IBM Fields Entry-Level Content Management Solution

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Today, IBM unveiled a new enterprise content management product for the iSeries that it will promote as an entry-level solution for small and medium-sized businesses. Since SMB firms are increasingly looking for solutions that can help them comply with information management regulations, the new product will undoubtedly attract some buyers. However, it will face stiff competition from the content management solutions of other iSeries vendors.

The product—DB2 Content Manager Standard Edition (CMSE) V8.3 for i5/0S—has the same core functions as IBM's more complex DB2 Content Manager Enterprise Edition. Like its big brother, CMSE can capture, manage, and archive almost any data type. However, CMSE does not offer the same wealth of connectors to multiple data sources. It also lacks limited-use licenses to several WebSphere and Tivoli products that give the Enterprise Edition its sophisticated messaging, workflow management, and record management capabilities. Moreover, while other DB2 Content Management products can run on large multiprocessor servers, CMSE is limited to two processors on a single server.

For most SMB customers, however, CMSE packs plenty of functionality. The product includes a graphical workflow builder that lets users define and automate processes such as document creation, routing, and archiving. It indexes and classifies documents while enforcing security policies for their access. Like its sister products, CMSE includes clients that let users access content from Windows applications or Web browsers. With its support for Web services standards, CMSE can integrate with other applications that generate or access content. The product also includes an XML schema mapping utility that automates the capture and management of XML data.

The nicest thing about CMSE is its price. While DB2 Content Manager Enterprise Edition costs an eyebrow raising $695 per authorized user, CMSE weighs in at only $345 per user. That price is also considerably lower than the $545 per authorized user that IBM charges for DB2 Content Manager for iSeries, a sister product that I will discuss in a moment. Since customers must purchase at least 20 authorized users at $345 each for CMSE, the starting list price for the product is $6,900. It is available now for electronic delivery and will be available for CD delivery on January 6 of next year. The product requires OS/400 V5R3, also known as i5/OS.

An Express Edition by Any Other Name?

While IBM is not saying much about it, CMSE represents a change in the vendor's strategy for offering an entry-level content management solution to iSeries users. A little over a year and a half ago, Big Blue did two things that set expectations about its content management strategy.

First, it announced the V5R3 release of DB2 Content Manager for iSeries, a product that offers most of the features found in CMSE and several unique capabilities. These include Content Manager OnDemand, a utility that migrates spool file archives to a repository that offers enhanced indexing, searching, Web access, and PDF conversion features. In addition, DB2 Content Manager for iSeries includes report management and computer output to laser disc functions not found on CMSE. It also runs on more than two processors, giving it greater scalability.

Second, IBM declared in a statement of direction that it would port a release of DB2 Content Manager Express Edition to the iSeries. This product, which ran only on Windows at the time, was significantly less expensive than DB2 Content Manager for iSeries. This raised hopes that IBM would provide iSeries users with a genuine entry-level content management solution.

Today, IBM is positioning CMSE as the entry-level product that it promised iSeries customers over a year ago. Moreover, IBM sources are telling me that the company has scrapped its plans to port the Express Edition to iSeries and intends to port CMSE to other servers. As such, CMSE may become IBM's de facto "Express Edition" not only for smaller firms that use the iSeries, but also for users of other servers. Since it costs the same per authorized user as Content Manager Express Edition, it does meet IBM's financial criteria for Express products.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Though CMSE may carry an Express Edition price tag, it is more complicated to deploy and manage than most Express Edition products. One thing that sets it apart from such products is the size of the iSeries server that it requires. Since CMSE relies on WebSphere Application Server 6.0 for many functions (a limited-use license for WAS 6.0 comes with the product), it requires an iSeries with a CPW rating of at least 1,000. That number rises to 2,000 CPW if CMSE is deployed with the eClient mid-tier server, a facility that lets browser users perform advanced document searches. These CPW requirements could put CMSE out of the reach of many iSeries users who own smaller servers.

This is one good reason why many companies will continue to favor solutions from other iSeries vendors that are less resource-intensive. These vendors—including firms such as ACOM Solutions, BCD Software, Quadrant Software, and RJS Software Systems—have a history of designing such solutions. In addition, many third-party content management solutions still cost less than CMSE. This makes them potent competitors to IBM's offerings.

That said, there will be a market for both CMSE and its competitors next year. This is because thousands of SMB firms will be scrambling to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and other records management and privacy regulations that are going into effect in countries outside the United States. In the compliance stampede, IBM is certain to win accounts. However, before you decide that CMSE is your best bet, consider what the competition has to offer. Chances are good that you will discover several solutions that could meet your requirements.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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