Open source content management company has celebrated doubling its revenue in the last financial year by launching a new version of its software.

Alfresco 3.1 contains the newly-launched Alfresco Network, an online communications and help tool for the company's customers. One main element will be the establishment of a knowledge base that can build on the expertise of Alfresco engineers and customers.

"In some ways it's a typical 3.1 version," said Alfresco CEO John Powell. "We're rounding off a few edges and improving the customer experience."

He said that the Alfresco Network was the pulling together of several disparate support services. "It's something that we've done before on different levels but they weren't very co-ordinated. What we're doing now is bringing them together in one central repository."

Powell said that a key part of the Alfresco Network was the access that the company now had to their users' networks. "We're providing a dashboard into customers' systems to monitor for problems. We can alert them to problems before they're aware of them," said Powell.

Among the other features of Alfresco 3.1 are a download directory, a proactive systems management platform and a platform for future support services to automate system checking.

The company has just announced its final year results and Powell said that the 103 percent increase in revenue was an indication of how open source software is increasingly being recognised as an alternative by modern organisations. He added however, that he was expecting the revenue increase to be of the same order next year, benefiting from the change of policy towards open source by the UK government.
"What's happened is that government has promoted the idea of an exit cost. Companies would look at the cost of buying into proprietary software but never at the cost of moving away from it.Organisations are now starting to cost that and that sort of has been very beneficial to us," said Powell.

He conceded that there would be organisations wary of moving away from some proprietary systems having spent so much over the years on software licences. "There is that," he said, "that's a blackmail cost". He agreed that for many years to come, companies would pay that "blackmail" rather than move to open source. "We fully accept that a lot of companies will, for many years, carry on with supporting proprietary software. That's why we will work with non-open-source products."

Powell said that one of the advantages of the government's new-found enthusiasm for open source was the closer contact with large systems integrators. "Previously, they wouldn't answer the phone to me, now they want to work with us," he said. "Suddenly, Ive got a fan club," he added.

"The strange thing is that this was only a UK phenomenon. In France and Germany, I'd go along to meetings with government organisations and they'd happily talk to us but in the UK, they wouldn't," Powell said.