Momentum 2008: Developing Web 2.0 with Centerstage

This was a more technical session than the previous one I posted about, really looking to get more under the hood of Centerstage and look at some of its key concepts. Some of the concepts include:

– Space, e.g. an eRoom, i.e. an area where a group of people can work together. Each space appears as a tab, much like tabbed browsing (Why not just use the tabbed browsing functionality in the browser then and not have the look repeated?)

– Page, a collection of content, attachments, widgets. It is a composite view of ‘objects’. Pages can be templated for reuse. Pages themselves can be versioned.

– Section, a collection of pages within a Space. These also can have templates to ensure commonality.

– Tags, each object can be tagged. These are implemented through relationships and thus are not keywords, this also helps in terms of management of your tags. There are views available which are driven by tags, e.g. I can see all information for a given tag, implemented like tag clouds. I can also select which tags are important to me thus reducing the clutter in the tag cloud.

We then moved on to the architecture which was of real interest. A large block diagram was put on the screen which showed the various layers in the Centerstage architecture. The points I took from this are:

– provide clear separation in the layers;

– use of DHTML and other RIA toolkits;

– UI based on a combination of RCMP (Rich Content Management Platform), ExtJS and DWR (Direct Web Remoting);

– interaction with the core of Documentum through services, WS*;

– DWR is a custom protocol for Java <-> Javascript;

– ExtJs gives no server side page generation, exact version was 2.2;

– No JSPs;

– widgets can be developed and added fairly easily;

– widgets provide customisation but can also be done through XML configuration and some policy objects;

– widgets will tend to be a collection of .js and .css, but flex and silverlight will also be supported;

– views are a grouping within a tab, these are exposed as a ‘chiclet’ – made me chuckle anyway!

– flows through the UI are defined by actions which are a flow through the containers, defined in xml on the server;

Other things to note in the session:

– content in Centerstage will be exposed through Webtop, but the look will be slightly different;

– the product was compared to the tenets of Web 2.0, unfortunately not the tenets I would have used which are SLATES

Overall this is an exciting product, I think there will be opportunities for it but as I said previously it is a crowded marketplace. It is a big shift in technology for Documentum and I wonder how long they will stick with WDK before they move to this approach for all their clients….its something new for the techies to get their teeth into and we will have a couple of years when we need to be proficient in WDK and RCMP, which is the label they gave it.

The last thing I will say on this though is that I believe this is the nearest EMC will get to a Portal, without purchasing a Portal product. Not a J2EE Portal container but the paradigm of widgets is very similar to that of widgets and I can imagine users asking to see some custom widgets which interact with other systems such as an ERP system or MOSS. The Portal word was never used by EMC and this is not their published approach but it does not take too much brainpower to see the analogy.

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