With Documentum announcing a relationship with Fatwire and that they will no longer invest in WDK (and WebPublisher solutions), many Documentum WebPublisher clients have looked at FatWire as well as Alfresco Web Publishing as an alternative to WebPublisher. This post will compare WebPublisher to Alfresco to give users a deeper understanding of both tools.
A web content management system (WCM) is a software system which provides website authoring and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage the site’s content with relative ease.
Most WCM platforms scan be split into two functional components – Content Production and the Content Delivery. Content Production includes the generation, previewing, and approval of all content intended for deployment of a website or web application. The Content Delivery component is limited to the mechanism that delivers the content from the core repository to its final destination, whether that is on a static website or a dynamic portal. Both Web Publisher and Alfresco WCM accomplish these tasks, but there are some differences worth noting. Let’s take a closer look at some of these features:
Content Production in Documentum WebPublisher
Almost all WCM systems provide a method for non technical users to create or modify a page on a site. WebPublisher uses an XML template in coordination with a XML rules file to create a web form with the ePHox editor. When content is generated, from the form, the result is a copy of the XML template, but completed with all information entered in the form. From that point one or many XSL presentations may be applied to transform the raw data to any document type required for publishing. Recently our clients have become frustrated not with forms or form options, but the performance of the ePHox editor itself. When more complex forms are created, they can take a long time to load and be quite cumbersome to edit. Documentum does offer a second option for a content entry interface, Page Builder. Page Builder, which is packaged with Web Publisher, is an alternate entry interface with more of an in-context feel, more ideal for sites that require minor text updates to pages.
Seasoned Documentum users and administrators are familiar with the concept of a docbase or repository that manages all data and documents in the system. In this environment all users (with equivalent permissions) can work on the documents in the same environment using a system of versioning and checking in and out to manage document integrity.
Workflow capability can be an essential part of any WCM system. Non technical users need a process to submit and approve site changes in order to make prior to publishing. WebPublisher has a framework for custom workflows in both a serial (sequential reviewers) and parallel (concurrent reviewers) architecture.
Given the complexity of sites today, users may need much more control over specific sections of a site, instead of using traditional forms. Some clients may leverage EMC’s FTP Services which allows web content such as flash files, images, and CSS to be imported or updated via FTP.
Content Production in Alfresco WCM
Alfresco takes a slightly different approach to form building for content entry. WebForms are configurable through an XSD file and the XML schema uses an implementation of the industry standard XForms. The dynamically build forms do not require an applet and load almost immediately. Unlike Web Publisher, administrators have the ability to choose what renders the XML content generated from forms. Traditional XSL stylesheets may be used, but renditions can also be created using XSL-FO, Freemarker or any other custom rendering solution.
Recently announced, Alfresco has plans to release an in-context editor allowing for a click to edit option on a preview site, however this will be implemented using a standard Alfresco DM repository and not the WCM/AVM repository. An initial iteration of this, called Alfresco Web Editor, is already out.
Alfresco WCM uses an innovative approach to repository management with the concept of sandboxes. Every user has a unique environment to generate, update and preview content. Changes are promoted to the “Staging” sandbox when they are ready to be previewed and merged with the community’s joint efforts.
Alfresco WCM uses JPBM for workflow to provide a framework similar to WebPublisher which also allows for custom workflows in both a serial (sequential reviewers) and parallel (concurrent reviewers) structure.
Alfresco has FTP, WebDAV and CIFS access to web content as a core feature without any additional service layer or licensing as is required from Documentum All three of these interfaces provide a easy way to integrate an HTML authoring tools like Dreamweaver, while still taking advantage of the content repository.
Content Delivery in Documentum WebPublisher
In the Documentum world there is really one choice – SCS (Site Caching Services) for a pre 6.5 SP2 environments, which was renamed to IDS (Interactive Deployment Services) post the 6.5 SP2 release. The primary job of SCS / IDS is to publish content and metadata from the repository to a server and database. IDS leverages an XML datastore in addition to the relational database that SCS has always provided. Based on the X-Hive product acquired in 2007, this XML datastore provides new options for delivering content to your web properties. Another new feature of IDS is the ability to take user-generated content from your web site (such as ratings or comments) and ingest them back into the Documentum repository. This is done by first writing them into IDS which will then write them into Documentum.
Content Delivery in Alfresco WCM
Alfresco took the concept of content delivery a step further by allowing a choice of static or dynamic delivery environments. The File System Deployment Target is the static option which can be configured to run similar to SCS or IDS. AVM (Advanced Store Implementation) Deployment Target is a dynamic approach to publishing content by installing the full Alfresco Runtime environment on the target server. This approach is designed to support the version control requirements of managing large websites and web applications. There is a third option, the DM Deployment Target, which receives a deployment from an Alfresco WCM authoring environment and puts the content into the workspace spaces store where it can be used to support a dynamic web site. As many of the future roadmap features come to fruition, this type of publishing to a DM repository, not a AVM may become more prevalent.
Unlike Documentum, Alfresco is an open source platform. Both of these publishing modules are left wide open for customization and specific business logic updates. The Transfer Service is a subsystem with an API that offers a variety of features related to the transfer nodes and targets. A great example of this is Peter Monks, who with other developers has created a couple of open source projects that extend Alfresco WCM’s deployment mechanism to use CouchDB and MongoDB as endpoints (here and here).