Entries from July 2008 ↓

Alfresco plays Microsoft’s SharePoint game

Last week it was EMC’s Documentum group taking on SharePoint and this week it’s Alfresco, interesting not just because both Documentum and Alfresco were founded by the same person.  I had the chance to speak with that person, John Newton, this morning about Alfresco Labs 3.0 (Labs is the new name for Alfresco Community, which is the unsupported, uncertified version of Alfresco’s open source ECM software).

Alfresco has been positioning itself as the open source alternative to SharePoint for awhile and this announcement puts more wood behind that marketing arrow (Alfresco is undeniably good at marketing).

By working with the documented server protocols that Microsoft made available after its tangle with the EU, Alfresco built interoperability with the Microsoft Office desktop apps and with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server to make Alfresco a more viable replacement for SharePoint or to make it easier for the two to co-exist.  The most useful part of this will be the ability for end-users to work with an Alfresco repository via Office apps in the same way they work with SharePoint.

As is generally the case in ECM, SharePoint and Alfresco aren’t apples-to-apples in all senses and Alfresco isn’t necessarily attempting to replicate all the search, business intelligence and portal pieces of SharePoint just yet.  But this definitely provides an alternative for those organizations looking for basic content services a la SharePoint in a non-Microsoft or mixed server OS, database and browser environments.

Moving to London

I’ll be relocating from New York City to London as of August 1, but continuing in more or less in my same role here at The 451 Group.

After more than a dozen years in Manhattan, I’m moving back to the old country (those of you that know me will know I more or less managed to retain my accent) and as such, I’ll obviously be closer to the European scene. I hope to unearth more European vendors and customers than we’re already covering, although we will continue to actively cover all the US vendors we already follow and continue to dig for more there as well.

I expect to hear more about semantic technology than I do in the US (although that’s already quite a lot) and I expect the drivers for using text technologies of various types to be slightly different in Europe.

August will be a bit hectic sorting things out, but I’ll be fully up to speed by the start of September, that’s for sure.

The only contact that will change is my office number, which I’ll be sending around to key contacts.

Katey Wood, my research associate remains in the 451 Group’s New York City HQ, helping me cover this fascinating market.

E-discovery discovery

We’ve been covering the e-discovery big guns and usual suspects here at The 451 Group in one way or another for about five years now. But we’re looking to get more systematic about it in part in preparation for a long-form market overview of this sector to come this fall. There are certainly no shortage of vendors targeting this market, as anyone attending the LegalTech conference this year would tell you.

We currently have several analysts looking at this market from different angles: Nick and Katey cover the search and text analytics vendors, Simon and Henry keep track of storage and archiving, and Kathleen looks after records management and content management aspects.

But with this approach, we wonder who we’re missing. Where are the up-and-comers? Are there any start-ups or new emerging companies you’ve had your eye on? Let us know in the comments or via email so we can make sure our e-discovery coverage is more comprehensive.

EMC improves SharePoint strategy with CenterStage

EMC announced the upcoming beta availability of a new product today, Documentum CenterStage (formerly codenamed Magellan); our full write-up for 451 Group clients is here.  CenterStage appears to be aptly named, given the focus it is getting as part of the Documentum 6.5 announcement. CenterStage is part of the announcement, but not really the release.  Documentum 6.5 ships at the end of July and CenterStage Essentials goes into beta later this quarter.

But CenterStage is the most interesting part of the 6.5 announcement.  With CenterStage, EMC can finally articulate a more coherent competitive strategy against Microsoft SharePoint.  CenterStage by itself isn’t really competitive with SharePoint but it is the user-friendly front-end component the company has lacked.   Until now, there was an integration between Documentum and SharePoint.  Oh and there was eRoom, but EMC really hadn’t kept eRoom up with the times nor was it particularly well integrated with Documentum, making it difficult for the company to sell an ‘end-to-end’ story that was any better than using SharePoint along with Documentum.

So EMC is putting a lot of energy into CenterStage, it’s a big deal for EMC’s Documentum group.  Will it be a big deal outside of EMC and it’s established Documentum customer base?  Probably not intitially.  But I think a lot of people have been wondering if EMC/Documentum really would cede all the interface apps to Microsoft that easily and, eventually, inevitably, marginalize the Documentum group beyond repair.  At least now, it looks like EMC is in the fight.

Text analysis market update, mid-2008

We’ve just produced a mid-year look at the state of the text analysis market, available to 451 customers here. In it we look at the major drivers now and in the future while giving assessments of the current state of the vendors we cover in this market.

The vendors discussed include Attensity, Autonomy Corp, Basis Technology, Business Objects (including Inxight), Clarabridge, IBM (including Cognos), Infonic, Intelligenxia, IxReveal , Lexalytics, Megaputer Intelligence, Microsoft (including FAST), Nstein Technologies, SAP, SAS Institute (including Teragram), SPSS, Temis, Teradata, Thomson Reuters (including ClearForest), & Viziant.

For those of you not yet customers (and why on earth not?!), its title reflects our belief that technically speaking, there’s not an enormous gulf between what the government intelligence folks have been doing to gather and understand text for years and the opportunities that text analysis can now address in all sorts of other, non-government markets.

In fact if we’d had room, we could have gone on to add ‘voice of the plaintiff, voice of the defendant, voice of the mechanic, voice of of the researcher, voice of the doctor,’ and so on.

But that wouldn’t have made for such a snappy title now, would it?

Defining the language of complex events

The Event Processing Technical Society, an organization formed in June by Complex Event Processing bigwigs to collaborate on the future direction of event processing, has announced its first deliverable: a glossary of terms designed to provide “a common language for developing applications and software infrastructure that use event processing concepts”.

The glossary is available for download (PDF) while EPTS members can also comment and make suggestions on its wiki. It is based on an initial glossary published by David Luckham and Roy Schulte in late June. The glossary has three goals:

  • “to accelerate the learning of the event processing concept;
  • to further community communication by enabling practitioners to utilize common concepts and terms; and,
  • most importantly, to provide a foundation for analysis and the development of best practices, publications and industry standards.”

The glossary should also useful in defining the CEP sector for outsiders given the widespread use of apparently interchangable phrases such as Event Stream Processing, Event Processing, Stream Processing and Complex Event processing.

Here’s some edited highlights for the uninitiated.

Event: Anything that happens, or is contemplated as happening.”

Event (also event object, event message, event tuple): An object that represents encodes or records an event, generally for the purpose of computer processing.”

Complex event: an event that is an abstraction of other events called its members.”

Complex-event processing (CEP): Computing that performs operations on complex events, including reading, creating, transforming or abstracting them.”

Event stream: a linearly ordered sequence of events.”

Event Stream Processing (ESP): Computing on inputs that are event streams.”

Simple really. For the full context, you are encouraged to refer to the full glossary.

M&A in ECM this week and a look ahead

We covered two small acquisitions in the ECM realm this week (for 451 Group clients, our TechDealmaker service has (or will have shortly) the full deal analysis reports),  Open Text’s purchase of the file format viewing division of Spicer Corp. for $12m and Hyland Software’s Liberty IMS buy for an undisclosed sum.

Neither of these deals, which are both small, is all that interesting in and of itself.  Open Text is getting a bit of technology to view CAD files, large schematics and other large and complex files without having the software used to create those files installed locally.  This is a good addition to Open Text’s line, particularly as it looks to sell more vertically-customized apps in markets like energy and construction.  Hyland has purchased a small competitor in the SMB market, mostly to expand its customer base in a few key verticals.

What is interesting about these deals, aside from the fact that they closed on the same day at a time when acquisitions aren’t exactly booming, is that they both come from independent ECM vendors looking to carve niches for themselves in a market increasingly dominated by the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and EMC (though Hyland is majority-owned by PE firm Thoma Cressey Bravo).  Both have indicated that there will be more acquisitions ahead as they look to secure their positions and future acquisitions by both vendors are likely to be more of the same.

Open Text and Hyland operate on different scales — Open Text’s revenues in calendar year 2007 were $677.8m while Hyland’s were $104m.  Open Text is also securely in the enterprise market while Hyland plays more at the mid-tier and in the SMB market, though the two do compete sometimes in government accounts and for accounts payable apps.

Hyland appears to be  more aggressively on the acquisition trail at the moment, noting as part of the Liberty IMS announcement that plans are to “more than double our size in the next three years” via both inorganic and organic means. But Open Text has also indicated repeatedly that it will do ‘tuck-in’ technology buys, like the Spicer acquisition.

Open Text and Hyland aren’t the only independent ECM vendors remaining nor the only ones likely to make acquisitions in the near future.  Interwoven and Vignette are also here.  Both made technology buys in the past year, Interwoven bought multivariate testing vendor Optimost for $51m last October and Vignette parted with just $7m for the assets of video delivery service Vidavee in April.  These buys indicate that these two are more interested in Web content management (WCM) at the moment, even though both have broader product lines, and future buys will most likely continue to fill out WCM portfolios.  This is in contrast to Hyland and Open Text, who are both likely to stay more to document management, records management and BPM-related acquisitions.  But none of these vendors is likely to make a major buy.

That said, these vendors themselves are perennial potential acquisition targets. Thoma Cressey Bravo may be fattening Hyland up for an eventual sale, but it will likely look to consolidate more of the mid-tier ECM market first.  But the others – Open Text, Interwoven and Vignette – could themselves be up for grabs by giants like SAP or HP.  In either case, we’re far from done with ECM acquisitions.

Social (Web) content management

In the craziness of this week, I missed a good post from Jeremiah Owyang over at Forrester about the coming collision between social software vendors and CMS vendors.  This is something I have written about several times before.

As is evident particularly in some of the comments on this post, there’s still a lot of confusion out there about all these terms we use — CMS, content management, social networking, social software etc.  Jeremiah gets it, as he covers “white-label” social software vendors that sell software or software-as-a-service for external, community sites.  So he’s not talking about social software for internal deployments or collaboration at all, or at least not as a primary function (some communities cross boundaries so things aren’t always so clear).

In this context, we’re talking about a particular set of “CMS” vendors, what I would generally refer to as Web content management (WCM) vendors.  Poster children here are the likes of Interwoven, Vignette, FatWire Software, Percussion Software, Clickability, Day Software and SDL Tridion, along with open source efforts like Drupal and Alfresco.   These vendors primarily sell software to develop, publish and maintain high-end, customer-facing web sites.  Again, this generally isn’t about internal collaboration or document management or enterprise content management (ECM) at all.

So there are vendors focused on building customer community sites and vendors focused on building customer Web sites — seems like a natural meeting point, doesn’t it?  The WCM vendors that I track (those listed above) are well aware of this and some are further along in developing these technologies I think than Jeremiah’s giving them credit for in this post.

But the social software vendors seem much less aware of what the WCM vendors are doing.  This is something I ask about regularly when I meet with social software providers and few seem to think of (or at least admit to) WCM vendors as potential competitors or to be aware of what they’re up to.  It’s not surprising really as these are smaller vendors doing their best in a competitive segment that is still just emerging.

More partnerships are definitely imminent and are a good idea, though I think most WCM vendors will get to a point of proficiency pretty quickly, through both organic and inorganic means, making partnerships less necessary.  I think we’ll see WCM vendors with fairly complete offerings that can cover company-generated, controlled and targeted content alongside user-generated, community-managed content.  There will still be room for a few best-of-breed, SaaS providers and no need in this day and age for every customer to purchase all its content infrastructure from the same vendor.

But for many customers that simply want to make their existing sites a bit more interactive, gather some customer feedback, enable customers to communicate with each other for particular needs like product support, there may be fewer and fewer reasons to stray from a WCM incumbent already running the rest of a site, provided that encumbent has social software capabilities that make sense for the environment.

Jeremiah asks a question towards the end of his post that I wonder about often when speaking with social software vendors:  “How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?”


Quick thoughts on Microsoft-Powerset:

  • This is about scaling the original Powerset vision and by extension, the vision of the Xerox PARC engineers that developed the technology on which Powerset is built.

  • This isn’t an alternative to buying Yahoo – that’s overly-simplistic apples vs oranges stuff.

  • But this is about improving Live Search and as such, the Powerset guys probably have a greater chance of influencing Microsoft’s search direction than the semantic-technology focused people within Yahoo would have had within MicroHoo.

  • The semantic technology crowd just lost its poster child; will the next one please step forward?

I told you they were quick!. More tomorrow to 451 clients via TechDealmaker.