10 enterprise software companies to watch

Every vendor has a sales pitch - here are 10 worth watching

From business intelligence to CRM, from scheduling and e-procurement to database management and data governance, there is no shortage of enterprise applications available to help businesses make their processes more efficient. Choosing can be difficult, however: Do you go open source? Software-as-a-service, or in-house deployment? Every vendor has a sales pitch. Here are 10 worth watching.

1. Alfresco Software

Founded: 2005

Location: San Francisco and Maidenhead, England.

What does the company offer? An open-source enterprise content management (ECM) system. The products include Alfresco Community Network, a free download; Alfresco Enterprise Network, which starts at US$10,000 per CPU, per year; and Alfresco Small Business Network, which, because of a planned price increase, soon will cost US$5,000 per year for as many as 25 users.

Why is it worth watching? The experienced team running Alfresco includes CTO and Chairman John Newton, who co-founded Documentum, a content management vendor now owned by EMC. The World Economic Forum named Alfresco a technology pioneer for 2007, saying the company "dramatically lowers total cost of ownership through open source distribution, working in the user's native environment, minimizing training and using low-cost, loosely coupled hardware."

How did the company get its start? The founders wanted to make an ECM system that would be easy to use and implement, as well as based on open source, letting users contribute and review code.

How did the company get its name? The term "al fresco" refers to activities, such as dining, done in the open air. The founders chose the name because they make open source products -- and because it starts with "A," so it would be at the top of an alphabetical list.

CEO and background: John Powell, the president and CEO, oversaw worldwide operations of business-intelligence vendor Business Objects before joining Alfresco.

Funding: US$10 million in venture capital from the Mayfield Fund and Accel .

Who's using the product? More than 200 customers, including E*Trade Financial; the European Commission ; H&R Block; Harvard University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and Sears, Roebuck. The free version of the product has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, the company says.

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