Alfresco and Adobe InDesign: Getting it Right

We have just completed our eighth Silicon Connector, and over the coming months you will see some amazing new advances in connecting InDesign to remote assets, across the DAMs with which we have just finished integration. Because Connector lets InDesign talk directly to assets living in cloud-based DAMs, it is becoming very popular recently.

We have just identified the DAM that will become the ninth Silicon Connector. We chose Alfresco because, based on past experience, we know it is a solid system, and we see the user base growing recently. Alfresco is not just a DAM, it is a CMS, but our initial work is going to be just getting InDesign to talk to the assets using Silicon Connector. CMS integration has potential as well, but asset connectivity comes first, and this is very easy for us given the Connector foundation.

The InDesign connectivity is clearly in heavy demand by Alfresco users, as indirect approaches such as WebDAV or Adobe Drive are rarely performant enough for even on-premise workflows, let alone cloud-based deployments (and currently these are gaining popularity). Connector is far and away the best way for InDesign to talk with remote assets. It seems that a growing number of Alfresco users are seeking this connectivity, and it is exciting to explore yet another DAM/CMS.

Silicon Connector 101: Why a Third Party Plug-in?

If you have worked for any time in Adobe InDesign, you have realized that referenced graphic assets must reside on the local filesystem or a network share. It is not possible, in vanilla default InDesign, to link to a resource on the web.

Enter Silicon Connector. With this plug-in to InDesign, we enable direct URL-based linking to assets that reside on servers, be they web servers or DAM-specific servers.

Silicon Connector lets you talk to assets that are on web servers, or assets in specific DAMs. So far we have built Silicon Connector for Adobe Experience Manager, MediaBeacon, Widen, Intermedia, Box, WebDAM, Eyebase, and Canto Flight. The Alfresco Connector is underway. We are talking to 20+ other DAM companies and hundreds of end-users interested in Connector for different DAM systems.

The Simple Power of a Link

Why has Silicon Connector taken off like a weed? Our good fortune is that cloud-based asset storage is for the first time an economically viable technology, given recent advances in storage technology and cloud hosting. While in the 1990s hosting a TIFF on a web server was a ludicrous proposition, today retina displays demand image resolution comparable to that of print, so what was once absurd is now no big deal. Linking to a single cloud-based asset from a design tool suddenly makes sense. The only problem is that development of applications like InDesign, Quark, Corel, etc., was de-funded years back, so we don't see a rush to embrace the cloud, as theoretically print is legacy and thus not worthy of attention.

The Open Source/Enterprise Hybrid

The interest in Silicon Connector for Alfresco is coming from two different groups of users: those using the Enterprise version of the product, and those using the Community (open source) version. There seem to be plenty of each category, and this reminds me of another CMS/DAM that I saw growing in popularity: Adobe Experience Manager.

I don't know the state of the "open source" side of AEM today, but the company that Adobe acquired the core of AEM from, Day Software, had a pedigree in Open Source. They participated in Java and Apache products such that there were very strong open source variants of the product, and this seems like a powerful way to build an enterprise software product, for those who can pull it off. Similar to Day, Alfresco seems to be enjoying market share and an integrator/developer ecosystem comparable to what we saw when Day was blossoming. All indications are that AEM has been a very successful product for Adobe.

While Alfresco and Day both managed such a model, there is definitely a fine art to making such an approach work, and for every such success story, the landscape is littered with efforts that didn't have comparable luck.  Whatever they did, they have both created content management systems with DAM functionality being used by very large InDesign authoring workgroups, so here we are with Silicon Connector.

The Two Forms of the New Alfresco Connector

As you will see in our announcements this month, Connector is evolving as an application. While for most versions of Silicon Connector we have used the UI of the DAM's web client to navigate assets, we have made great strides in extending the InDesign UI to let users browse, navigate, and search assets from within InDesign. As Ole has explained elsewhere, we were doing this quite well back in the CS6 days, but Adobe re-invented the core technology for extending the Creative Cloud. We have finally mastered this new technology.

We envision offering both approaches with Silicon Connector for Alfresco: initially we will leverage the Alfresco UI, or a browser-based UI that is slightly modified from the standard UI (we need to be sure drag-and-drop is enabled). Once this is working, we will build a CC Extension to let users simply stay in InDesign, without having to toggle back and forth between InDesign and the browser.

We look forward to offering Silicon Connector for Alfresco, and given the broad base of InDesign users with Alfresco ECM as their DAM, we expect this to be a widely-deployed product.


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