CenterStage - How EMC is Taking on Microsoft SharePoint The face of enterprise content management is taking many forms today. The need for knowledge workers to leverage an ECM's capabilities while at the same time leverage Web 2.0 tools for better collaboration, has led to a number of new Enterprise 2.0 solutions from ECM vendors.

EMC's Lance Shaw, Group Product Marketing Manager, Knowledge Worker Applications, says that CenterStage, an enterprise collaboration tool, is not meant to be a direct competitor to SharePoint. But looking at what it is and what it does, one can easily draw the comparison and see why an organization would implement it instead of SharePoint.

Shaw took us on a tour of this new offering from EMC.

A Face for Documentum

EMC CenterStage is a business-to-business collaboration solution built to support the mobile knowledge worker and office worker alike. It is a client to EMC's enterprise content management system, Documentum. So, if you don't have Documentum, then you don't need CenterStage.

If you do use Documentum as your Enterprise CMS, then CenterStage is a good way to take advantage of Documentum's capabilities using Enterprise 2.0 tools like collaborative workspaces, blogs, wikis and more.

CenterStage is the evolution of Documentum's eRoom. It is directly connected to Documentum and Shaw says it is a balance between empowerment and control. It has three core themes:

  • Team Productivity
  • Business Process Automation
  • Information Discovery

Essentials and Pro Versions

There are two versions of CenterStage: Essentials and Pro. CenterStage Essentials offers basic content services and team workspaces. But to get the most of this solution, you should have CenterStage Pro which adds personal workspaces, wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools, and even more importantly advanced search and discovery tools.

Added Benefits from Documentum

With Documentum as the back end, there are a number of added benefits to CenterStage. These include integration with Records Management, retention policies, auditing and lifecycle management.

CenterStage Functionality

Personal and Collaborative Workspaces

Workspaces are key to any collaboration solution and CenterStage offers both personal workspaces and team workspaces.

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CenterStage Workspaces

Collaborative Workspaces are very flexible. You can control the layout and add any number of widgets if you have the proper administrative permissions. You can have widgets that display image libraries through a list, images or thumbnails, track specific content, discussions, blogs and more.

In your personal workspace you can things like a Favorites list and a My Current Work list.

You can also watch your workspaces for updates either through RSS and email notifications.

Managing Content in a Workspace

One of the interesting aspects of managing content within CenterStage is that nothing lives within CenterStage directly. As we've said, it is a client for Documentum. So all content actually resides within Documentum.

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CenterStage Collaborative Team Workspace

This is not limited to documents, but also includes all other forms of content such as images, blog posts, wikis and discussions. As a result, versioning is applied to all content, as is check-in/check out and workflow capabilities. Versioning is applied by default, workflow is not.

Note that workflow processes are associated with a CenterStage folder and can be automated and routed via Documentum to CenterStage or some other collaborative workspace solution.

What you don't see in CenterStage is the ability to add metadata to your content. Shaw indicated that the intent of CenterStage is simplicity, so the functionality is designed to allow users to easily add content without needing to include a lot of additional information.

Search and Discovery

The need to easily find information is critical. With CenterStage, the search and discovery capabilities are very useful.

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CenterStage Search

You can choose to search within a specific workspace or across all workspaces you have access to. Search is faceted and federated including information across any number of enterprise systems.

CenterStage also includes text analytics. This version is just the start of this capability, but you can easily find information using a number of different filters that are based on key categories and principle concepts. Text analytics are performed on content residing within Documentum repositories.

Future enhancements to the text analytics capability includes the analysis of rich media and other file types.

Tagging

Tagging is another way to find information within CenterStage. Any object can be tagged and found using a tag cloud.

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Tagging in CenterStage

Managing Security for CenterStage

Security for CenterStage is typical of any IT solution. You can connect to Active Directory or another LDAP directory for your list of users. You can also add internal and external users, opening CenterStage up to partners and clients.

Roles within CenterStage include participants and coordinators, and you can create your own roles and permissions as needed.

Offline Capabilities

Like some other solutions, you can take content offline. With CenterStage this is done using a separate download. The application sits in your system tray. It's free, but it doesn't currently offer the ability to take an entire workspace offline, only specific content.

Technology Behind CenterStage

CenterStage uses Web Services in a Services Oriented (SOA) environment. It is built with Extended Javascript and DHTML. Frames are extensible, allowing you to add other image formats, like video.

CenterStage or SharePoint?

CenterStage is not a standalone solution. It is a client front-end to Documentum designed to make the lives of the knowledge worker easier. Providing a collaboration solution that includes all the basics, it  combines web 2.0 features to support highly collaborative teams. The user experience is clean and flexible.

It has the strength of Documentum behind it, offering controlled management like IRM, lifecycle management and retention. Things the everyday knowledge worker doesn't really need to know or be aware of.

Connecting with SharePoint

EMC also provides the ability for SharePoint to connect to Documentum, exposing Documentum services and content within the SharePoint interface. And SharePoint provides much of the same capabilities as CenterStage.

Shaw told us that some of their clients utilize both CenterStage and SharePoint, just in different situations.

The Choice is Situation Dependent

So is one of these better than the other?

The search and information discovery functionality within CenterStage are much better than those that SharePoint provides.

SharePoint, however, provides more document management capability, including workflows and metadata out of the box. SharePoint does not, however, provide versioning capabilities for blogs, wikis and discussions -- something CenterStage does.

The one you select is going depend on your situation. Do you already have SharePoint up and running? Then maybe all you need is the connection to Documentum. Are you looking to create workspaces with external parties? Then CenterStage may be a better fit.

Not a Competitor, Definitely an Alternative

It's important to point out again, that EMC does not consider CenterStage a competitor to SharePoint. They believe it serves a different market: business to business collaboration. But you can implement SharePoint in the same scenario, it just might take some work on the security side.

Competitor or not, CenterStage is a viable alternative to SharePoint and a way for EMC to offer Enterprise 2.0 capabilities on top of Documentum.

Currently in controlled release to a small collective group, CenterStage is being put through its paces. It is expected to be available later this year.