Documentum, Not Going Away Without a Fight
As I fly back from EMC World, I am left pondering the future of EMC in the Content Management space. This is a space that is undergoing an overhaul. There is a surge of innovation which we haven’t seen since the nineties. The cloud is becoming a more important part of the equation for organizations and those vendors that don’t evolve to fit the new demands aren’t going to be relevant in four years.
To be honest, I fully expect only one of the established leaders (EMC, IBM, Oracle, and Open Text) to make it. Microsoft might make it two with their Office365 offering but there is the separate concern that SharePoint will collapse under its own weight after two more releases.
Seemingly aware of all this, last year at EMC World, Rick Devenuti announced during the Momentum keynote a new strategy for Documentum. Based around the concept of the New User, the idea was to support the transition to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) reality hitting many organizations through new clients, new deployment methodologies, and even new architectures.
This year had more of the same. It what was more of a report card than any major news, aside from the Synplicity announcement. So I’m going to give out grades for the execution of the strategy. Here are the ratings:
- Above Expectations: The information presented exceeded the expectations set a year ago and the realities of the evolving marketplace.
- Satisfactory: Pretty much on course as per last year. Given the realities of software development, especially for systems as complex as Content Management. This is still a good rating because expectations were set pretty high.
- Unsatisfactory: A fallback or failure to met expectations. Cut functionality or significantly changed timelines are reasons that this would be awarded.
Keep in mind that even with good scores, determining whether or not any of this is going to be delivered in time to meet the needs of the market is a function of all vendors in the space as a whole. EMC can’t control what the other vendors do over the next year. They can try to shape the discussion of the market but there is no guarantee that they will be successful.
Moving to the Cloud
Above Expectations: Yes, above expectations. Jeroen van Rotterdam set some high expectations last year. All EMC did this year was either confirm or exceed everything promised last year.
- Next Generation Information Server (NGIS): On track for the most part. It won’t be out this year but with the details that have been shared, it is looking better than expected. For the first release, the D2 client functionality is planned to be supported. I’ve always told them to not support everything in the first release to speed delivery and they seem to agree.
- Hybrid Cloud: Yes, true hybrid. NGIS and D7 will be able to dynamically exchange content and solutions between the two systems. That’s right, you can interact with content in one place and send it to the other if you need it for broader consumption. On the flip side, if you decided you need content to be limited to the on-premise server, you can do that as well.
- EMC OnDemand: This was as expected There was very little exciting announced here outside the confirmation of Service-Based billing. While not a cloud architecture, people can get many of the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) with this offering.
- Syncplicity: This was the big surprise and the reason that EMC is getting a high grade here. I’ll have a separate post later on the acquisition and what it means. One thing it does say is that EMC is going to fight and try and make a splash in the Cloud-based Content Management space THIS year.
Satisfactory: This was a mixed bag. The concept of developing a new Unified Client was abandoned when D2 was acquired from C6. As a whole, that isn’t a bad thing. The work they are doing on D2 as they move forward with the next release seem to be very good. It looks more functional and “modern” than most legacy interfaces that you come across.
Of course, there are issues. Digital Asset Management appears to be basically on hold until late 2013. That is a shame as EMC had a decent offering and I know many people that are more than a little tired of waiting.
In the meantime, the rest of the community are going to have to settle on a standard interface that appears to be configurable for most non-case business cases. When tied with NGIS, it should be a fairly complete Cloud-based Content Management solution.
Satisfactory: If you were at the conference and really looked into the upcoming xCP client you might be wondering why this is just Satisfactory. Simple, the expectations and needs of the marketplace are pretty high.
The current xCP version was a dramatic improvement over the previous way Documentum clients built both Case and Business Process Management (BPM) solutions. Unfortunately for EMC, the whole market has been driving forward in this area and xCP 1.0 has some limitations that can require some work to remedy.
One the positive side, the new tooling for building xCP 2.0 applications seems to be solid. Good enough for several partners could build applications that appeared to work well during demos in only 3 weeks time. Were there issues? Yes. Given the several months until release, that is to be expected.
Which takes us to the negatives. The release has slipped over the course of a year. This is understandable given the year plus estimate given last year. Factors to consider:
- xCP 2 has significant design changes that are designed to allow it to work with both the upcoming D7 and NGIS. The goal is plug and play. This necessitated making xCP non-dependent on the Content Server. This was likely not easy.
- Structured Data Types are a thing of the past in 2.0. This is a good thing as the introduction of the business object is a welcome consolidation of concepts that has been needed for some time. On the flip side, migrations to 2.0 just got challenging. Any potential migration tool is likely a 2013 deliverable. I heard xCP 2.1 and xCP 2.2, though more of the former.
- Software development estimates more than six months out are generally guesses. I’ve done a lot of development projects in my day. If there is enough to do that you need six months to code it, there will be slippage. Turnover, unseen complications, and the massive amount of testing required are just realities of product development.
- Testing is ongoing. According to many sources, the product is in a primarily performance and quality testing phase. I suspect this is a slight exaggeration, but I do believe that all major features are likely coded.
- I’ve also heard that Rick has a lower tolerance for bugs than predecessors. This is a good thing as a buggy release could kill EMC in the market. There is a lot less room for error now than there was even just two years ago. Of course, that also lengthens timelines.
Above Expectations: This is actually more a function of the low expectations than anything else. The overall strategy had changed so much over the last five+ years that keeping a steady strategic direction exceeds expectations. It also helps that this is likely the only strategy than can keep them relevant in the coming decade.
EMC had lost all benefit of the doubt. Simply by executing successfully over the last year has kept them in the conversation. I can’t say they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt back, but there is no reason for current users to abandon Documentum because there is no future.
The community is in wait-and-see mode until the fall.
The advent of Documentum 7 (D7) is a huge plus. EMC has begun managing its own solution using OnDemand and they are starting to truly feel the pain that the community has felt for years. These benefits are being introduced along with some significant performance improvements that should finally allow massive scaling of Documentum on-premise without feeling like a miracle worker.
The mobile client is making some good strides. Details aside, given the past performance of mobile components, this is a minor miracle unto itself. If they can continue this pace they will be in good shape in the future.
That about wraps it up. Overall, very little earth-shattering. It was hard to get excited about upcoming products and features that were announce a year ago. They fact that everything was consistent was actually a VERY good thing. If there had been a collection of new things, then the crowd would have had to worry. As it was, we all smiled and nodded our heads.
EMC gets checkmarks across the board. Given how long it has been since that was the case, it is hard to complain. Momentum Vienna should be very interesting and exciting if everything stays on track. If you want to be there when the future of Documentum is shown off, then I strongly urge you to make plans now.
Given my role with AIIM, I’ll only be there if I am speaking on the Content Management space and the changing role of the Information Professional. If you are a Reporter, Analyst, Partner, or Client, you need to be there to see history.
Of course, whether the history made will be good or bad for the industry, which needs innovative players, is in the hands of EMC.