Put to the Test: Open Text LiveLinkPut 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.
August 20, 2007
• Close integration with SAP.
• Robust regulatory compliance controls.
• Extensive vertical industry applications.
• 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:
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.
Search and Taxonomy Solutions
Open Text offers multiple search products as part of LiveLink and you can mix and match among three different “server solutions:”
Collections Server. Formerly called BASIS, this structured information system can run on mainframes when massive search horsepower is required.
Discovery Server. Formerly BRS/Search, this system can process structured and unstructured information, and it can run on mainframes as well as other platforms.
Federated Query Server. Formerly BRS/Query Server, this product is a federating (or metasearch) system that permits queries across collections.
In addition to all these server choices, multiple taxonomies can also be associated with documents in their original locations. This lets you search for documents in the LiveLink repository by classifications that differ from those implied by the folder structure, without having to create multiple copies of documents.
Because Open Text offers such a range of high-level functionality for specific types of information retrieval situations, it's difficult to explain everything available. Suffice it to say that for procurement teams with perseverance, Open Text can deliver search technology comparable to or better than that available from any other enterprise search or ECM vendor.
Acquisitions and Integration
In 2006, Open Text began what it describes as a major exercise in consolidation, sunsetting and integration. Much work remains to be done. For better or worse, many acquired products, including almost the entire Hummingbird portfolio, have yet to be integrated into the LiveLink lineup, and many products are awaiting a technical refresh. Prospective licensees should not assume that all or even most of these tools will work under some sort of common platform. It doesn't appear that the company sees underlying product rationalization as a high priority. Rather, it's racing to develop and refine particular industry applications that it will try to sell on functional appeal rather than technical elegance. Many of these applications answer critical needs, but buy on the merits of the individual application.
Many potential buyers are likely to be introduced to Open Text via some association with SAP, as Open Text is SAP’s preferred supplier of archiving and document management technologies (by way of the Gauss/Ixos acquisition). Other indirect routes may be through Oracle or Microsoft, both of which have strong relationships with Open Text. Larger companies seeking integrator or consultant support may actually prefer to work through these partners as Open Text has, in the past, shunned these channel partnerships in favor of its own services group. As a result, Open Text skills are sometimes in short supply, and you may have fewer services firms to choose from than might be available for other ECM products.
If you're considering a LiveLink system, determine in advance who will do the systems integration and consulting work. Open Text will likely push its own services arm, but if you already work with local or offshore integrators, determine whether they have the necessary skills to support a LiveLink implementation. You should also be prepared to invest in training for IT people who will most likely need to learn Open Text's proprietary "OScript" language.
Open Text is a strong player in the ECM market with a number of appealing applications and products, particularly around regulatory issues and its close integration with SAP. Though it has much to do to consolidate and integrate acquired products, so to do major rivals including IBM, Oracle and EMC. With its robust search capabilities and diversity of application- and industry-specific solutions, LiveLink is worthy of serious consideration in any major ECM deployment.
LiveLink is licensed on a per-named-user model. Certain Open Text products and applications are sold on a server-plus-user model.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe is a Principal Analyst for CMS Watch. He was previously ECM Consulting Practice Lead at Wipro and, before that, and analyst with Ovum. He is the author of The ECM Suites Report, which provides in-depth analyses of all leading ECM products.
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