Preparing for the EMC IIG Future

Its taken a while but I did say after the event in Lisbon that I would put together some advice for people who are currently skilled in IIG products which will enable them to prepare for the future. In Lisbon a number of major announcements were made on the IIG products which will start to change the products in the next few years, no timescales were given. Some of these changes were:

- the move to the Next Generation Information Server(NGIS) and away fro the Content Server;

- the move away from WDK and towards RCMP for all web clients;

- more cloud enablement of the product stack;

- the introduction of XPlore (technical not announced in Lisbon but the timing of its introduction lets me put it in here!);

So if I was advising a Documentum developer on what to learn what would I advise them to do, in no particular order:

- learn XPlore, depending on what exposure you have to the search components of Documentum most people will need to know the basics of XPlore;

- download, install and try things in Centerstage. Why? Its the first client based on RCMP and if you can start to master development on this platform now you will be well placed when the new clients, such as xCP 2.0, come out. I’d recommend trying with all the facets of it including adding Widgets which could provide integration points with other systems;

- download, install and start to learn xDB. It may take some time for NGIS to be delivered but it will be based on xDB as the database. Learning it now will put you ahead of the game, I would look at starting to build some apps which use the engine for management of structured data which you currently find you need to model in your current Documentum based apps e.g. the POLE model (Person, Object, Location and Event);

- try out the CMIS connectors, a slightly different approach but try different methods of using the CMIS connectors on Documentum. Think of some scenarios where this may be required, e.g. an ERP system which requires to pull documents from multiple content repositories. Try it with multiple Documentum repositories and then throw in a alternative such as Alfresco or SharePoint 2010.

These are just some ideas and they may not get you ahead in the world today, but in the future you’ll be in a strong position.

 

CMIS and SharePoint

Blimey, two in such a short space of time. This one has been rattling around in my head for some time and I was prompted to write based on the post from Real Story Group.

Now I am not a subscriber so I have not read the full report but the mere fact that there is interest in this subject prompted me to write this. I think CMIS and SharePoint is a difficult topic and I think it is a difficult topic for the SharePoint world. Why? Well its not a simple answer but take a look at this diagram. This describes how SharePoint has been built from the UI backwards. It is the UI which has pushed the development and growth of SharePoint and it is the UI which people focus on.

As a sample when I asked a number of SharePoint Consultants how to integrate SharePoint with an ERP solution they ALL assumed that I meant to have the ERP solution as the back-end repository but with the front end being SharePoint. When I clarified that I wanted SharePoint to be used as the document store for content which is used in ERP transactions then they simply didn’t get this.

CMIS is disruptive to this view in that it puts an unknown on the UI and relegates SharePoint to be a document repository. I use the word relegate on purpose as I believe this is how the SharePoint community would view this Use Case. This is wrong, this is an opportunity to open up a new set of solutions for SharePoint, for it to become more embedded in organisations and be more of a platform service.

I’d love to see some uses of SharePoint with CMIS and how this can open up new opportunities for SharePoint usage in organisations.

One interface to rule them all?

There were a number of comments to my last post about whether an organisation can really attain the common goal of having a single ECM repository. Ultimately I do not believe many organisations will be able to reach this, and there are situations when they should not aim for this. One comment pointed out that a single interface is really the goal of an organisation, users do not care where the information is stored but they do want to know how to get access to it.

I then read Pie’s post on how CMIS is already affecting the market and how one organisation in particular have developed a solution which shows accessing multiple repositories through a single interface.

This is exactly where I see the market going, although I think this is a first step. Being able to search for and view all unstructured content is extremely powerful and Pie comments that the first to market is not usually the one who prevails over time, they will though get some traction in the market. Now start to expand this view, bringing structured information into this view as well. I’ve had a look at Palantir recently and this is very interesting technology, imagine the power of a solution which combines some of the visualisation of Palantir with the ability to add content to your collection. Being able to Tweet, or more likely Yam, on a suspect in a criminal case, or on a new drug development. Adding a drawing which shows how a certain part of an Energy plant works in the same view as looking at the organisational structure of that plant. Eventually people will stop accessing information through hierarchies and start to get access to information through subjects or topics, SharePoint is making a strong move in this direction in 2010. In this view of the world the Content Management platform becomes much more of an infrastructure commodity.

It would be interesting to hypothesize how this change would affect the way in which SharePoint has taken the ECM market. Whilst it is true that the UI is not the main reason why SharePoint has made this move it is still important and is a very convincing reason why people love SharePoint so much. Perhaps the power of SharePoint’s Portal approach, in my view not great but still an advantage over most ECM players, could be a compelling argument for SharePoint to continue to grow.

This may make life harder for end customers but there is every possibility that the vendor with the best, and most usable, interface, will not have the best content repository. However it will drive a lot of competition in the market and really get people thinking both about how they store their content and how they want to interact with it as well as interacting with other information sources.

Pie’s Application Separation

Interestingly when I first read Pie’s tweet to advertise this post I thought it was going to be focussed on Content Enabling applications. I suppose it is but some of the applications he talks about content enabling are very close to the platform services being provided, e.g. WebPublisher and Centerstage. Does this mean I think it is wrong? No, not at all. Pie has exposed a model which is very interesting. With the Core Server customers would buy the platform and a way to interact with the basic services the platform provides, it would be interesting to understand where the line is drawn on Basic Content Services…e.g. is MOSS in this group?

For Applications Pie adds the likes of WebPublisher and Centerstage, the Documentum apps. In this space I see some separation between these style of products and the more vertically focussed implementations. Something more akin to:

- Extended Content Applications – those applications which are still focussed on providing horizontal content solutions but with enriched services focussed on a specific ECM Use Case such as Web Content Managment or Digital Asset Management;

- Business Solution Content Applications – those applications which are taking a specific business solution where there is a need to interact with unstructured content and providing the application to perform these tasks;

It is the latter which I am becoming increasingly interested in, I’m making some notes on a post about Case Management which I hope to post this side of Christmas.

So will Pie’s model work? Yes. Do I think the market is ready for this? Not yet, and I think it is the vendors who are the farthest away from this concept although CMIS should provide a vehicle for them to provide this. Take Documentum for example, with their CMIS release they have some very basic content services which they can expose…the decision they need to make now is which services form the rest of the platform services and how can they expose these in a way which enables CMIS to develop.

There is also a certain amount of kudos which is taken from having your app used by customers at the front end, moving ECM closer to being an infrastructure may not be something the vendors will necessarily embrace. But then how many times will you hear people say things such as “Documentum is a really annoying product” (Quote taken from a quick search of Twitter for Documentum)? The answer is quite high, and this is something which creates a poor reflection on Documentum as the users are typically complaining about the way they interact with the services and not necessarily the services themselves.

Any vendor that can shape themselves to providing the most scalable, performant, secure and compliant unstructured store which provides a rich set of services which can be used will be one step to establishing a differentiator for themselves. The second step will be to get a strong strategy of working with partners to use those services in business focussed applications such as Contract Management, Case Management and Purchase to Pay applications.

EMC Momentum 2009 – D6.5 Architecture Overview

I’m going to try and get through the backlogs of write ups which I have, starting with this session which was hosted by Victor Spivak on the Tuesday morning. Firstly I must criticise the scheduling, or rather room scheduling. Victor’s sessions are notorious for their high attendance so why put this on in one of the smaller rooms, there was no spare space!

Victor talked about the themes which drive the architecture, namely:

- SOA

- Performance/Scalability

Victor did say at the start that some of the session would be a repeat of last year’s, fortunately I did not attend that but I have looked at some of the details which Victor talked about.

On SOA Victor talked about the need to remove the chattiness of DFC and the addition of numerous new services for D6.5. REST will be supported post 6.5, possible 6.6 release in 2010. XML and JSON representations will be made available. EMC will not try and take sides in the SOAP vs REST debate and will support both.

CMIS was discussed and Victor talked about the disappointment of JSR170 and that being the reason behind the lack of Documentum support for it. He talked about the goals of CMIS, all publicly available, and how CMIS can be considered the Esperanto of the ECM world. However he did say that the current release is best served by the Use Case of a repository explorer without too much complex functionality.

He then talked about the Centerstage model and revealed that xCP 2.0 will be based on this, more to come on this in another post. However that is not the only client approach they will follow, note Mediaspace is Flex based. He also raised the interesting idea of using Spaces in Centerstage to support multi-tenancy in the cloud, I’ll have to check some details on this but could be interesting.

On Performance and Scalability, when I stopped being annoyed at the guy who was on his phone!, Victor talked about High Volume Services and the concept of batching citing the example of creating 100 objects in the docbase and the number of api calls this generates. This can be vastly reduced with the concept of batching. Victor also talked about the concept of Lightweight SysObjects.

Next up was the subject of search. Now I had heard from a colleague about Documentum Search Services and Victor talked about it briefly, he did point out the sessions which would cover the details. DSS will use the same Index Agent as the current Search solution but will use xDB. (I had heard from another session that this may complicate the install, I’ll need to check the notes on this one). EMC will not force customers to move away from FAST and will support DSS and FAST running side by side for the forseeable future.

Victor also talked about the 100k user benchmark and the impressive results this showed, he compared this with MOSS 2010 which allegedly will have a limit of 30m objects per repository; for my current project this would not see us through to the Olympics in 2012!

Finally Victor talked a little on Virtual Content Management, which is the use of Federated Records and then briefly talked about Operation Customisation. This is to cover situations where BOF would not apply and the example Victor quoted is when a user wants to import a zip file and then on import for the contents to be extracted to a folder. Another example is a Recycle Bin. Interestingly Victor suggested they would be interested to hear of scenarios which customers/partners would like covered off and they would look at these.

Overall then a good session, a lot of info was already available but then this was a 6.5 architecture. Victor is a good presenter who is clearly passionate about his subject area. As an intro to more detailed sessions this worked well, if only I had the time to get to the other sessions!

Momentum 2008: Day 1

Day One at Momentum let me focus on Partners with a series of presentations to the partners, be they SIs, ISVs or companies with an OEM relationship. The themes from the day were:

- Solution Frameworks. Big focus for 2009 is for EMC to deliver the vertical solution frameworks which customers can exploit to really bring business benefit. A good example here is a Case Management solution framework, expected to ship in 2008! This will introduce a number of ready built objects and UI features on top of core Documentum which will move the platform nearer to the line of business applications which the customers will gain their benefit from. There will be a number of these frameworks throughout 2009 and sometimes they will be backed up by sample business applications, e.g. Legal Case Management for the Case Management option. This is definitely something for us to look at.

- Quality. Release 6.5 was a major milestone for Documentum as the number of Level 1 defects was reduced from previous releases. This was achieved through improved processes including automated testing and a more agile approach to the product development.

- Complexity. Deployment has sometimes been hard, the new model is to make this easy and tests have proven that the typical install of Documentum has been reduced from 2 hours to around 30 minutes with the introduction of a concept called Express Stacks. Basically the core platform, or essentials, is installed and then vertical stacks can be plugged into it:

Innovation. Building on the Solution Frameworks by partnering better EMC believe they can really show benefit to customers and get them to see ROI much quicker and much greater.

Some of the Technology Initiatives which were discussed during the day include (note these are in no order and when the subject came up twice, I’ve included it below twice to show the popular ones)

SaaS. EMC really see some growth here and have a good diagaram which shows the difference between the location of the Information, or the Repository, and the Application, or the Business Logic. They are actively seeking hosting partners for this and when this is sorted I would expect a new, and probably complicated, addition to the price book. I hope it is not complicated though as this could be a positive move by EMC.

CMIS. Point 1, when asked only 20% of the audience had heard of CMIS. I was a bit disappointed in this as the recent announcements were noted in a number of places. The first time this came up was very much a beginners guide, largely due to the lack of knowledge. I won’t repeat that but the interesting point is that they expect to have a release of the product which is CMIS compliant in mid 2009. They have already trialled some of this in sessions with the other contributors and this really sounds like a positive area.

Virtual Repository Management. This introduces the concept of managing other, third party repositories with Documentum policies. e.g. Content in Sharepoint being subjected to Retention Policies from Documentum.

Next Generation WDK. Moving to a Web 2.0 platform, WDK is now 10 years old and things have moved considerably in that time. The architecture will be unveiled but will be based on a Rich Content Management Platform (RCMP). Will be fully supported in the tooling, i.e. expect that to mean Composer.

Captiva. New releases to come, making it more service based. Next release is English only but multilingual to come.

Document Sciences. Will maintain the focus on the product as a standalone but will also integrate it into Documentum, as two different routes.

CMIS. More talk on CMIS, this time to say an implementation is available now for the Web Services interface. Not checked myself but something to look for on EDN.

Open SW Initiative. EMC have listened to what people have said and will make software more readily available for the techies to download and try out and possibly even provide a more collaborative approach to releases.

XML. Listened to a talk on the xDB but to be honest the information was nothing new on what is already available!

 

Lots there and more to come……