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IBM fills out Lotus Workplace with Aptrix

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IBM has joined the ranks of the other major vendors of content management and collaboration software and decided to acquire a key building block of its enterprise content management strategy, rather than build it itself, writes Martin Langham of Bloor Research.

Usually, acquiring additional functionality from a third-party vendor can lead to problems in maintaining a high level of integration between all parts of the content management portfolio. This time it looks like IBM is going to avoid most of the integration pain because Aptrix, its chosen partner, has worked with IBM for several years and there is already a high level of integration between the products.

The fruits of this merger will be known as the IBM Lotus Workplace Content Development and it will fill a gap in IBM's enterprise content management portfolio by providing good support for Web content publishing on the internet and to extranets and intranets.

The use of Workplace in the title of this product is significant. This new content management product is another part of the emerging IBM Lotus Workplace strategy. Lotus WorkPlace Messaging was released in May 2003 to provide an easy-to-use, industrial-strength, Web-based e-mail solution to deskless workers and IBM has recently renamed its Domino-based tool for ad-hoc collaboration, Quickplace, as IBM Lotus Team Workplace.

Although it is a lot quicker to build a product portfolio by acquisition rather than by development, you run the risk of creating overlaps in function and mismatches in technology. The biggest overlap in Lotus Workplace Content Development functions is with DB2 Content Manager. IBM says these two products offer different functionality. DB2 Content Manager is a back-end enterprise-class system that integrates multimedia content from different repositories. Lotus Workplace Content Development focuses more on the publishing and authoring aspects of online content management. Aptrix also offers a version of the Aptrix Content Server that integrates with IBM DB2 Content Manager where DB2 performs as the database engine.

The other good news from IBM's point of view is that the Aptrix product can already run on both IBM WebSphere and the Domino Application Server - fitting in well with IBM's overall game-plan to build a Lotus Workplace platform that can bridge both these application servers.

As well as plugging a hole in IBM's Workplace strategy it looks like Aptrix is a pretty competent Web content management product. It has particular strengths in workflow management so that Webmasters can use it confidently to distribute authorship of Web content without losing control of the integrity and quality of the content published.

Aptrix has an additional software product called Aptrix Connect that can be used to integrate content from any source such as HTTP, Notes and SQL Servers, LDAP servers, files and SMTP mail. This uses caching to ensure that the web site performance does not suffer.

So, even though IBM has acquired its Web content management capability rather than built it itself, it looks like a pretty good fit and there is no doubt that it will help IBM to compete in the enterprise content management market. One by one, IBM is putting its dominoes together on the table.

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