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Deployment overview?

Question asked by jefficus on Apr 1, 2011
I'm an experienced software architect, but new to the Alfresco way of doing things. I've got a new project that I'm starting up, and my intuition tells me that Alfresco is the way to go. I'm very excited by the possibilities I'm seeing here, but I'm having a bit of trouble seeing Alfresco's big picture clearly enough to begin mapping out how I'd like to deploy it.

There are so many different capabilities, interfaces, modules, etc., and the various videos and documentations seem to be strewn across the historical version landscape, employing terms that seem to have evolved over Alfresco's lifetime. So, for a newcomer, I see references to WCM, and repositories, and document folders, the Share Interface, the Explorer interface, workflows, data lists, tasks, and on and on and on, but I can't get a solid handle on which terms refer to unique concepts and which ones are just synonyms for other ones.

What I'm looking for is the "big picture" overview of the main elements in the Alfresco system, and how they work together, but I suspect that an "architect's" view of this will be too technical for what I need at this stage. What I need is the CIO's view, connecting elements of the system to the business features they enable and some of the trade-off decisions they trigger.

Perhaps the best way for me to get my head around things is to explain the system I'm hoping to build, and maybe somebody could break it down for me in Alfresco terms…

What we're doing, essentially, is setting up a volunteer group to create Public Service Announcement-type videos for the non-profit sector, drawing on a community of volunteers with different skills they can contribute. From a project management perspective, I want to be able to create maybe three different "styles" of video project, such as an animated film, a live-action scripted film and an unscripted, documentary style film. All film projects have a common set of tasks that have to be managed, then each of these sub-styles will have its own specific sets of standard tasks as well. Then of course, each project will have its own unique task needs. When we start a new project, I'd like to initiate it by starting a new instance of a standard film workflow, specify which film-type it is, and then have the system create document folders, discussion areas, milestones, task lists, etc., appropriate to that type of film.

In each project, I'd like to be able to upload scripts and track revisions on them, story-board sequences, production photos and maybe some promotional image files, etc. I also want to be able to write my own module that automatically exports the final script as a subtitle file to be integrated into the final video, and also be able to allow creation and management of different language translations of those subtitle files. I'll also want to be able to track a master versions of the final film and have processing scripts for creating different output versions using different sound-tracks and subtitle files to create, say, a French-dubbed version for iPod with English sub-titles, and a DVD-quality version in English with an alternate German-dubbed audio track and Spanish sub-titles. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.)

When I assign a community volunteer to act as camera operator, or as editor, or actor, or language translator, I'd like them to see a simpler interface that has their tasks, and gives them access to the project documents and discussion areas, etc., without weighing them down under the detailed project manager's views. These volunteers may be involved in multiple projects, so allowing them to see both a combined task list and calendar as well as a project-specific view would be ideal.

Some members of the project might want to see a list of locations, and props, and special effects that will be involved, and some other team members might need to develop a sketch budget for the project, and collaboratively develop a grant application document to go after money to fund it.

Given that project overview, can somebody give me a hazy sketch of how I might consider setting things up? I realize that I'm going to have to learn a lot more about Alfresco before I can build an actual system, but a few pointers in how to organize my first trial system would be very helpful, and I suspect that walking through this exercise will be a valuable Alfresco introduction for lots of other people who are trying to learn the big picture.