Social Software for the Enterprise – revisiting the FLOSS options


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I got to know of a new entrant into the confused enterprise 2.0 space which has been open sourced and seems to be funded by the tax payers money of US. Lockheed Martin’s new Eureka Streams. Being a FLOSS junkie and somewhat involved in social software for the enterprise use 😉 I had to look into it.

And then I noticed in the new stats feature of the blogger platform that the third most read post in my blog between May 2010 & now is an old post where I review some options for Social CRM apps. So I had to write this post to include two new entrants from the FLOSS side.

I was first surprised that there was no mention of Eureka Streams in the twitter broadcasts though it is old news as per twitter speeds. I actually got to know of it from my geeky source Slashdot where Wired’s story of a CIA Software developer going open source was discussed. And so I tweeted it out & it got picked up by the enterprise 2.0 and social CRM folks.

Here are a few takes I have on this whole FLOSS based Enterprise Social Networking software thing bubbling up.


Since the White House has committed itself to open source, many of its vendors are showing a penchant for open sourcing their offerings, though not always using the existing body of work, and thus not really saving the tax payers money. Because money is being spent on writing code all over again. Because the open source communities are being forked. They are unable to figure out the real intent behind the open sourcing of the software from these vendors and are hesitant to put in their effort into these software.

FLOSS developers are not “open up the code & they will come” kind of folks. They are a very hardy community and you need to be a part of that community and gain their trust to be able to get their help. If you need to understand the FLOSS communities better, you need to read Jono Bacon‘s book Art of Community.

So understandably, there are some apprehensions & possibly aspersions about Lockheed Martin opening up its Enterprise 2.0 code.

Follow Through

Next is the adoption of FLOSS in enterprises. The biggest issue with FLOSS adoption in enterprises, as I also pointed out in my older post is the absence of a neck to strangle when things go wrong. Whom do you call up when theres something wrong with the system? FLOSS is typically supported by a community of developers who are contributing their free time to the development and maintenance of the software. So if you are in a hurry, you need to pay up. This is usually not a problem for enterprises since they are ready to pay up (and if the FLOSS is good, you hardly need to call up someone for help). But the real problem is whom to pay? Companies like RedHat have teams to provide service & support based on SLAs.

Is Lockheed Martin ready to provide such an SLA based support service? Well, since social software is not considered to be business critical, you might now require strict SLAs like that for a Linux server, but that might change too (am looking into a far future where social software is as ubiquitous as email is now).


Social software in general has a hurdle in enterprise adoption – integration with existing enterprise systems. And the list includes:

  • email (Exchange & Notes)
  • IM (Sametime & OCS)
  • file sharing (Sharepoint, Alfresco)
  • static Knowledge Bases/Intranets built using CMS (no option for commenting/rating/social sharing are the biggest draw backs)
  • HRMS/ERP (SAP, Peoplesoft)
  • CRMS (Siebel, SFDC, MS Dynamics)
  • portlets/widgets/mashups for any other enterprise apps (WebSphere, jBoss Portals, Corizon, open social)
  • SSO (AD, LDAP)
  • backup & archiving.

Provide out of the box integration capabilities for the leading vendors and separate integrators for the less popular or more arcane/obscure systems and I guess you are golden with the enterprises. Of course these integrators need to be maintained & supported too. I am guess enterprises would be ready to pay a premium here for the more obscure ones.

Enterprise Social Network (ESN) – software framework

The way I have been looking at this space, all enterprise social software require a few major social features:

  • content/conversations(wikis, blogs, forums, comments)
  • networking (profiles, friends, hierarchy/org chart)
  • annotations (tagging, rating, likes, sharing/notifying)
  • collaboration (groups, communities, workspaces, calendar, events, todos, tasks)
  • activity streams (facebook like streams of what everybody in your network & communities have been doing)

Elaboration of the above list might require a separate post if you are not aware of it already. 😉 In which case you better hire me. 😀

Since these are required in an enterprise, granular access controls & security are important aspects along with the integrations & support aspects I detailed above.

BTW, the only manner in which the various offerings (both proprietary & FLOSS) differ technically are the underlying architectures, UI & terminology.

New FLOSS entrants

Interestingly there are two new entrants in the FLOSS Social Apps category this past few months: Acquia’s Drupal Commons & LM’s Eureka Streams.

Drupal Commons
Drupal Commons is the good old LAMP based robust CMS Drupal and a few modules that make it a ESN software as described in the above section. The company founded by Drupal founders to address the support issues as highlighted in the Follow Through section above, called Acquia, integrated the Drupal core and the social modules, QAs it and publishes it as an integrated product called Drupal Commons and provides professional services too.

I had the good fortune of getting a demonstration of Drupal Commons from Acquia’s CEO Jay Batson, right after the day it’s 1.0 version was released (you could say it took ten years to come out, which is good for ya! 😉 ). And I must say that I was might impressed with what came out of the box. They got the ESN framework as I understand it quite right, but they do not (yet) have out of the box integrations to the legacy enterprise apps as I point out above. Some are available, some not. But at least the majority of the modules exist already. Its only a matter of incorporating them into the Drupal Commons out of the box. I am hoping their release cycles would be faster initially, to get it all stable and robust soon.

For someone with a greenfield, this seems to be a nice option though. If you do not have a CMS or if you already have a Drupal based CMS (or if you want to migrate to a more ‘social’ CMS) this can be a strong contender.

If LAMP is not a problem for your IT/architecture department and you are ok with some code customizations, I think Acquia’s Drupal Commons is a very inclusion in your list of vendors you are analyzing. Even against the established Enterprise 2.0 products. I hope Acquia makes it to the Gartner MQ. For that they would have to get bigger revenues. And thats a business execution rather than the software.

If you want to know why the Drupal guys came out with this after nearly ten years of building them in a fashion, read this post by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert where he fires a salvo back at some FUD from another leading vendor.

Eureka Streams
Lockheed Martin earlier struggled with user adoption for nearly four years when they implemented a project called Unity that integrated Google Enterprise Search Appliance (GSA), Microsoft’s Windows Sharepoint Servicess (WSS) and NewsGator’s Enterprise Server. That’s when they figured out that conversations around the content was the missing aspect. And thus was born Eureka Streams, which basically covers the Networking (profiles, friends) and Activity streams from my ESN software framework.

I looked at their Github page, and for an open source project its a pretty lonely project. It builds on various Apache projects and the code itself is available under Apache 2.0 license, meaning you could white label it! Another aspect is, if you are a Java shop, you can get this into your enterprise without much heartburn as a LAMP based solution would. But then, you would still have to rely on other systems to provide the other aspects from my ESN framework – blogs, wikis, forums, communities, etc.


The enterprise social networking software space is heating up thanks to their predominant advantages in Knowledge Management, Collaboration & employee engagement as well as social CRM. This is becoming an interesting area since many FLOSS projects have had a lot of time to grow in this space without being considered at an enterprise level before. There are also incumbents thanks to White House’s commitment to FLOSS, and these need to provide a support system to get FLOSS community’s trust as well as enterprise adoption. You need to map out your organization’s business cases & use cases as well as IT considerations before you chose on a vendor. Not an easy task like the vendors might want you to believe.

Interesting times indeed. All the best!

N.B.: All the above are my personal opinions and are not to be utilized for your decision making. You need to indemnify me of any adverse outcomes. I do not have any relationship with either Acquia or Lockheed Martin. Though I was in a demo from Acquia, they did not expect me to write anything about them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


  1. Thanks, Prem, for your frank assessment. Since it was nice and complimentary, I couldn’t take issue with anything!

    The key advantage Drupal Commons has is the strength and size of the existing Drupal community. Already 500,000+ strong, the Drupalsphere is full of people who will be anxious to take the base we (Acquia) have created and run like the wind to add, enhance, and extend it. In less than a week since its release, we already have threads on starting to discuss how people are thinking about going further. If the past is any guide, the community will jump on and do some great stuff in no time.

    With regard to integration with external systems, don’t forget that Drupal Commons is “still Drupal,” and many of these kinds of integrations already exist. For instance, there are SOAP modules that we (Acquia) have already used to link Commons with CollabNet’s TeamForge, with We’re currently working on an installation that links to ActiveDirectory, pulls data from SharePoint and from a custom enterprise app based on Oracle. There are already existing connectors for Alfresco (and other ECM systems that support CMIS), and the list goes on.

    So even if Drupal Commons doesn’t have “bundled” connectors, if enterprises want to connect Commons to an existing system, the answer probably is “There’s a module for that” already in Drupal.


    (PS – my last name is spelled Batson. 🙂

  2. Hi Jay,

    Please pardon my typo. 🙁 Am glad that you do take my assessment for what it is. It was really great to meet you in person. And very glad you could make a comment yourselves! Thank you! 🙂

    Jay, I at a personal level, get the power of a strong community of developers behind an open source software (my code exists in TestLink). Unfortunately though, not many businesses, at least the ones I have to work with, get it.

    This is a generic problem with the adoption of open source software by businesses & nothing specific to Drupal/Acquia.

    Linux got acceptance thanks to the likes of RedHat, Novell, etc. (as much as the open source community) providing support as well as support from the server manufacturers. But thats merely an example I use for the benefit of others who might chance upon our conversation here.

    These businesses need stuff that are familiar to them, which might mean that things come out of the box or at least you say that this is the module that they need rather than say that theres a module for everything, we can figure it out. Having a huge repository of modules is both a boon and a bane.

    IT in most businesses is getting thinner (thanks to outsourcing, offshoring, nearshoring, smartshoring, etc.) and is undergoing a transformation from a developer organization to sourcing & program/project management organization. Like it or not, open source is a factor too! But that still means that the project managers need to get support for the tech.

    IT narrows down on a set of tech options (OS, DB, app server, languages, etc.) and selects offerings within that bracket. And LAMP does not have the wide spread adoption that Java/J2EE has (thank Sun & IBM). Thats hurdle number one, which is much bigger than Drupal.

    Also, most businesses in regulated industries rely on what peers do. And when it comes to social technologies, BFSI, Life Sciences, Telecom, all suffer from a few common regulatory hurdles. Not unsurmountable, but needs addressing. And since this is a new area they definitely need references.

    And advocacy from your customers goes much longer than pitches from you or strong support from the open source community (considered bravado & jingoism by many in the business, I personally when its not), though they help some.

    Didn’t mean to sound condescending Jay, excuse me if I went over the board.

    Drupal Commons has a very solid footing, am sure the superstructure will evolve pretty fast too. Acquia as a business needs enterprise buy in like RedHat or Novell (or erstwhile Sun) get. So don’t forget the furnishings & the landscaping for that excellent house. 🙂

    All the best! And once again, thank you for joining the conversation. 🙂


    Thinker, Tinker, Connector |


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