Announced without a lot of fanfare yesterday was Six Apart's latest version of their enterprise blogging platform.
Movable Type Enterprise (MTE), a souped-up version of 6A's commercial blogging platform, has just turned one-point-five. Still, some say MTE is just glossy packaging, the "E" word, and an inflated price tag. Perhaps, perhaps not. By and by the "E" (for Enterprise) is being earned and despite the nay sayers, there is a place for Enterprise Blogging software.Of late, the standard version of Movable Type has lost a lot of ground to the open source, free WordPress platform. There have been a number of reasons postulated for this, including Six Apart's increasingly commercial angle on blogging (gasp!), the great love of free stuff in general, the fact that WordPress is built with the more popular PHP code vs. Movable Type's base of Perl, that the MT developer community -- ProNet -- has withered and possibly converted over to WordPress fans, that comments don't scale, etc., etc.
As a fairly active participant, all of these things seem true, to one degree or another. Yet, one cannot deny the robustness of the MT publishing features and content management UI and perhaps as a result, the popularity of the standard MT platform persists and now we are seeing a slow upswing on the enterprise side.
Now, its no mystery that Six Apart has made a conscious choice to reposition away from the masses of bloggers and towards the masses of cash, in the enterprise coffers.
This has bothered some, but I say fair enough. Despite the deep feelings of identity and attachment some bloggers seem to feel, 6A is just another software company riding out and attempting to lead the wave of micro publishing. They've gotten bigger. They've acquired more companies. And they are beholden to their investors to turn a profit one day.
So be it. And if you're in enterprise IT procurement this might be a very good thing. Why Do We Need Enterprise Blogging Software? This is the crux. There is no doubt whatsoever that blogging has attracted all walks of Internet life. Corporations have been flocking to it. Nearly every CEO has his "informal" digital soapbox. Marketing and PR departments are drooling over the idea of positive blog juice from dugg wonder boys and girls. The hype and the demand is there.
Here's what's not been there. Enterprise class systems that are not a huge pain in the @#% to 1) get inter-departmental buy-in for, and 2) implement in time periods that retain the attention span of your average marketing department.
Yes, there are plenty of enterprise web CMS solutions that offer blogging. In fact, nowadays, if they don't, they're a bit embarrassing to the sales guys. Definitely, these things exist. But the sales cycle on an enterprise web CMS defies that "don't be a huge pain in the @#% rule". And another thing, these systems that have the "blogging checkbox" tend to achieve this in, let us say, a mildly less exceptional manner than does Movable Type.
I think its fair to say that MT has achieved a relatively known quantity status. This helps wonders in conversations both with IT and business folk. MT does not suffer from the complexity problem -- it does blogging. Period. This helps tremendously with the implementation speed.
It does however suffer from a couple other problems at the enterprise level. Just quickly I'll say that I think being written in Perl is one of these. I think it's roots in the free wheeling blogging world, in some ways, is another -- there is no enterprise history and there are not a lot of experienced enterprise consultants in the resource pool (no offense ProNet'ers!).
With that said, properly positioned and with a convincing roadmap, MT Enterprise is probably better positioned than any other platform to walk in the door and convince the decision makers that life from now to project completion is not going to be painful on account of the platform decision. What Makes MTE Enterprise Software There's really two big items here. The first is identity management -- corporations centralize this and MT Standard's native user management and lack of groups ain't cutting the mustard. MTE provides LDAP integration as well as more sophisticated authorization features including group level and finer granularity permissions.
The second enterprise feature is database integration. There's nothing corp IT hates more than having a one-off tech solution crammed down their throat by the EVP of Marketing & Communications. MTE smoothes the road here by supporting Oracle, MS SQL, MySQL, and PostgreSQL.
Aside from these two biggies, MTE kicks down with a few additional nice to haves including blog cloning, automated provisioning of blogs, and more sophisticated multi-blog content aggregation.
On pricing -- the all important enterprise feature -- the standard version of MT for about 10 authors is priced at around US$ 300. Jumping up to enterprise, curious parties must "contact Six Apart " for pricing details, but I belive the range is more like what you'd expect with the "E" word, popping-up to the US$10-30,000 ballpark. Is this Thing Going to Fly? In my opinion, its a bit premature to say. There are certainly credible references already on board. Recent 6A interviews speak of Wells Fargo, the University of British Columbia, Adobe, NBC, Ziff Davis, and Intel as existing or at least engaged clients.
But the balance to be struck between Enterprise Web CMS and Enterprise Blogging is likely to be a tedious one. As MT puts on its enterprise suit, its got to increase complexity while maintaining a good measure of its blogger juice, and still appearing like a better and simpler option than the resident CMS's bolt-on blogging module. Perhaps it also has to cross a core rewrite, from Perl to some "optimal" other. If so, doing that while fending off enterprise feature demands and the demands imposed by providing "enterprise class support", is not going to be easy.
To be sure, success is not guaranteed and the road from MTE 1.5 to MTE 3.3 could well be a bumpy one.