Reflections on EMC World

June 1, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Posted in D6, Momentum | Leave a comment
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Pie, Alexandra, Lee and Johnny have all posted their thoughts on the key question raised by EMC World so I thought it was about time that I did so too.

Like Lee I wasn’t able to get to EMC World. Interestingly however I did experience much of it through twitter. Of course I didn’t get the first class, you-had-to-be-there type of experience but it was a significant experience nonetheless. Many people were tweeting during sessions and bloggers were putting up summaries of sessions almost immediately afterwards. What this meant was that not only did the facts come through but also some of the emotional reaction to announcements as well.

ECM vision required
I’ve watched (most of) the Mark Lewis keynote and I’ve read most of the blog summaries of the keynotes and other sessions. I have certainly been left with the following impressions:

  • EMC appears to be retreating from core content management as a selling point
  • As a corollary of the first point CenterStage is not getting the resources or attention it could
  • Case Management seems to have become an over-riding priority

That’s the impression – it may not be what Mark Lewis intended but that is certainly what comes across. Given the above it is hardly surprising that EMC don’t have a particularly inspiring Enterprise Content Management vision.

So what should/could an Enterprise Content Management vision look like. First off I don’t like the idea of buying a Content Management platform so the vision has to be more than ‘you have lots of information to manage so buy our software to solve your problems’. It certainly seems that core content management functionality has been commoditised so that you can get content metadata, versioning, renditions, full-text and metadata querying and basic workflow from anywhere.

But content management functionality is not Enterprise Content Management. ECM needs arise when an organisation scales (in terms of people, numbers of teams or document volumes) such that additional problems or obstacles arise. Some of these problems are stuff like archiving or large-scale ingestion. It’s easy to see why these types of problems fit well for EMC as a primarily hardware company.

Other problems seem to require more finesse. They would include things like:

  • discoverability – getting the right information to the right people
  • rich content – going beyond mere content and metadata
  • analytics – mining the information for enhanced value
  • Building knowledge communities – to turn data and information into knowledge
  • Incentives – providing some way of encouraging people to go to the trouble of making content available e.g. by tagging, writing blogs, contributing to Wikis and so on.

I would like to see EMC come out with something that shows how EMC might be the solution. That won’t solve all of these right now but I’d like to know, 3-5 years down the line, what their software might enable us to do.

CenterStage

One product that should be clearly at the centre (sic) of this strategy is CenterStage. For some reason this product seems to have lost management focus. It seems to have taken ages to get a GA release shipped and we are still waiting for some features that really should be there. However I think EMC should be proud of the type of product that is embodied in CenterStage and should be looking to push this as a major ECM product. I think it is much more than a simple Sharepoint competitor although that is how the marketing comes across.

One of the features of CenterStage that is not well sold is facets and in particular facets generated from analytical processing of content and comments. A facet is essentially a drill-down capability that allows the user to narrow down the results of a search. Obvious examples are the format of the document or the content size. This type of drill-down – based on author-supplied intrinsic metadata collected by any self-respecting content management system – seems so obvious you wonder why this type of feature hasn’t been standard in Content Management search for years.

However 3 other facets are available with CenterStage:

  • People
  • Company
  • Location

These facets are not based on metadata recorded by content authors, they are generated from a textual analysis performed on each piece of content by Content Intelligence Services (which utilises Temis Luxid as the text analysis engine). Since discoverability – getting the right information to the right people – is one of the key issues/problems in effective information management, enhancing content in this way is important.

This kind of content enrichment is not something that is provided out of the box by Sharepoint. This really never came across in any presentations I have seen and I only really got this after downloading and playing around with CenterStage. Of course it needs some further development to really make this feature great but I can’t understand why EMC aren’t shouting this from the roof-tops.

xCP and Case Management

I really want to believe that EMC don’t think that ECM and Case Management are one and the same. My initial impression from Momentum Athens (Nov 2009) was that xCP was a way of developing EMC content-based application using more configuration and less coding. Case Management was simply the first application area to get the xCP treatment.

I liked the implementation of ‘configure not code’ and it also appeared that a lot of effort and thought had gone into how to market this idea. It’s clear that a lot of resource has gone into Case Management, possibly at some expense to CenterStage, but I’d like to think that the xCP treatment will be passed on to CenterStage and other applications. I’d like EMC to show me this vision rather for me to assume all of this.

Momentum 2008 – Centrestage

November 13, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Posted in D6, Momentum | 1 Comment
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Of course the star of the show was Centrestage. If you don’t know what Centrestage is (where have you been?), in a single sentence, it’ s the next generation of Documentum client providing Web 2.0 features, a significantly different customisation model (compared with WDK) and no-cost/low-cost licencing model.

I won’t go into too much detail about the features except to say they include basic content services, personal spaces, team spaces, blogs, wikis, rss, tagging and faceted search. The time line was set as 1.0 to be released April 2009 (the beta version is available on the download site), 1.5 to be released after that and then a D7 version released by the end of 2009.

What did interest me was some of the details of the architecture and development environment. This is a web client that implements rich client functionality using Javascript. Centrestage uses a library ExtJS v2.2, that has powerful DHTML manipulation facilities. All the back-end logic is provided via DFS which is accessed via a technology called DWR v2.0. DFS provides a SOAP/WS-* interface which is difficult to call via Ajax. DWR (Direct Web Remoting) solves this problem – take a look at the wikipedia link, it’s a fascinating idea.

The UI is composed from numerous separate components which, in concept at least, are like Sharepoint WebParts. Since each component needs to be rendered on the page separately I wondered whether this would mean that a page with, say, 20 components would need 20 separate network calls to display the page. In a high-latency network environment this could be a performance nightmare. Apparently the DWR library allows for batching of requests – it means that having numerous components on the page could be displayed using a smaller number of network requests.

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