Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Only Have Ice for You

In our previous post, we outlined how the big boys have traditionally dealt with large volumes of computer output by storing this voluminous content into COLD systems, aka HVTO archiving.  There are specialized systems for handling HVTO archiving, but many of our customers have attempted to store output into traditional ECM systems like FileNet, Documentum, Content Manager, and now Sharepoint, Alfresco and Nuxio.

The big question is: If you can get by with one ECM, why have two, or three?  Or, as a customer recently told me: “Why do I need another ECM when I already have four?”  Apparently ECM’s breed like guinea pigs.  The answer is: it depends upon a couple key factors.  Some of these factors have to do with your existing systems and others have to do with the nature of the HVTO content itself.

HVTO archiving products like OnDemand, ASR, ViewDirect, and others do an excellent job of working with large reports.  In our last post we wrote that reports represent a whole other conflict.  This is true because reports can require discreet access privileges, bursting by department or user, and some report applications require bundling of reports together into super-reports, comprised of multiple reports for specific users.  I dare you to try this with a traditional ECM!

Another use case well-suited to HVTO archiving is high volume statement generation.  What is interesting about this content is that it is repetitive.  Sorry to report this, but my bank statement is almost identical to your statement, which is the same as Lindsay Lohan’s – really, it is!  What changes are transactions, names, addresses, but the really big stuff, like logos, fonts, fancy tables, and terms and conditions stay pretty much the same, but are repeated millions of times for all the banks’ customers.  What OnDemand and others do to reduce massive resource duplication, is that they store a “stacked” file of these statements.  In other words, they store the repetitive stuff once, with special tags to keep track of individual statements in the stack, and reference the repetitive stuff to the multiple individual statements.  In this way, they are able to retrieve the statement file for me, you and Lindsay, and re-combine it with the fancy graphics, and display the statement in real-time.  Again, don’t try this with a standard ECM without some additional technology, or you are likely to present Lindsay’s statement to somebody else.  Or worse, my statement goes to Lindsay in the slammer.  Does minimum security have Wi Fi?

Having said this, there are ways to turn a P8, for example, into a system that can handle HVTO, but it takes some special technology and know-how.  By using specialized output manipulation software and a web-based presentation layer, you can replicate most of the COLD features like indexing, bursting, and bundling found in OnDemand or similar systems, and then use emerging web presentation techniques to display the content in real-time.  This prevents ECM reproduction.  This will also mimic the storage savings you would have gotten, and enables you to manage some of the peculiar report delivery requirements.  But the rub with traditional ECM systems is that they are object-oriented warehouses, not really built with the stacking thing in mind.  So, if you are storing lots of very large reports, for example, you might be better off looking at COLD or HVTO archiving (OnDemand and others) anyway.

So, my next question is: Is any of this relevant anymore?  Is the old paradigm of creating massive report content with very few actual report retrievals really cost effective?  Do you, or anybody you know, actually download bank statements?  The advent of newer technologies around real-time information delivery and that famous oxymoron, Biz Intelligence, are turning this COLD world on its head.  Check out the next post for answers to these and other chilling questions.

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