IBM Upgrades Enterprise CMS Offerings, Offers Starter Kits

IBM (news, site) announced fairly significant updates to its Enterprise Content Management (ECM) product families, including Business Process Management (BPM), eDiscovery and Archiving.

Apparently having heard the market scream for leaner, smarter product options and cost efficiency, the Big Blue has also introduced starter packs -- licensing-wise slimmed-down product versions targeted for smaller or departmental deployments -- for four of its ECM product lines.

Good Intentions in Theory

We talked to Ken Bisconti, vice president, products and strategy, IBM Enterprise Content Management, who shared some insights into IBM’s latest Enterprise Content Management offerings.

IBM’s overall strategy seems to be revolving around the very familiar notions of “helping customers manage electronic information to improve business processes, simplify integration and meet compliance regulations while lowering costs.” All good in theory, let’s see what we have in practice. More importantly, the too early to know part, how will the customers react to new goodies?

Making It Easier to Install, Use and Manage

FileNet Content Manager and IBM Content Manager

Remember the FileNet acquisition? IBM says it has put a lot of effort into integrating FileNet into its overall product portfolio and continues to do so. Those using the existing content management repositories with either IBM FileNet Content Manager or IBM Content Manager know very well that the amounts of content they deal with on the 9-5 daily basis are enormous. But both products are designed specifically for that magnitude (or we’d like to believe in that).

In a typical scenario, there is structured and unstructured content, documents and you'd-be-surprised what else. Terabytes and petabytes of it.

IBM knows that as well and tries to make advancements in the ease of install and cost reduction. For FileNet customers (there were about 5,000 of them when the acquisition took place), this should translate into seeing architectural improvements in the product line.

One of the changes since the acquisition was around switching from the limited in scalability and capabilities Microsoft Windows-based architecture to the J2EE environment. J2EE is more powerful, but comes with more complexity by definition, says Bisconti.

In 2007, the customers were struggling to install and configure in the J2EE infrastructure, ads Bisconti. The most recent improvements to the product should ease that pain though, as the number of steps to install ECM in J2EE has been reduced “by half or more,” according to IBM’s Bisconti. The process of installing content repositories is now a task of few hours compared to few days in the past.

Improvements in IBM Content Manager include enhanced document handling capabilities, performance enhancements, process automation, full-text search (z/OS) and high-volume batch loading capability (z/OS).

FileNet BPM Manager

FileNet Business Process Manager was one of the core reasons why IBM went through with the FileNet acquisition. The BPM Manager is a case-management oriented app, now with support for Web 2.0 usual suspects like mashups and widgets.

IBM consolidated five BPM products into one offering with cost reduction and ease of use in mind. The content-centric BPM bundle now includes FileNet Process Monitor, FileNet Business Process Framework, FileNet Connector for Microsoft Visio and FileNet eForms. Addressing monitoring capabilities, IBM Cognos Now! Is also part of the deal.

IBM ECM Starter Packs

Addressing the need for smaller deployments, IBM now offers full-featured starter kits in the following product categories:

  • IBM Content Manager Starter Pack with full content management function starting at US$ 375 per user.
  • FileNet Content Manager Starter Pack, including corresponding services, is priced starting at US$ 375 per user.
  • Content Collector Discovery Analytics Starter Pack with collection, archiving, eDiscovery and analytics capabilities in one. from US$ 1,250 per user.
  • FileNet Business Process Manager Starter Pack, or what IBM calls “agile ECM.” It combines ECM and BPM. The price starts at US$ 1,250 per user.

These offerings are tailored to departmental use cases of 250 to 1400 users.

Big Blue Nod to CMIS

Lastly, IBM continues to embrace CMIS. Following up on its early initiatives, IBM is now putting forward a CMIS “technology preview.” New versions of IBM Content Manager and IBM FileNet Content Manager include a technical preview of the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard, which is still yet to be ratified. At this point, it doesn’t look like much can be done with these reference implementations other than testing them out.