Sailing with EMC’s Magellan


I’ve been debating on whether to talk about Magellan or SharePoint next. It was a heck of a decision, but I quickly resolved it when I decided to do both. I pulled out my notes, did a little research, and remembered the disclaimer. This is unreleased software. Things may change before the Magellan Beta, much less the final release.

Shall we set sail…

The Rigging

Before setting sail, let’s take a very quick look at what we know of the the rigging. It is using DFS for all of its communications with the Content Server. By default, it is using a local instantiation of DFS and communicating intra-JVM. This is because DFC is still faster and more efficient. All APIs are faster than the services that they are built upon. It is configurable to use a remote DFS service though, so I wouldn’t consider it an issue.

In the front, we have Ext JS (The new rich media user interface is Flex). I’ve just taken a quick gander, but I liked what I saw. The phrase 508 compliant does tend to float across my mind though. Hopefully it is in the rigging somewhere.

All this means is that there is no WDK framework. This is okay. They have stated that the WDK is not going away, at least not in D7. Webtop is going to remain as an interface for the power user and for provided heavily customized interfaces.

I like Webtop these days, when you keep the above focus and purpose in mind. Magellan is being provided as a collaborative CEVA built to work with an ECM system through services.

I think I’ve heard that architecture before.

The Easy Course

Okay, now I am now leaving port and I couldn’t be more excited. Like everyone else I think Magellan is incredibly cool and sexy, especially for an ECM-based interface. It offers a simple interface for all of the basic library services with the addition of the Workspace paradigm and the pervasive use of discussions and comments.

The vision for Magellan is quite simple:

  • A Web 2.0 Client: Check. Had that. Very pretty.
  • Information Intelligence: Saw the introduction of a Folksonomy with tagging and a nice search filter. They may be getting that correct, given current technology.
  • Anywhere Access: There are plans for a mobile version that will be location aware, I think in the D7 release cycle. Don’t hold them to that as that isn’t written down and my memory could be off. With it built on DFS, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be achievable in that timeframe.
  • Web 2.0 Platform: Personally, I think this is just an excuse to say Web 2.0 twice. It is important, but the entire application is Web 2.0. Another reason for the split? A four part Vision seems more robust than a three part vision.

It is a good vision and EMC seems well on its way to delivering it. Once the Enterprise version of the client is delivered in Q1 of 2009, if not sooner, it is planned that Magellan will surface all of the Collaboration components that are currently in the Content Server and part of the Collaboration Edition (DCE). I can almost feel the eRoom vibe from here.

Once you get away from the coast, you enter the part of the map labeled “Here there be Dragons!” For EMC, it more likely reads, “Here there be SharePoint!”

SharePoint vs. Magellan

This isn’t a blow-by-blow comparison. After all, I don’t have Magellan to play with and it isn’t even out in Beta. Once it is in Beta, I hope to be in the program and sworn to secrecy. I’m not very good at Beta applications, so we’ll see if that happens.

Until then, I did note the following features not in the Magellan Essentials, the “free” version of Magellan, that is in SharePoint Services, the “free” version of SharePoint: wikis and lists/data tables. Now I understand the data table as that could be considered an advanced eRoom feature. The EMC data table is, in many ways, more flexible and easier to use than the SharePoint list. No problems there with leaving that out.

As for the wiki, I think that this is a potential missed opportunity. A simple, non-moderated, wiki would be a great asset in the Essentials client and would help increase the Web 2.0 feel of the interface. Provide an advanced moderated version of the wiki in the Enterprise client for differentiation. I think that if it properly packaged, it will drive adoption of both clients.

The goal shouldn’t be to stop people from switching to SharePoint. The goal should be to reverse the trend.

Paradise Found

Just past the dragons, we come to the South Pacific and see beautiful islands. This place is the stuff of dreams and why we started in the first place. Of highest interest to me is the fact that Magellan represents the first new User Interface for collaboration in many an age (DCE doesn’t count). We now see the next generation of collaboration with a roadmap that feels tangible and a destination that is in sight.

The goal is that by D7, all the features of eRoom will be in Magellan Enterprise. Not all of them are in the Content Server yet, so there is still a little more work on that end.

What makes everything feel tangible? How does this feel more real than last year’s eRoom 8, aka Phoenix, announcements?

  • How about the announcement that they have engaged Crown Partners to build a migration tool to go from eRoom to the Content Server-based Magellan?
  • How about their desire to take those on eRoom maintenance and just port their licenses and give them the tool?

That is money out of their pockets. A lot can change, but it sounds like they are committing to saving their comrades in the eRoom world.

Magellan is a priority for the CMA group. This is obvious from talking to multiple people on multiple levels. This isn’t just a side project or just a token attempt to stop losing market share to SharePoint. This is a strategic commitment to creating a versatile, mobile, and flexible user experience in the Enterprise. There is a sense of urgency to get it out there and let people see it, feel it, and experience it. This is their Enterprise 2.0 interface into their ECM 2.0 platform.

Will it come in time? Will the SharePoint dragon become so bloated that it can’t handle the potentially nimble Magellan ship? Time will tell.

6 thoughts on “Sailing with EMC’s Magellan

  1. You make an excellent point in drawing attention to EMC’s willingness to convert licenses. It is not an unprecedented move on their part. They were known to convert undeployed iTeam seats to eRoom back in the day. Rolling eRoom seats to the new product is more than a little ironic and implies a great deal about their aspirations for the new product as well as the future of the current one.

    As to the migration, I am less optimistic. Mapping user managed collaboration taxonomies, custom tables, basic workflows et.al. is potentially a very complex exercise.

    The first step is always admitting you have a problem and to be honest, seeing EMC do that openly in this area is refreshing. I am concerned that wildly unrealistic expectations will be set for customers by sales when they point to this line on the Enterprise License and naively say – this product will take care of it all. Still, you gotta start somewhere and Bulldozer is as good a place as any. (although OpenMigrate and VitalPath might also be good alternatives)

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  2. If Crown takes Bulldoser and creates a version specifically for this, I think it would do quite well. The eRoom databases are not straightforward and will take some work to convert. None of the tools can handle them now without customizations. The plus side is that all of the same constructs will exist in the Content Server, making it a specific mapping exercise.

    If Crown pulls it off, they are gold just from the people that will knock on their doors for deployments. They will be highly motivated to make this work, and I’m sure that they will have EMC engineers to answer their questions.

    The migration could still be screwed-up. I won’t be the first to try it. Right now, I have to look at the commitment and have hope.

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  3. Building a migration tool is not all that difficult. As you mentioned, the most difficult will be the databases. Remember that almost everything in eRoom can be nested and hopefully they will continue that in Magellan. So, a datase row may contain another database. A row in that database may contain a calendar. A calendar entry in that calendar may contain another database. You get the gist.

    There are companies that have created migration tools to migrate from eRoom to SharePoint. We are actually working on a tool to migrate from SharePoint to eRoom (arguably much easier since SharePoint does not nest items). You can build tools to crawl through an eRoom site and catalog all items in hierarchy, export attachments, create xml representations of items and attributes, etc. Many people can currently export eRoom now. Pumping all of that into Magellan will be the fun part. Building the business rules for each item type, column type in databases, and the various attributes and permissions(ACLs) will take some time, but clearly defined.

    One of the really cool things I like about Magellan is the ability to kick off and interact with workflows from the BPM suite. This will be major, and hopefully they will be working with the TaskSpace folks. In the past, if you wanted to create workflows in eRoom, you had to write custom commands and core events in order to do so…. not impossible, but time consuming. Magellan seems to recognize the importance of workflow. Yeah!

    I see current eRoom users remaining with eRoom 7 through 2011 due to the fact that Magellan will not have Project Plans initially. Some anxious customers may dual track and have both eRoom and Magellan (EMC will need to figure out how to handle licensing for that scenario, especially if they want to promote Magellan to organizations who MUST have project plans). BUT, I do see quite a few organizations who have not ventured into eRoom before jumping on that Magellan bandwagon.

    Great post Mark! Great EMC World last week too. Looking forward to Orlando next year.

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  4. Thanks for chiming in. In theory, we’ll have everything in the Content Server, Project Plans included, by D7 in 2009. That may change of course, but we can hope. Still some leeway with eRoom support going until 2011.

    Oh, and the name is Pie, or Laurence. I know not this Mark person of whom you speak.

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  5. Sorry Laurence. I knew your name was Laurence, but was just looking at the presentation by Mark Lewis and had ‘Mark’ on the brain. Sorry about that!

    I think it is pretty exciting to see a product like Magellan that could be a one stop shopping source rather than having to log into WebTop, TaskSpace and eRoom to conduct business.
    Love your blog. Keep it up!

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  6. One thing that I forgot to mention….They are going to try and have Magellan work with both D6 and D6.5. This is a goal, not a promise. They will sacrifice D6 compatibility in order to get it to deliver on its promise.

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