CenterStage, the Latest ex-Collaboration Tool from EMC


I had a mission at Momentum this year that I had to perform for some of my eRoom clients.  I had to determine the viability of CenterStage as a replacement for eRoom.  Two facts answered my question:

CenterStage 1.1 is scheduled for GA in Q4.  Calendars are a year away.

Really?  Where have I heard that before?

That’s All Folks!

image After I learned the above facts, I made the following announcement on Twitter:

Everyone take a moment to mourn the passing of #eRoom & #Documentum as a collaboration tool provider.

Needless to say, it turned some heads.  There is one good spin…the release date for 1.1 hasn’t shifted, it is still Q4.  Just don’t ask which Q4.  It is like the developer that keeps telling the PM that they will be done in 2 weeks.

There is no way I can look my eRoom clients in the eye and tell them that they should wait for CenterStage if they want to launch a new initiative.  Even if I believe in the roadmap, why should they believe in it?  Given the focus on Case Management, how can we even be sure that the CenterStage will continue to receive the proper funds and staffing to meet all the goals.

Two years ago, CenterStage was awesome and was heralded as the replacement for eRoom.  Here we are, two years later, and we don’t have data tables and calendars yet.  We are still on version 1.0, though we did get a service pack in there.

Why did this happen?  They were probably a little aggressive two years ago, but still, there had to be some continuing issues with implementing the features in the Documentum repositories object model in a manner that was efficient.

I bet all those architectural problems could have been solved with xDB.  Just a guess.

So what to do now?  While CenterStage is separated from the platform, as it should, the product isn’t being innovated like it should be as part of a more focused development team.

As far as I am concerned, EMC is currently not a provider of collaboration solutions.

Repository Services for SharePoint, EMC’s One Play

Meanwhile, did anyone notice a little announcement from Redmond on May 12?  Apparently there is an earth-shattering, world-saving, product out from Microsoft.  You may have heard of it, SharePoint 2010.

Last I checked, EMC has some decent products that work with SharePoint.  One has been out for over a year and already works with SharePoint 2010, the poorly named “EMC Documentum Repository Services for Microsoft SharePoint”.  For the rest of this post, we are going to call it Dave.

Dave is pretty good.  It allows you to put the power of Documentum behind SharePoint.  Dave has a few functional weaknesses, but it is ahead of all the other competitors in regards to capabilities and the larger ones are being addressed.

Seems to me that SharePoint may be a good collaboration tool to use with Documentum.

Of course there are the headaches of managing two infrastructures and all of that storage.  Now if only Dave could work by talking to a Documentum instance in the public cloud.  Man, that would make my life easy and make Dave an easy sell to customers.

On the Plus Side…

Well, there are two good things to come from all of this:

  1. I don’t have to worry about writing a complete CenterStage-SharePoint analysis anytime soon.
  2. At least EMC can use all of that CenterStage code to replace Webtop.

Webtop is on a perpetual lifetime contract with EMC, but I can see CenterStage in place to replace it and become their default cloud interface.

I figure given the current focus, CenterStage should be mature around the same time the Content Server is ready for the cloud.

The only question is if I’ll have retired by then.

25 thoughts on “CenterStage, the Latest ex-Collaboration Tool from EMC

  1. ukdavo says:

    I can’t see CenterStage realistically competing with SharePoint but I’d love to be proved wrong – competition is healthy.

    Getting parity with SharePoint features is more than just supporting calendars & lists though. What about the SharePoint ecosystem – i.e. 3rd party web parts? Deep support for MS Office (metadata sync, publishing Web Parts, InfoPath, etc).

    Regards

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    • The goal wasn’t to compete with SharePoint. The goal had been, realistically, to keep existing eRoom customers that wouldn’t have to pay for the transition. CenterStage wasn’t going to be able to do everything SharePoint does, but people don’t always need all of that.

      Of course now that discussion is moot.

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  2. “Dave”…seriously Pie, would just calling it “Repository Services” have killed you? 😉

    If anyone cares, we are obliged by our friends in Redmond to call SharePoint “Microsoft SharePoint” and Documentum should be “EMC Documentum”. Strip out the obligations and you get the rather snazzy “Repository Services for SharePoint” – we’ll get it emblazoned onto a t-shirt and send it over to you.

    “Dave”…I despair

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  3. Andrew Goodale says:

    OK, I’ll take the bait. If you view CenterStage purely through the “eRoom feature parity” lens, then yes, we fall short. But eRoom doesn’t have tagging, blogs, wikis, retention, inline document viewers, Atom feeds, federated search, facets, and content analytics.
    Aren’t those all parts of an effective collaboration tool?

    It’s a little ironic that you’re using a blog to claim that a product that supports blogs is not as good a collaboration tool as a product that does not support blogs. 😉

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    • It isn’t the parity claim that is the issue. When I am talking to users, they want/need calendars to announce events. They need data tables for all the simple things. The new stuff is great, and important. However, with the addition of wikis, blogs, etc. to the suite of collaboration tools, that hasn’t removed the need of the older tools from that collection.

      I’ll admit that the faceted search interface is pretty cool in CenterStage and I appreciate the new,relative to eRoom, features.

      While I didn’t mention all the good, I didn’t mention all the bad. The inability to navigate to any/all content in my repository isn’t a small issue. From what I understand, it is fixed in 1.2, next year.

      Right now it is failing through just about any collaboration-tinted glasses.

      eRoom used to be a huge player in the space through its features and great UI. Those features haven’t been replaced by new E2.0 features. The new things are new ways to collaborate and communicate with less documents and more interactive and dynamic content. There are new ways to reach out to other that may not have been watching. Nothing has replaced the need for those features.

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  4. Samdarshi Pali says:

    I recall that about two years ago, EMC presented CenterStage as replacement for eRoom. Everybody expect that replacement will include all the features of existing product plus additional new tools. CenterStage have new features but users are badly missing features that have become integral part of their business processes using eRoom. I think Pie is correct when he said that EMC need to put more resources and fast development to make CenterStage a true collaboration tool that could replace eRoom and compete with other collaboration products.

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  5. I have to defend Pie (not that he needs my help) against Andrew’s “I’ll take the bait” statement. I have considerable experience with eRoom Enterprise and with SharePoint. At the same time CentreStage was released, EMC was publicly jumping into bed with MS to put SharePoint “on top” of Documentum – lets lever the advantages of each product to provide a new world of ECM…. blah blah blah……

    Has EMC had internal political wrangling over this ? Would porting eRoom datatables and calendars actually make CentreStage a ‘real’ competitor to SharePoint ? Is that the problem ? Are eRoom style datatables just toooo much like SharePoint lists ?

    As Pie and Samdarshi note, the new features are all very nice, but what good does that do the eRoom user who wants to port across existing applications built around eRooms existing features ? Absolutely non Andrew and you know it ! So, don’t you care ? Are you happy to loose all the existing eRoom support revenue to Microsoft, as users move to the new and improved SharePoint 2010 instead of a potentially much better version of CentreStage ? I was contracting at the UN this time last year, where the CITO needed to see some return on their massive investment in EMC Documentum products, I pushed for rapid deployment of eRoom Enterprise for many niche applications (not just general collaboration) but internally managers, even back then were playing the lets wait for CentreStage 1.1 – I wonder home much of a happy customer they are now, if they are still waiting !

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  6. I know some accounts which had/have big eRoom and are migrating to SharePoint. No more doubts for about 1 year now, already. Even if the migration process is painful (it’s sometimes regarded as a “cleaning” activity). Dave is in the picture, sometimes. But just as a nice to have accessory.
    CenterStage will need to compete (when it’s ready) not only to SP but also to all the other great collaboration tools out there… and there are many. Without any real installed base to mount on.
    So long and good luck!

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  7. Chris Campbell says:

    It seemed to me from talking to others that many people are frustrated at the slow progression in product development. I can only guess at the possible causes: the two-way learning process from company acquisitions, not enough resources, developer burnout, the global recession, poor management, El Nino, etc. It happens at every IT shop. Whatever it is needs to be solved quickly, if it hasn’t already.

    I remember CenterStage being introduced two years ago. I liked it then and I still like it now. The main reason that I can’t use it is because it lacked key features (mostly workflows and inbox capabilities) and it still does. The product team did hear my concerns and said that it would be addressed in later releases. Two years later and while there has been some improvements, it hasn’t been enough, soon enough.

    Sidebar: Complaining isn’t going to solve the problem… unless you complain in the right way, to the right people. Several people I talked to alluded to this and I feel this is a positive development. EMC had a whole section in the vendor area dedicated to “listening and hearing their customers”. I plan to use this avenue to affect change from the customer standpoint.

    Back on point: There was an effort two or three years ago to decrease the time between service packs and releases, and to keep all products at the same service pack level. EMC did well for about a year, but it’s slacked lately. CenterStage falls into this category. When breakout products like CenterStage slip their schedules with little explanation, I begin to question the committment EMC has towards the product. It’s just not a good impression.

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    • I like El Nino as the reason. sounds perfect. Nobody fully understands it anyway, so why not blame El Nino?

      Chris, in general, I agree with the right way and the right people. I think I am getting there, but any advice you have for others on how to accomplish that would be useful and something I call attention to here and other places.

      Constructive feedback is great. Getting it to the right people, from enough of the right people, is the challenge.

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  8. Pie, I am sorry but i don’t agree with you.
    We were at Bouygues the earliest adopter of CenterStage after a long competition between Sharepoint, Alfresco and EMC. We are also heavy users of eRoom on very complex projects with a lot of databases and home made extensions. Of course, like every eroom users, we would expect EMC to deliver all the goods of eRoom within Centerstage with the 1st version. They have made another choice, which I believe now, is the right one : build a very strong foundation for the future even if you don’t have the first day all kind of objects. The architecture of Centerstage is unique and very extensible and much more comprehensive than Sharepoint if your software universe is open Source and J2EE rather than .NET. Extending Centerstage features is very easy either on the server or the client side. So far, we have developped and we run on production without any troubles an interface with microsoft communicator, a synchronization with our company directory to manage rights, a bunch of cosmetic improvements and (we are very proud of it) the first non EMC widgets to enhance wiki pages. Of course, the SDK is poorly documented compared to Sharepoint but some extensions we have done requires less than 20 lines of code.
    I am now quiet confident with the success of version 1.1 that will just add new types of objects for databases and records (derived from existing ones like wikis).
    Our users like the simplicity and flexibility of Centerstage compared to Sharepoint. If the product management team decide to allow us to create wikis and blogs anywhere in the space (you can do it now with documentum administrator and it works) and launch a widget SDK soon, Centerstage will be a strong competitor on the market.
    Just a small conclusion : try to create a Sharepoint site from a simple template and to add a blog object in the site afterward … it is impossible even with 2010 without coding. Why ? because a blog object doesn’t exist in Sharepoint … you need to create two lists and to develop some webparts to link them together and give the appearance of a blog. In Centerstage, an end user without any technical knowledge create a blog in less than 10 seconds.

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    • Always willing for a dissent. Thanks for sharing. As any good consultant would say, “It depends”. My opinions, and that is what they are, are based upon my client’s feedback and my experience, but as you clearly illustrate, one size does not fit all.

      CenterStage is easier than SharePoint, but I, personally, miss those lists and calendars in CenterStage. Some clients are willing to wait for the features, and I have told them that is a viable option. Others choose not to do so. My largest concern is not the order of the features delivered. My concern is the long delay (will be well over a year) between 1.0 and 1.1.

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  9. Stan says:

    Well it’s been 6 months or so since the original posting and it appears that EMC is no further along with CenterStage than they were back then. As best as I can tell from the very limited information (outside EMC) I can get on this product, it’s looking like this product is getting as much development support as eRoom. EMC is marketing the product at all, and one industry analyst told me he believes the development team is down to next to nothing. Anybody know/hearing anything to the contrary?

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    • Andrew G. says:

      No further along? CenterStage 1.1 was released last quarter. It added Data Tables (“Databases” in eRoom nomenclature) and numerous usability and performance improvements on both the UI and services. EMC is publishing a benchmark that shows 9000 concurrent users working with CenterStage 1.1 and Content Server 6.6. The services SDK is being released this month, and a utility for migrating eRooms to CenterStage spaces is coming soon.

      The next release (1.2) will provide more access to content stored in general repository cabinets, which should enable more casual ECM users to migrate from Webtop.

      And I can tell you the development team is much larger than that of eRoom’s. I agree that there is zero marketing. That’s one of the reasons I try to talk it up on twitter when I can…

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      • That is critical. To be fair, not sure why that capability wasn’t there from day one either. An interface that can’t browse content in the repository it is part of just seems a little silly.

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      • Andrew G. says:

        It wasn’t there because we were trying to “change the paradigm” and have the UI focus more around projects/spaces than cabinets/folders. eRoom didn’t have a “repository browser” either.

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  10. Paul says:

    My concern is Documentum’s legacy of starting and dropping these “team” or collaboration tools. First is was something like TeamSite (something like that), then it was going to be a replacement for that (Momentum in Orlando in 200x), then it was eRoom, then it was SharePoint integration, now (then?) it was CenterStage. I mean seriously, how can anybody rely or make any plans with them? I personally don’t know what is going on with CenterStage, but nobody really seems to. To get a completely different reality from that of Andrew G., read this blog post – http://blog.tsgrp.com/2011/01/24/documentum-centerstage-%e2%80%93-a-five-year-plan/

    I think we’re done with the whole Documentum stack. They can’t seem to put out a front end to the repository that anybody really likes or wants to use. Webtop is just plain sad and Outlook integration is brittle. Maybe others will be able to do something nice on the front end utilizing CMIS, but Documentum’s even late supporting that.

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    • Andrew G. says:

      That post has some factual errors. I don’t know why they claim that CenterStage 1.1 didn’t ship in 2010. It did. I swear.

      Like

      • Paul says:

        Thanks for the clarification Andrew. But reading your discussion over at the TSG Group blog really underscores my first point about Documentum and collaboration products. TSG Group seems to be a pretty significant partner of Documentum, and they don’t know about or have access to new product releases for this. What message do you think customers are getting (if any)? We are supported by a Documentum partner, and two of our Documentum administrators can’t even agree whether CenterStage is reality or vapor ware. Since you’re in the know, are the features you describe in 1.1 and coming in 1.2 part of Essentials or Pro? Because I think we’re talking about a big premium for licenses for Pro, but we’ve gotten mixed signals on that too. Thanks, and good luck with the part time marketing job.

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    • 1.1 was released last year as Andrew pointed out. I have access to it, and pretty much anything I want. If TSG doesn’t, then they need new partner contacts. This was not hidden information.

      As for Essentials v Pro, there are some charts that I see in every briefing on the product. I’ll see if I can find a copy (very busy at the moment) and post it.

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