Orchard CMS

Last August my company landed a new project to refurbish some Payday lending websites. As part of that project it was my task to find a .Net and MVC compatible CMS to move some legacy VB.Net websites to a new CMS based platform. Back when I was at the Director’s Guild, I had also spent a bit of time evaluating some .Net based CMSs, so I was familiar with some of the ones that came up in my Google search. I evaluated a number of mature and not-so mature platforms such as Umbraco, Composite C1, Sitecore, DotNetNuke and Sitefinity.

The one that eventually floated to the top was Orchard CMS.

Since last August I’ve had lots of opportunity to get to know Orchard, and I absolutely love it. I’ve been way too busy to blog about it, but now things are slowing up a bit so I plan to knock out a few entries here and there as time permits. Orchard is an Open Source .Net based Content Management System (CMS). It was originally founded by Microsoft, but then released to Open Source. The project lead, Bertrand Le Roy is a Microsoft guy. He’s pretty sharp.

Matt Glover, one of my co-workers and also a pretty smart fellow, started on the project with me, and we even talked about writing an Orchard Cookbook. This was pretty much because the Orchard information we could find is scattered all over the place on the net. The Orchard Project itself has quite a bit of good documentation, but it’s a bit on the high level side. There are several good blogs by some of the key players on the Orchard Project. Bertrand’s blog, Tales from the Evil Empire is an excellent source of Orchard info. So is Sebastien’s website. Dave Hayden, whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with, also has an excellent and informative blog.

The Orchard Cookbook© idea is still in play, but both Matt and I realized that any book covering Orchard to any decent depth would be HUGE. Needless to say, we have some planning to do.

One of the things I like about Orchard is it’s extensibility. The auto-compilation and dependency injection architecture of Orchard not only makes it a great CMS, but it makes it a potential business platform for any number of things. From blogging to eCommerce, Orchard can easily be tweaked to fit about any particular need.

This extensibility has it’s upsides and it’s downsides. The upsides are as I’ve mentioned: power and adaptability to almost any conceivable usage. The downsides are that Orchard is a beast. The learning curve to become even reasonably proficient at Orchard customization is three months if it’s a day. It’s a commitment and an investment. That’s not to say that one need spend 3 months to get an Orchard site up and running. Orchard comes with a whole slew of 3rd party plugins, called modules, from the Orchard Gallery. There are also abundant places to get a Theme for Orchard, both free and premium. A person familiar with CMS concepts could get an Orchard site up and running in a few minutes.

I’ll be writing some more (quite a bit actually) about Orchard over the coming months. XCentium is going to build out our Orchard service and may even end up doing a full SAAS offering for Orchard kind of like what Drupal has in Acquia.