Documentum and Greenplum

January 14, 2013 at 8:30 am | Posted in Big Data | 1 Comment
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@Mikemasseydavis tweeted “will we see #documentum and #greenplum become a ‘platform'”. This aphorism obviously had some attraction since myself and 2 others retweeted it. In a way this is not a completely new idea as Generalli Hellas backed the notion of ‘xCP as the action engine for Big Data‘ which was one of the big ideas that came out of Momentum 2011. In fact EMC seem to have big ideas in this area as evidenced here.

I would ask the following questions:

  • How much effort are EMC going to put into this area? How fast will they be able to deliver?
  • Does a Greenplum connector for xCP and a feed into Greenplum constitute a platform? What else is needed to make it a platform?
  • What are the use cases? Gautam Desai mentions a document with 20 use cases.

Thoughts on EMC On Demand

November 29, 2012 at 7:22 am | Posted in Architecture | 2 Comments
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I think EMC first started talking about On Demand at EMC World 2011. The idea is seductive and logical: rather than have to procure your own hardware, install and configure the software, and manage and administer the running system you get EMC to do it for you. The potential benefits are enormous.

First, economies of scale for running hardware in the same way as similar cloud-based offerings. By running on virtual machines and providing scale out options you potentially only have to pay for what you use.

Secondly, experts who can specialise in various aspects of installation, administration and troubleshooting. Furthermore there is an obvious incentive for EMC to focus on initiatives to simplify and automate tasks. Presumably that was the idea behind xMS, the deployment technology recently released with D7.

As a consequence of that last point it gives EMC a great way to collect usage data, bug information and performance insights.

Finally I see great potential in distributed content, allowing content to be replicated across data centres closer to the user. On-premise installations currently rely on solutions like BOCS or content replication to deliver better performance to users in remote offices. These can be tricky to configure without expert help and rely to a greater or lesser extent in having servers in locations where the organisation doesn’t want them.

So clearly I see big benefits, at least in theory. I have several thoughts around OnDemand some of which I hope to explore in future posts; in this post I want to talk about some potential drawbacks and how EMC might address them.

The first question people seem to ask is how will I be able to install and manage our customisations if EMC are managing everything? In fact I expect EMC to put significant limits on how much customisation you will be allowed in OnDemand environments. Which means that the arrival of xCP 2.0 with its ‘configure don’t code’ mentality (and D2s ui configurability) is serendipitous indeed. In fact I doubt OnDemand would really be workable for WDK-based apps like Webtop, DCM and Web Publisher; no-one runs these apps without considerable coded customisations.

Secondly, for some organisations moving content to the cloud will remain problematic as they will have regulatory requirements, or internal security needs, that mean certain types of content can’t reside in particular jurisdictions. This is by no means insurmountable and EMC will need plenty of distributed locations to satisfy some clients. However it does make the Amazon AWS model of ‘click and go’ server resourcing much more difficult for EMC.

Finally from a personnel perspective how will EMC deliver the necessary staffing of data centres if OnDemand really takes off? Running data centre operations is not a core business for EMC ( as far as I know). My assumption is that they won’t be building or running the hardware operations themselves but are partnering with existing companies that have the know how. However even setting up and staffing the software side is new to EMC. Does it have the existing capacity already or will it need to recruit? Or will much of OnDemand be farmed out to partners? Will they run 24×7 from the US or (more likely) use a follow the sun philosophy.

Time will obviously tell but I remain optimistic that OnDemand will be a success – it will depend heavily on the execution in what is a new area for EMC.

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.


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.

Case Management needed in UK government

April 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Performance | Leave a comment
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What are the possibilities for Case Management (xCP) in British Government departments? In the UK, like some other countries, a Freedom of Information legislation requires government bodies to comply with “reasonable” requests for information. It’s probably one of the best pieces of legislation introduced by the current UK government.

Have a look at this blog entry which is linked to a site (independent of government) that allows people to make and monitor FOI requests. Amazingly some FOI processing is delayed or mistaken simply due to emails being sent to the wrong address. If the assumption about some government bodies using correspondence management systems that require transcribing of return emails addresses is true then there is plenty of scope for proper systems integration to fix this.

Chalk Talks, Great Idea

January 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Development | Leave a comment
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2 of the most noticeable features of last year’s Momentum were the focus on Case Management/xCP Platform and a greater emphasis on ‘execution’. Whilst you can find out about the first feature on EMCs own channels I’ll expand a bit on the ‘execution’.

EMC Documentum like so many other vendors has been pretty good at the ‘Big Things’ such as great new features, new platforms, incorporating new products and so on. But what’s more important to those of us who actually have to convince people to buy, install, run, support and maintain Documentum system is the ‘little things’. Little things like accurate and comprehensive documentation, Sample apps, and applications that are free of bugs.

It was apparent from a number of seminars at Momentum that all these ‘little things’ are being given greater emphasis in the CMA division. xCP itself is an outcome from such thinking. Previously we had a number of disparate products that were individually licensed (Process Engine, Task Space, Forms Builder and so on) and it wasn’t always clear how they should be combined to produce a usable application nor how much it would cost to licence.

With xCP we should get a more rationalised licence cost but even more importantly a platform that is focussed on a particular application paradigm, Case Management. As part of xCP there is a sample application, Grants Management, that allows you to easily get up to speed with xCP and play around with it. There is also a focus within the xCP product management team to provide some ‘jump start’ features such as a focus on use cases and making the product focus on particular Case Management categories. There is a lot of concentration on best practices and making it easy to understand the best way of fitting the vast feature set together.

In this Chalk Talk both of these good things are in evidence. It’s a short video snippet that shows how to use a particular feature of Forms Builder. It’s a great way of getting across a simple but regularly needed feature that has a few gotchas if you are trying to do this the first time on your own. Best thing is you can immediately try this out if you have the Grants Management sample application installed. More to come from EMC hopefully.

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