Content management startup bets on open standards

Designed with simplified enterprise integration in mind, newcomer Montara Software Inc. this week broke into the content management scene with a Web-based CM system that is built from the ground up to embrace open standards including J2EE, Web services, and ColdFusion.

As a former CMS architect, Montara founder and CEO Matt Liotta said he saw room for improvement in CMS design and function, especially in terms of core support for emerging standards.

"I saw that some of the new ideas that are coming, specifically Web services, were going to mean a paradigm shift for how content management systems are architected," Liotta said.

Alchemy EX consists of a suite of components, which can be deployed separately or as a package. The system includes a Web application framework built on top of J2EE-based server platforms, a metadata repository for components, an embedded database that manages each component instance, an asset storage and management database, and graphical Web application design tool.

Alchemy EX's support for ColdFusion is designed to combat the difficulties that arise with developing on J2EE platforms and to lower CMS implementation costs, Liotta said.

"ColdFusion provides rapid application development capabilities for J2EE, so people can develop applications faster and cheaper on top of J2EE using ColdFusion than they could using JSP," he said.

The embedded XML database, dubbed Alchemy EX CDB, can also help shave costs because it replaces the need for a separate relational database, according to Liotta. The system also can work with a relational database if an enterprise is deploying an application that ties into one, he said.

"The cost savings are huge. Enterprise database licenses are very expensive, and then there's the hardware and infrastructure to support it," Liotta said.

Another feature of Alchemy EX is a Flash-based front end, which aims to provide an intuitive and usable interface for business users, he said.

A key differentiator from other CM offerings, according to Liotta, is that Montara's CMS is a development platform with built-in support for Web services standards including SOAP and WSDL.

"Our Flash front end calls our standardized Web service APIs to do all its interaction with the back end," Liotta said.

"What we have is an application built from the ground up to integrate into the enterprise using the latest in standards," Liotta said. "That is one of the big things that all our competitors are struggling with. They have these products built several years ago before we knew anything about Web services. Many are struggling to put Web services front ends on their systems."

Pricing for Alchemy EX starts at US$35,000 per server, with an average implementation including services running approximately $47,000 and $52,000, according to Liotta.

Smaller CM vendors rolling out new offerings, such as Montara and Octave Software Inc., have the benefit of industry hindsight, according to Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk, in Hollis, N.H.

"When you start late in the game you can learn from the growing experiences of more established vendors," O'Grady said.

Open standards support in CM is very important and the push is already well under way from most major vendors, he said. However, startups building open standards support from the ground up "will drive the standards adoption process for a number of different vendors across the CM [market]," O'Grady said. "But many vendors are going in that direction anyway."

For example, when Interwoven first began selling CM, pieces of it were in Perl and other pieces in C, but a lot of development going on now is in Java, according to O'Grady.

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