Documentum Webtop 5.3 running on Documentum Content Server 6.x

We stumbled across a pretty vague reference in the cross-product dependency guide for Documentum 6.7 SP1 (on page 245) for Webtop (emphasis ours)

“Note: Documentum Collaborative Services 5.3 DAR is installed with Content Server 6.7 SP1 repository so Webtop 5.3 & 5.3 SPx will work with Content Server 6.7 SP1.   If Documentum Collaborative Services (formerly Documentum Collaborative Edition) 6.7 SP1 DAR is installed with Content Server 6.7 SP1 repository, Webtop 6.7 SP1 is required.”

As we have mentioned on this site before, the core underlying docbase architecture (APIs, structure…) of Documentum hasn’t changed between D5 and D6.  Based on client queries, we attempted to hook up a Webtop 5.3 SP6 instance to a D6.7 content server and were successful (including full-text search).  This post will explain why this might be a temporary alternative for clients looking to gradually move away from their Webtop 5.3 environment.

Why Documentum Webtop 5.3 on a Documentum Content Server 6.x environment?

Back in the 2006-2008 years, many of our customers developed extensive customizations within the Webtop 5.3 SP6 environment only to be disappointed by Webtop 6 as their customizations proved to not be easily transferable.  Many Documentum users have chosen to stay on their Webtop 5.3 platform, and potentially pay for extended maintenance and support, despite the arrival of D6.x versions of Webtop and Content Server.  Reasons for staying on Webtop 5.3 could include:

  1. Difficulty of moving existing customizations to a new version of Webtop – For Clients that spent the hours to develop and test/validate extensive customizations, the desire to port these to a new interface was often deemed a rewrite and very expensive and probably the top reason for staying on Webtop 5.3.
  2. With the multiple announcements ( EMC World 2010, EMC World 2011) that Webtop would be replaced with something new, clients wanted to “wait it out” to see if they could move to the newer product and skip a release rather than upgrade to a Webtop 6 version that might be not supported shortly in the future.
  3. Neither xCP or D2 provide any significant differences as an alternative to Webtop (see Tony’s reviews – searchcontributor – for more detail).  Clients that purchased Webtop licenses also had concerns about being able to move those licenses to other products.

With the above being said, clients should consider upgrading their back-end content server while keeping their Webtop 5.3 for the following reasons:

  • Support – When things go badly wrong in Documentum environments, critical support items are not at the Webtop layer but more often at the content server/database level.  Webtop support is needed during the development and testing stages and typically doesn’t cause critical business errors in production.
  • Stack Upgrade – All of the underlying components of a Documentum 5.3 content server can also be upgraded (hardware, database, operating system).  Getting the right combination on the content server will drive requirements for the underlying components as well.  For clients that might have gone Sun or HP Unix varieties, the ability to leverage VMware with Linux combined with a newer version of the database and operating systems will provide a better performing and supportable infrastructure.
  • New Functionality – A new content server architecture allows clients to take advantage of back-end improvements in regards to reliability and performance.  One obvious advantage is the ability to leverage xPlore (and Lucene) as opposed to the old FAST architecture.
  • Avoiding the “Big Bang” – For clients that want to eventually upgrade to the latest version of WDK apps, this approach could be a good stop gap for getting the Content Server back to a supported stack first, then upgrading WDK application(s).  This would avoid the “big bang” risk issues with WDK apps and Content Server upgrade at the same time

Summary

The ability to move Webtop 5.3 users to a D6.7 backend might be something users want to consider to provide for better back-end support, infrastructure and performance, while gradually moving away from their Webtop customizations.

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