Monthly Archives: June 2007

Standards and ECM

Yesterday, Laurence Hart (a regional ECM consultant) felt compelled to talk about standards in the context of enterprise content management and asked if they’re getting too much attention. In the process, he linked to one of my EMC Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) posts.

First, let’s talk about ECM standards. Are they getting too much attention, as Laurence suggests, or not enough attention? I would argue the latter based on recurring conversations with customers and also simply by acknowledging the whole of content we all live in.

While it may be true that compliance with standards is an oft-used tactic to satisfy an RFP checkbox that can in turn lead to increased sales–generally speaking not just in ECM space–taking this kind of approach to standards is ill-formed and serves neither the customer nor the service provider. Standards are not an end to themselves; they should represent means to worthwhile ends–and customers ultimately decide what is worthwhile and valuable. Customers increasingly tell me that the right ECM standard is valuable to them and something they want to see implemented by EMC Documentum.

Why?

The following figures comes my EMC World presentation on DFS:

Why ECM Standards?

Today’s content-centric and content-driven applications need to access ECM services from multiple content stores (e.g. EMC Documentum, SharePoint, Amazon S3, Salesforce.com, etc.). Unless there is an ECM standard for content service providers, the application developer is burdened with adapting to each store as a set of one-off’s. This causes application development not to scale, and the result is fewer applications that make all enterprise content available to knowledge workers. Rather than estimating the cost of implementing an adapter, the application developer and his or her CIO would rather know what new content can come “online” into existing solutions over time and based on standards.

That’s addressing briefly how ECM standards are relevant for customer applications and solutions. What about customer service implementations? What about ECM service providers themselves?

As with most technology providers, ECM software revenue travels up the value mountain. By this I mean that yesterday’s value proposition is today’s commodity and tomorrow’s legacy (e.g. Laurence’s reference to ODMA). While life as a typical ECM provider may have began with a repository, it won’t stay there. In fact, it’s already moving. So, companies like EMC must look to software services to provide customers value long-term. A service that can easily represent and compose with other content stores, not just its native repository, is a more valuable service. The more I can virtualize enterprise content–the more I can provide a consistent service layer above that content–the more relevant I become to your enterprise and its knowledge work.

Laurence stated: “Standards are enclosed in the SOA efforts of [EMC’s] vision.” DFS is the SOA enabler coming in EMC Documentum 6.0, and as you’ll hear me say in my EMC World presentation, DFS is indeed influencing EMC’s work in the ECM standards space.

Roughly a year ago, I blogged about iECM, and I closed by saying that I would provide updates-as-blog-posts as “iECM progresses toward its stated goals.” Since then I haven’t blogged another word about iECM.

What I can say today is that EMC is working on ECM standardization with other industry leaders, and that EMC is very committed to the important work of making ECM interoperability in a standard way. Just as soon as I can say more, I will! :-)

People are essentially reliable

From “Lessons from the Anti-Mentor” (via my folks):

  • People are essentially reliable; therefore, their actions should be understood with that consistency in mind (e.g. always generous, always selfish, always doing, always (just) talking, etc.). Trust your instincts here.
  • “You spend too much time at work to spend it around people you don’t like or trust. If you’re not having fun, it’s time to move on.”

Acropolis

I’ve been patiently waiting to blog about this for some time. Now that Microsoft has finally gone public with this during this week’s TechEd…

Acropolis‘s vision is to revolutionize the way that organizations define, develop, configure, deploy and manage client solutions. Clearly, this is a broad vision, and it will be realized over a set of releases. Having worked with David Hill, Microsoft’s architect on this endeavor, in the past on smart client architectures, I’m confident that this vision will realized.

Organization-wise with Microsoft, Acropolis fits into the same developer-oriented division as the Windows Forms, ASP.NET and Silverlight folks. For example WPF and “Cider” are sister teams to “Team Acropolis.” This is worth mentioning simply because it shows that Microsoft is organized to deliver on its unification vision where application development is concerned.

So, going to the next level of detail, what is Acropolis and why should you care is you’re building clients (applications) in the Microsoft development environment?

The Acropolis stack diagram

Here is what excites me about each piece to the puzzle shown above:

  • Component model layer Component model layer: support for pluggable metadata consumers (strategies or providers) in a pattern-based (pipeline and dependency injection) foundation…sounds really cool! :-) Seriously, the way metadata flows here is powerful. Stay tuned…
  • Component application layer Component application layer: infrastructure support for data synchronization, concurrency, hosting, etc. allows me to focus on my specific problem domain rather than on plumbing
  • UI-specific application layer UI-specific application layer: the line-of-business focus is timely. More below…
  • Composite application framework Composite application framework: you already build business-oriented components; now you can drop them into a framework that simplifies their development and management, while improving their user experience (parts (basic unit of composability), forms (part-based, goal-oriented orchestration), services (pluggable providers and strategies) and connection points (patterns of part interaction))
  • Tools Tools: visual composition and declaration empowers more imaginations to take what I offer in directions unimagined and productive, than just those belonging to coders

WPF is evolving to address line-of-business scenarios (i.e. 3.5 and beyond). Acropolis is being developed, among other things, to complement and fill-out the next release of WPF where LoB development productivity and usability is concerned. (That being said, Acropolis is not beholden to WPF, but it does target it primarily.)

From the above stack diagram, you can see that Acropolis (and certainly WPF, for that matter) are about more than just LoB apps. However, enterprise and “breadth” ISVs are the focus of version one.

So, what is the relationship between Acropolis and the just-released Smart Client Software Factory (SCSF) that is built upon Enterprise Library 3.1 (EntLib)? What Acropolis in relation to the Composite Application Block (CAB)?

SCSF/EntLib targets both .NET 2.0 and .NET 3.0. Currently Acropolis targets .NET 3.5. There is no relationship between Acropolis and the SCSF, apart from the fact that the patterns and practices team will be evolving their offerings over time to add value onto the current platform. With this release of CTP1, though, the Acropolis does expect the CAB to become deprecated and the SCSF to evolve, targeting Acropolis.

Visual Studio 2008 (“Orcas”) Beta 1 is required for its WPF designer (“Cider”) functionality. While Acropolis design-time experience requires .NET 3.5, it should be possible to target down-level runtime environments (e.g. .NET 3.0, Windows Forms, etc.). These details are still being worked out. As noted below in closing, feedback is actively being sought on Acropolis by its team; so, if specific down-level support is required, be sure to articulate it.

Here is what those in Microsoft’s DevDiv are saying about Acropolis:

Looks like it’s also worth paying attention to Don Burnett’s Acropolis commentary.

The Acropolis team is asking for your early, formative feedback, and I encourage you to provide it to them.

Update 6/7/2007: Glenn Block answers more common questions about Acropolis relative to p&p offerings.