Documentum's Fate Remains Unclear as Dell's Acquisition of EMC Nears


Circle Sept. 7 on your calendar. It marks the start of a new day in Information Technology.

Thirty-seven-year-old EMC will cease to be a publicly traded, independent company and will officially become part of Dell.

The Fate of EMC’s Enterprise Content Division

EMC’s homepage suggests the EMC/Dell conglomerate will focus on five specific areas: modern data center, all flash, converged infrastructure, hybrid cloud and big data.

It’s hard to see where EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD) fits into that mix — and even EMC executives are scratching their heads. One, who asked to remain anonymous, said simply, “There are no synergies (between ECD and the Dell EMC conglomerate).”

Neither EMC nor Dell responded to requests for comment from CMSWire.

Goodbye ECD

Though EMC and Dell have yet to publicly announce that EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD) is for sale (or perhaps spun-off), it’s become increasingly clear that there’s no room for it at Dell.

Given that, we thought now would be a good time to both look back and debate a significant question: Was EMC ever all that interested in ECM to begin with? CMSWire reached out to a number of analysts and experts to find out.

Documentum at EMC

EMC acquired Documentum in 2003. The enterprise content platform has gone through a few names over the years: CMA (Content Management and Archiving Division, EMC), IIG (Information Intelligence Group), ECD (Enterprise Content Division.)

The name changes never stuck no matter how much EMC executives begged the community.

“Look, could you quit calling it Documentum,” Mark Lewis, former president EMC CMA, once shouted at this reporter during a public Q&A.

Documentum Never Fit

Putting names aside, how did Documentum fit it into EMC? Digital Clarity Group analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe said two things went wrong, which left the huge potential of Documentum unrealized. He explained:

  • “First, EMC acquired VMware around the same time it acquired Documentum. VMware was a better technical and cultural fit for the storage giant and gained most of its love and attention. Documentum fell into the shadows fairly quickly.
  • “Secondly, there was a poor understanding by EMC of what Documentum would bring to the firm. There were two clashing sales approaches.
  • “EMC’s approach to selling storage is one of enthusiasm for data mountains and never needing to delete anything — fill one storage box and you will need to buy another. Documentum’s sales approach was exactly the opposite — manage closely only what you need and be in a strong position to discard and destroy the junk. The two were never going to meet in the middle.”

‘Unrealized Synergies’ Between EMC, Documentum

Marko Sillanpaa, co-founder of the Big Men On Content blog and former EMC and Documentum employee, told CMSWire the synergies between Documentum and ECM were never realized.

“Library services have been commoditized by products like Microsoft SharePoint. EMC lost the opportunity to bring a storage device to the market that could have taken library services to the next level. Offering Content-Addressable Storage with Enterprise Content Management features could have been a game changer,” he said.

Documentum ‘Didn’t Move the Needle’

John Kominetz, a software architect and engineer who once wrote a well-respected blog around Documentum, said, “EMC didn’t buy Documentum to innovate in the space. If they bought it to sell more hardware (my allegation from the start), then it was a failure because I don’t think it ever moved that needle much either way.”

But that wasn’t Kominetz’s biggest disappointment. There are two others: EMC Documentum’s inability to deliver on NextGen server technologies and its continuation of “the original policy of no direct developer support.”

“My biggest (expected) disappointment recently was the example code they dumped onto GitHub to make them buzzword compliant. EMC was bad for Documentum ‘developers’ and it wasn’t that great for Documentum integrators either,” he said.

EMC’s Software Visions

Johnny Gee of the Documentum Guru blog, said, “I still believe that at the time of the acquisition it was a good move. EMC wanted to move into software business and Documentum was an enterprise vendor that EMC shared with many customers. Unfortunately, EMC hardware sales/marketing is entirely different from Documentum software sales/marketing and the synergies never came to fruition. If EMC didn’t buy Documentum, Documentum would have probably ended up at Oracle or OpenText and who know what would have happen to the product stack?”

On Innovation: What Stands Out

Pelz-Sharpe’s pick:

  • “It’s easy to forget that Documentum was the genesis or at least the primary launching point for so many innovations in the ECM space from early collaboration tools (eRoom etc) through cross repository search and integration (askOnce) and of course its roots in developing virtual documents. It’s also worth noting that major acquisitions like Captiva and Document Sciences were bold at the time but had a huge influence in promoting and sustaining capture and document output technology in the marketplace.”

Sillanpaa’s pick:

  • “InfoArchive. I think it offers a different approach to decommissioning legacy apps but also a unique way to potentially create data lakes necessary for data analytics.” There was also a nice surprise, from his point of view, “ApplicationXtender was lost inside not only EMC ECD but also Legato before that. It’s a very strong platform. After being relegated to partner support a few years back, it has gotten new life in the last year with ECD.”

Gee agreed with Sillanpaa but added,

  • “I feel xCP was the most interesting innovation. It was designed as a complete replacement for Webtop. Although D2 has a more modern UI, its design roots are still WDK. xCP was built to address customers who were looking to build an application from ground up and is workflow centric.
  • “The challenge is that xCP was too buggy when it was initially released (2.0) and the early versions of it (1.5 and 1.6) were WDK based and not compatible with 2.0. I think EMC/Documentum learned from these mistakes and the slow release of LEAP applications that are built on entirely new platform is indicative of this cautiousness.”

Documentum’s Legacy

Despite the difficulties in the EMC/ Documentum relationship, the overall sentiment is a mix of nice surprises and disappointments. In either case, those days are done.

In the end, as Pelz-Sharpe put it:

“Documentum survives today and is still a recognized and respected brand in the industry — even though acquired by EMC it has to large degree maintained its autonomy. So in this regard things have worked out fairly well but all in all it has not been a happy relationship and has been difficult from the start.”

Title image by kazuend


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