Single Sign-On, SAML, and Authentication in Documentum

I’ve been meaning to get back to this topic for quite some time. Before moving onto other Standards topics, I want to try and conclude this thread on SAML. James and I traded responses about authentication and SAML, and I applaud James for taking time to look into the capabilities of the DFC to respond to my previous post. James did get several details of the DFC incorrect, but not regarding any points important to this discussion.

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One More Month for D6?

I have now heard from multiple sources that D6 is about a month out. I have even heard rumors, stress rumors, that it may trip over into September. While I am saddened by this, I would rather wait another month for a solid product than have something that I can’t use show up on my doorstop, wasting my time.

If I hear anything to the contrary, or anything else related, I’ll share. This is, of course, unofficial and it could be out tomorrow.

I’m just not holding my breath.

D6 is Coming!

Been slowing down a bit as I focus on several work and family activities that have precluded me from writing many entries. However, today I saw something in the Documentum Developer Site News feed on the side of my blog. EMC is gearing up for the release of D6 and I am starting to get excited. I’m not the only one if the hits on my blog are any indication.

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ECM Standards, SAML, and the DFC

Time for some more dialog with James McGovern. I love this kind of discussion because it raises awareness of the issues in the community. James replied to my last post on Standardizing Authentication. There is a problem with written communication sometimes. No matter how clearly you think you write or explain something, someone will always either misread, misunderstand, or misinterpret something. Before I get into that, two things first.

In another post, James says something nice about ECM. Understand that ECM provides value regardless of whether it has standards. Can you feel the love? He does qualify that he isn’t pleased with the vendors, but we now know how he really feels.

Second, I wanted to say that James is dead on with this statement regarding SAML and Documentum. The beautiful thing is that you shouldn’t have to learn how to write this type of thing as this should be out of the box. He is absolutely correct. I shouldn’t even need to think about how I would implement SAML in Documentum. That is EMC’s job. Now on to the rest of James’ response/analysis.

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Standardizing Authentication

Been a busy week on the ECM standards front. There has been a lot of discussions going around. I’ve been silent on the topic as I’ve been focusing on learning more about SAML and XACML so that I can respond to James’ question. Plus, the dialogs are going great and I haven’t needed to keep them going.

I am not ready to give James an answer on XACML, yet. I feel I am ready to start a dialog on SAML though.

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Choosing a Target for Standards

Reaction to my previous two posts revealed two simple things about the Universe. Enterprise Architects want/need ECM standards now. Enterprise Content Management people don’t think that the ECM world is ready for them. They are both right, so let the fighting begin.

Brian “Bex” Huff wrote about the lack of useful ECM standards and how writing a standard to the lowest common denominator would leave it all but useless. He raises some excellent points, but I think there is an important thing here. If an ECM system doesn’t support a minimal level of functionality, is it really Enterprise worthy? If it isn’t ready for the Enterprise, do we care if it can’t integrate with everything else? I’m thinking No on both counts.

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SharePoint and EMC

One of my favorite Documentum bloggers outside of yours truly, Johnny Gee, has been blogging of late on SharePoint and Documentum. He ran a three part series comparing the two. Yesterday, he posted an entry comparing SharePoint and eRoom. This was even commented upon by an Enterprise Architect blog that I regularly read by James McGovern. I read the entry, and it has drawn an interesting, and very dead-on, observation. The latest post has a very decided pro-eRoom stance. In Johnny’s defense, he was just posting some observations from a reader and not taking credit. One the other hand, it is a very biased view of the world.

First, let me say that I do not have the depth of knowledge to take up SharePoint’s defense in detail. I am also not as inclined to do so being a little pro-EMC. However, I will make two statements about eRoom and SharePoint:

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EMC’s Vision of ECM 2.0

I’ve previously posted on how D6 is laying the foundation for ECM 2.0 (E2), as well as some of the key features of that release. Before I start delving into some of those features in detail, I though I would go over what E2 is envisioned to be once it is delivered. Personally, this is a lot of marketing-speak, as is Web 2.0, but it shows a lot about the why in the future of Documentum.

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D6, ECM 2.0’s Foundation

Well, EMC World didn’t give us much new, but it confirmed a lot of important facts about the upcoming release, as well as labeling their thought process in the marketing world. Each product has some neat new features, but I am only going to hit the big ones that stick out in my mind. Have a question on it, leave a comment and I’ll see if I know, or maybe another reader will.

NOTE: These features could change! Having managed release cycles for a few products, it is simply amazing how much can change at the last minute. From my discussions, I feel pretty confident that these features will be delivered or I wouldn’t be taunting you with them.

  • Aspects: If you don’t know what Aspects are, they are a part of the Object-Oriented world that basically adds another dimension to the complexity of any OO design or implementation. That being said, they can make life much easier. Right now, say you have an object type for project documents. You have a couple of pieces of meta-data including a Project lookup. No biggie, extend dm_document (or your enterprise document type). What if you have project emails coming in through DCO? You have to extend the dm_mail_archive type in the same manner. Thus you are managing the model in 2 places. This can get worse, but we’ll stop there. With Aspects, you can create a Project Aspect and apply it to the types dynamically. That’s right, Aspects can be applied at any time to a document, not just when a document is created. Ain’t life grand?
  • TaskSpace: This is a new UI into the Documentum world. It isn’t just a way to charge people for a new interface, it is actually useful. The key new UI behind their Transactional Content offering, it takes a user straight into their Documentum Inbox. Once their, they can look at task information and see the actual content in the same web page. Using the Brava! viewer from Informative Graphics, users can annotate and process their work within one screen. In addition, it introduces “Smart Folders”. These are just canned searches that return all content with, for example, Account #43839. The user doesn’t need to navigate the folder hierarchy to see all the related content. This is something that if you haven’t seen and you use workflows, you need to see.
  • Improved BOCS: Right now, Branch Office Caching Services can only cache data that has already been requested by someone accessing that server. In D6, you can use predictive caching to have the content ready and waiting. PLUS, it will have write-back capabilities so that distant users don’t have to wait for the content to get back to the Content Server before they continue working on something else. This is going to make the One Repository model truly viable for the global organization.
  • Documentum Foundation Classes: This is a big change. EMC is moving to a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This is going to make life a lot easier down the road to write new user interfaces and to have different systems interact together. I already have uses for this on my projects. EMC is already using them. The new SharePoint Services for Documentum coming in D6 sp1 is going to be built on this completely. Following that will be the next generation of eRoom built using ASP .NET as the interface and Content Server as the backend.
  • Java Libraries: I wrote previously that this was the biggest risk, and I stand by that statement. However, it also offers one of the greatest boons to every Linux lover out there. Right now, Content Server is certified by OS and Processor. Same for the install package. In D6, theoretically you can just drop the WAR file into an App Server and you are done. I’m sure that there will be a few details, but this opens Linux up to non-Intel platforms and lets IT shops everywhere stick with what they know. The only question, how will the classify the supported platforms? For that we will have to wait for the release notes.

First Thoughts on Momentum (aka EMC World) 2007

So, as I sit here awaiting one of the many over-priced rides back to the airport, I thought I would write-up my notes from the conference this year. Then I decided, why not blog it? Thus it begins…

Not going to rant on the obvious this year. If you went, you know. If you didn’t go, don’t worry about it. For all of its new-found flaws, Momentum is still the best place to go to find out what is going on and to get access to the Documentum product staff. This year proved no different.

The focus this year was on Documentum 6.0, or as it is affectionately known – D6, which is coming this summer. This was good and bad. I wanted to know more about it, but D6 was the focus at the last Momentum, so some of it was a repeat. D6 holds a lot of promise for the future of Documentum. Two of the largest changes coming are the complete replacement of the underlying binary libraries into Java and the introduction of a new level of abstraction on top of the DFC, the Documentum Foundation Services (DFS).

Of the two, the changing of the libraries is worrisome. My initial concern was performance, but they are now going to use an embedded version of BEA WebLogic 9.2 instead of Tomcat. This has apparently given them a 15-25% performance improvement over the current architecture. No problems. However, I worry about the replacement of the binaries from a quality perspective. Balagi, during his keynote stressed the importance of quality going forward. He admitted, implicitly, that they had rushed 5.3 out and that it had been a mistake. I have my doubts. Even if the statement on quality is 100% sincere, that is a lot of functionality to test in a lot of environments. We’ll know soon enough.

So why would I even begin looking at D6 before SP1? Check in soon and I’ll go into the highlights that make the changes worth while.