Fatwire "Rescues" Interwoven and Vignette

Forrester recently named Fatwire a Leader in their WCM for external Sites Quadrant. And the folks at Fatwire have already called two of their fellow-quads (for the lack of a better term), Interwoven and Vignette as legacy WCM products! Incidentally, Interwoven sits nicely in the Leader quadrant in the same report and was also named the fastest growing ecm vendor by rival analyst firm Gartner. (Yeah, yeah I know –  the report by Forrester is on WCM and the other one by Gartner is on ECM).

On a more serious note though, Fatwire has been making some news in recent times. Among other things, recently they announced a rescue program for “legacy” Interwoven and Vignette customers – an offer to move to Fatwire at no license cost (only the support costs). They have announced this offering in partnership with Vamosa and Kapow. Vamosa and Kapow both have content migration offerings and compete in this space. Fatwire says they both add value to this proposition. I suspect they have partnered with both because Vamosa, along with expertise in many aspects of content migration, has connectors for Interwoven and Vignette while Kapow has connectors for Fatwire. Any content migration scenario will require both set of connectors – one set that exports from interwoven or vignette and one set that imports into Fatwire. You could obviously roll up your own migration scripts by publishing from Interwoven/Vignette as XML and then using Fatwire’s XMLPost or BulkLoader to import into Fatwire. But then the offer for free licenses wouldn’t be free or would it?

BTW, even though Fatwire’s release mentions these as partners, neither of these two have issued their press release nor have mentioned it on their respective sites. I think that’s natural because they probably have partnerships with those “legacy” vendors 🙂

This is an interesting and I’d say an aggressive move by Fatwire. After all there are only few niche WCM vendors remaining and they are one of them. There is a clear divergence happening in the marketplace – On the one hand, there are more web oriented scenarios (Web Content Management, Site Management, Portals, Web Sites and so on) and on the other hand are more repository/management oriented scenarios (Document Management, Records Management). The requirements, challenges as well as decision makers (and stake holders) for both these areas are usually different. Fatwire for one has been focusing on and targeting the needs of interactive marketers which usually fall under the former category of web oriented scenarios (or Web Experience Management, as they like to call it). While many other products have been diversifying horizontally. Call it vertical Vs horizontal diversification if you will.

If there was any time to go aggressive, this was possibly it when the two other big ones have been acquired. Interwoven and Vignette, though can by no means be called “Legacy”, even though they have been acquired. There are probably a few customers out there who are not convinced about Interwoven’s and Vignette’s future after their acquisition by Autonomy and OpenText respectively. But then, as Forrester’s Tim Walters says on his blog, there are many customers out there, including Fatwire customers who are unhappy with their current implementation. So nothing stops the other vendors to come out with this kind of offer for existing Fatwire customers. In fact, as Tony Byrne says, there’s nothing new in these kind of Competitive upgrades.

If you indeed take up this offer, remember that even though there is no license cost, there are quite a few other costs apart from the support costs that you would have paid to Vignette or Interwoven. Here’s Irina’s post on real costs of implementation.

For one, you will have to work with Fatwire’s “proven migration tools and services” which probably means you will need to work with Fatwire, Vamosa and Kapow’s professional services. All the three products (Interwoven, Vignette and Fatwire) have decent mechanisms for importing and exporting content. So content migration per se is certainly not the most challenging aspect. In particular, when you migrate from Interwoven to Fatwire, there are many other challenges depending on what version of TeamSite you are using. TeamSite’s delivery templates are totally different from those of Fatwire’s. If you are using the Perl based PTs (Presentation Templates) and doing a static publishing, your challenges are even bigger. There are many other issues as well – different ways of defining assets, all the complex customizations, different storage (XML Vs Database), workflows and so on.  Vignette, although more similar to Fatwire than Interwoven in terms of architecture, will also have similar challenges. Apart from technical challenges, any content management implementation and content migration has its own sets of challenges in terms of user training, ensuring content quality (Vamosa has some useful offerings here as well), different skill sets and so on. Here’s a nice take on different issues by Jon

I could write a big article on just the differences between Fatwire and Vignette/Interwoven and resulting challenges but the point is that don’t assume it is only about “content” migration. You will need to budget for many other things as well.

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Content Repositories – Coexistence, Migration and Consolidation

Many of our customers have more that one content repositories. So we often get into situations where there is a need for:

  1. Coexistence: Business requires these multiple repositories to exist simultaneously. This could be because there are different applications for different requirements or because the migration effort is so huge that it is not possible to retire one system immediately. So there is a need for a common interface so that business users can access all the repositories without knowing they are different. They should be able to checkin from one, checkout to another and generally work on multiple repositories as if there was a single backend system.
  2. Migration: Because of multiple reasons (licensing, satisfaction etc), there is a requirement to move content from one system to another. Or perhaps deploying content from a content repository to a delivery channel.
  3. Consolidation: To save costs (licensing, training, infra), they want to consolidate to less number of repositories.

Now obviously, in any of these scenarios, it becomes very important to do content inventory, content analysis and mapping, taxonomy assessment and so on. However, when the content size is huge (some of our customers have terabytes and more of content, that too in the form of huge documents), it becomes important to automate the migration process to the extent possible. What this essentially means is that you need to have an intermediate layer that can talk to source and target repositories and move content across. Depending on whether you want coexistence or migration, the intermediate layer would need to be two way (read and write) or just one way (import or export). I can think of three ways to achieve this:

  1. Roll your own: This possibly provides most flexibility but needs maximum time to develop. You essentially write your own code that exports content from source, does transformation and cleansing and then finally imports it to the target repository. Most decent content management systems provide APIs that can be used in conjunction with code to achieve this.
  2. Use connectors/features provided by CMS vendors: Many CMS vendors provide some mechanism for importing and exporting. They might even provide some way of importing content from “specific” systems.
  3. Use third party tools

I have been doing some research and have come across these vendors who can help you automate this process to a great extent:

EntropySoft

EntropySoft provides an amazing collection of two way connectors for 30 or so different repositories. These connectors have the ability to read from and write to these repositories. They essentially provide two mechanisms:

A Content Federation Server which is a web application. It allows you to configure these repositories and exposes the functionality via a web interface. So using this interface you can access these repositories and your business users will not know that they are different repositories. So as an example, you can check out a policy document from Documentum and check it in FileNet. The same interface also lets you do migration from one to another, create tasks that will automatically migrate as and when a document is updated in one. In the screenshot below, you can see Livelink, Alfresco, FileNet and some other repositories shown.

EntropySoft Web Interface
EntropySoft Web Interface
Configure new repo
Configure new repo

Now this interface is simplistic in the sense that you can do an as-is migration. For more complex migration where you have to transform content, map metadata from source to destination, map permissions, users and roles, it provides an ETL product which is an eclipse based environment. Using this ETL, you can create complex migration processes, using drag and drop.

etl
etl

EntropySoft also works with many search engines for creating federated search applications.

The best thing about EntropySoft is its ease of setup. You can actually get up and running and start an as-is migration (meaning no transformation, no mapping) in just about 15-20 minutes (abt 7-10 minutes for setting up source and destination each). I think where they lag is possibly in terms of having connectors for more web content management systems.

OpenMigrate

OpenMigrate is an open source alternative from TSG.  Currently they have adaptors for Documentum, Alfresco, JDBC, FileSystem. I believe they are probably working on sharepoint and filenet connectors as well.

Vamosa

Vamosa is also a good alternative. To me it appears that their strength lies in web content management. Here’s a list of their connectors. I think Vamosa’s differentiation is that they not only focus on connectors but holistically look at migration. So they have some good products that help you with all the steps that I mentioned above – content inventory, analysis etc and then migration.

Many people have said that with something like CMIS (if and when it becomes a standard), there will be an adverse impact on the connector industry. I actually think it will actually be good for these connector vendors because they would be able to use CMIS instead of relying on proprietary APIs of each repository. Plus I think connecting to a repository is only one, although an important aspect. There is a lot more that goes along with connecting to a repository – transformation, ability to map source data to target repository, reporting, exception management and so on and that is where such products add a lot of value.

Do you know of any other products in this space? What do you think of these?

Goodbye 2008, Welcome 2009

Okay so another year comes to an end and while we welcome the new year, here’s a look at some of the themes (in a random order) of the year gone by that might have an impact on the Content Technologies next year.

Verticalized Applications

Content Management Systems as horizontal solutions have been there for long and most known vendors provide similar features. The industry however is asking for more domain specific solutions built on standard CMS repositories. Based on this demand and the fact that this provides a differentiation to CMS vendors, I hope to see more and more domain or vertical specific solutions like Loan Origination, Claims Processing and other similar solutions/accelerators from many CMS vendors. Also, with the slowdown in economy, it is easier to sell a domain solution than a pure horizontal solution.

Portal and Content Consolidation

Many enterprises struggle with multitude of applications doing overlapping functionality. Organizations have multiple CMS repositories and many portals. This often leads to duplication of content varied user experience and huge costs. Because of huge cost pressures, many organizations have been considering consolidation of their content applications.

This will lead to following benefits:

  • Reduced Hardware Infrastructure as you don’t need those 5 different ECM repositories
  • Reduced employee costs as you do not need skilled people across 5 different portal servers
  • Standardized processes and hence increased productivity
  • Reduced employee training costs
  • Unified User Experience
  • Reduced Integration, Maintenance and Support Costs

I believe this could be a very important way to reduce and control costs as well as bringing in some standardization. So many organizations would start focused initiatives to consolidate their existing applications.

Open Source

Open Source Content Management and Portal solutions have matured quite a bit. Because of this and the fact that there is cost pressure on everyone, enterprises that would not even consider Open Source solutions are now more favorable towards them. They are becoming open to experimenting with technologies that are generally not considered *enterprisey*.  Many of the open source products are being tracked by waves and quadrants of major analysts and  that reflects a huge change. This is also good for the Open Source vendors because many enterprises use these analysts’ reports for shortlisting.  Many open source products have also released commercial versions and that is another reason that gives these vendors a foot hold within enterprises who did not want to use these citing lack of support options.

Another factor that encourages the use of Open Source products is that people want to quickly build “informal” applications which many commercial products can not do well. There are many popular Open Source (and free) products that do certain things much better.

Although, initial cost could reduce by using Open Source, organizations should carefully look at the impact over a longer horizon and should consider Open Source as another alternative in the market place. They should select Open Source based on overall fitment to their requirements and not just make a decision based on initial licensing cost.

Web 2.0

Widgets and Gadgets have been popular for quite sometime. Some products had gadgets much before portlet spec. I am sure many people have seen examples of counters, ad banners etc which are essentially widgets only. However, there is a considerable interest now in using these within the enterprises for more sophisticated portal like applications.

Currently, most social networking is horizontal – you become a member of a social network, I become one and we write scraps on each other. What next?  I believe Vertical Social Networking is becoming popular.  Some areas where we already see this or have potential are in the areas of Jobs, Real Estate and Classifieds. After all, It is easier to buy an old laptop from a contact’s contact rather than an unknown person who’s advertised in classifieds.

In order to reduce cost, many enterprises, especially those that require product support want to leverage the communities for customer support. They want people to help each other and come to their support only as a last resort. What this means is increasing use of tools that enable collaboration – wikis for example. Many enterprises are using these communities not just for support but also as a way to generate revenues.

Some organizations are also using web 2.0 as a means to Knowledge Management. Instead of regular process oriented KM which forces people to contribute, they want to use mechanisms that encourage people who in turn want to contribute. This is a huge shift – people don’t like contributing if they are forced to do it but are likely to contribute if they enjoy doing it. This also means a shift from “control and process” to “informality and accessibility”.

In spite of all this, I still think how to use Web 2.0 within the enterprise is still not very clear to many organizations and there is a huge scope for improvement. One of the reasons people cite is that workforce is used to applications that became successful on the consumer Internet and want to have same kind of experience for enterprise applications but they need to be very careful. Here’s a nice post by Vilas.

Alternate Delivery Models

There is more acceptance for SaaS based offerings. This is especially true for applications that are not business mission critical. Businesses are experimenting with SaaS based providers because this saves them dependence on their internal IT apart from other benefits like faster time to market, no capital expenditure, low risk and so on. Along with this,  alternate pricing models are also being looked at. Some examples are pay per document, pay per loan, pay per claim etc.

Standards

The portlet spec 2.0 or JSR 286 was released. Although the portlet standards (JSR 286 and JSR 168) have been relatively successful in terms of adoption and support, the content repository standard, JSR 170 has not been that popular. Meanwhile, vendors are collaborating on technologies that will help customers reuse existing investments. As an example, many vendors have come up with CMIS. Okay this is not a standard yet but is possibly in that direction. A standard like this is very much needed and hopefully CMIS will achieve what JSR-170/283 did not.

I would also hope that a standard emerges for Gadgets/Widgets.

Site Management and Personalization

Traditionally Content Management was decoupled from Site Management. However, marketing and business people now want more control and there is increasing convergence of Content Management and Site Management. This essentially means better user experience, rich and dynamic sites. This also means features like personalization are making a come back. This has also resulted because of cheap bandwidth and better client side technologies

Document Services

Document Composition and Generation is becoming part of mainstream ECM. There have been a few partnerships as well as mergers in this space. Related terms in this space are Document Output Management and Forms Management.

This was probably the last post of this year. Thanks for reading the blog and here’s wishing you a great year ahead.

Alfreco Partners with Adobe

Alfresco and Adobe announced a new partnership in which Adobe will embed Alfresco’s ECM in its LiveCycle ES. This will create an offering that provides a more complete solution integrating Content Management with Document Composition (or Document Output Management), something about which I have written before. EMC’s acquisition late last year of Document Sciences’ xPression was another news that brought the two – ECM and Document Composition together.

This announcement though is an OEM deal. Here’s a nice post by Alan on what it means and what could be the future of this deal 🙂

There are lots of use cases where such an integration could be very useful, especially for customers of Adobe. When one creates a dynamic document using a product like this, one needs to manage both the raw data as well as output documents. So there are aspects like workflows, library services, metadata, search, version management, storage and archival. So if you are an insurance company that generates insurance policies or a Telecom provider that generates electronic bills, you need to be able to manage these and this is where a CMS is required. Most Document Composition products lack these features and hence often integrate with ECM products.

Apart from this, LiveCycle did not have a robust rules engine which is a essential requirement to dynamically generate documents based on certain rules. It can now use Alfresco’s rules engine (Alfresco rules or the bundled Jboss).

Alfresco  will also probably get a nice flex based front end which can also take advantage of its features (tagging, web scripts, blogs) and provide more compelling offering to build web 2.0 applications. But that again would be useful more for Adobe’s customers.

Now Everyone can create Mobile Web Sites

If you ever wanted to have a web presence for yourself or your business, there was never any dearth of choices. There are many service providers which let you create web sites quickly using templates and wizards. Google Sites, Google Pages, Yahoo/Tripod/Geocities all let you create such web sites. However, if you wanted to create a site that could be viewed on a PDA or mobile, it was not that easy. You either needed specialized products or at the very minimum had to create a different template (or theme) that was optimized for mobile delivery.

Volantis now brings its well regarded Mobility Server (which it had open sourced recently) to power Ubik.com, a service that enables individuals and small businesses create sites for mobiles just like they are used to creating web sites. Volantis has a device library of more than 5100 devices and as a result, the site that is created is automatically “adapted” for viewing on a wide variety of handsets.

volantis
Once you create an account, you will be given a choice of many themes and templates. Unlike similar services for web, a template here is actually more than just about look & feel – it is actually a sample starter site with pre-built pages that can be used as a starting point for your site. While you are creating the site, you can do a mobile preview as well. It also provides the ability to upload images and multimedia files using MMS and/or email. When you are ready, the site can be published at http://sitename.ubik.net.

I also see that if there is a hyperlink to another page which itself is not on this site, it automatically tries to adapt it for mobile display. This probably means that there is a way to convert external, existing sites to be proxied via this service for mobile delivery. However, I was not able to find a straight forward way. I assume it requires the external site to have its output in some specified format (xdime?) but then i’m not sure.

This is a beta version and i’m hoping they will add some more useful features in future:

  1. The site I create is only a mobile site. So I actually still need to create another one for the web using one of the other services. I would think that it should be easy to create a site for web and mobiles using ubik.com.
  2. Ability to use my own domain name
  3. Some dynamic templates would be very useful. Right now, I can only create a static site. As an example, a blogging template would be very nice to have.

Services such as these will indeed help in making the mobile internet much more popular. Now every one will be able to create a mobile site (and hopefully applications as well).

Drupal for Social Publishing…

Drupal is one of the rare platforms for building social publishing applications that is built on top of a rather decent WCM platform. It has a  strong foundation with a very flexible taxonomy system which along with thousands of 3rd party modules enables you to assemble social publishing applications.

However, these modules could be your biggest problem as well because many times, module upgrades do not keep pace with Drupal upgrades. There are around 4000 modules listed on Drupal and there are modules for doing many things – integration, collaboration, content, community, commerce and so on.

Read more about this on my post at CMS Watch.

Drupal for Social Publishing…

Drupal is one of the rare platforms for building social publishing applications that is built on top of a rather decent WCM platform. It has a  strong foundation with a very flexible taxonomy system which along with thousands of 3rd party modules enables you to assemble social publishing applications.

However, these modules could be your biggest problem as well because many times, module upgrades do not keep pace with Drupal upgrades. There are around 4000 modules listed on Drupal and there are modules for doing many things – integration, collaboration, content, community, commerce and so on.

Read more about this on my post at CMS Watch.