Paul Sterling on Umbraco vs. DNN
In my quest to explore alternative open source web application frameworks to DNN, I recently came across Paul Sterling’s blog, who is a core team member with the Umbraco project. Back in 2007, Paul briefly considered DotNetNuke as his web application framework of choice, but ultimately settled on Umbraco instead. In the following interview he shares his views on open source, Umbraco, and more. Thanks Paul!
For those in the .NET open source community who don't already know you, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
I am a long-time .NET developer (and VB before that) who has principally worked in the web application space. I am an ex-microsoftie and I now run Motus Connect where we collaborate with the best clients on interesting projects using Umbraco as our platform. I get to work with people that I respect, do what I love, and to contribute to Umbraco and related open-source projects. We offer official Umbraco training courses in the US and Canada, which is one of my favorite things to do as I love to meet and learn from people who are using Umbraco. I also speak about the platform at user groups, code camps, and similar gatherings.
What draws you to open source software and to Umbraco in particular?
Umbraco is an open source project with a very committed and active user community. The community has a well-deserved reputation of friendliness and is broadly international. The project’s structure is transparent – source code hosted on CodePlex since August 2006 with unfiltered discussions and work items – and quite democratic with the highest voted features being those included in new release. I’ve always liked that I can view all open issues for the project publically – anyone can see what the bugs are.
I learned from your blog that you switched your main focus from DNN to Umbraco in 2007. What was the main motivation behind that?
I attended the first DNN OpenForce conference in 2007 and right after enrolled in an Umbraco training course. It was an investment in time and money to help me make a choice between the two platforms. In the end, the two-things that pushed me to adopt Umbraco were the simple and straightforward way that Umbraco creates content and the ability to quickly integrate existing .NET apps quite seamlessly. I saw the potential with DNN, but I also saw that there always seemed to be a “work-around” to overcome a legacy feature. The current DNN version at that time was 4.5.5.
In adopting Umbraco as my platform, I realized I was trading some degree of community maturity (particularly in regard to commercial offerings) for a degree of flexibility. Two-years later the Umbraco community has come a long-way in terms of size and maturity, but the commercial offerings are still limited. Obviously, DNN has advantages in this regard. We are working to establish a commercial eco-system with the Umbraco Store by encouraging developers and firms to commercialize their products.
With your background in DNN and Umbraco, where do you see the main differences between the 2 open source projects?
The main difference between the projects is that Umbraco is a true web content management system (CMS) while DNN is a portal system. Umbraco is very good at allowing users to create human-readable web content that is managed, versioned, and easily updated.
While both are frameworks in the sense that they can be used as a basis for extension, Umbraco has a more “native” .NET approach in that .NET controls (user controls, custom controls, and the like) can be used “as is” either via Umbraco macros or inline in your markup without any special consideration for the framework.
Umbraco also takes an unstructured approach to templates – whatever markup you put in is what you get out – no pre-defined structure at all, which means that creating (X)HTML strict compliant markup is simple.
Umbraco performs well, largely due to its cache architecture where the database is not accessed when serving web content. This is an advantage many users cite when comparing Umbraco to other CMS systems.
With Umbraco v5, scheduled for late 2010, we’ll see a native ASP.NET MVC approach to templates. We believe that this is the best approach for web content moving forward. ASP.NET Web Forms will continue to be supported with v4.1.
What advice would you give people who are considering Umbraco as an alternative to DotNetNuke?
Umbraco tends to have a steep, but short learning curve. Documentation used to be spotty, but in the past year we have seen high-quality guides aimed at the novice user emerge on the Umbraco Wiki, which is why I recommend people start there. In mid-2010 “The Umbraco User’s Guide” will be published by Wrox Press, authored by Niels Hartvig and myself, which will provide a “hands-on” guide in book form.
For developers looking to extend or integrate Umbraco, I’d recommend learning from existing projects as most of them are open source. There are many different levels of extension and integration, so getting a feel for where your app fits in the continuum will help you plan your approach. Most developers find that integrating an app with Umbraco is a relatively easy task.
For questions at any level – from creating content to complex integration – I’d steer users to the Umbraco forum, where the friendly community is generally able to help.
DNN is now venture capital funded corporation. Do you see Umbraco move into the same direction?
No. From the discussions I’ve had with the project’s founder, Niels Hartvig, I don’t believe Umbraco will go this way at any time. Obviously, as conditions change and opportunities present themselves nothing is set in stone, but I don’t believe we’ll ever see Umbraco as a VC funded entity.
Your company, Motus Connect, has been hard at work on Commerce for Umbraco. What can you tell us about this project?
Commerce for Umbraco was our original proof of concept integration of dashCommerce (v2.2) with Umbraco. As the project has matured (and has been used by clients and other developers) it has evolved into an feature-rich Umbraco ecommerce extension. At Motus Connect we do frequent customizations of the project for our clients and try to include these features into new releases. Many new Umbraco developers use the project’s source as reference for integrating their .NET app to Umbraco and we encourage that use. Our current focus is set on getting a stable version of the project wrapped up and released by October 1, 2009.
Comments are closed