When EMC's Enterprise Content Division PresidentRohit Ghai takes the stage at EMC World later today, don’t expect to hear much about Documentum.

Instead Ghai is likely to spend most of his time on stage talking about Project Horizon — it’s a code name for EMC’s next Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform. And though no one yet knows exactly how Project Horizon will eventually be branded, we do know this: very little, if any, of it resembles Documentum— the ECM solution that has lived in Gartner’s ECM Leader’s Quadrant for as long as we can remember.

Current Documentum users need not worry. Documentum isn’t going away any time soon. It’s just not where the future is. After all, Documentum was founded 25 years ago, before the world was cloudy, mobile and social. Before big data and analytics became consumerized. And before companies began to recognize the advantages of leveraging open source.

A Different World

Suffice it to say that enterprise systems were different then. Companies had (almost) no choice but to buy branded hardware, expensive databases, applications and so on. To use a metaphor, that world was more about Cadillacs and taxicabs. This one is more about hybrids, Zipcars and Uber. And though many enterprises are deeply entrenched and reasonably happy with Documentum, it’s time for a change or at least the beginning of one.

“Project Horizon is the manifestation of the future.” Ghai will likely say something like that before a crowd of ECD users and enthusiasts at the conference. He’ll describe it as a multi-tenant, mobile-first, cloud-first Content Platform built with a micro-services- based architecture that is DevOps and Agile ready. There will be an EMC-curated apps marketplace as well.

Ghai told us that Horizon’s architecture supports continuous integration and deployment thereby enabling a cycle of innovation of days and weeks rather than months and years; the idea being that by deploying these apps and solutions, customers can achieve quicker time-to-value.

The architecture is modular rather monolithic. The vision includes content-centric modules or “tiles” to create independently consumable capabilities or to be integrated with modern solutions. “If you’re building a solution, you should be able to cherry pick the parts,” explained Ghai.

Learning Opportunities

That’s a radical departure from the way Documentum has been sold, where you pretty much needed to buy a cherry tree if you wanted a slice of pie.

Use What You Need

The consumption model of Project Horizon? “Use only what you need. Pay for only what you use.”

But it’s not just the architecture, apps and consumption model that make it different from Documentum. It also offers customers instruments to harness data for predictive analytics, something that any EMC-related platform should be able to do.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some of EMC’s ECM apps are already, or soon will be, running on Project Horizon. They include Documentum Capital Projects Express, Documentum for Life Sciences and Project Bridge. EMC plans to work hand-in-hand with customers to build more.

Is this a good, bold, move for EMC ECD? We think so. But not only that, it also takes guts. One of the criticisms that established software vendors commonly get is that they can’t innovate as fast as start-ups because they can’t afford to disrupt existing customers. Ghai and his team seem to have not only found a way to create a modern ECM for the 3rd platform, but to also transition well-invested customers to it almost seamlessly.

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