Interwoven tames unwieldy Web sites

Complex CPS2.0 gives developers a handle on coding, content, and configuration

Enterprise CMSes (content management systems) do a fine job helping business users update Web page text and rollback changes when necessary. But that's just one facet of maintaining an engaging site. Unfortunately, few tools currently exist for overseeing changes to intricate applications such as shopping carts and Web-enabled self-help. True, most IT shops employ systems management tools such as Microsoft Application Center to deploy custom programming of this nature. These products, however, usually work with particular file types and often lack controls mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation.

Enter Interwoven's CPS (Content Provisioning Solution), a source- and target-agnostic solution that plays well with popular SCM (software configuration management) systems to recognise content changes made via various CMS apps. What's more, CPS bundles these changes and deploys them at once to a wide array of Web application servers.

Sure, stuffing in features of individual provisioning tools is a feat, but what will make IT executives take notice of CPS is that it operates as a single system of record for changes. That way, you can prove that only authorized modifications get moved into production, making your infrastructure audit-ready.

Interwoven customers may recognise some of CPS's capabilities, as they were originally part of TeamSite -- the company's CMS -- and then Interwoven's stand-alone OpenDeploy product. CPS 2.0 retains key OpenDeploy features, such as content encryption during data transfer using SSL, and now includes version control and workflow, courtesy of a new component called ControlHub Server.

That said, this is an IT operations solution and therefore takes time and patience to configure and use. I spent a few days assembling a test, staging, and production environment of 10 Windows servers. In fairness, part of that effort was devoted to rethinking existing processes and how they could be improved. For example, I didn't originally have a test server in my workflow and lacked a few intermediate approval steps, which I needed to model in CPS.

Using a Web interface, I instructed OpenDeploy to recognise my content servers and built deployment projects. One usability quibble is that you must jump between the UI and a text editor to make configuration changes. These control files typically follow an XML format, so support staff shouldn't have much difficulty with this task. It does introduce the potential for error and more testing steps, though.

With the configuration set and verified, I had no trouble scheduling jobs to run automatically, adding users from a Microsoft Active Domain, and running reports.

ControlHub, the workhorse of this solution, also comes with a significant learning curve. Considering the intended developer or IT audience, however, it shouldn't prove too intimidating. For example, the Content area of the tabbed Web UI presents a navigation tree where I created Branches, for managing my various Web apps; Editions, for capturing versions of each change; and Workareas, for aggregating code and content.

As noted, files can come from different departments, hosts, file shares, and even databases -- an optional add-on. In my test environment, CPS easily oversaw ASP files controlled by Microsoft Visual SourceSafe, HTML pages developed through Macromedia Contribute, and XML-formatted Web content published through SilkRoad's Eprise enterprise CMS. CPS also works with IBM Rational ClearCase and Serena Merant PVCS and recognizes content changes made in EMC Documentum, Stellent, Vignette, and, of course, Interwoven CMSes.

After registering these push and pull parts, I jumped to ControlHub's Workflow section to kick off deployment jobs. ControlHub allowed me to create jobs with appropriate approvals. For instance, managers were asked to verify changes on a staging server and then sign off before files were deployed to production. As opposed to some stand-alone workflow systems, however, ControlHub builds the underlying scripts to accomplish each of these steps and then instructs OpenDeploy to move the file to WebLogic, WebSphere, and Windows servers.

Because you don't have to manually define packages, which can get tricky in multiserver environments, CPS offers lower overhead in larger enterprise settings.

ControlHub's other main areas show users details of their deployment jobs as well as approval requests. What I'd like to see, however, is for the default work-centre view to list tasks that require users' attention. As it stands, you have to dig through detailed listings to perform approvals and locate anything that requires attention such as a failed job that needs to be rerun. Still, I appreciated CPS's open design, which allowed me to kick off a workflow from help desk systems or similar enterprise applications, thereby eliminating the need to use ControlHub's UI all the time.

Via ControlHub, I successfully tested CPS's rollback function. After selecting this type of workflow, it was easy to select any previous application state, and the system copied the reverted content to production.

CPS records all OpenDeploy and ControlHub events, providing a thorough audit trail and satisfying requests for compliance reports. From the OpenDeploy interface, I quickly reviewed deployments for a set period and then examined detailed reports to see exactly what content changed. In addition to these stock reports, you can create a custom SQL query to generate quick reports based on various search fields.

Interwoven's CPS helps you standardize the way Web site updates are collected and deployed in test, staging, and production environments. It plays very well with a long list of change and content management systems; captures audit trails; and provides sophisticated branching and work areas that organize change sets for hundreds of applications. Although usability could be improved, I have no doubt CPS will streamline inefficient, manual change and deployment processes.

Interwoven Content Provisioning Solution 2.02

Very good
Cost: Starts at $US49,000, which includes content provisioning software, training, and implementation services
Platforms: Windows, Solaris, Linux, AIX, and HP-UX
Bottom Line: Comprising ControlHub and OpenDeploy servers, Interwoven's CPS helps IT groups efficiently manage content and code changes to complex Web applications. After appropriate approval, updates are deployed to designated test, staging, and production destination points. The system provides strong version control and rollback capabilities. Auditable, historical records of all application changes meet key IT compliance requirements.

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