As many long-time readers know, TSG has been assisting clients with migrating from Legacy ECM platforms including FileNet, Documentum, OpenText and others for years. Recently we have noticed an uptick in interest, RFPs, and implementation efforts to migrate customers not only from the Legacy ECM system but also to the cloud and specifically Amazon Web Services. This post will specifically focus on the legacy IBM ECM suite that includes FileNet and Content Manager/Content Manager on Demand and our thoughts on why the recent interest in moving from legacy IBM ECM to AWS.
IBM FileNet and Content Manager ECM History
FileNet was originally founded in 1982 with a goal of commercializing optical disk technology. FileNet shipped the first image management system in 1985. In the 80’s, hardware infrastructure components needed for image processing included state of the industry, at the time, image processing boards in PC’s, proprietary servers, scanners as well as optical disk technologies. In 1992 FileNet moved away from proprietary hardware to focus on software but still leveraged a core component called an “optical disk jukebox” capable of holding multiple laser disks.
With the purchase of Saros in the mid-90’s, the Panagon release in 1998 as well as the P8 release in 2003, FileNet evolved to move away from the hardware components to a software only model. Panagon brought document management (rather than just image management) and P8 extended that capability. FileNet was purchased by IBM in 2006.
Before the purchase of FileNet, IBM was also offering multiple ECM like solutions – some evolving from the Lotus purchase, some for Web Content Management and some from internally developed DB2 Content Manager. When IBM purchased FileNet, many of the existing DB2 Content Manager clients were concerned about which would be the most supported platform. As it turned out, neither platform was heavily invested in as the downturn of 2008 forced IBM to focus on other efforts.
FileNet and CMOD Migration to the Cloud – Why Now
Moving from any Legacy ECM solution can be difficult. As we have highlighted with other platforms, reasons on whether to migrate (or delay migration) typically include to some of the following reasons:
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – Building and moving content, integrations and processes built on FileNet or CMOD can be a costly and difficult process. Any desire to move to a new platform (or often even upgrade an existing platform) can be difficult, expensive and not always cost-justified.
- It’s already paid for – Moving to a FileNet or CMOD replacement product would require additional funds and ongoing maintenance. In a “do more with less” environment for clients, the desire to move or upgrade existing software and infrastructure faces difficult budgeting and purchase decisions.
- A lack of easy alternatives – Moving from FileNet or CMOD to something new requires explaining to upper management why another vendor is better than IBM. We have been posting that newer players can provide attractive alternatives to IBM, Gartner and other analysts continue to promote bigger is better when it comes to ECM alternatives.
In a risk-adverse environment, the easy decision is to stay with FileNet/CMOD and optimistically hope that IBM reignites growth within the platform. As a counter to the points above, we have seen an increase in the desire to move that include:
- It is broke and needs to be fixed – Too often old systems that have been put on “life support” are running on old hardware and software. The stability/performance and capabilities of the system have been have aged and no longer work as required. Older software does not provide the new capabilities users are requesting including abilities that come with cloud platforms.
- It is not already paid for – With many software products, 25% maintenance cost has users rebuying the software every four years. Other costs include the FTE costs required for the care of the system. With legacy software, skills that are harder and harder to find.
- Alternatives and approaches are available – With the cloud and native cloud providers, alternatives might not be easy but are available.
FileNet and CMOD Migration to the Cloud – Why Now Reason #1 – Cloud Initiatives and Alternatives
As more and more customers embrace the Cloud and Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS) providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google, previous locked-in IBM clients are starting to realize that better and more cost effective alternatives are available and consistent with upper management goals of “Cloud First” or “Cloud Only”. The cost model of replacing not only the ECM software but also the underlying database, servers and SAN/object storage devices (typically EMC or IBM) make the effort more cost effective. Other cloud benefits including dynamic scaling, pay as your go, external access, smart object storage and streaming services that are typically non-existent, expensive or extremely complex in an on-premise environment.
In our experience moving FileNet/IBM customers, we have seen every type of infrastructure including EMC Centera as well as really old laser disc jukeboxes (OSAR) that clients are typically hoping will just last “another” year. Moving of this content to the cloud not only provides improved performance and user experience but also reduces the risk of a system failing based on outdated software or hardware might not be able to be restored.
As we highlighted in a post in 2017, the business case to replace Filenet can be difficult as, in looking at hard dollar costs, the continued paying of FileNet maintenance can appear cheaper than the migration and implementation of any modern ECM alternative. Unfortunately, maintenance costs for legacy IBM ECM software doesn’t necessarily improve the solution, just gives clients the ability to upgrade to the new version. Like a car that isn’t well maintained, the legacy ECM system can and will eventually start to falter and could result in expensive or unavoidable expenses with minimal benefits.
Cloud initiatives can change the dynamic to provide both a better maintained solution as well as cost efficiencies of dropping old outdated hardward.
FileNet and CMOD Migration to the Cloud – Why Now Reason #2 – IBM’s lack of commitment to ECM and the Public Cloud
One of our most popular posts from last year was our take on Gartner’s reversal on IBM and Content Services where IBM was moved from the Leader to a Challenger.
In 2016, Gartner gave high marks to IBM based on Analytics/BI (Watson). In 2017, Gartner not only removed BI as an evaluation component but also questioned IBM’s commitment to ECM. Tied to the Public Cloud options mentioned in reason #1 mentioned above, Gartner offered the following caution on IBM:
IBM has not moved a quickly as some competitors to embrace the public cloud. IBM and its partners host IBM content applications on managed private cloud deployments. Customers and prospects looking for public cloud services may find that the vendor’s public cloud offerings will not meet their requirements for some services.
IBM’s difficulty in embracing the public cloud has everything to do with their offerings of their own private cloud as well as a focus on everything Watson. As we highlighted in a previous article about the importance of being cloud native, it is one thing to say that an offering “can” be run on Amazon or Azure, it is another to say it is the preferred platform and will be supported by the vendor based on experience from other customers. Gartner was also critical of IBM’s commitment to content services, voicing the following caution:
Changes in top management and key content services personnel in recent years have had a negative impact on IBM’s content services product development and strategy
By mentioning a negative impact of the change in top management and services personnel, Gartner is concerned that IBM does not only doesn’t lack the vision for a public cloud alternative, they no longer have the personnel to achieve any vision.
FileNet and CMOD Migration to the Cloud – Why Now Reason #3 – Something Better for the future
In looking at replacing an existing system that “isn’t broken”, we typically recommend more than just doing the same. Advantages of a new system in the cloud include:
- Improved viewing and annotating – Older versions of FileNet, to reduce file size, stored pages as separate images making paging a “hit the next button” approach rather than the smooth scrolling of a single document. Add in PDF instead of TIFF and the ability to not only view but annotate with a standard format (XFDF) for export.
- Digital Transformation – Built for older scan/index models when paper was king, as more content, even video, is available, few of the older legacy ECM systems can even handle the storage of the content.
- Cloud Benefits – By being in the cloud, remote or external workers can more easily access content. With AWS, we recommend CloudFront to handle the world-wide distribution of S3 objects. Add built in streaming, security and encryption typically not available in Legacy systems
- Improved navigation – Typical ECM systems were built with minimal indexing relying on the calling application to maintain the links to specific documents. For Case Management solutions, we have been able to show how users can navigate to a folder of documents with better performance for quickly viewing all documents. The reduction of the document navigation for the calling application maintenance is a benefit as well as the improved navigation.
- Improved capabilities – The ability to quickly combine documents and email them from within the system is something both clients found lacking in their current ECM systems. What are the productivity savings for users now able to do this function quicker? From the cloud, other integration to products like DocuSign, ShareFile, Box or other SaaS vendors also can add productivity benefits.
- Improved support and enhancement – As a modern platform, clients are able to find or hire resources easier to maintain the system. Legacy systems suffer from the inability to quickly fix issues when things go wrong resulting in downtime and unproductive users.
- Product Direction – One item we always quote clients is that they don’t really buy software, you rent it. Understanding if your rent dollars are going to making the product better or funding products or services that aren’t providing any value. With legacy ECM products that are “cash cows”, (see our post on if IBM would ever sell FileNet) it is difficult to see future investments in the software given the disruption it would cause the install base.
FileNet and CMOD Migration to the Cloud – Why Now Reason #4 – Proven Alternatives and Approaches
Clients not only want the vision of how to move to Amazon but also need resources that have the experience. TSG has been working with ECM clients and Amazon Web Services since 2011. Recommendations for FileNet and CMOD alternatives include:
- Alfresco – Gartner’s thoughts “Alfresco has taken steps to enhance its technology partnerships to advance differentiation and innovation, such as being the first content services provider on Amazon to be able to launch an Alfresco instance with an Amazon Web Services Quick Start Button”. Alfresco continues to work on a tight partnership with Amazon rather than competing with their own private cloud offering.
- Object Store – As we promoted back in December, some clients have implemented FileNet as a object store with all the meta-data stored in their own application. TSG has developed an AWS alternative leveraging our OpenAnnotate viewer to replace FileNet with a simple Amazon Web Services S3 Object Store.
- Innovative Migration Approaches – One of the biggest fears of moving is the business interruption associated with a rip and replace. As we have highlighted, innovative customers consider rolling migrations, delta migrations and other innovative approaches to reduce the risk and downtime.
Moving FileNet or Content Manager on Demand to Amazon Web Services is something that more and more legacy ECM customers are considering. IBM’s lack of focus on the public cloud (Amazon in particular), ECM and innovative ECM alternatives and migration approaches are providing risk adverse customers with more cost effective alternatives.
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