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Former Interwoven exec: Follow me and switch to open source CMS

Open source content management software is going to turn the CMS market on its head this year, says Kevin Cochrane. In this Q&A, he explains why open source CMS is hot, hot enough to lure him away from proprietary CMS vendor Interwoven.

In one year's time, Alfresco vice president of engineering Kevin Cochrane hopes the content management (CMS) space has been upended by open source.

He also hopes that Alfresco -- once the dust has settled and the IBM's and EMC's of the commercial CMS world have been cut at the knees by his firm's open source CMS applications – finds itself at the top of this heap as the de facto standard in Web content management.

Cochrane cut his chops in Web content management at his previous position at Interwoven, where he led development of the industry's most dominant Web content management system.

Today, as the vice president of an open source company, Cochrane aspires to do the same by way of a less expensive, community developed model which is scheduled to be released by Alfresco later this year.

Describe the role you'll be playing at Alfresco?

Kevin Cochrane: I am the vice president of engineering for Web content management at Alfresco, an open source content management provider. What I'm doing is designing a service to allow users to publish content to web site, using a process that is as simple as clicking a button and having the content appear in general HTML and PDF format, and provide multiple Web interaction points at external Web properties.

What challenges do you expect, or want to tackle in this space?

Cochrane: I don't think there are so many challenges today as there are opportunities. Historically, what customers have seen from the commercial vendors are products that are very difficult to use, to install, and get up and running. With Alfresco, what we will attempt to accomplish with our platform is an extremely easy to install and run application.

We aim to make it the Web content management process as easy as saving a [Microsoft] Word document to a network drive. Our challenge is so to get up and running, but we have the opportunity to get Web content management to a place that is as easy as Alfresco has made content collaboration. As an example, when a user is done with a Word document and wants to save, they should be able to have right click and save, then have that document sent out to multiple Web properties.

What is the trend today in open source content management? How will you drive Alfresco to continue on that trend?

Cochrane: Most significant trend I believe is seeing the greater levels of acceptance at senior executive level within global 100 for leveraging open source applications as mission critical applications. Whereas [open source] years ago might have been project in IT for a specific department, nowadays CIOs and CXOs are saying they don't need to invest millions in software licensing for enterprise CMS or automation systems from traditional vendor.

The maturity of open source is there, the reliability of [open source] vendors is there and these executives are now looking to reduce overall licensing and support costs. Alfresco is really driving that trend by moving into the historically high cost Web content management market.

Was Interwoven well-versed in open source technologies? How will working at Alfresco be a different experience in this respect?

Cochrane: In my opinion any commercial vendor is not as well-versed in open source software as they should be. This is not unique to Interwoven, but to the entire space. Coming from Interwoven to the open source world it was remarkable --.the level of innovation and the degree of participation in the developer community. Coming from someone as myself I am extremely thrilled to work with a team engineers that are able to work with worldwide network with working on its applications.

At Interwoven I saw the need for a clean-slate approach to enterprise content management-for leveraging new standards and technologies to build a common platform to support such key business needs as collaboration, document management and Web content management. I believe Alfresco is an exact match for the needs I see in the marketplace. The large, established vendors are not meeting the demand for easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy applications that are accessible to the average developer, departmental business manager or SMB.

At commercial, proprietary platform firms there are also very lengthy development cycles, and you have to go through the sales reps and sales engineers to get engineers to communicate. There are all these filters to get the engineers to connect. At Alfresco the wonderful thing is the engineers are on the front line and are connected with those who deploy product. They are on the product roadmap together. There's not some project manager in an ivory tower handing down commandments on what thou shall not release.

Where do you expect to have taken Alfresco in one year? Is there a roadmap you are trying to follow?

Cochrane: Great news with open source is yes we have roadmap and that roadmap is to acceptable to everyone in the developer community. That's why the company is named Alfresco, because everything is out in the open. Later this year will release a Wiki that will have all the details, and in one year from now we hope to become the new enterprise standard for Web content management.

The most important thing out there is open source is now becoming front and center for CIOs and an alternative format for front facing business applications. There is now a lot of attention being paid to open source projects like SugarCRM, Salesforce automation, and JBoss.

Cochrane joined Interwoven in 1996 as its fourth employee and led the development of the company's flagship product, TeamSite. Prior to Interwoven, Cochrane was a consultant for the LEK/Alcar Consulting Group where he specialized in product market analysis for corporate mergers and acquisitions.

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