For less skepticism and more understanding on the Eclipse ECR proposal

Apoorv Durga, from Real Story Group, recently wrote a blog post providing a more skeptical look at new repository and portal initiatives to the Eclipse ECR Project proposal.

Eclipse by Luc Viatour © GFDL

I think this is an interesting piece of reading. I also think it is pretty good that it doesn’t follow automatically the overall positive and enthusiastic response that the contributions discussed have provoked in the industry. I believe it’s good to express concerns on how these contributions affect customers, as Apoorv put it, providing a more “skeptical” look. I appreciate this and indeed think that it is the role of an analyst or a consultant to be an advocate for customers.

However, I would like to bring some comments to this post, as I’m running Nuxeo’s marketing and product management and think Apoorv’s look might be missleading and slightly superficial. I hope this will be of interest to anyone interested in the topic and will offer more understanding and less skepticism regarding this topic.

The main driver for my response to this article lies in the conclusion that Nuxeo’s (and Hippo’s) contributions (e.g. the Eclipse Enterprise Content Repository (ECR) Project proposal and the Rave incubation project) center around inexpensive marketing tactics and a short term increase in visibility. Speaking about the ECR Project proposal and Nuxeo, I must say I don’t think this is an accurate representation of our motives and I would like to clarify our position on this matter:

My first point relates to Nuxeo’s position when it comes to contributing with others on vendor-neutral Open Source projects, going beyond our own software products (which are fully Open Source as well, available under LGPL, but hosted by Nuxeo, so not a neutral foundation).

If Nuxeo’s move was ‘opportunistic marketing’ and not based on a long term vision of innovation and open source software development, Nuxeo would not be what it is today: a 10 year old Open Source software company that prides itself on how well we collaborate with others whether they are customers, developers, integrators, partners, or even competitors. If you take a look at Nuxeo in more detail, you’ll see that we couldn’t have accomplished anything in the last 10 years if we hadn’t been listening attentively to our community and our customers.

Recently, for instance, the Chemistry project has gone out of incubation at the Apache Software Foundation to become a top level Apache project. This project is an important one for us, and for ECR as well. This has been possible because companies like Nuxeo, and others (including Alfresco, mentioned in the article) have decided to join forces in developing a vendor-neutral Open Source infrastructure middleware that could be useful to all in building open and interoperable solutions. By building upon the same commodity layer we focus on establishing a standard infrastructure which helps us and others compete on the real differentiators between our solutions—our ideas, our concepts, our specific feature set—rather than solely on the underlying plumbing.

We have many other examples as well, another being the Apache Stanbol project, aiming at providing a middleware between CMS solutions and Web Semantic technology.

So, NO, the Eclipse ECR Project has nothing to do with simple opportunistic marketing. To be perfectly honest, we have developers doing very significant work (… meaning significant costs …) on preparing our initial contribution and adapting our own software development processes and tools to not only make the contribution happen, but also to allow us to embed it in our software factory, making it the opposite of free or cheap marketing. The ECR project is an investment for us and it has a cost that’s not negligible. I won’t go into the P&L, but can only assure that it’s a long term strategy and not short term marketing.

Of course, Nuxeo is a business and needs to turn investment into value and it’s true, we may leverage the positive aspects that our contribution can bring from a marketing standpoint even if again, marketing is not the main driver here.  But it’s not to the detriment of our customers and doesn’t mean that we don’t think about the impact that this technological move will have on them. The real marketing value of this contribution is by the way less about visibility and more about enabling relationships with other key software vendors as there are many great software companies involved in Eclipse projects (and the same goes for the Apache foundation). For a platform software maker such as us, joining the Eclipse Foundation is a great opportunity to build relations and we want to make the most of it.

Another topic I would like to provide some clarification on: Apoorv says that Nuxeo “dropped support for Java Content Repository (JCR), a repository spec that didn’t really take off spectacularly.” Indeed, that’s true. However, here again I would like to point out that this decision had very little to do with Marketing and the fact that we dropped it is not directly tied to its “unspectacular” take off. The reasons behind why we dropped JCR support are engineering ones, technical ones, related to software design of JCR. Still, there might be a relation between this and the “unspectacular” take off of JCR … they are not directly correlated but perhaps we are simply not the only ones to think JCR is not the best tool for what we wanted to do! I would invite anyone who wants to know more about why we dropped JCR to read Florent Guillaume’s (Nuxeo’s Lead Software Architect) blog post on that subject.

And the last item I would like to comment on is when Apoorv says that the ECR project “provides an opportunity for Nuxeo to compete with Alfresco on the CMIS bandwagon.” I just would like to mention that Nuxeo has not waited the ECR project initiative to compete on the CMIS bandwagon!! Nuxeo Enterprise Platform is already fully CMIS compliant and as of today, a serious option for anyone looking at a CMIS enabled ECM platform. What the ECR project aims at is simply to move the lower level of this platform, the Content Repository with all its APIs (including the CMIS one), into a neutral Open Source project as we think it can benefit from being used by many other software builders who are making business applications (not only ECM providers) that might, as a way of return, help us speed up and improve the development of this content repository.

I hope this brings some additional insights regarding the motives behind our contribution and will aid anyone’s analysis of the ECR proposal. And on one of Apoorv concerns — what does the ECR proposal brings to end-users — of course I would first recommend to wait for the project to be approved and the first versions to be released for in-depth assessment, but no doubt it will bring the value of Open Technology and Open Source, that I don’t think needs to be demonstrated here.

2 thoughts on “For less skepticism and more understanding on the Eclipse ECR proposal

  1. Adriaan Bloem

    Of course, that’s not entirely what Apoorv meant. He didn’t say the Eclipse ECR Project is opportunistic marketing. He said that right now, there’s only one tangible benefit: goodwill and visibility. This is a benefit to Nuxeo; not to the customer, who has to wait and see if the project will bring actual benefits in the future.

    In other words, in announcing Eclipse ECR, you’re counting your chickens before they’ve hatched. Which is why I agree with Apoorv that for now, customers should remain skeptical, however promising it may sound.

    Reply
    1. Roland Post author

      Hi Adriaan,

      Thanks for answering. I still slightly disagree with this summary.

      First I still think a good share of Appoorv’s readers might understand his analysis as I did, hence my reaction.

      Second, there is more than the value you raise. There is a value for our current users, customers, partners and contributors having bet on Nuxeo technology on the long term, they have now the opportunity to engage with the project more thoroughly, without having to grant copyright of their contributions to Nuxeo, but to a vendor neutral organization. This is happening now and we are inviting them to team with us, and is more than visibility and goodwill.

      I am also not a big fan of the analogy with “chickens having not yet hatched” as we speak here of the core of a software developed during the last 5 years and already implemented on many projects with great success! The work being done here is to adapt it to the requirements of the Eclipse Foundation but the first contribution (currently demonstrated at the Eclipse Conference), which is the core of Nuxeo Enterprise Platform is definitely a solid piece of software already in action on many projects … so no we are not counting chickens before they’ve hatched 🙂 ! Feel free to contact me if you want more information on that topic, I would be very happy to give you more insights.

      Reply

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