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Alfresco open sources JLAN, a Java-based embedded virtual file system

Alfresco just open sourced its intelligent file drive system.

It might seem odd for Alfresco to be announcing that it has open sourced its JLAN technology - given that the company already releases 100% of its code under the GPL (with a FLOSS Exception) - but today the company announced that it has open sourced its JLAN technology as open source.

Why? Because while JLAN was available before as part of its open source content management solutions, it had also been available under a proprietary license (due to legacy reasons - Alfresco acquired the code from another party back in 2005). Today, JLAN is completely open and offered as a separate component.

Who cares? Well, anyone that wants to offer an embedded virtual file system that offers the only Java client and server implementation of Microsoft Window's CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol, allowing content, system administration information, and rows in a database to appear as a shared drive. The shared drive is the de facto document management interface for the vast majority of computer users today. JLAN gives everyone - including Alfresco competitors - the ability to offer an intelligent shared-drive interface to a content repository.

JLAN provides the following functionality:

  • Only pure Java client and server implementation - CIFS, NFS and FTP;
  • High performance - Similar to the native file system;
  • Enterprise authentication - NTLM, NTLMSSP, SPNEGO, Kerberos/AD;
  • Real-time access - No copy to local disk and conflict resolution issues;
  • Offline Access - Integration to Microsoft® briefcase

Alfresco JLAN (OEM) customers include Avaki EII (owned by Sybase), Caringo, EMC Documentum, and Veritas (owned by Symantec). Example uses include shared drive interfaces to content management systems, databases or content enabling applications such as customer relationship management.

JLAN is one of Alfresco's competitive differentiators, with a wide range of enterprise customers and OEMs actively using it. But such is the nature of open source that Alfresco believes there is more value to the industry (and itself) by opening it up than by closing it off. By pushing the innovation envelope, Alfresco can open source its code while still retaining its market leadership position. Opening up, in other words, actually enables Alfresco to maintain and extend its market leadership. Customers buy from the source of code, with the source code itself taking on a secondary role in purchasing decisions.

I'm hopeful that JLAN being offered under GPLv2 with a FLOSS Exception will lead other open-source content management systems (Drupal, Joomla!, Magnolia, etc.) to use it, as well, and to help improve it. I'm also looking forward to Samba's involvement in the project. As these groups add their own innovations to the code, customers will look to them to support it.

This is the power of open source: winning through community.

Disclosure: I am part of Alfresco's management team.