TSG gave a keynote presentation on December 7th for Alfresco Day London. Our topic “Alfresco and AWS – Disrupting Legacy Content Services” presented our thoughts on how the combination of a movement to the cloud, specifically Amazon’s cloud, along with the additional content created by digital transformation is disrupting the main Legacy ECM vendors. This post will share our slide deck along with some of our narrative.
TSG, AWS and Alfresco
Our first Alfresco/AWS client was way back in 2009. Back then, many of the first movers to Amazon were the smaller vendors. One of our favorite clients and an early adopter was United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Chicago. For UCP, AWS made sense as their data center at the time was just a closet in one of their offices. While our initial Alfresco/AWS adopters were, like UCP, mostly small, over the last two years we have seen more and more large clients utilizing AWS, particularly those with a need for new infrastructure. We have seen a major auto insurer moving over 400 million documents from what used to be an on-premise Documentum system. We also have a major food distributor moving 200 million documents from a very old FileNet system. Almost all of our clients have 2018 plans to leverage cloud based servers.
Legacy ECM – Why do they continue to survive?
As we have mentioned here many times, it is not so much that Alfresco isn’t better than Documentum, FileNet, OpenText or the others, (it is – see our comparison to Documentum) it is typically just the effort to move can be difficult. Factors include new training for users, new development, migration effort, integration effort, sometimes lack of business benefits, and general risk avoidance. Overall, most legacy ECM customers are missing the reason to make a decision now and can too easily delay the decision to next year….every year.
Digital Transformation – Can the Legacy System handle the new types of content?
For many legacy customers, the need driving from their old legacy ECM system to initially develop the image or ECM system in the 1990s was a drive to go “Paperless”. While this was a step forward, more and more new content is coming less from paper, but from the digital transformation of their business. No longer is insurance all about the mail room and scanning, but more about digital content like video, emails and other born-digital content. Legacy systems do not have the capability to address this new digital content.
Cloud Initiatives also change the ECM replacement equation
Where previous efforts surrounding ECM were focused on “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”, corporate initiative to move to the cloud to reduce the reliance on the data center have changed the “keep or replace” equation. We are seeing more Cloud First or Cloud Only from clients that often used to have an adamant no cloud policy. While reducing the cost of the ECM software and maintenance is one component, the cost of the rest of the infrastructure to support ECM, including load balancers, application servers, DB servers, DB licenses and SAN architectures can all be replaced more cost effectively with the cloud and Amazon.
As another benefit, for business users, in a more and more connected environment, the ability of the cloud to expand access to ECM to external parties adds capabilities not available with on-premise solutions. Other cloud capabilities include robust elastic scaling, as well as geographically being able to disburse content all across the world.
Tipping Point – Digital Transformation
More and more content is coming in from different digital sources. Video, pictures, voice, as well as a variety of different capture media will increase the need for new infrastructures and interfaces that can work with the new formats. No longer can a TIFF viewer (for those FileNet legacy customers) address even a small amount of the new file types that need to be supported and managed.
Size of Content is rising as well
Coupled with the amount of content, we are seeing the size of the content growing. As we have added more video capabilities, clients are receiving larger video files both from the perspective of resolution and video length. For one of our insurance clients, for a business claim, the requirement is to capture 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after of the incident from every camera in the location. As more and more cameras are added, as well as other digital capture tools, the additional size and volume of files will continue to grow.
Billion Object Client
For one of our clients, the old legacy system has well over 1 billion files in the repository. Coupled with 3,300 internal and 27,000 external users, this client is leveraging TSG’s OpenAnnotate, OpenMigrate and OpenContent Management Suite to handle the interface and large volume of documents. With their on-premise solution, we are able to migrate 250 documents/second. With Amazon Web Services, we are fairly confident we could increase this amount to 450 documents/second, similar to the Alfresco benchmark. Not only are we dealing with a large number of overall documents, given the nature of our client, some of our claim files have over 65,000 documents (a long-tail claim). OpenContent Case and Alfresco are architected to quickly and efficiently deal with these large system requirements.
It isn’t just about running in the cloud, it’s the ability to run “Cloud Native”.
While the customer can’t talk about the other vendors, we are happy to share our thoughts here:
- Documentum – had been recommending VMware when part of the EMC family. Not only is Amazon a vastly superior option compared to the VMware cloud, but VMware has since sold off struggling vCloud their cloud offering to OVH, a French cloud hosting provider. The Documentum push to VMware is an example of how a software vendor would push a less “best of breed” solution to increase their own profitability, rather than develop more cloud native capabilities for Amazon. Documentum clients stuck with VMware will question how this decision was made.
- OpenText – Similar to the Documentum push to VMware above, OpenText has their own cloud. See our thoughts on their user group keynote as they viewed Amazon as something less than their own offering.
- FileNet/IBM – IBM also has their own cloud. Gartner recently downgraded IBM’s content management services for the first time out of the Leader Quadrant for lack of a viable cloud story.
The important thing to understand isn’t that these vendors couldn’t work to make their offerings more cloud native for Amazon (or Azure or Google), it is that they are choosing their own proprietary solutions for the cloud, rather than embracing the best of breed market leader, Amazon. See our thoughts on Cloud Native for Alfresco compared to other Legacy Vendors.
Alfresco is significantly better positioned because they don’t have their own cloud offering, thereby being able to better focus on Amazon versus a proprietary cloud offering.
Alfresco Cloud Native – Amazon
To be cloud native, we would recommend that vendors:
- Support all of Amazon’s unique components including storage with S3, operating systems and databases like Aurora.
- Run benchmark tests multiple times to prove that they can scale and perform.
- Have partners that not only know their product, but know and have experience running the product in the Amazon Cloud.
Alfresco checks the box for all of the above cloud native requirements. When it comes to support, nothing is worse than being in a unique environment “or small boat”. For Alfresco to truly be cloud native with Amazon, it is about a big number of clients doing big things on Amazon, something we are seeing more and more often.
Innovative content solutions with Amazon
One innovative solution we like to talk about with ECM customers is how Amazon can provide benefits that on-premise solutions typically can’t address. One of the major benefits, particularly for large content like video files, is the ability of Amazon CloudFront on S3 to ingest and stream content directly from the content store.
Typical Alfresco content services rely on the Alfresco API to ingest/distribute content, moving content between the storage location, application server, and the client. This process puts a load on the application server and requires moving the content twice.
In the diagram above, for the user to request a video:
- Request goes to ECM Application API Server to execute a search
- ECM Application API Server Connects to the Repository and executes a search, which returns results
- User/Service requests the content; Repository returns the content file through ECM Application Server API
- Content is obtained from the Storage device and streamed back through the Repository Server to the ECM Application Server
- Content and metadata streamed from ECM Application Server to User’s Browser or Service
With Amazon S3, the client retrieval can be architected to store and stream directly from S3 leveraging Amazon’s CloudFront capabilities for quicker retrieval as well as geographic dispersal of content safely across the world.
In the diagram above:
- Request goes to ECM Application API Server to execute a search
- ECM Application API Server Connects to the Repository and executes a search which returns results
- Browser or Service request goes to Storage to request content
- The browser or service streams the content directly from storage
Innovative Migration Approaches
Legacy ECM continues to survive sometimes because the effort to “rip and replace” can be large and intimidating. Innovative clients are looking for more innovative ways to migrate that are less disruptive. As we have often discussed here, innovative solutions could involve rolling migrations, point-forward storage, delta migrations, or a hybrid migration. The key to understanding an effective migration approach is to understand that content can be stored in both the old and new repositories with some overlap in running both repositories.
TSG is always working with clients to come up with innovative approaches to migration. While it is slightly old, one of the better webinars we did with Alfresco was on migrating from Documentum to Alfresco and the different approaches. You can access a recording of the webinar.
OpenContent Search and Case
To truly disrupt legacy ECM systems, a new modern interface that addresses both the new digital content, as well as give business users improved efficiencies and business process is the last key component. TSG’s OpenContent Management Suite has evolved based on the needs of different business users with our community of 100s of clients adding to the products. A key to disrupting legacy ECM solutions is that we provide these products as an extension of our consulting services at no cost to the customer.
With the combination of AWS, Alfresco, TSG, and our OpenContent Management Suite, we are seeing the replacement equation for legacy ECM not only be more realistic, but provide a much quicker payback while positioning for a modern content, cloud-based future.
Summary – Recipe for disrupting Legacy ECM
In summary, the successful recipe for disrupting on-premise legacy ECM includes:
- One Industry leading cloud infrastructure provider (Amazon)
- Add robust cloud native content services platform (Alfresco)
- Add modern community developed open source interfaces and migration tools (OpenContent and OpenMigrate)
- Mix together with an integrator that has experience and success with all of the above (TSG)
The complete presentation as well as the Migrating Alfresco to AWS whitepaper is available for download.
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