IBM revs Content Manager for app development

IBM Corp. on Monday took the wraps off the first beta version of its upcoming Content Manager, Version 8 that promises to do a better job of collecting, integrating, and managing a range of text and rich media content from across an enterprise.

Version 8, scheduled to be available in its finished form this September, is capable of accessing and retrieving information in various forms, including scanned images as well as audio and video files. This capability should ultimately make corporate accounts respond faster and more efficiently to the needs of their users and business partners, IBM officials believe.

IBM has had a firm focus on CM (content management) as part of its overall data management strategy the past couple of years. The company has seen a growing interest on the part of its largest corporate accounts, who want to better leverage potentially valuable data -- particularly data in rich media files.

"What is happening now is companies are beginning to think about assets like scanned images and other multimedia data as just that -- information assets that they need to leverage," said Janet Perna, vice president and general manager of IBM's data management business. "But to do that they need a place from which this content can be repurposed," she said.

According to a recent report released by the Meta Group Inc., 95 percent of all Global 2000 firms will have a CM infrastructure in place by 2004. That market is also expected to be worth US$10 billion by that time, the report stated.

IBM officials said they have improved the performance of their product's search capabilities by 35 percent. In addition, Version 8 includes improved programming capabilities that enable developers to build applications about 30 percent faster than Version 7, according to Brett MacIntyre, vice president of content management at IBM.

"There is more and more application development going on around IBM Content Manager," he said.

The improvements should cut down on the cost and necessary resources to integrate CM-related data into both new and existing third-party applications, company officials claimed.

The product's added performance in accessing rich media files, in part, comes from better leveraging the existing capabilities of IBM's DB2. Through what IBM officials refer to as "federated data management," the product can now access this sort of data in Lotus Notes and products made by Oracle Corp., Documentum Inc., FileNet Corp., Sybase Inc., and Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server.

Employing a federated approach -- compared to a more centralized approach used by some of the company's competitors -- allows users to build more efficiently on their existing infrastructure, resulting in increased scalability and reliability while lowering the product's total cost of ownership, IBM officials claimed.

"Enterprise content management is starting to emerge where people want to share information across the enterprise. They may have, for example, two departmental systems that they want to bring together into one," MacIntyre said.

Up until now the solution was to move the data into one repository, he said.

"Now we allow you, through the IBM Content Manager, to leave the data in place and have access to it all. It [provides] a federated view of data across a whole set of different vendors," MacIntyre said.

According to Rob Perry, senior analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston, CM through a federated management layer makes sense as a way to manage data strewn across multiple repositories.

"The federated approach is a good approach because it assumes not all content is right for a single repository, or that content may exist in many different repositories. It recognizes that companies are very diverse, particularly large companies," Perry said.

Other vendors, such as Vignette Corp. and Day Software, are also approaching CM in a similar way, he said.

Content Manager, Version 8 also features a new "unified programming interface" that officials contend eliminates the need for developers to write multiple programs for specific text search requests and to more easily integrate Content Manager with new applications.

"We are really unifying our API set to get to much simpler APIs," MacIntyre said. "We are also building widgets and common building blocks within the browser client and within the Windows client for rapid application development."

Other improvements include the integration of Content Manager with LDAP and new Java-based tools that allow for central administration from any location. This should cut down on the overall amount of time generally associated with carrying out system administration.

"What we have done [with Content Manager, Version 8] is to provide a data store with a Java-based open API so ISVs, systems integrators, and corporate clients can build applications and be able to store and retrieve their content including unstructured data," Perna said.

IBM has also added support for the MPEG-4 standard for steaming media as well as enhanced support for XML through a new query features based around the XPath Query Language. This enables users to more easily support all types of data stored in applications such as CRM and supply chain management systems.

IBM has also added a single sign-on capability that offers more advanced security controls so that users can sign on just once and have access to whatever range of information sources their IT department grants them.

IBM's continued focus on the CM space signals the growing importance of CM as an enterprise software category, Yankee Group's Perry said.

"[CM] is an important part of creating the modern, content-rich application," Perry said. "That requires the structured store and transactions, it requires the rich content, and a whole environment to manage and present it all."

Expected to be available by the end of September, Version 8 will cost $24,000 per processor and $2,000 per concurrent users.

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