Alfresco gets serious about the cloud

Applications in the cloud are moving from hype to reality for small and medium-size businesses

No doubt the term "cloud computing" is rapidly reaching the top of its hype cycle, but at least in some examples, the hype is backed up by real customer demand. That's the case with Alfresco's latest announcement with Right Scale to provide a cloud computing solution for its enterprise content management customers.

The combination of Right Scale's management tools and Alfresco's applications gives customers the benefit of dynamic scalability so that the system itself will automatically add or remove servers as required by the workload. This type of dynamic provisioning is one of the key benefits to cloud computing; you don't have to buy servers that sit idle most of the time just to accomodate the worst-case peak demands.

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As with many cloud technologies, the demand for Alfresco's cloud is fueled by small and medium-size businesses, which are well suited to cloud offerings, whether by application vendors or the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. But over time, I suspect that cloud computing will be adopted in a trend similar to open source over the last 10 years.

We're already seeing signs of departmental adoption for new applications within Fortune 500 companies. In many cases, these will be non-business-critical applications deployed in the cloud well below the radar of the CIO -- but the signs are there already.

For open source companies, cloud computing isn't going to replace other business models overnight (in fact, Alfresco has done remarkably well with 17 consecutive quarters of growth). Cloud computing is still in its early days, and there likely isn't enough demand to abandon the more traditional enterprise subscription offerings.

But my guess is that in a few years, cloud-based deployments could eclipse on-premise usage. Open source companies that adapt to this model will find themselves in a good position to meet increasing demand by budget-conscious IT organizations that embrace cloud computing. After all, it's a small step from saving money on license fees to looking for ways to save money on servers and storage.

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