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Alfresco architecture

At the core of the Alfresco system is a repository supported by a server that persists content, metadata, associations, and full text indexes. Programming interfaces support multiple languages and protocols upon which developers can create custom applications and solutions. Out-of-the-box applications provide standard solutions such as document management and records management.

As a Java application, the Alfresco system runs on virtually any system that can run Java Enterprise Edition. At the core is the Spring platform, providing the ability to modularize functionality, such as versioning, security, and rules. Alfresco uses scripting to simplify adding new functionality and developing new programming interfaces. This portion of the architecture is known as web scripts and can be used for both data and presentation services. The lightweight architecture is easy to download, install, and deploy.

There are many ways to deploy Alfresco, however most deployments follow a general pattern. Ultimately, Alfresco is used to implement ECM solutions, such as document management and records management. There can also be elements of collaboration and search across these solutions.

The solutions are typically split between clients and server, where clients offer users a user interface to the solution and the server provides content management services and storage. Solutions commonly offer multiple clients against a shared server, where each client is tailored for the environment in which it is used.


Alfresco offers a web-based client called Alfresco Share, built entirely with the Alfresco web script technology. Share provides content management capabilities with simple user interfaces, tools to search and browse the repository, content such as thumbnails and associated metadata, previews, and a set of collaboration tools such as wikis and discussions. Alfresco Share is organized as a set of sites that can be used as a meeting place for collaboration. Alfresco Share is a web-based application that can be run on a different server to the server that runs the Alfresco repository, thus providing opportunities to increase scale and performance.

Alfresco Share can be deployed to its own tier separate from the Alfresco content application server. Alfresco Share focuses on the collaboration aspects of content management and streamlining the user experience. Alfresco Share is implemented using Alfresco Surf and can be customized without JSF knowledge.

Clients also exist for portals (by using JSR-168 portlets), mobile platforms, Microsoft Office, and the desktop. In addition, using the folder drive of the operating system, users can share documents through a network drive. Using JLAN technology, Alfresco can look and act just like a folder drive. JLAN is the only Java server-side implementation of the CIFS protocol, letting users interact with Alfresco as they do any other normal file drive except the content is now stored and managed in the Alfresco content application server.


The Alfresco content application server comprises a content repository and value-added services for building ECM solutions.

The Alfresco content application server provides the following categories of services built upon the content repository:
  • Content services (transformation, tagging, metadata extraction)
  • Control services (workflow, records management, change sets)
  • Collaboration services (social graph, activities, wiki)

Clients communicate with the Alfresco content application server and its services through numerous supported protocols. HTTP and SOAP offer programmatic access while CIFS, FTP, WebDAV, IMAP, and Microsoft SharePoint protocols offer application access. The Alfresco installer provides an out-of-the-box prepackaged deployment where the Alfresco content application server and Alfresco Share are deployed as distinct web applications inside Apache Tomcat.