The Web Services Advisor
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Managing a company's enterprise content has become not merely a nice-to-have in today's business environment -- it's become a must-have. Businesses have recognized that corporate records and information of all kinds are important assets that need to be managed and can be mined for vital business information.
Additionally, corporations face increasing regulatory requirements for financial reporting, managing health care records, keeping email and more.
To do all that, enterprises have been turning to enterprise content management systems. And increasingly, makers of these systems are using Web services as the glue that holds content management systems together and that ties them into the rest of the enterprise.
In this second part of a two-part column about Web services and content management, we'll look at some of the leading vendors in the field and where they're headed.
Documentum and Web services
Documentum has long been one of the heavyweights among enterprise content management companies. It's been around since 1990, has more than 2,500 corporate customers and was bought by the information and storage management company EMC at the end of 2003.
Documentum is no newcomer to Web services and content management; the Documentum Enterprise Content Management platform includes support for Web services and has for the last several years. The platform lets developers create business objects that embed application logic into the program, allowing the repurposing of code for different applications, so that applications don't have to be re-written from the ground up. Business objects can also make application integration easy because they can be shared among different applications. So a contract management application can share the same business objects with a catalog management application, for example.
Sound familiar? It should. That's the exact idea behind Web services. In the Documentum system, business objects are built using the Documentum Business Objects Framework (BOF). The Documentum system adheres to Web services standards including UDDI, WSDL and SOAP and of course, XML.
So developers can expose business objects built within the BOF as Web services. In addition to exposing and publishing content management services as Web services, the system can also invoke Web services as part of a content management application, which makes it easy for the content management system to integrate with other enterprise applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
David Folk, Documentum project manager, notes that future releases of the software will make it easier for developers to create Web services-based business objects and "to wrap business objects in a turnkey manner," eliminating several steps of the process.
Developers, he says, frequently want to access Documentum from environments where Documentum code isn't running, for example from within another enterprise application. Web services makes that possible.
Looking to the future, he says that Web services will make it easier to integrate Documentum with other enterprise applications like SAP and PeopleSoft. Currently there are connectors to those applications, but with Web services, specific connectors won't need to be used. Instead, Web services will be the glue that holds everything together.
He notes that increasingly, enterprises are using Web services in concert with Documentum, and he expects that to accelerate in the future.
FileNet and Web services
FileNet is another large enterprise content management vendor that has made a serious push into Web services. FileNet was founded in 1982, and 3,900 organizations, including 80 of the Fortune 100, use FileNet solutions.
The newest version of the FileNet P8 Enterprise Content Management Platform, version 3.0, was released in July of this year and it takes dead aim at Web services. The platform was XML-aware as long as a year and a half ago. Over the last few years, customers have increasingly asked that the FileNet solution be able to be integrated with existing enterprise applications, says Ulrich Leuthner, Senior Product Marketing Manager for FileNet. Because of that, the company has worked on integrating Web service standards into its software.
Often, he says, corporations grow by acquisition and when they buy new companies, they have differing enterprise architectures. Enterprises see Web services as the best way to integrate those architectures. It also allows them to reduce coding necessary for custom applications.
Leuthner sees the future of content management as beyond Web services and moving into service oriented architecture (SOA), in which all of an enterprise's computing resources are defined as services. The underpinning of SOAs are Web services standards.
Toward that end, the FileNet P8 Enterprise Content Management Platform works with SOAs. And it also extends beyond content management as well, into business process management (BPM).
Leuthner says that to date, there has not been a significant uptake in Web services used in concert with the company's content management platform. He has seen pilot programs and tests, but not yet widespread deployment. He expects that to change in the next six months, led by large enterprises rather than small and medium-sized businesses. Large businesses tend to have "mix-and-match" enterprise architectures because they have bought companies with different type of computing infrastructures and believe that the best way to tie it all together is with Web services.
IBM looms ahead
On the horizon is the 800-pound gorilla of the computing world, IBM. IBM engineers in the company's Silicon Valley laboratories have been working on something they call Project Cinnamon, a technology that combines content management software with Web services. Cinnamon will be added to the next version of IBM's DB2 Content Manager, now in beta, which is expected to be introduced by year's end. The goal: Make it easier to find and manage content and to tie that content to other enterprise applications.
When IBM enters the field, it brings a spotlight along with it. So expect all content management platforms to embrace Web services -- and make it easier to tie content management throughout the enterprise.
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About the Author
Preston Gralla, a well-known technology expert, is the author of more than 20 books, including "How the Internet Works," which has been translated into 14 languages and sold several hundred thousand copies worldwide. He is an expert on Web services and the author of a major research and white paper for the Software and Information Industry Association on the topic. Gralla was the founding managing editor of PC Week, a founding editor and then editor and editorial director of PC/Computing, and an executive editor for ZDNet and CNet. He has written about technology for more than 15 years for many major magazines and newspapers, including PC Magazine, Computerworld, CIO Magazine, eWeek and its forerunner PC Week, PC/Computing, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Dallas Morning News among others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in August 2004