In Focus: Open Text Bows Its Next-Generation ECM Platform

We've heard from rivals EMC and Stellent in recent weeks; now it's Open Text's turn to introduce its next-generation of enterprise content management (ECM).
We've heard from rivals EMC and Stellent in recent weeks; now it's Open Text's turn to introduce its next-generation of enterprise content management (ECM). Starting today in London and continuing this week in Paris and Munich, Open Text will use its LiveLinkUp Europe 2005 event to introduce the Livelink ECM Platform as well as an E-mail Management Suite that starts with archiving and extends to personal and centralized control.

The most significant announcement, the ECM platform, is billed as an "integrated framework that combines a shared content repository with shared user, content and process services in service-oriented architecture." That's a lot of buzzwords, so let's dig in on what it all means.

The first big leg of the ECM race was about building or buying the missing management components. OpenText started with Web-based document management and collaboration, but in recent years it added records management, e-mail archiving, Web content management and digital asset management components. Most of this was achieved through buying rather than building, with Ixos, Gauss and Artesia the most recent of at least seven acquisitions in the last five years.

The next leg in the ECM race is about making it all work together to enable seamless content applications. Yet Open Text's acquisitive approach led one catty rival to dub it a "Frankenstack" of code of different breeds and stages of maturity. Competitors, analysts and press may clamor for a "unified platform," but existing customers are rarely anxious to see the systems they use superseded by all-new software with unfamiliar GUIs. Witness the three years EMC/Documentum waited to replace eRoom with collaboration capabilities built on the core platform (and the company continues to support the legacy product).

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) couldn't have come along at a better time for Open Text, letting the company leverage legacy systems in a framework of shared services rather than doing a complete rewrite. SOA is the hot trend precisely because it lets you continue the race where you're at rather than going back to the starting line.

The upshot is that the new platform's Enterprise Server, derived from Livelink, handles document management, records management and search while an Archive Server, derived from Ixos, handles lower level storage management services. Everything's knitted together with services. User Services provide a shared directory and security layer. Process Services support everything from ad hoc routing to high-volume transaction processing (expect more on this front soon). And Content Services offer "Application Doorways" to multiple content types and applications as well as "Storage Doorways" to a range of storage devices.

"Doorways are a core piece of the ECM platform because they let you apply functionality such as search, workflow and access control to content even if it doesn't live in the core repository," says Open Text CTO Dave Glazer, describing what is really a content virtualization and integration layer that can encompass non-Open Text repositories.

Those who call the Enterprise Server and Archive Server two separate repositories "aren't using their words carefully," says Glazer. "We have a storage management layer and an information management layer. The metadata at the lower level is about the bytes and when they were last written. At the higher level, it's about who has access rights, who changed the content and which version you're looking at."

More to the point, the Archive Server's services are only made available through Livelink, just as FileNet's Image Manager is exposed through the P8 platform or IBM's OnDemand or CommonStore archives can be exposed through DB2 Content Manager. Open Text's Archive Server is optional, but it comes into play whenever there's a high-volume transactional application such as ERP archiving, e-mail archiving, accounts payable, manufacturing fulfillment, imaging or output management.

Open Text's new E-Mail Management Suite offers a good illustration of content applications built on the Livelink ECM Platform. The base-level offering is E-mail Archiving, which solves the storage problem by offloading e-mails and attachments from e-mail servers while maintaining user access to messages. E-mail Management adds the ability to set retention and deletion policies and lets users drag and drop messages into records management folders, where they're automatically classified. The E-mail Monitoring upgrade includes all aspect of the first two applications but adds journaling of all incoming and outgoing e-mail, automatic classification, audit trails and workflows, federated search across all stores and retention holds on messages under investigation.

"Our E-Mail Suite uses the Archive Server to handle storage and the Enterprise Server applies higher level access control, search and records management," Glazer explains. "At the next level up, the e-mail-specific application provides hooks into specific e-mail clients and servers, hooking into the journaling capabilities of Exchange, for example."

Capping off this week's announcements, Open Text is proclaiming support for JSR 170, the soon-to-be finalized Java specification for content integration. Supported through the Livelink ECM Services architecture, the standard will simplify access to and control over disparate content sources, enabling, for example, corporate-wide rules to be established and administered for records management.

Open Text's platform may not be the purest ECM platform in the industry, but it's consistent with the company's habit of making good acquisitions and then focusing on the business needs of the legacy customers.

Resources from Open Text:

a. Enterprise Content Management: What You Need to Know

b. The Future of ECM

c. Open Text offers a range of integrated Livelink ECM Solutions, each designed to address a particular business problem, technology gap or industry challenge.

d. The Livelink ECM Platform