CMS Report has an interesting rant about micropayments, and how they never got off the ground... many people have tried to convince me to pay a quarter or a nickle to view their online content, but I've never done so. Every few years, somebody comes up with some master plan based on the theory that "this time it's different!!!" But sadly -- and totally predictably -- they failed.
Why don't people pay for news? Because the most powerful word in marketing is "Free." No matter how little you charge for "quality" content, if somebody else is offering a reasonable substitute for free, you will always lose.
The latest "big idea" in this history of failures is Rupert Murdoch's attempt to charge for their online content. Some folks see Apple's new iPad as a game changer here, perhaps shaking up the market and getting people to pay for quality content. I'm skeptical... Yes, the iPad is pretty, and yes it is probably the best possible platform that "paid content" could ever hope for... but that doesn't change the economic realities.
Yes... the Wall Street Journal's articles might be exceptional... they might be light years better than what you can find for free on blogs and Bloomberg.com... but how can Murdoch prove to a skeptic that "paid-for" content is worth the extra cost? Unless they give away the whole article for free, nobody can judge it's quality. Also, just because one article was great, does not mean future articles will be great... Finally, if it really is a great article, people will blog about it, or editorialize about it, after which I can find a decent summary elsewhere.
People just don't have much brand loyalty to information sources anymore... Whoever gets it to me in the way I want it, will win my loyalty for today... but once you're boring, or ask me to login, or ask me to pay, then I might take my eyeballs to one of the other bazillion sites out there.
News is a commodity, and therefore subject to the economics of commodities. There is a little bit of profit in their creation, but much more in their distribution. In the past, the newspapers owned their distribution channel: printers, packers, delivery trucks... heck, the New York Times even owns their own forests and paper mills! The majority of their expenses are spent maintaining their distribution channel, not in paying people to write quality content.
Rupert Murdoch whines very loudly that his content is valuable and Google should have to pay to spider it... what he's really saying is that he's mad that the internet has made his distribution channels less profitable. If Fox truly cared about creating "quality content," they'd probably drop half their sitcoms.
Is there a way to save newspapers? Sort of...
Obviously, companies with good content need to get into the new distribution channels if they want to survive. The NBC/Comcast merger is a good example... although as a consumer I'm not a fan of so much power being in one single entity. I hope other companies get into the residential high-speed internet business so we have more competition... I'm happy to see that Google is getting into the residential ISP business, and I hope to see more competition soon...
In other words... The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal will survive... but their distribution channels will not. The sooner they get out of the dead-tree-scattering business, the better!
Man... I was just blogging last week about how social search systems like Aardvark would completely change the dynamic of search engines... particularly for mobile users. I said that it was perhaps the best sales model for folks like Twitter and Facebook to challenge the dominance of Google.
Well, too late boys! Because it appears Google just acquired Aardvark. I anticipate Google will be using their standard ad-engine to target Aardvark users... and probably use it to make their mobile offerings more socially aware. This will continue to cement Google's place as the #1 search engine, and gives them a pretty cool foot in the door of actually taping into the useful aspects of your network of friends.
@Twitter: next time you should be faster! Maybe if I tweeted my advice in 140 characters instead of doing a well-thought-out blog post, they would have been able to beat Google to the punch.
Many people have been using Adobe technology for next generation "rich internet applications." Many folks -- myself included -- have warned against this kind of behavior. Flash is a stopgap solution with a lot of cool features, but it would be unwise to use it as a long-term standard. I mentioned earlier in my HTML 5 versus Flash/Flex post, that enough of these flashy features will be a part of HTML 5 and WebKit enabled browsers... so you might want to start pushing them as a requirement.
Another reason why you should avoid Flash? The new Apple iPad.
The jury is still out about this one... Steve Jobs says it's the most important accomplishment of his life, while haters are bashing it almost as much as they bashed the original iPod. Personally, I'm disappointed in its lack of a camera or voice recorder. Other than that I'll have to kick the tires on it a bit.
However, some folks are shocked that the iPad will not run Flash or Flex applications! You know all that time and effort you spent making flashy gizmos for your web app? Well, get ready to do it all over again... because the new iPad does not run Mac OS X. It runs a modified version of the iPhone OS, which never, ever, ever supported Flash... and there are zero plans to support it.
Likely, the future is going to be CSS, JS, and HTML 5. Yes, I know Flash fanboys will say that those technologies are just plain awful when you want total control over the look and feel across multiple browsers... and they are 100% correct. But, sorry to say, it's not always the best technology that wins.
UPDATE: it appears that Steve Jobs has gone on records about why the iPad and iPod will NEVER support Flash. Steve-o brings up a few more reasons I did not cover here: Flash is a power hog, it doesn't support "touch" interfaces, and it crashes a lot. Steve Jobs ends with a plea: Adobe should use its brainpower to make a cross-platform IDE for HTML5, and stop trying to cram Flash down our throats. If they don't, then the "next Adobe" certainly will...
Oreilly has an interesting article about the future of search engines...
It was prompted by the annual report by Aardvark, which is a pretty cool little startup. It's similar to Google Answers and Yahoo Answers, where you can ask any question and it will get you an answer. Sounds simple enough, but the devil's in the details. One thing that impresses me about Aardvark is that they really seem to "get it" when it comes to social search: people aren't looking for THE answer, they are looking for AN answer. They call this the "village" model, as opposed to the "library" model preferred by Google.
Aardvark uses your profile to learn a few things about you: where you live, interests, hobbies, etc., and then tries to find a similar person in their network to answer your question. It also connects with Facebook to figure out a few more things about you... who your friends are, what they like. Essentially, what your "villiage" is. Once it figures out what virtual village to put you in, it forwards your question to somebody likely to answer. If you ask a question about cameras, it forwards your question to some local camera experts who have been helpful in the past.
I'm impressed with the technology in general... also the participation rates are amazing. About 88% of questions sent to Aardvark got answered, and 75% of people who asked a question also answered one. Most interesting, is how mobile users were the ones asking the most questions. Sure, if they were sitting at their computer, the might fire up Google, or an IM client, or dig through their email archives... but despite all attempts to make them usable, mobile devices are still terrible at user input. Also, the
When you're out and about, and want to know where the best place to park is, how would you find that out?
If you have a smart phone, You could Google around to find a forum about the best parking spots in your specific city. Then scour through the archives, and find your specific location... or you could just send a text message to Aardvak, and hope somebody answers.
Most enterprises probably would not need something like this... they would probably be better served with a dedicated "help desk" support staff to keep track of common questions and who knows what. However, I could see this being huge for the general public. It could potentially be the revenue stream that Facebook or Twitter have been waiting for. Or, it could be gobbled up by Google as a pre-emptive strike.
I'm just waiting for the bidding wars to begin...
CMS Watch was recently asked should I let my implementation consultants pick my ECM vendor? That's a pretty tough one to answer. On the one hand, your system integrator would have a fairly informed opinion about what software would work best for your problem. On the other hand, they may have a financial incentive to push you towards one vendor over another... so even if the vendor merely guides the process, there could be danger. A biased consultant will generate a biased RFP which may intentionally favor one vendor over another. I've seen it happen many times.
Hopefully I will not alarm anybody when I confess my bias is usually towards Oracle software. I have this bias for a few reasons:
- they have good products that are easy to install and scale well,
- I know their products the best, so I'll be able to implement an Oracle-based solution faster than a non-Oracle solution,
- I have a great working relationship with Oracle
This last point is more important than most people realize... The CMS Watch article focused mainly on the negative aspects of a close relationship... but there are several positive ones as well. The main one being that enterprise software is typically very complex, with all kinds of hidden features and tricky undocumented configuration. If you or your implementation team has a close relationship with the vendor, you'll be able to extract much more value out of the software you purchased.
So, what's the "fair" solution? Kick out anybody with bias? Not quite...
I usually recommend that clients get unbiased feedback to do the initial selection... The biased person should not be involved here, because they may favor products that are a bad fit, simply because it's "what they know best." However, after the initial selection, the problems changes a bit. At this point, any of the top 3 should suffice... so the question now is which one will make your team the most successful? At this point, biases are ok, as long as they exist because your TECHNICAL team knows and loves the product. If they are familiar with it, comfortable with it, and know how to maintain it, then let them go with their gut... even if it seems like "bias."
You shouldn't be afraid of technology biases: they are there for a good reason... you just need to know when to keep them in check to avoid making a costly mistake.
Well, that took long enough! The European Union finally approved the merger... so now it's official that Oracle owns Sun (and Java!). Oracle is having a press conference about their Sun strategy this Wednesday, January 27, at 9am Pacific Time. They covered a lot of this at Open World 2009... but now I guess it will be official.
They probably won't announce the inevitable layoffs at this talk... although some speculate that 50% of Sun's workforce is redundant after the merger. I'd expect them to talk big about the Exadata V2 hardware... maybe something about pre-packaged Oracle "appliances." It would be cool to have a database in a box, or something akin to the Google Search Appliance for their secure enterprise search.
I'd also expect some talk about virtualization... ever since the BEA acquisition, Oracle has owned a very interesting virtualization solution. I'm not talking about their Linux VM; I'm talking about their Java VM. Instead of making a virtual machine of operating systems running J2EE application servers, BEA had a solution that virtualized just the application server without an operating system. Leaner, meaner, fewer security holes, and much easier to maintain. Oracle has kept pretty quiet about this technology... I'd expect it to be touted a bit more.
What's your feeling? Does anybody out there think Oracle will make an earth-shaking announcement? Does anybody think their strategy will be significantly different than what they have strongly hinted at last year?
Ah, the dreaded RFP... the big giant document that you hope asks all the right questions from an unbiased point of view... difficult to write, and difficult to respond to. I myself prefer proof-of-concepts and bake-offs to RFPs... but RFPs are pretty good at weeding out the people and products you don't want.
Well, good news for folks in the ECM universe! The AIIM organization has drafted a ECM RFP Template that you can use to generate your RFPs. It's $79, but probably worth it if you are new to ECM and need to know what questions to ask. Experienced ECM professionals might not need it, but it's probably still worth checking out to see if the template suggests asking questions that you don't...
If you have feedback, they appear to have a discussion thread on Information Zen to help make it better.
Recently Brian Dirking interviewed me for an Oracle Authors Podcast on content management, collaboration, enterprise 2.0, and other topics of interest... You can download the MP3 and listen at your leisure. Questions include:
- What is "infoglut?"
- Is it fair to say most people fall short of true enterprise-wide content management?
- How do you see "Social Media" affecting ECM?
- What's the difference between content management, collaboration, and enterprise 2.0?
- What's the difference between a "process worker" and a "knowledge worker?"
- Where is ECM going in the next 5 years?
If you've read my blog or my books, I'm sure you know that I have a fairly strong opinion on many of those topics... at one point the producer had to interrupt one of my rants because we were running short on studio time. ;-)
A lot of folks are doing end-of-year predictions about what will happen in 2010 in the Enterprise Content Management universe. In general I'm not a huge fan of making predictions on the future of technology... the easiest way to predict the future of technology is to build it. So instead of countering their predictions with mine, I thought I'd share a list of ten new years resolutions for ECM geeks:
1) Test Your Disaster Recovery Strategy!
Yes, you probably have a decent backup strategy... but are you sure??? When was the last time you tested it? If you haven't tested your disaster recovery strategy, then you don't have one. What if your server melts? How long would it take to recover? What if your existing backups are corrupted? What if your database gets hacked and somebody deletes all your tables? Test your existing what-if scenarios... and then add one more to the list!
2) Install Necessary Patches
Are your security patches up to date? Or is there some annoying little bug that's driving you nuts, which might be fixed in a newer version? It's probably a good time to take stock of where you are, and where you'd like to be... Oracle Metalink has some pretty good advice on How To Maintain UCM and How To Maintain Site Studio. After doing the minimum, think a bit about where you'd like it to go next.
3) Learn About At Least One New ECM Feature or Technology
ECM is a fast changing field... do you know as much as you need to know about records management? How about the new features in Site Studio 10gr4? Have any new connectors been released that might make integrating ECM into your systems easier or more useful? How much do you know about Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0? Make a commitment to read a book or at least some blogs about something new in the ECM universe, and how it can benefit you.
4) Calculate Return-On-Investment
Some ROI is based on fairly hard-cost numbers that are easy to calculate... How much less printing and shipping did you have to do this year? Did you save money on warehouse space by scanning documents instead of keeping paper copies? Were you able to lower call-center volume with a self-service web site? Were you able to save on legal costs because your system was easier to audit?
Other kinds of ROI are harder to calculate... for example, how much time did you used to spend looking for documents, compared to now? Were you able to more effectively collaborate? Were you able to avoid problems and spot new opportunities because you had more information at your fingertips? These kinds of calculations might have to rely on soft numbers, and some end-user surveys.
5) Retire Outdated Systems
The primary value of ECM is that you can use it as a central repository for all your content... but all that value is wasted if you keep those old systems around. Commit yourself to retiring at least one outdated system. Go for the low-hanging fruit: something with useful information, that is difficult to use, and easy to replace.
6) Determine What Content Is Popular
It is always a good idea to keep statistics on what content is popular... not only does it help you determine what information is useful to your audience, it's also a great way to encourage user adoption. If you knew that your content had a below-average popularity amongst your peers, you might take some more care to make your content easier to understand, and easier to find. In other words... once rankings are public, people use less jargon, and better metadata.
It's also a good way to determine what content needs to be updated... if a one year old document is extremely popular, you might want to kick off a workflow to get the original author to make a new version.
7) Perform a General Audit Of Your Repository
Run a few performance tests on your site... spot check your users to make sue their security credentials are not too generous... see if you can simplify your workflows so they are faster... check your repository to see which metadata fields are always left as the default (a good sign that nobody uses them)... see if you can simplify your security and metadata model a bit...
8) Run Formal Usability Tests
There are a lot of great ideas on usability tests in Don't Make Me Think... but my favorite is also the most simple:
- Come up with 10 or so common use cases for your system: why would people use it?
- Collect 10 novice users who have never had any training on your system
- Ask them to perform these 10 simple tasks, and don't give them any guidance
- Videotape them
- Force your developers and administrators to watch every minute of the tape!
Trust me... there are few things more painful to a developer than watching people click the wrong button... it will haunt them in their sleep until they make the system easier to use. Especially if you threaten to make them watch it every day until it's fixed.
Admit it: there is a little bit of black magic in your setup. Some customization you wrote, some script you hacked together, some configuration flag that nobody else knows about... Commit yourself to documenting at least three features of your solution that would be difficult for people to figure out n their own. And then -- of course -- check it into your ECM system!
10) Give Back To The Community
Got an idea for an ECM blog post? Maybe a nice presentation topic for local user group? How about some quick tips and tricks that you can share on the Oracle ECM forums and mailing lists? Then please share! At the very least, show up to local user groups and network with your fellow ECM practitioners... ARMA, and IOUG all have local groups worth checking out.
Software is like a lot of creative endeavors: the very best always create more value than they take. Which is a good New Year's Resolution, no matter who you are ;-)
As mentioned by pie guy, the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard has reached version 1.0 status... and is open for public comment. As I mentioned before, I'm a fan of CMIS, and I think it is a decent start at making content management systems more interoperable... especially for folks creating vertical applications on ECM systems.
For example... Let's say you want to make a killer application for scanned medical records. Your content needs are pretty basic: just a big image with some metadata. You might need external engines for workflow and identity management, but the content problem is simple. In this case, a good idea it to code your application in middleware, and use CMIS as a content storage interface.
However, I'd like to make one point very clear: if you think that CMIS will turn into a "standard," get used to disappointment.
Now... why would I say such a thing?
It could be because the past decade has seen a half dozen Enterprise Content Management standards come and go -- ODMA, SPI, WebDav, JSR170, JSR283, etc... so I might just be a skeptical curmudgeon who won't cut anybody slack and is adopting a "wait and see" attitude.
It could be because ECM is a marketing term; not a specification... so every vendor does something fundamentally differently. Some of the big points can be addressed by a spec... but no matter how hard we try, those fundamental differences can never be included in a standard. All abstractions are leaky, and all attempts to hide complexity ultimately fail when you attempt anything interesting...
Or, it could be because those precise difference are exactly why a customer chooses one ECM vendor over another... They didn't just spend a ton of money on an ECM system just so you could treat it like a big hashtable... Even if a customer demands that their system supports CMIS, that doesn't mean they will actually use it. Support for CMIS more than anything represents a commitment to interoperability... and that you can use it for content migration.
But the real reason I say CMIS will never be a true "standard," is because Microsoft is involved.
Microsoft has a long, long, long history of saying they will follow a standard, when in fact all they are trying to do is force everybody to do it "their way." While true believers try to religiously follow the spec, Microsoft will do whatever makes sense for their product direction... and then say to everybody "you want interoperability? You'd better do it my way. Ha!!!"
Now, this isn't always a bad thing. When Microsoft's Internet Explorer went their own way with HTML, some of their ideas were horrible... but others -- like innerHtml and AJAX -- forced the concepts of dynamic HTML on the public. Likewise, some of the LDAP extensions they put into Active Directory made pretty damn good sense... although their extensions to Kerberos encryption make me skittish, especially since we're not allowed to view the source code.
Well, how should we think about CMIS? If you want to avoid lots of pain and heartache, don't think of CMIS as a standard; think of it as a contract signed by Microsoft, that they might change at any time. When Microsoft pushed the WebDAV standard, they made sure that common Microsoft products -- Word, Excel, Windows -- followed (most) of the specification. This does not mean that you have to follow the specification to the letter... just follow it enough so that you can integrate more easily with Microsoft products.
Naturally... Microsoft will probably find all kinds of limitations to the CMIS spec later on. This could be because there's a gap in the spec, the spec is limited in some real-world situation, or they just flat out don't care anymore. If history is any judge, that means their next move will be to violate the spec. While spec purists at IBM/OpenText/Documentum complain, Microsoft will happily make Word 2012 do something completely different... and break interoperability.
Expect it my friends...
So... for that company making vertical applications on top of ECM, my advice is this:
- CMIS is a good start, but a true ECM standard will always be a work in progress
- Expect Microsoft to follow most of the spec
- Expect Microsoft to break the spec in both wonderful and horrific ways
- Expect to spend a lot of extra time finding the magic voodoo to make Microsoft work
- Expect half of your feature requests to be outside of what CMIS can do
This advice is partly mine... and partly the battle wounds from Oracle/Stellent developers who worked on making WebDAV work properly...
Back in January, I blogged about how the wikipedia entry for Enterprise Content Management was a bit thin... it was tagged as unclear, poor grammar, and in need of expert cleanup. Well, I checked again, and it appears to have gotten worse since I last checked:
Now in addition to being confusing, unclear, and grammatically incorrect... it's also using peacock terms, and is now written like an advertisement.
I'm not sure what to think of this... Is it a turf war between the marketing departments of the big firms? Is it that nobody outside of marketing cares to explain it to a layman, and they can't help speaking in marketing-ese? Personally, I've avoided writing anything there because I know my biases, and was hoping that a neutral expert -- like AIIM -- would take ownership of this page... or maybe some up-and-coming blogger who wants to make a name for himself.
I just got word about two new Oracle UCM webcasts next week, and thought I'd share!
The first one is on Paperless Personnel Processes... try saying that 5 times fast! If you are interested in making you HR processes involve less paper, this webcast should have lots of good tips and tricks for those of you with Peoplesoft, and would like to integrate it with Oracle UCM. Its next Tuesday Nov. 17th, 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.
The second one is on Enterprise Document Management. It will offer tips and tricks for paperless order management, asset management, and accounts payable. If you are an E-Business Suite customer, I would highly recommend this one. Its next Wednesday, Nov. 18th, 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET
These are live webcasts, and I don't know if they will be recorded. So register, watch, and grill the presenters with tough questions ;-)
I recently gave a security talk at the Minnesota Stellent User's Group... Stellent of course being the old name for Oracle Universal Content Management. I uploaded it to Slideshare, and embedded it below:
This talk is a variation on a talk I gave at Crescendo a few years back... it covers the security risks and vulnerabilities inside Oracle UCM, and countermeasures to prevent break-ins. This talk is not a how-to for integrating LDAP, Active Directory or Single Sign On... rather it's intended to be an introduction to cross site scripting, SQL injection, and other common web application attack vectors. It's a bit scary for a while, but then it tells you how to prevent attacks.
Enjoy! And don't be evil...
I recently got a question from a customer about how to add tool tips to metadata fields. Like if you had a field named "Comments," you could float your mouse over that field, and you'd see a small popup with a description of that field. I said, no problem, just set this flag in your config.cfg, or as a side effect to a profile rule:
xComments:description=Comments about this content item
No different than the isHidden or isInfoOnly flags. Unfortunately, it didn't work...
I thought that was built into the core, because I distinctly remember making that feature myself. Or more correctly, I made a component called ProfileExtras which added a whole bunch of useful features to the 7.5 Profiles functionality... including this. I thought I rolled that into the core for the 10gr3 release, but I left Stellent before Oracle released UCM 10gr3...
I thought about telling the customer how to do it... but I realized it would take about as much time to do it myself, as it would to describe to somebody else how to do it... So I whipped it out, and put it in the Bezzotech Library:
- Tool Tips : A simple component that adds tool tips to metadata fields, so contributors know what to put in the fields.
Hopefully others find this useful as well...
OK, this is just nutty...
A tiny Silicon Valley software vendor is taking on mighty Gartner, one of the technology industry's largest and most influential market research and consulting companies. The battle is playing out in a San Jose federal courtroom, where ZL Technologies is asking for $132 million in damages (plus even more in a punitive judgment), saying the research outfit damaged its prospects by ranking it in the bottom segment of its closely watched Magic Quadrant report. The MQ divides technology providers into different classes, with the bottom segment essentially forming a "do not buy" recommendation.
Blogger reactions are varied... but I agree that this is a pretty silly lawsuit.
ZL Technologies makes an email archiving product, and Gartner is not impressed with it... so in their opinion they call it a "niche" market player. Since in the US we have a little thing called the first amendment, this suit should be just thrown out. Unless Gartner is guilty of some kind of fraud... but I'd doubt it. They're too big of a firm to take that risk.
Besides... calling a product "niche" is hardly an insult. Stellent was once "niche", then "visionary," and after many many years it made it to "leader". "Niche" hardly means "do not buy," it simply means that the product might not be suitable for some industries, or some uses. In order to be a "leader", you need an innovative product with a good strategy, and a large enough organization to ensure the product will be around for a while (and not gobbled up and shut down by Open Text). Even if you have the best technology in the world, if you don't have a future vision, and the ability to grow your business, you're going to be called "niche."
I disagree with Gartner frequently -- mainly because they focus a bit too much on the "ability to execute" angle, and they do tend to ignore open source a lot... but this lawsuit is just ridiculous.
Open world opened officially today... but I got there early for the "soft opening," including the briefing for my fellow Oracle ACE Directors. We had a surprise Q&A visit from Thomas Kurian himself. If I had known, I would have surely had a much bigger list of questions for him! Nevertheless, I learned quite a bit about Oracle's future product strategy. I can't share what I learned until after the conference, tho... they are planning a few announcements.
We kept trying to extract some info on the future of Sun product lines... but the Oracle folks were very tight-lipped about it. The European Union has not yet approved the merger -- mainly because of MySQL -- so they can't say a thing about it yet.
Some interesting news I'd like to highlight:
- The Social Schedule Builder for Open World: my friend Chris Bucchere integrated his popular conference schedule builder with Oracle Mix... so if you have a Mix account you can use this to organize your conference. If you find Oracle's default Schedule Builder to be too clunky, check out this one. And since it was released a full 2 days before the conference, its perfect for procrastinators.
- Try Out Amazon Web Services For Free:provided you're at the conference, and you show up at the Fusion Middleware Lounge on Floor 3 of Moscone West. Some Amazon folks should be there to give you a quick tutorial, and let you test it our for free.
- Oracle is giving away 400 copies of my book. If you registered for the Information Overload add on, you get an electronic copy of my latest book. Not sure if that's a good sign for book sales or not...
I'll be heading to a few more sessions and user groups today... and I'm sure I'll have some updates after the main keynote.
UPDATE: the Sunday keynote just ended... and since Oracle was nice enough to give me press credentials, I thought I should post my thoughts ASAP. They were still pretty hush-hush about what the acquisition will mean. The three big questions are:
- What will happen to MySQL?
- What will happen to Sun's hardware division?
- What will happen to Java?
That first question was the big one... it's probably the main reason why the EU has not yet approved of the merger. Well, Scott McNeally made the obvious point that MySQL doesn't compete with Oracle; it competes with Microsoft SQL Server. Also, Oracle acquired two other open-source databases -- Sleepy Cat and Innobase -- and has increased R&D for them. Larry Ellison himself said Oracle promises to spend more resources on MySQL than Sun does right now. Given Oracle's past history with Open Source databases, I'm prone to trust Larry on this one. They'll likely use it as a wedge to get some of Microsoft's business when a company doesn't need Oracle's performance.
Oracle also seems to be committed to expanding Sun's hardware division. IBM tried to use the tiresome "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" to scare existing Sun customers to dump SPARC in favor of IBM hardware... But I don't think so. The new stuff they showed off -- like the 4 Terabyte F5100 FLASH memory array -- was really innovative stuff. McNeally said you can get 4x I/O throughput by just bolting this on to existing storage infrastructure... not to mention ultra-low power consumption, and much more compact compared to IBM's stuff. Larry even issued a challenge: if you are an IBM hardware customer, and Oracle can't make your system run TWICE as fast on Sun hardware, they will give you $10 million dollars. IBM was explicitly invited to try.
End of the day, Sun's hardware is better than IBM, IBM is Oracle's new enemy, and Larry likes to win. Ain't no way that stuff is going away...
Regarding Java, I don't think there was ever a question there... Oracle is heavily invested in Java, and is a big contributor. They are going to keep that thing going as long as they can. James Gosling himself was up on stage, saying he looked forward to the acquisition... because then he'd finally be working for a software company!
Overall, I think that was a really good way to soothe Sun customers, Open Source advocates, the EU, and Java Bunnies everywhere.
I'm off to Open World! I came early this year, because Oracle is doing the ACE Director briefing on Friday. That's always a bit tense for me: sneak previews on cool technology that I'm not allowed to blog about! Alas, I'll survive... It will be nice to see all the other Oracle ACEs again, like Sten, Lonneke and Chris. I already bumped into Jason Jones at the airport.
For the first time, I'm not presenting anything this year. I had planned a few talks on security and Site Studio 10gr4, but this summer was busier than normal, and I couldn't put them together in time for the deadline. Kind of a bummer, but no big deal: I'll just present them at Collaborate 2010, or the local Minnesota Stellent Users' Group.
I don't know what I'll be able to share after my briefing today, but I'll do what I can. Also, if you are heading to Open World, and you'd like to meet up, send me an email!
In case you missed my talk last month... IOUG has posted the full video of my Site Studio Performance Tuning Webcast. This was an hour long talk containing tips and tricks for making your web sites faster. Only half of it is specific to Site Studio or Oracle UCM: I also share tips on making general HTML pages faster, which should apply no matter what kind of system you use.
PS: sorry that its in WMV format... I had no control over that...
On a recent blog post about Oracle UCM -- Should Oracle Be On Your Web Content Management Short List? -- CMS Watch analyst Kas Thomas commented that he thought Oracle's security model was a bit spooky. He admitted that this may be because he didn't know enough about it: his concern stemmed from an overly stern warning in Oracle's documentation.
Alan Baer from Oracle soothed his fears and said that the documentation needed a bit of work... The documentation mentioned that changing the security model might cause data loss, which is in no way true. It should say that changing the security model might cause the perception of data loss, when in fact the repository is perfectly fine... the problem is that when you make some kinds of changes to the security model, you'll need to update the security settings of all your users so they can access their content.
Nevertheless, I thought it might be a good idea to explain why Oracle UCM's security model is how it is...
Back in the mid 1990s when UCM was first designed, it had a very basic security model. It was the first web-based content management system, so we were initially happy just to get stuff online! But immediately after that first milestone, the team had to make a tough decision on how to design the security model. We needed to get it right, because we would probably be stuck with it for a long time.
- Should it be a clone of other content management systems, which had access-control lists?
- Should it be a clone of the unix file permissions, with directory and file based ownership?
- Or, should it be something completely different?
As with many things, the dev team went with door number 3...
Unix file permissions were simply not flexible enough to manage documents that were "owned" by multiple people and teams. The directory model was compelling, but we needed something more.
Access Control Lists (ACLs) are certainly powerful and flexible, because you store who (Bob, Joe) gets what rights (read, delete) to which documents. The ACLs are set by the content contributors when they submit content. However, ACLs are horribly slow and impossible to administer. For example, I as an administrator have very little control over how you as a user set up your access control lists. Let's say some kinds of content are so important that I want Bob to always have access, but Joe never gets access. If Bob gets to set the ACLs on check-in, then there's a risk he gives Joe access. It's tough to solve this problem in any real way without a bazillion rules and exceptions that are impossible to maintain or audit.
Instead, the team decided to design their security model with seven primary parts:
- SECURITY GROUPS are like a classification of a piece of content. Think: restricted, classified, secret, top secret, etc. As Jay mentioned in the comments, these are groups of content items, and not groups of users.
- ACCOUNTS are like the directory location of where a content item resides in a security hierarchy. Think: HR, R&D, London offices, London HR, etc. These are typically department-oriented, but its also easy to make cross-departmental task-specific accounts for special projects.
- DOCUMENTS are required to have one and only one security group. Accounts are optional. This information is stored with the metadata of the document (title, author, creation date, etc.) in the database.
- PERMISSIONS are rules about what kind of access is available to a document. You could have read-access-to-Top-Secret-documents, or delete-access-to-HR-documents. If the document is in an account, then the user's access is the
unionintersection of account and group permissions. For example, if you had read access to the Top Secret group, and read access to only the HR account, you'd be able to read Top-Secret-HR content. However, you would not see Top-Secret-R&D content.
- ROLES are collections of security group permissions, so that they are easier to administer. For example, a contributor role would probably have read and write access to certain kinds of documents, whereas the admin role would have total control over all documents. Change the role, and you change the rights of all users with that role.
- USERS are given roles, which grants them different kinds of access to different kinds of documents. They can also be granted account access.
- SERVICES are defined with a hard-coded access level. So a "search" service would require "read" access to a document, otherwise it won't be displayed to the user. A "contribution" service would require that the user have "write" access to the specific group and account, otherwise you will get an access denied error.
This kind of security model has many advantages... firstly, it is easy to maintain. Just give a user a collection of roles, and say what department they are in, and then they should have access to all the content needed to do their job. It works very well with how LDAP and Active Directory grant "permissions" to users. That's why it is usually a minimal amount of effort to integrate Oracle UCM with existing identity management solutions.
Secondly, this model scales very well. It is very, very fast to determine if a user has rights to perform a specific action, even if you need to do a security check on thousands of content items. For example, when somebody searches for "documents with 'foo' in the title," all the content server needs to do is append a security clause to the query. For a "guest" user, the query becomes "documents with 'foo' in the title AND in the security group 'Public'." Simple, scalable, and fast.
There are, of course, dozens of ways to enhance this model with add-on components... The optional "Collaboration Server" add-on includes ACLs, along with the obligatory documentation on how ACLs don't scale as well as the standard security model... The optional "Need To Know" component opens up the security a bit to let people to see some parts of a content item, but not all. For example, they could see the title and date of the "Hydrogen Bomb Blueprints" document, but they would not be able to download the document. The "Records Management" component adds a whole bunch of new permissions, such a "create record" and "freeze record." I've written some even weirder customizations before... they aren't much effort, and are very solid.
I asked Sam White if he could do it all over again, would he do it the same? For the most part, he said yes. Although he'd probably change the terminology a bit -- "classification" instead of "role," "directory" instead of "account." In other words, he'd make it follow the LDAP terminology and conventions as closely as possible... so it would be even easier to administer.
I do think it is a testament to the skills of the UCM team that the security model so closely mirrors how LDAP security is organized... considering LDAP was designed over many years by an international team of highly experienced security nerds. I'm also happy when it gets the "thumbs-up" from very smart, very paranoid, federal government agencies...
A few years back, Andrew McAfee "coined" the term "Enterprise 2.0." Recently, he's been criticized on the web here, here, and here, for his definition... Critics are saying his definition is outdated, unhelpful, and flawed. Some of this criticism is a tad harsh, but a lot of it is valid. McAfee responded by re-stating what E2.0 is:
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
Kind of light on the details, eh? He continued to define related terms like "social software", "platforms", "emergent", and "free-form"... which fleshed out the definition a bit... but still, I'm left with a big question. How is any of this actually helpful??? It doesn't mention technologies... it doesn't mention purpose... it doesn't mention value. Based on this definition alone, there's not really a compelling reason for anybody to get excited about it. Luckily, because of the Web 2.0 cool-aid, anything with a 2.0 after it will generate buzz, so people latched on.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's unstructured information, wherever that information exists.
Its not perfect, but it should be pretty dang clear to any businessperson what problems ECM solves, and what every day tasks will be easier if it is done right. It also makes it obvious that its about strategies and methods; not just tools and technologies.
I frequently lament that anybody is trying to define what Enterprise 2.0 is, before we even know what it is. The 2.0 clearly means that it is intended for the "next generation" of enterprise software... but what is the next generation of enterprise software? If it's nothing more than enterprise social software -- which is what McAfee says -- then why on earth do we also need the term "Enterprise 2.0"? If its just blogs, wikis, and next generation collaborating tools, then we already have a term: Web 2.0. In either case, the phrase "Enterprise 2.0" is useless.
Now, if Enterprise 2.0 is truly meant to define the "next generation" of enterprise software tools, then the term will one day become useful. However, since these tools are still being envisioned and designed as we speak, a definition is still fairly useless... since we don't know what Enterprise 2.0 is yet!
If anything, the definition of "Enterprise 2.0" should reflect the trends in enterprise software, not just the fads. Ignore blogs and wikis. Shun social software. Instead, take a good, hard look at the broad trends that will have a major effect over the next 10 years. Here is a small sample:
- The never-ending increase in computer power: storage, network bandwidth, processor speed, and cloud computing... there will soon be another tipping point like there was in the early 1990s.
- Retiring baby boomers, who are taking a lot of institutional knowledge with them en mass.
- The millennials, who have never known a world without the internet, and who are natives to online collaboration.
- Globalization: more competition means you need better tools to test out innovations. Companies need to fail faster, and learn better if they are to survive.
What do all these trends mean for Enterprise 2.0 software? It's hard to say for sure... but what is clear is that more and more of the most important data and software will emerge on the "edge" of your networks. Why have a central repository at all when the average laptops are powerful enough to run their own content management systems? The average user now has tremendous power to create content, and run easy-to-install collaboration tools. The genie is out of the bottle my friends... all we can do now is try to control the damage. Identity management, enterprise search, and distributed information management can help with security and content... but for the application proliferation problem, I'd bet on enterprise mashups.
As the baby boomers retire, you can forget the idea of teaching them new software so they can share their knowledge. No way, no how, ain't going to happen. Instead, you need a new system for capturing "people" knowledge as effortlessly as possible. My idea is to just rip-off Robert Scoble. He made a name for himself with nothing more sophisticated than a camcorder and some editing software. You want knowledge from technophobes? Why not engage them in one-on-one taped interviews? Low tech people-oriented solutions are frequently the best option for capturing content and context, although you will need something like an enterprise YouTube for consumption.
As the millennials enter the work force -- what some people call the "gamer generation" -- what will their needs be? The obvious solution is that they want something like Facebook for the enterprise. News flash: there already is Facebook for the enterprise... it's called Facebook. More compelling is the idea that employee management and business process management will evolve into enterprise simulation software. Something like "SimCity Enterprise Version". Software like this will need to be seeded with a ton of historical data, information about your processes and employees, and information about the current market. Then, you can run a simulation on the "what if" scenarios in a world of interdependent agents. This may seem far-fetched, but there is a lot of software out there right now that solves one specific piece of this puzzle... it's just that nobody has put all the pieces together yet.
We don't need another word for Enterprise Social Software... nor do we need to ride the coattails of Web 2.0 to sell the same old application with a Wiki bolted on. However, we do need to be aware that the enterprise will change a lot in the next 10 years: and not because of fads, but because of trends.