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Alfresco DevCon 2019: Documenting the future

By Duncan Whitham - 18th February 2019

It was January. It was Edinburgh. It was cold. Could the heat generated from the work at Alfresco DevCon 2019 break through the chill?  

I have only worked with Alfresco for a couple of years. My initial thoughts of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) were, “What’s the big deal? It stores documents.” This seems to be a prevalent view in the wider IT community, but having delved deeper I now know better.  Alfresco does have a Swiss Army knife feel to it at times with a vast array of functionality built around the ECM core. It is so much more than a database storing documents. 

I was genuinely surprised then to see an energised user community and an enterprise open source company making strides in the present with eyes firmly set on the future. All the 'cool' stuff was there; AWS, cloud, micro services, granular scalability. Alfresco appears to have a clear vision for the future and is going full steam ahead to make that vision a reality. Of course there was some marketing fluff to filter out, but there were tangible examples available. Docker images on GitHub. Helm scripts.   

Alfresco has listened to customer needs and started splitting down the application further into self-contained modules. Thus it is providing a more horizontally scalable application which dovetails into the current industry direction of more elastic/scalable and self healing architectures. Yes, it has gone for an AWS focussed approach, but that is in line with the prevailing IT winds. It did, however, mention Azure and Google Cloud, so those avenues may also be left open for Alfresco implementers in the future. 

So what does this all mean for us as users and developers of Alfresco? Well, it means a paradigm shift away from an installer to the brave 'new' world of containers. It means a potential headache moving from Alfresco 5.x to 6.x, but also the opportunity to upgrade skills and embrace more current technology. There were grumbles from some areas of the audience about the removal of the installer in favour of a container based architecture and mention of needing a pretty meaty laptop to stand up a working containerised Alfresco local environment. But overall it was positive stuff.

One highlight of the conference was to see Jeff Potts' session. He is a bit of a guru around content management. It was great to see he was a humble person with a sense of humour. His presentation was an Alfresco Kafka listener for node events. The code is available on GitHub. He also has an active blog which provides some really useful resources beyond the standard industry analysis.  

The future is bright. The future is green, blue and yellow!

About the author: Duncan Whitham
Duncan Whitham is a Software Engineer currently working for Zaizi on an enterprise Alfresco system with the Ministry of Justice in Sheffield. With over 20 years' experience in software development across diverse industries such as banking, government and manufacturing, Duncan has seen the good, the bad and the ugly or practices and processes.