May 07, 2001, 11:10 AM — Whether you call it data, information, or content, one thing is clear: We're drowning in it. Everywhere you look across the enterprise, pockets of information exist that are inaccessible to most people in the company. And yet many people could benefit from the knowledge those packets of data represent.
This has always been a problem, but it was supposed to become more manageable thanks to the Internet. In truth, the Internet seems to have exacerbated the problem more than it has helped.
Rather than having a few islands of information where large amounts of data resided, we now have thousands of little islands of information residing in Web servers distributed across the enterprise.
In theory, it should be easier to link Web servers to create a unified view of that data versus trying to achieve that task across multiple mainframes and minicomputers.
But few people realistically have time to do this, and the tools to accomplish the task are just now becoming available.
So as we look forward, there are two trends on the horizon that would seem to offer us some hope: CMSes (content management systems) and Web services.
The next generation of CMSes will not only make greater use of XML but will also be enterprise-class offerings. If you look at most CMSes today, they are optimized around managing a handful of Web sites at best, and most of them still require a lot of programmer intervention to accomplish a given set of tasks.
Yet any large company in business today has hundreds if not thousands of intranets installed -- wherein lies the problem. And very rarely is any kind of standard in place for a CMS. As a result, most companies typically have multiple incompatible CMSes in place.
The good news is that we are seeing companies such as IBM, Merant, Computer Associates, and others bringing to market the first generation of enterprise-class content management systems.
These offerings, in turn, are putting pressure on the more established players in this space, such as Vignette, to think about CMSes on a grander scale. In effect, what's required is a CMS capable of managing others so that content can be more easily replicated throughout the enterprise. In concept, this is a little different than the idea of having a metadirectory capable of managing the other directories residing in individual applications.
The second good thing happening is the whole concept of Web services. If you look at most corporate portal applications, they will be the delivery mechanisms for Web services across the enterprise. We will see companies such as Epicentric, Plumtree, and IBM position their portal offerings as platforms capable of pulling together diverse Web services that can be delivered to end-users via a centrally managed portal.