Open Source Digital Asset Management

Below are listed the main open source DAM solutions that are currently available. Most products are web based. In some cases desktop clients may also be provided as an alternative mode of interaction.

In determining which products are suitable to have the description Open Source applied, we have assessed each vendor to identify if they use a licence that is OSI approved as the main criteria for inclusion. Readers should note that this does not mean they are necessarily free of cost (either to purchase or for customisation and on-going support) and each vendor should be consulted to get a better idea of the actual total cost of ownership.

Pure Web DAM

Activae is developed by Cenatic, an agency of the Spanish government and is a Python based DAM (like, Notre DAM and some proprietary DAM solutions such as AssetBank).  Activae uses the Cherokee Web Server and includes an advanced API so is well suited for integration (but XML/RPC rather than the more conventional REST or CMIS gateways).  It includes a separate transcoding server detached from the web application which permits it to scale quite easily.  This is more common in enterprise DAM systems but less so in open source products (FocusOPEN and Razuna are the only products which include a dedicated asset manipulation server that we are aware of).  Being from a public sector heritage, Activae is strong on DMCI (Dublin Core) and includes advanced workflow capabilities.  Activae has a BSD licence (in common with ResourceSpace).

The key drawback is the lack of English language documentation, the whole Activae site is in Spanish only and for this platform to gain traction, it needs to reach out to a wider market.  Cenatic are keen for their user community to assist with this process but in our view, they need to possibly make some investment into reaching out to a wider user community.  Their product is clearly very strong technically and could gain far greater traction and potential revenue to re-invest back into R&D if they had a wider base of users.

Since Activae was first added to this list of products, there have been few updates since August 2012, so you would need to check whether it is still being actively supported and ensure that you have local access to Python skills (and that your developers can get to grips with the code to modify it yourself if required).

Summary: Very fast and scalable alternative to some less sophisticated proprietary DAMs.  Very flexible licence and great for anyone comfortable with Python but only for those with Spanish language skills at present.

Licence: BSD
Technology: Cherokee, Python

Formerly OpenEdit DAM, EnterMedia is an open source Digital Asset Management system developed using the OpenEdit content management framework.  EnterMedia includes full support for the typical range of facilities that modern DAM systems should include as standard, including extraction of embedded metadata, bulk uploading, transformation of image based assets etc.  By default, EnterMedia uses XML files rather than a database, however, database connectors are available for those who are not keen on this approach.  The OpenEdit framework is well established and EnterMedia’s use of it is as well as Java marks it as suitable for enterprise use.

EnterMedia has recently acquired greater popularity amongst the A/V community and has a number of plug-ins which enable it to be more easily integrated with video technologies, notably the Rhozet Carbon Coder transcoding tool.

Summary: Good AV DAM solution.  Java based so suitable for enterprise use.

Licence: GPL (version not known)
Technology: Java, XML

Menalto’s Gallery is described as a ‘Photo Album Organizer’ rather than a Digital Asset Management system, however, it does offer a number of features and benefits that allow it to operate like a DAM solution.  One of two PHP based asset management solutions featured here, Gallery, is mainly oriented towards the needs of photographs and images, however, it does have support for video.  Gallery is designed to integrate with other PHP applications and includes support for image manipulation, searching and many of the core functions of other DAM solutions.

Summary: Ideal for hobbyists or providing an image gallery function to an existing PHP based site.

Licence: GPL (version not known)
Technology: PHP, MySQL

Notre DAM was developed by CRS4 (Center for Advanced Studies, Research and Development in Sardinia) and although it has an academic background, it is somewhat simpler than Fedora or DSpace and shares a number of characteristics with more commercially oriented open source DAM systems.  Notre DAM uses Python (as does Cynapse mentioned above).  By default it includes a SQLLite database (although this can be changed to MySQL or an alternative RDBMS).  Notre DAM uses the MediaDART framework which provides a number of media processing features that are ideal for Digital Asset Management.  Notre DAM is also tightly integrated with XMP and contains a number of options for XMP based metadata manipulation.  The application itself contains the core fundamentals required for serious DAM including a web based interface, support for images, video and documents, workflows, multiple taxonomies and a variety of other functionality such as Geotagging.

Summary: Highly suitable as less complex alternative to DSpace or Fedora also well worth checking out for non-academic use. One to watch.

Licence: GPL3
Technology: Python/Django, SQLLite or MySQL (or any other Django compatible RDBMS)

Phraseanet by French vendor, Alchemy, was formerly a licensed product costing 7,500 Euros.  However, Alchemy have changed their licensing policy recently and switched to open source.  Alchemy were originally a reseller for Phrasea, but acquired the rights to it in 2000.  They have a longer track record in the DAM sector than almost any other featured vendor here apart from Daydream (having been operating since 1996).  Phraseanet is PHP & MySQL based (as are ResourceSpace and Gallery).  The features provided are impressive and demonstrate just what a powerful challenge open source DAM now presents to proprietary alternatives.  Phraseanet has  support for images, video and documents (using the usual combo of ImageMagick, FFMPEG, OpenOffice etc. for processing) and includes an impressive searching capability as well as lightboxes (favourites).  Other features include a thesaurus, live folders and Flash based file uploaders, an LDAP integration module is also available.  Alchemy have definitely put themselves back on the map by electing to take Phraseanet open source and it’s well worth checking out if your preference is for a PHP/MySQL based product.  The GPL3 Licence is more restrictive than BSD, but still perfectly usable for client projects, Alchemy themselves also provide a range of development and support services as well as a Software as a Service (SaaS) option.

Summary: Ideal for PHP developmers and a possible alternative to ResourceSpace.  Built by a vendor with a long track record in DAM.

Licence: GPL3
Technology: Python/Django, SQLLite or MySQL (or any other Django compatible RDBMS)

The Razuna product is Java/CFML (Cold Fusion) based.  In common with most professional DAM systems, Razuna supports most types of media, extracts IPTC and XMP metadata from assets and also includes an API.  Razuna makes use of an open source variant of CFML using OpenBD which is powered by J2EE.  Razuna offer a WordPress plugin as well as a desktop client as an alternative to pure web based delivery.  They include some more scalable options like a dedicated asset processing server which uses wget to initiate transcoding jobs on another server.  FocusOPEN includes something similar, however, that is based on WCF and runs as a separate Windows service (which may be better or worse depending on your circumstances).  It lacks a scripting language to control it, however, the API is well developed and in essence, the choice of CFML somewhat negates the need for one anyway (it’s more compiled systems where this is a benefit)

Razuna have extensively developed their product over the last few years and it now includes various other specialist features and services.  One of the main advantages it can offer is the ability to integrate with a variety of Cloud storage providers.  They also appear to have started to target a few niche sectors, such as ‘Razuna Blue Light’ for law enforcement clients.

The use of CFML rather than Java or .NET makes this less enterprise-friendly than the developers would probably like it to be.  That said, the CFML stack is essentially built as a scripting language for Java objects and it does have the advantage of allowing the code to be modified far more easily than some of the Java or .NET options.

On the negative side, this vendor appears to have moved around Europe, starting in Switzerland, then telling us they were a UK company and now they say they are Danish.  This suggests a somewhat mobile and/or fluid executive  team – although they appear to be stabilising a lot more in recent years (and they are still here since 2007).  Their download numbers also look dubious and appear to multiply exponentially every few months to levels that seem implausible for the size of this market.  With all that being said, if you can see beyond some of the more arrogant puffery of their marketing output, this is a creditable DAM product that is well worth including on your shortlist.

Summary: A mid-market DAM solution with enterprise ambitions built using Java and CFML (Cold Fusion), especially suited to those looking for a Resourcespace alternative that is non-PHP based.

Licence: AGPL v3 and Commercial
Technology: Java, CFML and JDBC with PHP integration

ResourceSpace was originally commissioned by UK charity Oxfam who released the product with a BSD licence in 2006 and was developed Dan Huby and Neale Hall.  In contrast with Menalto’s Gallery, ResourceSpace is a fully featured  PHP/MySQL DAM system and its BSD licence is the most permissive in terms of what third parties can do with it.  ResourceSpace provides a wide range of facilities and uses purely open source based tools such as FFMPEG, ImageMagick and OpenOffice.  A range of plugins add further functionality, including LDAP integration and other features to enable enterprise or large-scale use.  The metadata capabilities of ResourceSpace are highly developed and they have taken some bold (but in our view correct) decisions such as to eschew the folder metaphors that a number of other systems use.  The implication of this is that on ResourceSpace, you don’t reproduce your shared drive with some extra features thrown in to make the digital asset management task more bearable, but instead re-orientate towards a search-centric perspective that mirrors how end users of assets will probably be looking for your assets.

The service, hosting and support options are reasonably priced and it has good community support.  A number of commercial providers also offer services around ResourceSpace in addition to more advanced facilities (which you may have to pay for).  Since ResourceSpace is LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) based, it is well suited to web developers who want to leverage their existing PHP expertise.  The use of PHP is important because it makes it easier to find skilled personnel who can adapt the system should you need to.  Some of the more complex or esoteric technology options available for other open source DAM platforms could potentially present problems for those who may need to gain control of the code later.

In the past ResourceSpace would have been used more by not-for-profit charities etc and web designers who wanted to stay in PHP rather than using Java or .NET.  That situation has changed in recent years because more enterprise end users are becoming open to LAMP based platforms.  Cloud hosting (which is effectively a form of outsourcing) has contributed to making underlying platform distinctions less significant for end users who care less about whether or not it is compliant with their IT department’s policies and more whether their DAM is running or not and what it can do.  There are a number of larger end users of this platform now and it is no longer the purely charity oriented system that it once was.

Summary: Still a good option for not-for-profit organisations and libraries that are looking for a lot of features without high cost but increasingly also by larger organisations who have the flexibility to support a LAMP based solution.  Also a good choice for website developers who may prefer a PHP based system rather than complexities of Java or .NET.

Licence: BSD
Technology: PHP and MySQL

TACTIC is developed by Canadian company, Southpaw Technology and is described by them as a Production Asset Management tool.  It has only recently been made open source under the Eclipse licence, which is less restrictive than the more common GPL.  Southpaw have a strong background in 3D animation and film, but the system has been applied to other industries also (including advertising and marketing).  There are two editions: Tactic Team and Enterprise, both of which are open source.  A Commercial licence is available, but there doesn’t appear to be any specific difference in terms of what you get or the release schedules.  As with nearly all the open source options here, support and professional services are available.

The key advantage of TACTIC seems to be its strong workflow capabilities and suitability for managing large volumes of production assets (especially big files).  TACTIC uses triggers and a visual workflow designer to enable more sophisticated management of production processes and tasks like sign off and scheduling.  It’s far more developed as a production project management tool than most of the other open source DAM systems and includes some feature such as budget tracking which are not so typical for other DAM solutions.  TACTIC has a highly developed API and is strongly transaction oriented (so there are options to rollback most changes).  It appears straightforward to integrate with other technologies, for example, FFMPEG and other transcoders or conversion tools.

TACTIC is well suited to a busy production environment where a reasonable amount of prior planning has gone into how workflows need to operate, but possibly too in-depth and complex for casual use.  It has a number of enterprise oriented features and supports that level of technology.  In terms of direct comparisons, it’s difficult to identify which competing open source system is similar, although Entermedia have a developing presence in the video sector.  The use of Python is an interesting choice.  It has the benefit of being quick and easy to pick up, especially for a developer who has some prior experience in other languages.  However, it isn’t Java and some might see that as a negative point, especially anyone who needs to get this past a more draconian IT department.  I believe that situation is changing, however, and one does find that many DAM systems that use Java or .NET often end up providing users some lightweight scripting facility anyway (either at the request of their users or to simplify their own development processes).  TACTIC has many of the other requirements of enterprise solutions included as standard, such as LDAP integration etc.

Where TACTIC looks like it might score highly is when compared with competing proprietary enterprise vendors, such as North Plains (who are also in Toronto), ADAM and OpenText.  The features and facilities measure up quite well with these products but the potential saving on licence fees and the highly experienced management team look ready to give those vendors a proper run for their money in highly production oriented environments.

Summary: Strong workflow and project management capabilities, highly suited to production environments.  Will require either a decent investment of time and/or professional services assistance from TACTIC.  The Python implementation might put off some but if you are thinking about a large scale enterprise DAM solution then TACTIC is well worth checking out.

Licence: Eclipse and Commercial
Technology: Python, Postgres or Oracle

ECM Suites With DAM Modules

A number of people have commented and/or contacted us to ask why Alfresco have not been included in our list of open source DAM systems.  The reason is that as described in the definition at the top of the article, Alfresco don’t have a specific DAM product per sé – unlike some of the other open source ECM platforms who do.  However, since there has been a high volume of enquiries about this subject, below are some links for anyone who is interested in adapting Alfresco for DAM.  It should be pointed out though that if you are searching for a dedicated DAM solution rather than an ECM that can do DAM with plugins and configuration, Alfresco may not necessarily be the most straightforward option.  If you’re sold on the Alfresco ECM platform for other reasons and want to leverage your investment then it represents a good choice.

Embedded Metadata

Proxy Processing

The above were kindly bought to our attention by Ray Gauss II, CTO of RightsAssist, LLC who also developed the components.

In addition Integrated Semantics produce an AIR based RIA client for Alfresco which also integrates some DAM functionality such as proxy generation.  More details are available on the Alfresco forum.

Cynapse’s Digital Asset Management solution is a module of their ECM offering which enables it to leverage a number of inherent features already provided as part of the wider platform.  The Nuxeo product discussed below is also part of an ECM solution.  What appears to be missing from a brief investigation of their promotional literature is support for embedded metadata, however, workflow and transcoding facilities are available as too are desktop clients. is written in Python, Zope and uses the Plone open source framework (Notre DAM discussed below is also Python based).

Summary: Ideal for those looking at DAM as part of an ECM framework and/or for a Python based solution.

Licence: GPL v3
Technology: Java, CFML and JDBC with PHP integration

Nuxeo are targeting the enterprise end of the Digital Asset Management market.  Nuxeo’s open source DAM offering has only been available since January 2010 and is one of the more recent entrants to the open source DAM sector.  Nuxeo already have expertise acquired in the open source Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market and boast impressive enterprise credentials.  Their DAM solution supports embedded metadata extraction, interoperability with their ECM system and LDAP integration.  Unlike other more Enterprise oriented Open Source solutions such as FocusOPEN, the majority of dependent technologies are also open source, for example the use of Lucence as the text search engine.  Nuxeo permit free download of their product (albeit with registration).

Summary: An enterprise DAM solution built in Java using an established ECM framework.

Licence: LGPL
Technology: Java and JDBC

Preservation DAM

Concerto is a preservation/collections oriented open source DAM, but it does have some features which potentially make it suitable for general use too. It was built by Middlebury College’s Curricular Technology Development Lab.  The preservation background is made fairly clear by the product terminology, “Collections” and “Exhibitions”.  Collections are combinations of assets that are accessed by a search and browse interface.  Exhibitions are presentations or ‘slide shows’  that allow users to demonstrate their asset collections and include notes with them.  Concerto uses an editor/viewer configuration.  Viewers can be delivered via a low-profile JavaScript application which accesses the Concerto data.  Concerto has other less specialised features including: zoom image previews, custom metadata schemas, automated proxy generation (thumbnails and previews), batch importing and embedded metadata reading, LDAP integration and what they call ‘hierarchical authorizations’ which sounds like workflow. All of these are what you might expect to find in the pure web DAM systems described above (in addition to its capabilities for preservation).

The use of PHP and MySQL makes Concerto fairly usable for deployment to commodity hosting environments but the LDAP integration also offers some plus points for using it in a corporate setting.  Given the background of Concerto, however, it does sound like a college or university would be the ideal use-case scenario for a product of this nature, however, if you have access to developers from a similar background there is no reason it could not be adapted for other scenarios .  Concerto is built on top of the Harmoni Application Framework (also developed by Middlebury College).  This seems to be a generic architecture for the development of many types of information management solutions so potentially offers the potential to extend the product further by leveraging the framework.  The GPL2 licence presents few issues for third party developers (although integration with other solutions is subject to the usual restrictions with any GPL code).

Summary: Aimed at a university/higher education usage scenario, Concerto is preservation oriented but has enough general DAM capabilities to make it potentially a good all round solution.

Licence: GPL2
Technology: PHP, MySQL or Postgres

DSpace is a framework for developing Digital Asset Management solutions. Developed by HP and MIT Libraries, it is used extensively by academic and research organisations which makes it well suited for preservation usage scenarios.  DSpace implementations are organised into Communities which have responsibility for Collections which are in turn composed of assets.  DSpace is highly configurable and includes a flexible workflow for applying metadata to assets that will suit complex metadata.  Those seeking a more straightforward Digital Asset Management solution may find this software too complex and academically oriented for their needs, however, there can be no denying the power and flexibility of the underlying software.

Summary: Highly research/academically oriented, however, very powerful and suitable for complex preservation requirements.

Licence: BSD
Technology: Java, Oracle or Postgres

DSpace is a framework for developing Digital Asset Management solutions. Developed by HP and MIT Libraries, it is used extensively by academic and research organisations which makes it well suited for preservation usage scenarios.  DSpace implementations are organised into Communities which have responsibility for Collections which are in turn composed of assets.  DSpace is highly configurable and includes a flexible workflow for applying metadata to assets that will suit complex metadata.  Those seeking a more straightforward Digital Asset Management solution may find this software too complex and academically oriented for their needs, however, there can be no denying the power and flexibility of the underlying software.

Summary: Highly research/academically oriented, however, very powerful and suitable for complex preservation requirements.

Licence: BSD
Technology: Java
Notes: For those struggling with installation, this Fedora Commons howto is highly recommended (for Debian at least).

Greenstone is developed by The New Zealand Digital Library Project (which is part of the University of Waikato in New Zealand).  This is more an application to help generated digital libraries than a regular DAM.  For example, while most of the systems listed here provide a web based UI and either a database or XML representation, Greenstone uses a desktop client which will produce an HTML library using Perl which you can use via a web browser (it does include a client also though, the “GLI Client” which enables remote management of a collection on a remote server).  This approach provides some benefits and drawbacks.  The benefit is that repositories can be transferred to media like CD-ROMs and the system can be built without a database or other back-end.  The drawback is that libraries are created for others to use, rather than a collaborative, interactive web based system.  Greenstone uses a powerful macro language and contains hooks that can be integrated with C++ and other modules.  There is undeniably a great deal of power and sophistication in this product but it’s appears more ‘read only’ in terms of its orientation (at least that is the impression given).

A short overview like this can’t really summarise a product like this because of the range of capabilities offered and the mode of delivery isn’t conventional for what many have come to expect for a DAM system.  Therefore, we would advise librarians especially to closely inspect the comprehensive information on the Greenstone website to decide if it meets their needs better than some of the alternatives discussed here.  We welcome clarification comments from any of the Greenstone managers or developers to correct our misinterpretations.

Summary: Aimed at librarians especially but not designed or implemented in a way that is conventional for modern generalist DAM systems (especially those for corporate/marketing use).  This could be both an advantage or disadvantage depending on your needs.

Licence: GPL
Technology: Perl, C++, HTML