Alfresco 5.1 Released: First Look

Alfresco 5.1 was released yesterday. As a premier partner, TSG received an early release to prepare our clients as well as certify our solutions. This post will share our quick thoughts on the new platform, changes in the new version, and our thoughts on how we are planning to take advantage of some of the new capabilities in our products.

Become the owner of another user’s content

Security has always been a priority for many Alfresco users. Client requirements for security quickly grow to include a variety of scenarios. For example, a user is on vacation and the user filling in for a week needs to be able to modify files for the vacationing employee that the non-vacationing user is typically not allowed to access. In the old Alfresco version, a system administrator would have to:

  1. temporarily add the replacement user to a group to give them proper access during the vacation.
  2. remember to change it back once the vacation is over.

One concern with this approach is that the user could be gaining access to other documents unintentionally. Alfresco 5.1 allows a user to become the owner of a piece of content without the concern of access to other documents.

TSG products impacts – we are planning on leveraging this component in our solutions to allow a seamless transition of ownership of content.

Smart Folders

Alfresco 5.1 has introduced a new concept of Smart, or virtual, folders. This new feature allows users to group documents together into one folder regardless of where they are stored in the repository. It also allows for a document to be “stored” in multiple folder locations, so various user groups can view the same document from their separate Smart Folder. Another new feature is the ability to have documents added to the folder inherit meta-components from the folder itself.

TSG products – Currently, HPI provides a capability to allow for any document/folder to be retrieved dynamically via a related objects folder. See demo in our learning zone – Related Objects. Before, if a client wanted functionality that mimicked Smart Folders, we would create a new relation type ourselves and handle updating them within behaviors, but now we can do this in a more straightforward way with Alfresco. Lastly, OpenContent will be able to find all documents with particular Smart Folder relationships, allowing for various search query and action endpoints that utilize the new relationships created by Smart Folders.

Model Manager

Prior to version 5.1, all model changes within Alfresco required an XML file update, along with a complete restart of the Alfresco instance. It was usually recommended to reindex the system completely if possible, just to ensure the model update would not cause any errors. Lastly, if attributes were being removed and content with those attributes existed in the system, we would need to remove those attributes from the documents or folders before updating the content model. In general, updating the content model was a big change that needed to be handled very carefully.

Alfresco 5.1 is introducing a new Model Manager, an interface directly accessible in Alfresco Share that allows certain users the ability to update the content model at any time. After models are created, they can being activated or deactivated from the interface, allowing for changes to the model in real time without a system restart. We think this is a great improvement and a huge time saver, and, while it won’t impact our products, we do find it one of the most exciting features of Alfresco 5.1.

Solr Sharding

Creating the Solr Index for Alfresco is one of the most time consuming components of a model update or initial load or migration of new content. Solr sharding allows the Solr index to be split up into one or more “shards,” which can also reside on separate machines. This can allow:

  • reindexes to be run in parallel and ultimately be less time consuming.
  • the index to be stored separately from Alfresco for backup/recovery reasons.

Summary

Overall, some impressive features are included in Alfresco 5.1 that we think can improve our core offering of products, while also allowing for easier Alfresco deployments in the future. Other components that will be discussed in later posts will include Alfresco Share separation, usability, and collaborative enhancements.

Let us know your thoughts on the new release below.