Following the successful release of Alfresco Content Services in 2017, we have been planning our next round of innovation. In this blog post, we share some of our plans so that you can prepare for the next release and provide feedback. At the end you will find a table summarizing the actions you should take.
Even though we refer to Alfresco Content Services, most of this information also applies to Alfresco Community Edition.
There are three overriding architectural goals for upcoming releases of Alfresco Content Services (ACS):
Improve integration across the Alfresco Digital Business Platform - encompassing products such as Alfresco Process Services and the Alfresco Application Development Framework. One of these planned improvements is a shared authentication system that supports additional modern protocols such as OpenID Connect. This improved integration will make it easier for Alfresco Content Services customers to benefit from the power of Alfresco Process Services when their use case requires it.
Provide a containerized deployment option that can be hosted on a range of infrastructure, both on-premises and by cloud providers such as AWS. These containers will also be portable between deployment environments such as dev, test, and production.
Further enhance the REST API to allow advanced customizations to be completed outside of the repository Java process, including APIs for batching requests and subscribing to system events. Integrations using the REST APIs are easier to maintain and upgrade than customizations within the repository.
These goals will require some significant architectural changes to the Content Repository, and so we expect the next release to be a major version, Alfresco Content Services 6.0, which we plan to release in 2018. You will see these changes begin to enter Alfresco Community Edition immediately.
In order to make these improvements, we need to change some features of the product that you might be using. Specifically, we want to make sure you are aware of the following plans:
Installation Bundles: Customers have asked us to reduce the amount of effort necessary to deploy Alfresco Content Services (ACS) in a production configuration. The ACS installers will be replaced with Docker containers, using Kubernetes and Helm. This deployment technology allows us to better define a standard production configuration while giving greater flexibility to our customers as they deploy into their environments.
Web Application Servers: As part of providing a containerized cloud-ready deployment, we will be removing the need to manage a separate web application container. Instead, configuration will be injected into the Docker container, reducing the effort required to setup, secure, and manage the application. In the next release, we will no longer support Alfresco Content Services deployed within J2EE web application servers such as JBoss, WebSphere, and WebLogic. Over the long term, we are considering embedding the web application server within the repository and making the content repository directly executable. As a result, it is likely that support for deploying into a separate Tomcat web container will be dropped in a future release.
Solaris and DB2: As we focus on the most widely used deployment platforms, we will be dropping support for the Solaris operating system and IBM’s DB2 database.
CIFS an NTLMv1: Due to security vulnerabilities in the protocols, we will be removing the ability to access Alfresco Content Services as a shared network drive using CIFS / SMBv1 and the ability to authenticate using NTLMv1. We recommend that customers needing shared network drive access use our AOS WebDAV when using Windows clients and our standards-compliant WebDAV when using non-Windows clients. Customers should also use Kerberos instead of NTLMv1 for SSO. We will continue to improve our implementations of WebDAV and Kerberos.
Legacy Solr: ACS 6.0 will leverage the advanced capabilities of Solr 6. Previous versions of Solr will no longer be used—Solr 1 will be removed from the product, and Solr 4 will be deprecated and remain in the product only to support upgrades. No functionality will be lost upgrading to Solr 6, but there are some different defaults affecting the way locale is handled that will require minor adjustments in customizations.
In addition, we plan to remove the following capabilities:
Alfresco Process Services Share Connector: Advanced content and process applications can be built with superior user experiences using process and content components from the Application Development Framework.
Repository Multi-Tenancy: The multi-tenant capability of the Content Repository will only be supported as part of an OEM agreement and we are likely to remove multi-tenancy from Alfresco Community Edition. The support of multi-tenancy in Alfresco Process Services remains unchanged.
Encrypted Node Properties: This capability provides a label for properties that are managed by client code and is used internally in modules provided by Alfresco. With the release of Alfresco Content Services 6.0, it will be considered part of the private API. Custom clients can achieve the same capability by using a Blob or Base64 String property and managing the encryption of the content within those properties.
CIFS Shortcuts: Alfresco Content Services’ CIFS implementation provided Windows Explorer shortcuts for ECM tasks. These will be removed along with support for CIFS shared network drives. We do not currently plan to move them to the WebDAV implementation.
Meeting Workspace and Document Workspace: These Share site types are not supported by recent releases of Microsoft Office, and so will be removed.
With the release of Alfresco Content Services version 6.0, the following features will continue to be available but are deprecated, and you should expect them to be removed in a future version:
Some Share Features: We will gradually simplify Share to focus on the most commonly used capabilities by removing the following lesser-used site components and dashlets: site blogs, site calendars, site data lists, site links, and site discussion forums. These use cases are better met with dedicated interfaces, either through integration with third party applications or through custom development.
Web Quick Start: Web Quick Start provides an add-on to Alfresco Share that demonstrates how to build a website on top of Alfresco Content Services. Though customers are welcome to continue using Web Quick Start, we will not be enhancing this product. There are many ways to use the Alfresco Digital Business Platform to deliver content to the Web, and we would be happy to discuss your specific needs with you or point you to a partner.
Alfresco in the Cloud: As the market for content collaboration technologies has evolved, we are evaluating replacements for Alfresco in the Cloud (my.alfresco.com). We will offer different synchronization solutions to supersede Alfresco Cloud Sync to my.alfresco.com. As a result, we are no longer adding new functionality to that service. As our new products mature, we will reach out to the customers who are using Alfresco in the Cloud to outline the replacements and possible timelines.
We also make the following recommendations to help those building applications on top of Alfresco Content Services to prepare for future releases:
The versioned REST API for ACS covers a wide range of use cases, and is preferred over in-process APIs for extending Alfresco Content Services. Integrations and customizations that use the REST API are easier to integrate into your own development processes and are easier to maintain when upgrading ACS.
In order to make it easier to design, deploy, and maintain custom workflows, in a future release we will be providing a platform-wide workflow service using Alfresco Process Services (powered by Activiti). This will replace the use of embedded Activiti for custom workflows. Future custom workflows will be implemented external to the Content Repository and will leverage the REST APIs of Alfresco Content Services. To be easily upgradable, new custom workflows should make local REST API calls in order to avoid using the in-process APIs.
ACS workflows are intended to automate the management of content items within the Content Repository and APIs for custom workflows will continue to be available with subscriptions to Alfresco Content Services. A subscription to Alfresco Process Services (APS) is required for advanced process management use cases which is used for collecting, disseminating, integrating and coordinating information across an organization.
Though we continue to improve and maintain Share, we recommend that custom applications be built with the Application Development Framework (ADF). ADF components make it easier to assemble and maintain custom applications.
Thank you for the feedback you have previously given on our products which have informed these changes. We think you will appreciate how these changes will allow us to evolve Alfresco Content Services to meet the needs of your organization both now and in the future. If you are a customer, and have any questions, please reach out to your Customer Success Manager. If you are using one of our open source products and want to engage in the discussion, feel free to comment on this post. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you.
The Alfresco Team
Table Summarizing Changes and Guidance
Improved REST APIs
Use the REST APIs instead of the in-process APIs.
An eventual move to a platform workflow service
Custom ACS workflows should use REST calls to the Content Repository when possible.
Use APS for process management across the organization.
Simplify the Share UI
Integrate with 3rd party applications or develop custom interfaces.
Transition your deployment from the installers toward container technology.
Executable content repository
Move away from separate web application servers.
No support for Solaris
Migrate to a supported different OS.
No support for DB2
Migrate to a supported database.
No support for CIFS or CIFS shortcuts.
No support for NTLMv1
Replace Solr 1 and Solr 4
Upgrade to Alfresco Search Services powered by Solr 6.
Discontinue the APS Share Connector
Leverage the Alfresco Development Framework.
Repository Multi-Tenancy only for OEMs
If you need multi-tenancy, talk to your Customer Care Representative about your use case.
Encrypted Node Properties
Use a Blob or Base64 String property.
Removal of Meeting Workspace and Document Workspace site types
Use standard collaboration sites in Share.
Removal of some Share features: site blogs, site calendars, site data lists, site links, and site discussion forums
Develop a dedicated interface or use one provided by a third-party.
Phasing out of Web Quick Start
Transition to another web delivery platform.
Phasing out of Alfresco in the Cloud
No action needed at this time. We will contact you when there is a timeline you should be aware of.