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8/20/2007
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Put to the Test: Open Text LiveLink

The largest of the remaining enterprise content management independents, Open Text offers a diverse suite with plenty of application- and industry-specific solutions, search capabilities and deployment approaches. Product integration and technology consolidation remain works in progress, but LiveLink ECM should be on the short list when SAP integration or regulatory demands are important.

PROS
• Close integration with SAP.
• Robust regulatory compliance controls.
• Extensive vertical industry applications.
CONS
• Has yet to integrate many acquired assets.
• Relies on proprietary "OScript" language.
• Confusing array of overlapping modules.
Open Text is the last of the independent enterprise content management (ECM) vendors, having seen rivals FileNet, Stellent and Documentum swallowed up by much larger infrastructure vendors (IBM, Oracle and EMC, respectively). By default it has become the largest (by far) of the remaining pure-play ECM vendors. Whether this is a strength or a weakness is open to discussion. To some, the fact that Open Text is 100-percent focused on content management is a very positive thing, and it does offer a distinct alternative in large ECM procurement situations, as its differentiation extends beyond its independent status.

At an enterprise level, Open Text can add value in heterogeneous environments through what it calls “Enterprise Library Services.” In some ways, this is the core of the LiveLink offering: a platform to manage content wherever it resides. This is very different from the “put everything in my repository” approach once espoused by ECM vendors. Instead, Open Text recognizes that content will reside in file servers, databases and any number of third-party repositories. With Enterprise Library Services, LiveLink manages the metadata centrally for these disparate resources. Of course, integrating metadata will prove much more complicated than integrating data, but the approach is a realistic one.

Enterprise Library Services also support centralized search/retrieval and archiving using other Open Text tools. The search services provide federated search across repositories, and the archival services let you centrally manage the physical storage of all content.

Solutions and Scalability

At a technical and conceptual level, Open Text has three key layers in its architecture:

Specific Solutions

Solution Bands

Enterprise Library Services

At the base lie common shared services and resources that range from so-called basic content services to deeper ECM content services such as Web content management (WCM), digital asset management (DAM), and business process management (BPM). This base services level is what would normally constitute an entire ECM architecture for other ECM vendors.

On top of the base layer is a differentiating Solution Band that consists of ten key technical management configurations: Case, Risk, Configuration, Project, ERP, Brand, Training, Product Data, CRM and SCM.

A third layer focuses on specific solutions such as ISO 9000, Inventory, Litigation, Policy Administration, Contracts Management, and so forth. There are currently around 120 of these task- and industry-specific solutions.

LiveLink scales for enterprisewide applications by implementing a cluster of servers at each tier of the architecture. The Web server tier can be scaled using multiple servers and/or processes under a hardware or software load balancer. Similarly, you would scale the application server tier using multiple servers under a hardware or software load balancer. The repository tier can also be scaled using multiple servers according to the scaling strategies of the database vendor, plus file store scaling via SAN or NAS devices.

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