Emergent Collaboration Vendor Review: Xwiki |

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Emergent Collaboration Vendor Review: Xwiki


Posted by on February 10, 2012

Every Friday, I’ll be reviewing a vendor in the emergent collaboration space and will provide an overview on that vendor which includes aspects from leadership and vision to technology and market focus. If you are vendor and would like to participate, please contact me (my email address is in the sidebar as is my Twitter link). The goal of these posts is not to bash or praise vendors but to simply offer an objective view on what various vendors offer so that YOU can decide if they are a good fit for your business. Every post will cover the same elements for each vendors. If you have ideas or recommendations for other items to be covered in these reviews, please let me know and I will consider them. Other collaboration vendor reviews can be found here.

This week I’m taking at look at XWiki which is marketed as a “next generation wiki” for enterprises complete with enterprise class features to make wikis easier to use (Wysiwyg editor, Office importing, PDF export, etc..).  XWiki is open source so there is a community behind it which continuously supports its development.  The company has 35 people and is based in France and Romania.  In 2011 XWiki did 1.5 million euro in revenue.  Most  of this revenue came from France but 40% of it came from international clients.  I spoke with the CEO of XWiki Ludovic Dubost.

Integration capabilities

XWiki integrates with search engines such as the Google Search Appliance or Sinequa (and several others).  There is also an integration with LDAP and Active Directory, Kerberos or CAS Single Sign Ons and Google Apps.

Support

XWiki is an open-source product so there is a community behind it that continues to build and extend the platform.  XWiki does offer professional services as well as a Cloud offering.

Pricing

The product itself is free so XWiki charges for support and services

Maintenance & Upgrades

XWiki runs on a three-month cycle for the open source version.  The cloud version gets upgraded twice a year.

Overall direction and strategic vision for the company and industry

The plan for XWiki is to develop and further market the “app-store” like functionality they are building out to support the product and to allow standard users to develop their own applications and wiki customization’s.  XWiki is a private company that is 95% owned by current employees and 5% owned by past employees.  Their goal is to keep the company growing without additional investment but they recognize that this means they can’t always move as fast as they would like.  XWiki has been around for 7 years and has hit break-even every year.  Additionally they want to focus on their partner programs and focus on developing them internationally.

XWiki believes that there are two big areas in the social software space around discussion and content.  These two areas will integrate closed together but for now this is hard since standards to not exist. The Cloud will become more and more pervasive as well as “app-stores” where customers can purchase modules and additions to their platforms.  Many companies are already using wiki type tools and XWiki believes this will also continue to grow.  In addition they seek wiki usage expanding with new capabilities built into the wiki tools and the addition of “wiki apps.”

XWiki believes there is a lot of space for open-source vendors.  Ultimately these types of companies might see lower revenue but they usually have a much greater reach.  According to XWiki only larger vendors will survive in the proprietary space but open source competitors will remain and become more relevant.

Key differentiating factors from competition (Atlassian / Sharepoint / Mediawiki)

  • Much more enterprise oriented and easier to use (wysiwyg, rights management, etc..)
  • Versus Atlassian, the key differentiator is the capability to organize information in more and better ways
  • Ability to structure wiki pages with meta data and allow for better navigation
  • Easy editing of information for non trained users.
  • Open source
  • Development capabilities (both user and advanced)
  • It’s still a wiki

Customization

With XWiki you can customize anything since it is open source.  There are three levels of customization: configuration, scripting, and modifying the actual tool/software itself.

Time to go live

The cloud version can go live in 5 mins, custom projects depend on the company and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Overall technology

Built on the Java platform and open source modules from Apache.  Uses HTML and web standards.  WCAG compatible.

Industry/vertical focus

Any company in any industry but focused a lot on sales, support, project teams.

Capabilities (customer, partner, employee collaboration)

Employee collaboration but can be used in open communities (education, end-user communities, public document wikis)

My take

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see anything specific in terms of features that made me think XWiki stood out from the crowded collaboration space, but that’s not meant to be taken negatively.  In fact with so many vendors in the space all doing the same thing it’s not that often that one really does stand out.  What does make XWiki unique is their open source model which is not something that we see in the space very often.  It actually reminds a bit of what Acquia is doing with their open source Drupal platforms (again where you pay for the service).  Honestly XWiki looks like a team of people who are having a lot of fun with the work they are doing so good for them!  They are a private company and have always broke even which is more than what many vendors can say which are taking heavy loses and raising more money to pump into marketing.

I really like their approach of building an “app-store” which is actually the same direction that their competitor Atlassian has been going in as well.  Right now it appears that XWiki is really doing well in France where they are based and are starting to get into some other neighboring countries as well.  Their largest U.S. based client is EMC which is a huge win for them.  The challenge for them of course is going to be able to grow and scale as quickly as their competitors and with no outside funding that is going to be challenging.  XWiki might not be the best fit in terms of a stand alone collaboration platform since it doesn’t have all of the features.  However, it could make for a great addition to an existing collaboration platform which is a bit weak on the content or document management piece as well as the document collaboration piece.  I also get the impression that while XWiki may have some large clients these deployments are not necessarily across the enterprise but instead being used by functional teams within organizations.

XWiki could be a good solution for a company of any size keeping in mind that while the product is free, their will be maintenance and support which will have to be purchased (or managed internally).

To find out more visit their website at XWiki.com

Screenshots

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  • Guest

    We tried Xwiki it in the past, but moved away from it. The product is a bit thin on features, but flexible as a platform.
    The open source community is not very developed, but helpful. There are only 10-15 active developers. The online documentation level is fair.

    An important note is the lack of enterprise ready plug-ins or extensions for the platform. This means you need to develop them internally or pay for development. We found their custom development services to be quite expensive and not great in terms of results.
    Overall it seemed like a decent solution for sharing basic information or documents, but got cost ineffective when used for something different.

    • Ludovic Dubost

      Hi,

      We’d love to know which features you felt where missing so we can see if we made progress since you worked with it ?

      10-15 active developers on the core product is actually significant, especially in the Open Source projects. There are 463 extensions on http://extensions.xwiki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome , though it’s true that you can’t call them all “enterprise ready”. We count a lot on AppWithinMinutes and Extension Manager to boost the number of applications and also third party developers sharing their applications. With it we’ll make it much easier for a third-party to build is application and to share it with others.

      Keep in mind that the product is developed with the money from customers that pay for projects build with XWiki or directly with customers paying for features, as well as with contributions from users and developers from the community. This means that the product evolves quite quickly from one year to the other and it’s still free to use with everything added to it (this can’t be said from many products which price increases every year).

      Now for the price and quality of our services I’d be grateful if you could email me (ludovic AT xwiki.com). As your post is anonymous I can’t see what you are refering too but I’d love to improve our offerings. For this I need to understand what we did not do good and why you found them too expensive for your company. Same thing as for the product, we are working hard to be better every year for our customers.

      Ludovic Dubost
      Creator of XWiki and XWiki SAS CEO

  • Ludovic Dubost

    Thanks a lot Jacob for the talk and the review. It seems the open source advantage and our app store work went through well in my message but I did not have our actual innovation go through.

    The big difference in XWiki is in the way it can be extended and the way you can build applications:

    - apps do not require Java or back-end development on the server, though you can also add back-end java modules but the features possible to develop only with front-end application that you can modify from the web browser is very extensive.
    - An application can be passed around between installations as a zip file or automatically downloaded from the Extension Repository, installed in your wiki
    - An application can be modified or build 100% through the web browser, from the data model, the presentation layer, the logic, javascript and css. XWiki has a development model that allows that and it’s quite unique.
    - The advantages of this innovation is that a project leader, a content person, a programmer and a web designer can work simultaneously on the application and make it come to life in real time collaboratively. It’s the wiki concept applied to application development. Now development methodologies are not left aside. You can use the XWiki version control but also integrate with external version control systems like SVN or GitHub.
    - Finally non technical users are not left aside. With “AppWithinMinutes” a non technical user can create a simple application (like the one in the screenshots) in just a few minutes. It will server most content sharing needs. Once more complicated things are necessarly in the application, an XWiki specialist (typically a script developer) can takeover and improve the application to server the more complex needs.

    The important thing to remember, is that XWiki is a collaboration tool that can be used right away as is to start sharing content, extend without technical skills it quickly with AppWithinMinutes and all the configuration features, extend more deeply with technical skills but still 100% from the web browser using the programming model and for the most advanced people that still feel limited they can still add to the engine and even modify the engine itself as it’s open source.

    I believe we have to make that a bit more clear as we believe this is quite unique not only in the Open Source world.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to present XWiki.

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