From the Tree of Knowledge

Lately it seems that there are two major directions in open source software development: match proprietary software feature-for-feature, with some additional features thrown in for the extra cool factor. Or, someone develops code that simplifies and streamlines product features to make complicated software more accessible.

The latter direction is certainly the way the folks at KnowledgeTree have gone with their KnowledgeTree software, a content/knowledge management software application that can be compared to the likes of SharePoint or Alfresco ECM.

Except, instead of going feature for feature against SharePoint, the KnowledgeTree folks have opted to deliver a turnkey solution that works right out of the box, making it a much better fit for SMBs that don’t have the time, money, or talent to implement something like SharePoint.

Having just played around with SP last month, I have a grudging respect for this app, but let’s face it, SP is one darn big application that’s so customizable, it just begs to be installed and configured by Microsoft MVPs. For an additional fee, of course.

When I spoke to KnowledgeTree COO Daniel Chalef a couple of days ago on the phone, he related the tale of how Bill Maguire, CIO of Virgin America downloaded and installed the KnowledgeTree software and had it installed in 30 minutes, and rolled out in two hours. (They must like this story, it’s on their web site, too.)

This kind of simplicity is what KnowledgeTree likes to hear, since that’s what they’re selling. Rather than laying on a huge platform for their customers, they sell the turnkey option. If they need more, the customers can pick and choose any additional services from amongst the different vendor/partners working within the KnowledgeTree environment.

That environment just got a little… bigger as of today. Chalef wasn’t calling just to say hi; he was filling me in on the newest version of his company’s product, KnowledgeTreeLive (KTL). The hook for KTL is that it’s a software as a service (SaaS) product, sitting out on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and the

Simple Storage Service (S3) platforms.

Functionally, Chalef told me, the KTL product is identical to the other versions of KnowledgeTree. That seems pretty impressive to me, because getting things to work the same out on a cloud is not always easy. Chalef confirmed my suspicions, telling me that a lot of work had to be done to overcome persistent storage challenges inherent in dealing with S3 versus a “traditional” storage platform.

Going out to a cloud might sound likean enterprise play, but actually this move fits with KnowledgeTree’s primary customer base, the SMBs and department-level organizations. Delivered as an rPath Linux virtual applicance, KTL gives SMBs access to a robust content management system they might not otherwise have.

Everything is supposed to be fully integrated with the community and commercial versions of KnowledgeTree, so sharing data and content is seamless. There is also integration with the online office app suite Zoho Office and Microsoft Office.

Er, not OpenOffice.org?

Most SMBs are still working on Office-based systems, Chalef explained, which was the reason behind this decision. He added that all of the KnowledgeTree products heavily leverage OpenOffice.org tools on the server end of the product. I understand the need to go with what your customers have, though hopefully they can add some OOo integration soon and perhaps be a leader for their customers. Just a thought.

I haven’t had a chance to mess around with any of these apps yet, though I hope to soon. One more decent, open source knowledge management tool is always a good thing for the market.