Content Integration: Are You Ready for It? Is It Ready for You?

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Venetica: Bridging Your Content Islands
With its flagship "VeniceBridge" product, Venetica lays out a more services-oriented architecture. Like ContextMedia, Venetica's application runs in a J2EE appserver. But from there, the two products diverge. Venetica exposes a set of APIs that are designed to enable existing applications to integrate with each other. End-users work within their current applications, which can now be "bridged" to other repositories. (And consequently, Venetica has tied itself closely to several point solution vendors, inking reseller agreements with CMS vendor Interwoven, as well as BEA.)

This means that from a Vignette interface, the ACME marketing person with the right permissions can invoke workflow and library services within Artesia—VeniceBridge handles all the translations. "Right permissions" may be the operative phrase here; a good CI strategy begs a solid corporate directory infrastructure first. In any case, users can browse different repositories from within a single portlet in their company's BEA intranet portal.

The downside to this approach is that—unlike Interchange, with its central metadata turnstile to classify and route content—there is no categorized view of connected enterprise content with the Venetica approach. Venetica engenders a series of connecting bridges, where content and metadata are "mapped" one to one between two applications. This makes the product faster and easier to implement, but likely comes with potential scalability problems of its own. Like competitors, Venetica offers pre-built connectors to major repositories (with an emphasis on DM vendors), and a framework for constructing custom adapters.

Venetica tends to focus more where there are multiple implementations of the same functional application, in particular where customers are laboring under repositories sitting within competing DM offerings—often as a result of corporate M&A activity. Most of its clients are finance and insurance companies trying to resolve multiple workflows and imaging installations. Perhaps this is why Venetica (unlike ContextMedia) sees a trend away from physically migrating content and more towards rich pointers—it's less risky to copy content assets across functional boundaries than among repositories sharing a similar purpose.

Shortly after buying a large competitor, Australia's second largest insurance firm, the Suncorp Group, approached Venetica. The new division could not access Suncorp's existing FileNET application for imaging and workflow, owing to older desktops that could not run the FileNET client. On a tight deadline to unify the two separate document workflows, Suncorp quickly used VeniceBridge to connect a browser-based application (that the new division could run on its old machines) to the legacy FileNET repository and application logic. The project was not without its bumps, including needing to upgrade parts of FileNET for the VeniceBridge APIs to function properly. Nevertheless, according to Jamie Cornes, a solutions architect at Suncorp, the advent of a real integration platform brings new possibilities. Cornes says, "Venetica has now positioned us to take our applications into other areas of the business that we wouldn't have been able to reach so easily before."

The Case for CI
At a median license of $120,000-$150,000, CI software doesn't come cheap. But compared to the cost of replacing some of your existing applications, those figures can start to look quite attractive. Then there is the added insurance of decoupling your enterprise CI efforts from a specific point solution. "You can switch CMS vendors at any time," argues Venetica CEO Stewart Levinson, and still maintain your integration strategy and infrastructure. (I neglected to ask Levinson about switching CI vendors!)

Nevertheless, CI projects still appear to remain clustered among the same verticals that typically fuel early-stage content technologies. Publishing, Media, and Insurance are leading the way. Pharmaceuticals will probably follow, assuming CI vendors can fulfill critical compliance mandates. For other companies like ACME in industries that typically do not comprise early-adopter communities, CIOs may be less inclined to sign on with youngish CI vendors as opposed to established portal or ECM alternatives.

CI software providers say they can configure their offerings for diverse industries, as demand requires. Nevertheless, key patterns in the way the software is actually used remain somewhat opaque, and a definitive analysis of the broader implementation experience has yet to be written. You may not want to become an early adopter, but keep a close eye on the CI story as it unfolds. One way or another, content integration lies in your future.


Companies Mentioned in This Article
Agari www.agari.com
Artesia www.artesia.com
Ascential www.ascentialsoftware.com
BEA www.bea.com
ContextMedia www.contextmedia.com
Documentum www.documentum.com
FileNET www.filenet.com
Interwoven www.interwoven.com
Microsoft www.microsoft.com
Venetica www.venetica.com
Vignette www.vignette.com

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