Documentum Migration to Alfresco – Making one small mobile/cloud step first

Having already addressed here Why Clients are migrating from Documentum to Alfresco, the major issue most long-time clients have with moving from Documentum to Alfresco is how to take that first step.  Legacy Documentum users often have terabytes of documents stored in Documentum and contemplating a move to any platform would be costly and resource intensive.  One innovative approach clients are considering is to introduce Alfresco for new initiatives with integration to legacy Documentum instances to gradually reduce the reliance on Documentum.  This post will discuss how one client is considering leveraging Alfresco for mobile access and discuss the architecture components of that approach.

Leveraging Cloud and Mobile to answer the “How do you eat an Elephant?

The answer on how to eat and Elephant (or replace Documentum) is “one bite at a time”.  A geographically displaced workforce will require access to content often stored in legacy Documentum repositories.  While clients in the past have tried VPN tools for real-time access, the administration, resource requirements, infrastructure and business continuity issues is pushing clients to consider more of a cloud solution with publishing from Documentum.  These new cloud and mobile initiatives provide the perfect opportunity to take that first bite out of Documentum.  Clients considering building new interfaces outside the firewall typically will look Alfresco in the cloud for content management requirements rather than build out a new Documentum instance.

Cloud and Publishing Infrastructure – What is involved?

A year ago, we published some results from a Proof of Concept effort for providing access from the cloud for mobile approvers.  The complete post is available here.

The infrastructure approach we recommended was a “behind the firewall” migration service to monitor Documentum and copy content out of Documentum to an Alfresco instance for content approval.  The migration service would also monitor Alfresco for content that had completed the approval process and would ingest those items back into Documentum.  For this approach, the migration service is pushing and pulling content back and forth from Documentum and Alfresco in the Cloud.

For mobile consumers, the architecture can be simplified.  The migration service would still monitor Documentum looking for relevant (not all) content to push to Alfresco but, since the application is only focused on consumers, would not be required to ingest any changes back into Documentum.  The migration service would also monitor Documentum looking for changes to documents (for example – documents that have become obsolete or superseded) to delete those documents from Alfresco.

Alfresco Cloud Architecture

This approach has a couple of major advantages on the traditional VPN access to Documentum including:

  • VPN Setup/Management – We have seen many third party applications fail simply because of the administration and security concerns with letting third parties through the firewall.  With this approach, not VPN access is required.
  • Business Continuity – Push Architecture rather than Live – The migration services (in the example above OpenMigrate ) is set up for the initial push as well as ongoing monitoring and pushes on set intervals (we have one client that publishes every three minutes).  If Alfresco or Documentum are unavailable, the service waits until both are available and “catches up” by pushing the new content and deleting any obsolete content.  In this manner, Alfresco users are not reliant on Documentum or access to Documentum.
  • Business Continuity – Multiple Cloud Repositories – Clients can set up multiple Alfresco repositories for different geographic regions (international for example) to have future business continuity.
  • Licensing – Documentum has moved away from “consumer” licenses for simple retrieval of documents to more of a named user.  Alfresco users can take advantage of CPU based licenses to quickly roll out the application to large consumer groups.

What are the “next bites” – Authoring and Approval – Department by Department – Document by Document

Once the migration infrastructure is in place, clients can take the next logical steps to continue the move from Documentum to Alfresco in the cloud.  Rather than a “big bang” approach, we would recommend a gradual conversion that moves the authoring and approval functions of Documentum to Alfresco.  Possible migration steps could include moving one department (ex: Accounts Payable) followed by another department (ex: Legal) until all departments are moved off of Documentum.  Another approach might be focused on documents that cross departments.  For example, all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) could be migrated followed by moving all Invoices.


While many clients can see the need to migrate from Documentum to Alfresco, often a complete replacement can be daunting.  Rather than a big bang approach, clients should consider introducing Alfresco for new development efforts, particularly cloud and mobile efforts, to gradually introduce Alfresco.  A big component of the architecture for this gradual approach is a migration utility capable of synchronizing content between the two repositories.

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