New Hampshire-based Web Content Management player Ektron has presented Microsoft with a direct challenge. By adding a native .NET Web CMS to their product lineup, Ektron has provided the answer for those who've been waiting for an MCMS 2004 or an MCMS 2003.Last week I had a chance to speak at length with Bill Rogers, Ektron's CEO. Bill comes across as both a genuinely enthusiastic technologist and a collected and intelligent strategist. He has grasped some important principals, which seem to be leading Ektron down the path to success. Is Ektron a Winner? Mergers, acquisitions, and failures have become increasingly common in the content management industry. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to question the viability of a CMS vendor. Ektron is not beyond this question, but they do do two critical things very well and they have one distinct advantage. What they do well is first, closely track important market and technology trends, and secondly they respond to these changes rapidly and intelligently. This is what they've historically done with their popular eWebEditPro+XML authoring tool and again what they've done today by delivering the first fully-featured Web CMS built entirely on .NET. Their big advantage is that their software is either integrated in or is running nearly 11,000 web content management systems. This level of experience is rare and tends to lead to both a mature code base and a practical feature set. Today's Announcement Rogers describes the CMS 400 product as one that is an evolutionary step in content management solutions, and one that delivers advanced security, scalability, and interoperability to mid-sized enterprises. Indeed the CMS 400 has answered several immediate needs in the Web CMS space -- providing a true .NET CMS platform, delivering an XML-based Web CMS, and enabling interoperability and reuse with Web Services and RSS syndication. Additionally Rogers claims the CMS 400 maintains a theme that everyone seems to desire: simplicity. "Ektron continues to build content management solutions that offer easy integration and use for developers, administrators and business users," said Bill. Ektron CMS 400 Features The question that immediately comes to mind when one encounters a new CMS product announcement is, "Another one?" The second question a suspicious mind might ask is, "What do they mean by CMS?" There are countless products that claim to be content management systems. Many are disappointing and many offer zero business functionality. Ektron's CMS 400 on the other hand looks quite promising. It boasts the following set of core features:
  • Pure .NET, managed code
  • Open, interoperable system
  • XML content storage
  • XLST content presentation
  • Next generation WYSIWYG authoring with eWebEditPro+XML
  • Sophisticated core content management -- check-in/out, versioning, version comparison, audit trails, and authoring tools integration
  • Customizable workflow and task assignment
  • Private content areas and membership management
  • Data publishing with Web Services integration and RSS syndication
  • Data Acquisition with integrated web forms, data storage, and reporting
  • Robust delivery with native clustering support, packaging, and deployment
Microsoft CMS vs. Ektron CMS 400 According to Rogers, "Many organizations are upgrading their technology platform and transitioning to Microsoft Windows Server System and the .NET Framework." This is a clear trend in the industry and one that brings .NET CMS systems to the forefront. When asked about how Ektron's CMS 400 compares to Microsoft's CMS (MCMS), Bill provided the following points:
  • CMS 400 is 100% .NET, 100% managed code. MCMS is based on older COM technologies
  • CMS 400 provides a set of 9 web parts that integrate tightly with Microsoft SharePoint technologies (e.g., search, calendaring, and content collections), Microsoft provides similar integration with the Connector for SharePoint, but the functionality is slightly less streamlined
  • CMS 400 provides direct access to core CMS functionality via web services interfaces, MCMS has no such ability
  • CMS 400 provides out of the box RSS syndication, MCMS does not
  • CMS 400 provides native search capabilities, MCMS does not
  • CMS 400 provides advanced search with IXIASOFT integration (+$10k), IXIASOFT provides an MCMS integration kit also enabling advanced XML search in MCMS
  • CMS 400 provides a superior web-based authoring environment, with the latest version of eWebEditPro+XML
  • Both products integrate with Visual Studio
  • Both products support InfoPath and MS Word integration (though Microsoft's authoring connector provides more seamless connectivity between Word and MCMS)
  • Both products support multiple development, staging, and production environments
The Bottom Line Pricing is on everyone's mind. Red Dot has been a front runner. Microsoft has responded. What's the pattern? Entry level CMS for approximately $6k, next stop about $25k. Ektron has followed suit. The CMS 400 starter kit will set you back about $7,000 + support. This includes 10 content authors and one domain. The next level at about $25k + support, includes unlimited authors and members (members are for secured website areas) and is also limited to one domain. The last stop is the server-based license, which lists for $45k + support and supports unlimited users and unlimited domains. About Ektron Inc. Ektron provides Web content management software and editor tools that make it easy for anyone to author, manage and publish HTML and XML content for Web sites, intranets and Web applications. Our browser-based solutions, used in more than 10,500 integrations worldwide, include the Ektron CMS family, the eWebEditPro and eWebEditPro+XML editors and WebImageFX, our easy-to-use image editor. Ektron is redefining Web content management with highly affordable solutions that integrate easily, are flexible and grow with any organization. Founded in 1998, Ektron is based in Amherst, NH, and has offices in Europe. Learn more about Ektron at http://www.ektron.com . Read the related press release from Ektron.