Documentum to Alfresco Migration – SaaS and the Cloud

With an increased pressure to control IT costs, we are seeing more and more clients not only migrating from Documentum to Alfresco, but looking for other ways to reduce spending via Software as a Service (Saas) in the Cloud.  While we have already discussed the cost savings of Alfresco as well as ways to leverage solutions, this post will present some innovative ideas TSG has been seeing from Documentum customers who have moved to Alfresco in the Cloud.

The “Cloud” and Software as a Service (SaaS)

We have discussed it here before but, given the success of SaaS products like Salesforce.com, more and more clients are looking to get out of the business of IT.  Costs associated with data centers (hardware, software, people) can add up to seven figure annual bills for the care and feeding of internal Documentum systems.  We have seen clients move internal Documentum applications to an Alfresco instance in the cloud and substantially reduce their internal IT spend, while improving their uptime and functionality.  Some other advantages of a cloud solution include:

  • Extranet – reducing costs can be driven from leveraging third party partners rather than hiring certain functions.  One of the big pain points in leveraging third party partners  is having them gain access to Documentum behind the firewall.  While Alfresco provides a CPU subscription only model versus Documentum’s named user for one cost savings, another significant savings is the VPN related issue, effort and delay in granting access to a third party.  Hosted cloud versions allow users (rather than IT) to maintain third party access without the concern of named user license costs as well as VPN access.
  • Mobile – We have touched on it with some innovative thoughts before, but most companies do not allow wireless access behind the firewall.  The issue of someone sitting in the parking lot and getting behind the firewall is just too scary.  While VPN options exist for third party devices, users (and IT) don’t want to be maintaining solutions for users’ personal devices.  The cloud provides wireless access via the internet without third party software. Hosted versus Software as a Service Often times, clients can be confused by the terms used by vendors in describing their cloud offerings.

While moving applications to the cloud provides cost savings, there are different terms that mean different things (and different savings).

  • Hosted or “OnDemand” – This is an option where the client is basically renting data center space for the application in in the cloud.  While the hard dollar costs for things like servers, routers and storage turn into a rental model, the support costs of IT don’t necessarily change as the client is still responsible for maintaining the application (upgrades, enhancements, server monitoring, debugging).
  • Software as a Service (Saas) – For this option, the client is basically saying they are getting out of the IT business and relying on a vendor for maintenance of the service of the software.  The vendor is responsible for maintaining the application with a service level agreement.  The vendor decides which enhancements to offer in the service.

Alfresco offers both a SaaS solution but can also be deployed as a hosted offering. Software as a Service provides for better IT cost containment than a hosted offering although the hosted offering might be a good “baby step” for clients looking to reduce their IT spend and explore the cloud.

Documentum to Alfresco in the Cloud – what are the concerns?

While innovative companies will look to the cloud, many will delay the decision based on several factors including:

  • Security – We often hear “I am worried about my documents being on the internet” as if a firewall solution from cloud providers is less  safe than a firewall solution maintained by the client IT.  In our review for multiple clients, we found the level of security available in the cloud was better than anything we had seen from any of our clients.  Salesforce and others have continued to push with innovative security solutions for identifying PC’s and users safely.
  • Integration – Many times, existing Documentum systems have been “hard wired” to other systems, including manufacturing, training and others.  We posted before about how often we see the r_object_id misused for this integration.  Moving the solution outside the firewall means re-wiring these other systems.  A couple of innovative customers are leveraging a consumer cache for business continuity and wiring their other systems to this published vault rather than hard-wiring to the ECM repository, making the move to the cloud easier.  Cloud solutions can continue to leverage this consumer vault offering with no business interpution.  Other alternatives exist for connecting systems to the new Alfresco instance in the cloud.
  • Motivation – The last, and probably biggest influence, is internal motivation.  For one of our clients, an entertainment and beverage company, the push to move to Alfresco and the cloud from Documentum in 2009 was due to a reduced budget that could not include the Documentum licenses or internal IT costs.  Many clients simply don’t have the motivation to do something different that could be perceived as risky and will look for simple solutions or delay the decision.

Summary

Innovative companies, who are considering the migration from Documentum to Alfresco, will take a hard look at SaaS and Cloud alternatives and cloud offerings to reduce IT costs.  The cloud provides advantages in regards to extranet and mobile access that are typically not easily available behind a corporate firewall.   While some may be concerned with security, integration and motivation, innovative companies will find solutions to address the issues.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please comment below.

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