Email:       Twitter: @dbrucegrant
Nuxeo needs to reduce the cost of Studio for Partners

As a Microsoft or IBM business partner I can get access to the majority of their applications and development tools for less than $1000 per year. There are varying limits on instances and use, but for the most part small development shops are well-served by these arrangements. This approach helps to build, retain and educate respective business partner communities, helping to ensure that the partner support base is wide and deep and covers all geographies.

So why doesn't Nuxeo take the same approach for partners (or would-be/were partners)? 

In the Nuxeo world, a partner that wants access to the Studio development tool is going to pay an order of magnitude more than a Microsoft or IBM partner fee. And Studio is but a single tool, where IBM and Microsoft offer vast libraries of software. While Nuxeo has a very different business model I don't think that changes the equation.

If Nuxeo's motivations include dramatically growing customer base, expanding the partner network, developing more geographically dispersed network, adding 3rd party products to the marketplace, and getting more external commits to the code base, then I think the answer is removing one of the *BIG* barriers to adoption ... partnership cost. Talking to other Nuxeo developers and partners confirms to me that this is one of the single biggest challenges for Nuxeo partners.

For independent developers and small development shops getting into the Nuxeo game already involves a significant learning curve. Add in a $12-$15k annual partnership cost and it's just enough for most to back off and take a path of lesser resistance. 

On the other hand, remove, or substantively reduce the annual partnership cost and you remove a real obstacle to adoption. And in the long run, I believe this will drive partner growth, support revenue, 3rd party products, and result in an all-round better product and platform.

Part 2 - Nuxeo 5.8 Functional / UI Observations

As promised, the second part of my review of Nuxeo 5.8 follows. Again, I'm considering this feedback in the context of a jump from one long term version (5.6) to the next (5.8).

Some positive changes:

  • Overall the user interface (UI) appears much cleaner and crisper to me
  • I was very happy to see that the main left hand navigator finally has really good contrast, making it much easier for a user to understand where they are in the hierarchy
  • The buttons really jump out, and in my opinion, look much better than previous incarnations
  • It's now possible to clear informational messages that appear in the upper right of the screen (in the past this has been a bit of a nuisance when a message didn't clear or hung around for too long getting in the way of a search)
  • Drag and drop performance appears to be a bit better (still need to verify this once I get customizations layered on top) 
  • Speaking of performance, I was pleasantly surprised by view selections and actions which look to be much more reliable than in Nuxeo 5.6
  • Best of all, the UI appears to be significantly more responsive then in Nuxeo 5.6

And, on the flip side:

  • The default field width for title and other input fields is on the small side (this is something I almost always override)
  • For some reason the default serial workflow uses Reject and Validation as button descriptions, yet in the user's dashboard view users are asked to Accept or Reject an item in workflow; seems to me that 'Validation' should be Accept by default (of course this can be overridden)
  • One visual item that continues to be a bit annoying is the Studio button, which is out of alignment from the balance of actions in the top menu and seems to be slightly smaller
  • There are still limitations with search, but as I understand it these limitations are, at least in part determined by the underlying database. For example, wildcard searches of the form *rant (which could match Grant and Brant) are not supported, but of great interest to my customers. 
  • Worst of all, no improvements to security assignments and management (or at least nothing significant on first scan) -- there is still a real opportunity to improve security management and layer in role-based access controls

All in all, there looks to be a lot to like in Nuxeo 5.8.

Time permitting, later this week I will take a spin through the Administrative side of Nuxeo 5.8.

First Look at Nuxeo 5.8

I had a bit of time to kill last night so I thought I would use the time productively. I downloaded the latest distribution build of Nuxeo 5.8. Given that the release is at end of month I reasoned that the release must be relatively stable at this point.

Here's what I did:

  • Downloaded the distribution and installed on CentOS 6.4 and Windows 7
  • Used the out-of-the-box database and configuration (with a few exceptions - noted below)
  • Took a quick spin through most of the screens (but this was not meant as an in-depth functional test)
  • I made no attempt to apply any custom packages
  • I did not add any additional add-ons (the focus was only on DM)

This was intended as a quick spin through 5.8 to note anything of interest (good, bad, or ugly :-). And really this is contrasted with Nuxeo 5.6 the previous long term release. I'm very happy to report that most of what I found was very good!

Today's post deals only with the set-up and performance. I will delve into UI and functional observations in my next post.

I downloaded the 5.8 distribution from Nuxeo's maven repository. I ended up downloading the file " Finding the distribution I wanted was the most time consuming part of this process - as there are many options and builds when you traverse the distribution sub-tree. Once downloaded, I extracted Nuxeo 5.8 on CentOS and Windows.

I tried to run Nuxeo right out of the box, on Windows and CentOS, but both failed but for different reasons. I know I should read the documentation but I am always curious as to whether I can avoid it.

On Windows, I got a Java version error which isn't surprising since Nuxeo 5.8 requires Java 7 to run. I had Java 7 loaded on my Windows workstation (but not as the default), so I edited nuxeo.conf and set JAVA_HOME to point to my Java 7 install. Thereafter Nuxeo loaded without complaint.

On CentOS Java 1.7 is my current default so I knew that wouldn't be an issue. However, when I went to issue the ./nuxeoctl start command I got an error that this command could not be run. Simple enough change chmod +x on the startup script and then Nuxeo was happy to start.

So far so good.

It should be noted that with this build I was not taken through the start-up wizard on first load. Rather, the default database and tables were created on first start-up using H2/Derby embedded databases. So, I decided to log in on Windows and CentOS, log out, and then restart the server. The reason for this was simple - I wanted to compare Nuxeo 5.6 start-up times to those in 5.8 (after all tables are created).

From a startup perspective, I was quite happy to see that (once again) Nuxeo has done a great job in reducing start-up time. Using the same systems and resources I saw start-up times roughly 20% faster in Nuxeo 5.8 than for a comparative configuration in Nuxeo 5.6. This is not in any way scientific, and I don't yet know how it's been achieved (lazy loading?) but I do know that the difference is noticeable. My Windows machine is far slower than my CentOS development box, so while the absolute load time was longer the effect of a faster load was more significant.

Other startup observations

  • I noticed that there are far fewer warnings in the console/log on startup (don't know if logging levels have changed or whether Nuxeo has addressed the root issues generating those warnings)
  • There are some new informational messages on startup related to what looks like CMIS service endpoints
  • On CentOS, clicking the Open in Browser button on the Control Panel generated an error (most likely an issue with my install but I need to track this down since it used to work in Nuxeo 5.6), however, I could still launch Nuxeo by typing the URL into the browser. There was no issue launching Nuxeo on Windows.
  • I used the Administrator/Administrator account to login and here's where I had a real surprise - the time to login is dramatically faster than in Nuxeo 5.6. I didn't delve into the mechanics of how this is achieved but it's a very big improvement.

That's it for today...

Nuxeo DAM UI Improvements

The newest version of Nuxeo DAM in the fastrack release has made some improvements over its predecessors. A rundown of some of the UI improvements that I think make DAM a better product:

  • Overall a more refined interface and more well-aligned with the DM interface
  • The ability to replace/update an underlying attached asset file
  • Ability to easily switch between DAM and DM views of the asset (although it would be nice if this were configurable out of the box to be turned off, to support users with DAM UI only access)
  • It's now much more obvious which asset is selected in the UI (the previous CSS had very poor contrast)
  • Selection/deselection of assets (for bulk activities) is now much simpler with the addition of the selection checkbox on each displayed asset
  • Exposing tagging for DAM assets brings the UI up to snuff with DM
  • The Bulk Import button is a welcome addition for users with small digital assets, but for any industrial strength use of DAM with serious size assets a browser-based bulk import is not practical (or desirable)
  • In my opinion the presentation of metadata (and elimination of tabs across the top of the asset) makes for a cleaner interface

So, what's missing from the new UI (or at least what could be improved)

  • Addition of a hierarchical, dynamic filtering model (e.g., have a backend metadata model with related attributes, like Company A, has Brand B and C, Brand B has models D, E, and F, Brand C has models E and G; each level of selection narrows the shown assets but preserves hierarchical relationships)
  • Addition of XMP metadata (common for all Adobe assets)
  • Annotation improvements (very general but there is so much to be done to make this functionality more useful)
  • Ability to collapse right and left panels for more screen real estate

While the Nuxeo DAM UI is moving forward the backend components aren't moving with the same velocity. If you have big assets, multiple color spaces, multi-layer images, then you'll appreciate the gaps in speed and functional coverage. I will itemize some of these issues in a future blog entry.

What's your experience with Nuxeo DAM?

Can Nuxeo compete against Alfresco in North America

A few days back I saw the #Nuxeo news release about raising an additional $3MM+, with plans to grow the North American market. That got me to thinking about Alfresco, their presence in North America, and whether Nuxeo can effectively compete in the North American marketplace. I know Nuxeo competes against many ECM vendors, but in the Open Source world Alfresco is the main competition (especially in North America).

I believe that Nuxeo and Alfresco are both viable, flexible, and evolving ECM platforms. Why do I think that? Well, I have worked with Nuxeo for almost 5 years, dabbled with Alfresco (and know enough to be dangerous), read reviews on both platforms and talked to Nuxeo and Alfresco clients and prospects. While not empirical in any sense, it seems reasonable that to me that a company could be successful with either platform, and with comparable cost and energy.

I have no doubt there are pundits on both sides of the aisle ready to defend the superior nature or architecture of their solution. The technology is very important, but only in so much as it supports the business objectives to which it is applied. And from what I have seen, Nuxeo and Alfresco are great technical solutions and both solve real business challenges (when it comes to document and asset management). In short, I don't think that Nuxeo's ability to compete against Alfresco are in any way constrained or limited by technical platform.

So, can Nuxeo compete and win against Alfresco in North America? My first instinct is no, and here's why...

  • In North America, the Alfresco brand is on prospects radar, while few have heard of Nuxeo
  • Alfresco has a significant head start in North America with a much larger install base
  • Alfresco has a sizable (and seemingly vibrant) partner ecosystem in North America. This is important because prospects and customers want to know there are local resources (and preferably more than one option) and don't always want to rely on the vendor to provide services.
  • Alfresco has a user conference in North America, making it more likely for customers, prospects and business partners to attend (because of cost, proximity, content coverage and multiple tracks targeted at different attendees)
  • From a training perspective Alfresco appears to have more resources available to assist those new to the platform, and have regional training partners (so there isn't a reliance on the vendor or a need to travel to get training)

But on reflection I think there may be hope for Nuxeo in North America if they can focus their resources and energy on...

  • A North American version of NuxeoWorld (and promote the heck out of it)
  • Building awareness of the Nuxeo brand through local partners, trade shows, and online
  • Building a real and viable partner community, working with (not against) partners for mutual success
  • Providing a low-cost-of-entry option for small to medium sized companies based
  • Stepping up the effort to provide cohesive, quality documentation and training materials of all levels and types (administration, development and end-user)
  • Licensing studio separately so new partners can test the waters inexpensively
  • Developing tools and strategies to facilitate migration of content from key competitors; really important since most customers will already have one or more document management solutions in place

What else can Nuxeo do in order to be successful in the North American market?

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