Nuxeo Content Management Platform, a Backgrounder

Nuxeo sees its content management product as the base for organizations to create their own content-centric business applications. The company offers some interesting tools to aid in this process, which I’ll get to in a moment. Nuxeo also offers its own distinct modules for document management, case management, digital asset management, and with the recent version 5.5, for social collaboration.

Initially an offshoot of Zope, Nuxeo started life over a decade ago as an open-source content management project, and it remains open source today. Shortly into its development, the product turned in its own direction—starting from scratch as a completely new, Java-based system. Today, Nuxeo sees itself competing with products from companies such as OpenText, EMC, and Alfresco. Alfresco of course is something of a kindred spirit in the open-source ecosystem.

What’s an ideal use case for Nuxeo? Nuxeo is first and foremost a platform. If you have a particular project or business process that requires intensive management of digital documents and media, and you need to build it to your custom specifications, Nuxeo’s platform approach makes sense. Nuxeo has done well with its business in the government and public sectors (and has been particularly visible with its many public cases in the French government).

Nuxeo reported the following examples of content-centric applications to me, to demonstrate the variety of uses for which organizations have implemented its platform. France's HEC used Nuxeo as the basis for its K-Hub instructional system. The university chose to use Nuxeo to handle the document distribution and management requirements of their professors' courses and student work, as well as to handle forum and blog types of features. A large telecommunication and mobile broadband provider implemented a system to securely communicate contracts, invoices, and documentation with its enterprise clients. Key factors of the system included security features, with fine-grained read/write settings and the ability to handle high usage volumes. The Indianapolis Museum of Art had an interesting project in which it needed to relate and track the information and processes concerning each item in its collection. Using a Nuxeo-based application, it retrieves information about exhibitions, loans, photos, videos, and the artists without searching through many different sources of unstructured data.

Of course, Nuxeo also has partnerships with organizations such as Hippo and Liferay, which makes it more applicable for use in web content management (WCM) projects. If you want to implement a WCM system or otherwise take advantage of Nuxeo-managed content, you can do so by connecting it with Hippo or Liferay to manage the front end. This type of connection takes advantage of the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard, which Nuxeo participates in. CMIS enables the applications to share information among their content repositories.

Nuxeo’s document management (DM) module is one of the more common starting points among its client base. Nuxeo clients can build on the base platform with the DM module, and then use it to start other projects. The digital asset management module is in a growth phase for the company, while the case management module is a bit newer. The case management module stems from a French government agency’s requirements for responding to certain types of correspondence within very strict parameters and thus for a system that could facilitate that process. The case management module now gives clients a more precise workflow approach for specific use cases.

The Nuxeo base and modules have traditionally been on-premise implementations, while Nuxeo Studio provides an interesting hybrid of sorts for design and customization purposes. Normally, Nuxeo clients can customize anything with the system using Nuxeo’s integrated development environment (IDE), which is based on the familiar Eclipse development environment. However, Nuxeo recognized that there are many things that nondevelopers should be able to customize. To meet this requirement, it offers the Web-based Nuxeo Studio service, which is a graphical abstraction of some of the things developers would normally do in the IDE. Using Nuxeo Studio, a business user or solution architect can handle application branding, custom metadata, custom document types and templates, content lifecycle and workflows, content views, and other things related to individual uses of the platform. For example, the hosted interface makes it easy for the solution architect to define exactly what actions should take place when an end user clicks a button in the application—without needing to pull in a developer. It also separates customization from the underlying application base, which further smoothes the update path.

Recently, Nuxeo expanded with a more comprehensive hosting option. As of October 2011, it put the development piece, project and instance provisioning, the platform, and the Nuxeo Studio piece all together in the cloud. The idea is to have the entire Nuxeo infrastructure available, without requiring any of an organization’s internal information technology (IT) resources to develop and deploy it.

Often the case with a free and open source software (FOSS)-oriented vendor is that people will have a concern about the vendor’s revenue, wanting to be sure the vendor is on stable ground for ongoing support. Nuxeo’s primary revenue source is its Nuxeo Connect service, which is a support and maintenance subscription program that includes the Nuxeo Studio component. This is one of the relatively common FOSS provider business models. The platform is available without a license cost, while the support service is available for a fee.

Nuxeo currently has more than 300 clients on the service, so the model seems to have some uptake. Depending on the level of service required, as of this writing, pricing ranges from $12,000 to more than $90,000 (USD) per year. The company counts more than 5,000 installations in some form or another of its products, which indicates there is a significant space for the number of Connect clients to grow. The new cloud services represent another space in which Nuxeo can augment its revenue. Nuxeo, while not a large company, is growing. It reported doubling its North American client base last year. Granted, Nuxeo’s physical presence in North America is more recent (past clients have frequently come from its first home in France or from other European countries), but the company is clearly making an effort to expand across North America. In fact, it now maintains both French and American headquarters.

Nuxeo has some important development plans in its future. One example is its new Android package. This enables users to perform updates to content in the system whether they’re currently online or not. An iOS version of this application will follow shortly this year. The company also benefits from the contributions of its open-source community, which like a well-managed open-source project, Nuxeo vets and QAs. I was reassured to hear that Nuxeo receives some significant contributions from its clients. In fact, Nuxeo also has a repository of add-on modules that users can contribute to or implement within their own applications.

Nuxeo is in the process of responding to TEC’s research questionnaire on its features and functions. I’ll post an update as soon as it’s available so that you can evaluate Nuxeo in TEC Advisor. In the meantime, if you want to try the system out, you can of course spend some time with it by downloading it from Nuxeo’s Web site.
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