I recently received an email from someone whom I will call…Socrates. He asked a question and I wanted to share it for discussion publicly. First the question, then my reasons for the public discourse.
Laurence, I have been working on Documentum since version 2. I am now working on DCM 6.5 sp3. I find that the quality of the product is going down every release. What do you think?
The reason that I am bringing it up publically is because I don’t have a clear-cut answer. As with products from most vendors, some releases are better than others. I also only have direct experience with Documentum since the 4i release at the end of ’99. To top it off, I haven’t used every component, much less every component of every release.
Of course, I have some concerns. I saw Rick Devenuti speak at EMC World and he seemed preoccupied with addressing quality issues. Whether these are long-standing or new is something we can discuss at the end, where I have a couple more thoughts.
Remember, there is no “right” answer. We are merely looking for experiences.
Life with 4i
I entered the Documentum world less than a month after the release of Documentum 4i. The “i” should tell you all you need to know about the timing of the release. I am hard pressed to describe the highlights of the release, but there are a few a gleaned while working with my colleagues who were old hands at EDMS98.
- Workflow: It was new in 4i, replacing the old router method. It had some issues with larger, more complex, workflows, but it was also the 1.0 version of a major feature. Documentum worked hard to get it fixed, but I remember old Bob cussing at the machine when it would blow-up.
- RightSite: Was better than EDMS98, but man did it have limits. This wasn’t a quality thing though, just a limit to the technology and design. All web interfaces were pretty primitive back then.
- Goodbye WorkSpace: That desktop client was an old standby. The install was kept around by Documentum techies for years and used until the old DMCL library was removed. That shows a lot of quality in WorkSpace and in the backward compatibility of the DMCL over the years.
That is my baseline. Interesting days. The Workflow issues made me worry about quality, but back then I was more concerned with learning the complexity than dealing with the quality.
Carving a Path to 5.3
There were some basic iterations of 4, but with the 5.x product, there were some issues. I didn’t deal with a lot of them as I waited until 5.2.5 to put it into a real production environment, but forget 5.1 and 5.2. There were a lot of general issues.
There was a lot going on in this release. Everyone’s favorite was the new Web Development Kit (WDK) and the growing usage of the DFC. I think the Java Method Server may have been new in the 5.x release, but that is a little fuzzy. If anyone knows for sure, please share.
5.2.5 was okay, but 5.3 was a total nightmare. Forget the core product, the issue was the new Index Server. FAST was “fast”, except in getting it to work correctly. There was a large difference in the wilds of the data center from the clean world of the Documentum test-beds. It took several service packs to get it right. I think SP3 was the SP where you actually had to blow away your index and start over. The lessons learned from this debacle have led to a much more conservative course for releasing the new Enterprise Search Server. The slow pace to release is frustrating, but so was search blowing-up in production.
By 5.3 SP4/5, life settled down. Since then I don’t think I’ve upgraded because I had to upgrade, only because I wanted to go ahead and do it.
Which brings us to the world of 6+…
Attack of the D-Versions
Starting with a large number of presentations in 2007 talking about D6, every version has been referred to as Dx.x. I think some people in the marketing department wish they hadn’t let that one hit the slides at EMC World 2007.
Aside from that, I’ve been following a simple approach, only upgrade to SP1 or higher of any version. Since I’ve done that, I’ve only had two real problems.
- LDAP Synch: To be fair, this is suffering from old age. They have spent a lot of time trying to fix it, but I keep having to find all sorts of new ways to work around it. It works great for smaller user populations, but when you start to cruise past the 5,000 mark, things start to become fun.
- Federations: This isn’t a loss in quality. This stems directly from the fact that the Federation process hasn’t changed in 10+ years.
Now, I know that there have been problems here and there. I know the Branch Office Caching Server had some issues when it first came out. I also know that most of the products that I see having issues are usually shiny new “1.0” products. The core Content Server has been doing fine, as have many other products that are just “evolving”. While it is a shame that you don’t want generally want to install the first release of a new product, that has actually been consistent for years. I also use the same approach with Microsoft and other major vendors as well.
There is a lot to test, and a lot of permutations in the real world. There will always be things that aren’t found in testing because you and I will always be throwing these products into unclean, old, cluttered repositories that EMC just doesn’t have lying around.
So the real question is two parts:
- Have you seen lots of issues in existing products that seem to be creeping up in each release?
- With new products/major features, have they been more problematic or do they have the same (or less) issues than previously released products.
Other food for thought…was Rick harping on fixing new quality or old quality issues? I suspect old. Is the “focus” on quality just typical marketing, realization that they need to fix it, or something they are going to fix instead of innovating further?
Let’s figure this out…