July 26, 2004 2:24 PM PDT

IBM spices up content management play

IBM plans to spice up its content management software with XML technology that makes the storage and retrieval of corporate documents quicker and more flexible.

The technology, dubbed Project Cinnamon, is being developed at the company's Silicon Valley research labs, Big Blue said Monday. Within six months, the technology will be built into its DB2 Content Manager software for managing corporate information.

IBM said that a test version of DB2 Content Manager, which includes the Cinnamon tools and other graphical work flow tools, is available now.

The goal of Cinnamon is to speed up the process of setting up a content management system and simplify making changes to XML (Extensible Markup Language) document definitions once the system is up and running, said James Reimer, chief architect of IBM content management. The enhancements also will improve searching for documents on corporate networks and navigating through document repositories, he said.

IBM researchers focused on ways to "map," or convert, information formatted in different ways. For example, a company can use XML to describe the structure of an insurance claim but have a different document definition than a business partner. IBM's Cinnamon provides an automatic mapping function, so that the two disparate systems can exchange data by mapping the "customer name" field, for instance, from one document definition to another.

Using this mapping technology, IBM has created a tool for DB2 Content Management server that automatically creates the data model of a database based on the document type definitions or XML schemas sketched out by customers. Customers also can use the mapping technology to make changes to documents types automatically, Reimer said. For example, an insurance claim document could add another field for the type of auto under insurance without having to manually reconfigure its content management system.

"XML in and of itself is well-established, but the different (XML document definitions) in an industry group or within a company tend to evolve much more over time," Reimer said. Also, when two companies merge, there is usually a need to reconcile how both companies structured their XML documents within their content management systems.

IBM has singled out content management as one of its most promising areas for growth, designating it a top priority for its software group this year. The company has acquired smaller content management companies including document management firm Green Pasture and Web content management provider Aprix.

Demand for content management systems is relatively strong, as businesses seek tools to meet regulatory requirements for financial reporting or manage health care records. Industry analysts expect there will be consolidation among providers as larger companies such as IBM, Oracle and Microsoft move more aggressively into content management.

IBM on Monday also described other enhancements planned for DB2 Content Manager this year and available to beta testers now.

The company said it intends to simplify programming with its DB2 Content Manager by making the capabilities of the server software available as Web services, a set of industry-standard programming interfaces. By making the product accessible via Web services, developers can use mainstream development tools to build applications that can tap into data stores in IBM's content management system, Reimer said.

In an effort to improve interoperability between different content management systems, IBM said that it will incorporate support for a standard, called Java Specification Request 170, that is still under development. Once adopted in commercial products, customers will be able to more easily share information between content management systems from different vendors.

Unlike Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, which adopt city and place names for their code names, IBM's Silicon Valley lab gets its code names from food. Other code names include Masala, Garlic and Criollo, an expensive type of chocolate. The convention came about because Laura Haas, an IBM development manager for DB2 Information Integrator, complained to her boss years ago about how companies tend to pick arbitrary names. "We should pick things we like, like garlic and chocolate," she said. It stuck.

CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.

 

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