the drawbacks with its flexibility and the ease with which the code can be modified to suit the users’ needs. Mambo is highly configurable and the PHP code base is very tolerant of modification. The templating is simple and effective, allowing for extensive control of a site’s look and feel. The system is backed by a nonprofit Foundation and commercial support is available from third party vendors.

License: GPL

8. Midgard

Midgard provides a CMS framework which runs atop the LAMP stack, utilizing PHP as the scripting language. The system also provides integration interfaces with Java and C, giving it more flexibility than many of the systems on this list. That said, it is the sort of system programmers will love, but users may find less enticing – even installation can be a bit of challenge for basic users. There is a limited number of extensions available for this system.

Midgard is an ad hoc community-driven project. Some commercial support is available through third party vendors.

License: GPL

9. OpenCMS

OpenCMS is based on Java and XML and has the flexibility to run on just about any platform. The system includes good user management, the ability to run multiple sites from one installation, and support for multiple languages. Commercial support is available from the parent company, Alkacon, and a number of other vendors.

On the downside, OpenCMS lacks a certain amount of flexibility. Templating and modifying the codeset can be a bit of a challenge given the site’s use of JSP. Moreover, the admin system, while relatively easy to use, lacks some of the advanced features available in other systems on this list. As a result of these limitations, OpenCMS sites often struggle to achieve a distinctive look and feel, tending rather toward a more uniform “portal” look.

License: LGPL

10. Plone

The Plone system has built a diehard cadre of devotees. The system is the most “exotic” on this list, being built primarily in Python and running off the Zope framework. If you’ve the stomach for Python and Zope, you should look at Plone. It is powerful, flexible and loaded with potential. The developer community which has quickly grown around this program is dedicated, verging on fanatical. They have created a number of innovative and desirable extensions for the Plone core (largely courtesy of the power of Zope). The admin interface is friendly and easy to use. Plone’s client list is quite impressive, including eBay, Lufthansa, NASA/JPL, and a number of other firms who clearly have some serious technology credentials.

If Plone can be said to be lacking in any particular area, it is in the document management feature set, which is likely to be disappointing to the enterprise webmaster.

License: GPL