Opinions and discussion on content management and document management by two of the biggest guys in the business. *Measured by combined weight

Enterprise Sharepoint? – Port it to Oracle

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I’ve read it argued that CMS vendors in general might not have to worry so much about SharePoint competition because its only a Collaborative Content Application. The rest of the models are safe. If you have a web content management (WCMS) or a records management product there is no reason to worry because MOSS is really just about Office documents. I don’t disagree that it is mostly a collaboration tool today. Unfortunately no one bothered to tell Microsoft that this is all it is. I assure you they aspire to much more. If you don’t believe me, read it from them. Despite their acknowledgment of the role ISV’s play, their consistent use of ECM services nomenclature belies the strategy.

From a customer’s perspective, what’s wrong with SharePoint really. The answer? – nothing time won’t fix. It is no worse than any of the other major ECM players were 10 years ago. They just aren’t done with it yet. It has scale, feature and stability things to be aware of and compensate for but who am I to argue that Documentum is much better in that regard. You have to know and understand each product and make informed decisions as to whether or not one is better suited than the other for a given situation. The strategy today is that you use one to compensate for the other. A short term arrangement at best.

Many people that have problems with SharePoint as a platform are Visio jockey’s like myself who can’t seem to get past the fact that SharePoint’s content is stored in the database. You may think on some superficial level that this is not an issue but it is. There is a reason they named one of the scariest movies of the 1950’s The Blob. There are plenty of other CMS’s that do this in some form or fashion and I’m not blogging about them. It’s time I face the fact of my bias. I have concluded my only real problem with SharePoint is that you can’t run it on Oracle.

If you had shown me SharePoint, not told me it was from Microsoft and said you can use it with Oracle as a back end, I am sure my reaction to it would have been far different. I still would want an option for native file system management of the content store but arguments against building on top of it would have far less appeal to me. The UI is simply better than most of the competition and far more consistent with the applications many corporations live in all day (Office and Outlook).

I guess there is a part of me that can’t stand the idea that someone tied eRoom to the tracks and now Microsoft Train is barreling down on it at breakneck speed. Twisting his handlebar mustache, the dastardly Bill Gates will win the day and we will all be buying more SQL Server licenses. It’s bad enough that they capture the front end, but the database too? Unfortunately I can no longer argue that SQL Server won’t scale to Oracle level performance for this class of system. This sadly supports my point that eventually they catch up.

Still, as the proverb reads “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Mama told me big important systems use Oracle or DB2 not SQLServer. (yes I know eRoom was SQLServer – but it was never sold as an ECM framework)In any event, I doubt they are going to port it just to make me happy so I had better get used to it. Kool-aid anyone?

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Categorised in: Content Management, Enterprise Content Management, SharePoint

7 Responses »

  1. Lee,

    The real question in my mind is whether Microsoft will bother to really try to dominate the **Enterprise** CM space. Today they have content management but it is not very enterprise oriented, (unless the enterprise is small and exclusively Microsoft that is.) Given SharePoint’s current architecture they’d have to do some serious re-tooling but obviously they have the resources – but do they have the will?

    If you had asked me 12 months ago whether I thought Microsoft would move in to the larger, (and more heterogeneous), enterprise market I would have said no. However, given that SharePoint is their fastest selling product ever maybe they will re-visit the decision to make the architectural changes necessary to really play in this space.

    I rant continually about this over at…
    http://nevertalkwhenyoucannod.com/

    P.S. I love the idea of sharing a Blog…very environmentally friendly!

  2. To me – building an individual product strategy based on the premise that Microsoft will play but not dominate is like strolling past a lion in a meat suit hoping he is already full. Your right about them possibly not having the stomach for it now – they have problems to solve that may be more important to them – for now.

    thanks for the feedback on the sharing – we really weren’t sure it would work –

  3. It’s kind of funny how we always fall back to “SharePoint only supports Microsoft products.” What else really is there? I would dare say without any facts to back it up that most enterprises use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio and I really don’t see that changing. Thinking that MOSS will go away because of limited application support is sticking your head in the sand.

    What I think you’re missing here is that, and I thought you started to say it, BLOBS are a 60’s horror movie waiting to happen. Both Oracle and Microsoft think it’s logical to store large files in the database. These systems have a hard enough time managing strings and binaries such that armies of people need to maintain them. What is going to happen when people really start loading in the 1 to 5 meg files into rows on a table. The only thing that MOSS and Oracle ensure is that you database support team will continue to grow in size, and isn’t one of the goals of technology to decrease in complexity?

  4. As both Andrew and Marko point out – architecturally speaking SharePoint has issues that need to be addressed if it is to be seen as a true competitor to Documentum et.al.. BLOBS are not an efficient mechanism for managing large files beyond a certain point but I didn’t really see it necessary to belabor the issue. (apart from the obvious movie reference)

    What I really want to highlight is the sometimes irrational bias against MS that I and many others in the community share. We need to continually challenge presuppositions based on our vast experience because tools change. Likewise – if MS is “serious” about open architecture ECM, then revisiting their presuppositions is just as valid. I don’t doubt they are serious about ECM – I doubt the open part.

    Editors note: I reference only the 1958 movie The Blob starring Steve McQueen – not the horrible 1988 remake. This omission is completely intentional.

  5. AFAIK SQL Server 2008 features a new FileStream options so that data can be persisted to the file system. I imagine that it’s just a matter of time before SharePoint takes advantage of this.

    Despite the reliance on BLOBs I’ve not heard of any actual scalability issues but it would be interesting if someone could point to an article that proves that this is an issue.

    I would also prefer for MS to make SharePoint more open but it’s not going to happen is it?

  6. Completely valid question about whether or not BLOBS are good or bad. Also a valid question to ask – if they used to be bad – have things improved. It was something I was taught on my very first project and I can muse and speculate but I found some of the top reasons for me in this MySQL forum post.

    It really is about context and scale. If you have smallish objects in a smaller system – probably no good reason to avoid it. If you are building a CMS where the functionality is all about content its a bad idea. You could go for years and not have a problem in smaller installs. Collaboration CMS tend to be on the smaller end of the scale which is why SharePoint isn’t beat up more often for it. Same is true for WCMS. When you get into records management, archival or transactional systems though the inefficient chopping of the content to accommodate database interfaces can be a killer. IMHO

  7. This article probably needs an update with SP2010 on the scene

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