Digital Experience Platform and the foundation called WCM

The buzz is just getting louder, it was Liferay who introduced the acronym DXP a couple of years back and was then followed by other WCM and Enterprise portal vendors (Adobe, Day, Sitecore, and Vignette).

To me, this concept is here to stay. It’s too early to evaluate the pros, cons, and business implications of this concept. We still have to witness a large size implementation of these “DXP” yielding some true business results. Well, This is my take on DXP, I am sure most of the readers would relate, especially the ones coming from the CMS background. So…let me try to answers some questions which come to my mind –

Q-1) What is DXP?

Answer:  Digital Experience Platform, is an emerging category of enterprise software where the base Content Management Product is an integrated set of technologies to create, manage, analyze, deliver relevant content to the targeted audience on a variety of end-user devices. This is also a marketing term coined by WCM/Portal vendors to position themselves above pure WCM vendors. A term that is now helping them to sell more licenses. A Nice-looking User Interface, an SSO software to back it up with integrations of the below software from the same vendor-

  1. Web Content Management
  2. Analytics
  3. Local/Social Collaboration/Community
  4. Targeting/Segmentation
  5. Omnichannel Delivery Platform
  6. Connectors for other WCM/ECM/DAM products

..and the list goes on.

Q-2) Is DXP a product, suite, or framework?

Answer:  For product marketing & sales group it’s a ‘suite’, for a buyer it’s a ‘product’,  for a technical developer it’s a ‘framework’,  for a business user/content contributor it’s a User Interface with drag-drop of layouts & content and for an end-user/content consumer it’s a ‘this is what I need’ delighter.

 Q-3) Do you need DXP or WCM?

Answer:  You need a WCM for creation, modification, targeting, publishing, versioning, and managing the lifecycle of content. You might need a Mobile delivery platform if you are targeting your content to a range of Mobile Platforms. If it’s just a couple of handsets you don’t even need the Mobile Delivery platform (more on a separate post). Analytics is a way to go if you want to know your online users, website visitors but it’s no point buying an analytics product from the WCM vendor. Separate specialized analytics software will give you more flexibility, control, and a higher degree of reuse. Revisit your business and technical requirements,  talk technically to the product vendor to check “how” DXP can help you cater to those requirements. So far, I have not seen anyone specifically writing requirements or budgeting for DXP.

However, if the DXP vendor is giving the customer the flexibility to choose from a range of products (those part of the DXP suite/framework) and charging only for the selected products then I think it’d be a good way to move forward.

Q-4) Is DXP a revolution, evolution, or transformation?

Answer: It’s not a revolution, but yes, there is a significant change in the way consumers are using the web. Users do not want one-sided communication but also want to contribute, provide feedback, personalize their content from across multiple channels, not just ‘web’.  DXP is an effort to provide a rich experience to both the content contributors as well as content consumers. Having said that, it does not mean WCM has evolved or transformed to DXP. The core WCM remains the same, and ironically, product vendors are not putting much effort to enhance the content management capabilities of WCM.

Final Thoughts:

Product vendors always look for some buzzwords to be in the news, to market their product, and to impress buyers. ‘God lies in the details ’ – don’t get fascinated, involve your IT staff, let your technical team sit with a vendor, let the vendor explain to you the basics and underlying components (REST, SSO, JSF, Taglibs, Delivery model, Web-services, etc). Get feedback from your technical team and see if similar can be achieved with your existing software infrastructure without much effort and cost.  If you still want to use DXP, check with the vendor if you can choose and use your apps on a’ la carte basis.

JAX India 2007: Web2.0: What you should do?

Craig McClanahan talked on the Web2.0 at JAX India 2007.You can find more detilas about what he covered in Shishank’s post. Here’s a bit of elaboration of those 10 points what Craig suggested to make the web right :-
10 – Expose Data/Logic as services
* Content is more important than presentation.
* Use REST based Services when you “Can”
* Use SOAP based Services when you “must”
9 – Incorporate External Content
* No single application or database can contain everything
* Combine available content from multiple sources
8 – Seek QOS (Quality of Service) deals from Sources
* Authentication guarantee
* Performance provisioning
* API and format compatibility
7 – Give QOS Deals to users
* External consumer will also become dependent upon your content
6 – Adopt Agile Processes
* Continuous iterative improvement model
* Incremental release every 7-14 days
5 – Test Driven Development
* Reduce release testing
* Do aggressive unit /functional testing
4 – Architect for Scalability
* Separate view, logic and persistence
* Break into layers that can be independently scaled
* Add resource as needed for bottlenecks
3 – Embrace Heterogeneity
* Data and logic as “service” insulates layers both internally and externally
* Agile Technology benefits in for fast UI fixes
2 – Reach out to Mobile Clients
* UI for Mobile devices can share existing service
1 – Enable User Provided Content
* Participating in “mashups” counts
* User like to participate not just “view”

The suggestion that Craig has provided, gives a clear perspective on how Web2.0 should be incorporated gradually within your organizations portal, CMS or website.If you read the above points again I feel that some of them directly or indirectly take you to the SOA space where we re-architect our implementations so that our applications can be “loosely coupled” and “interoperable” when used as “services”.

“Portals” and “Portal-like”

Few days’ back I got to know about the something called “portal-like” . wow…a new word and a new concept after Collaboration, Web2.0 and SOA in the portal space. Drilled down a little deeper I came to know that this concept make sense when it comes to mid-size enterprise ,here it goes….

Portals Implementation gives you the solution but with a huge investment of money, infrastructure, resources and support.
Mid sized Customers who wants the portal features (with less investments) now can use the “Portal-like” products to leverage the features what a portal offers. These “Portal-like“ frameworks uses the Jsp, Jsf environment as a core language to built the applications and provide the addition runtime environment (portlet container) to consume/include the portlets on top of the jsp, jsf application. These frameworks support the deployment of standard based portlets (jsr168, wsrp1.0) together with the vendor specific portlets.
End users can also be provided with “virtually” customization features that will be a part of JSF/JSP/AJAX implementation.
These products are well suited where the core application takes more functional space than the utility portlets, which is opposite in the case of actual portal implementation.

There are few pros and cons of these frameworks/tools/products –
1) Comparatively less investment than the Portal product
2) No portal expertise required to develop “Portal-like“ application
3) Use of standard based pre-built portlets (blogs,wikis,cms,rss etc )
1) Application can not be easily scaled to portlets in the near future 🙂
2) Cannot be used as Integration point with other Enterprise/legacy applications.
3) Confidence of the customer towards the solution vendors.

The Introduction of such a framework is done by Oracle with its Web Center Suite. That provides the Content Integration, Runtime Customization, Metadata Management and Communication Services (Again a new Word for me “Presence Server”)

Enterprise Portal and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the talk of the enterprise fraternity. Not only the business is getting benefited but the potential of SOA is affecting the speed of application development process.

This buzzword strikes Portal technology as well. These days organizations are in the process of migrating from traditional client/server, monolithic or disparate n-tier architecture to a more loosely coupled and interoperable environment, this process is then better termed as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).Most of us are aware of SOA and its benefits, I wont be repeating those here but will discuss that how Portal can be used to leverage SOA.

When we talk about the underlying components of SOA i.e. Interoperability, Scalability, and
Integration, the best suite that does and support all these is an Enterprise Portal Implementation.

A Portal based on standard like JSR168 and WSRP can be the most eligible candidate for SOA. When we look at the Portal’s Infrastructure, we find that it comprises of nuts and bolts of Service Oriented Architecture.

So the next thought that comes to mind is how Portal fits in SOA?

Portlets are reusable web components which forms the core of a Portal Desktop, providing relevant and customized information.SOA’s Interoperability is achieved by deploying JSR 168 Portlet to any JSR 168 compliant Portal server. Also, a portlet can be reused in different Portal pages as well as in different containers which proves reusability aspect of SOA.

Web Services, one of the main building blocks of SOA, fits nicely with Portal as WSRP based portlets. WSRP enabled portlets, which adhere to Web services standard such as SOAP and WSDL, enables portal to easily include services from a third party into a portal page. This eases and reduces the development process and makes use of already available enabled services. WSRP provides much support for the basic pillars of SOA like SSO, Reusability, Access management, service integration with loose coupling (here I mean to say that different processes should be integrated but without the processes being dependent on each other ).

Lastly, Role based content delivery model in Collaborative Portals makes a value addition for role based SOA Implementation.

The above information perfectly fits with the Gartner’s conclusion that

The portal can be a logical and appropriate first step toward SOA implementation because its fundamental nature lends itself to SOA approaches”

Open Ajax and Collaboration the big guys finally collaborate to push AJAX in the opensource community. IBM, BEA Systems Inc., Borland International Inc., Novell Inc., Oracle Corp. and Red Hat
Inc., have formed a group to contribute code and work together to promote use of AJAX., they will call it Open Ajax. This group will promote the use of Ajax tools with which developers can build rich Internet applications. The tools essentially eliminate the need to refresh a Web page every time a user enters or receives new data.

IBM is to propose its Ajax Toolkit Framework , that framework supports multiple Ajax runtime tools and can be used to develop and debug applications.

Since in the portal front the world is going collaborative and AJAXed 🙂 ,its good to see that even the top notch vendors are implementing or moving a part of their technology to opensource.

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