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Hybrid Enterprise Content Management and Cloud Computing

Migrating ECM Work Load to Cloud

Content Management as a Cloud Candidate
In my previous article on data warehouse workload as a candidate for cloud, I elaborated on How the hybrid delivery model Supports Data Warehouse migration into cloud.

Most of the major  IT companies predict a hybrid delivery in the future, where by the future enterprises need to look for a delivery model that comprises certain workloads on clouds and some of them continue to be on data centers, and then looks for a model that will integrate them together.

Much like data warehouses and business intelligence, content management is also a fit candidate for the cloud, especially in a hybrid delivery model.

Before we go further into a blueprint of how content management fits within a hybrid cloud environment, we will see the salient features of content management and how the cloud tenants make them a very viable work load to be moved to the cloud.

Enterprise content management is about managing the lifecycle of electronic documents. Electronic documents take many forms - data, text, images, graphics, voice or video - but all need to be managed so that they can be properly stored, located when needed, secured against unauthorized access, and properly retained.

Content management employs whatever components that are necessary to capture, store, classify, index, version, maintain, use, secure and retain electronic documents.

Content Management  Usage

Cloud Tenant Value Proposition

Time sensitive load patterns. Large amount of data needs to be indexed, processed and loaded into a content management system. However they are not of  OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) in nature, rather subject to periodical burst in load patterns.

The elastic nature of  Cloud is ideal for  loading the documents  based on demand and the  COMPUTE resources can be provisioned in a dynamic fashion.

Large amounts of storage needs. Ideally provisioned on demand. Due to the information explosion and more avenues for data acquisition, large enterprises are  generating  terabytes or even petabytes of content  each year.

Much similar to the COMPUTE resource, the STORAGE resources can be dynamically provisioned.

Content management requires lot of generic software, which need not  be purchased by every organization.

1.       The rendition engine  which provides the ability to render various documents' formats into  PDF, HTML, MS-Office, Audio, Video, Engineering Drawing etc...

2.       Creating images  using,  Scan, Fax or File Import

3.       OCR,  Bar Code Scanning

Accommodating these common services using a PaaS platform or SaaS based services is ideal rather than licensing them  within the enterprise

The following are the ideal steps for migrating an on-premise content management system to a cloud platform.

1. Capture Metadata About the Content
Typically documents that form part of content management are sourced from different applications within the organization. An enterprise content management system will only be useful, if the users of able to locate the documents of interest to them using the advanced search facilities.

The search related to documents can be possible only if relevant metadata (data about the document) of the documents is extracted and stored. There could be multiple types of metadata about a document that will be enabled for searches.

Typically the metadata about the documents is stored in a separate metadata repository outside of the content store itself. Also typically the metadata store will be a relational database.

This model facilitates business users to search the document attributes using several combinations before they retrieve the actual document itself.

As this metadata is repeatedly searched much more frequently than the actual document itself is viewed, it is only ideal that the metadata store is kept inside the ‘Premises'. Also the creation of metadata is much more real time in line with the underlying business processes.

These characteristics make the metadata capture and the associated storage be kept inside premises than moving that to the cloud.

2. Storage of the Actual Documents in Cloud Storage
Typically the meta data while is important it is relatively small size , however the actual document will be larger in size, especially if information like photos, videos or engineering drawings are stored. These documents will be ideal to store inside the Cloud Platform.

The PaaS or SaaS content management platform on cloud, like SharePoint Online, will have APIs to create folder structures and other attributes  required to physically store the document on the cloud.

PaaS platforms like Windows Azure and its offshoot SharePoint Online (part of office 365) are ideal for storing the documents in the cloud

The worker role and associated APIs can facilitate a asynchronous storage of the documents, so that after the metadata is saved, the end user or the application need not wait for the documents to be committed on the cloud

3. Rendering of Documents Based on User Request to the Cloud
While the user can search the metadata repository for different search conditions, the actual document can be viewed only by linking the metadata to the actual document stored in the Cloud platform.

Normally viewing of the document amounts to rendering the special type of content and also employ special algorithm for compression and decompression of the content and other buffering features to improve the performance.

This can be typically solved by utilizing the SaaS-based rendition platforms on the cloud or extending the PaaS platform.

Summary
The above steps will provide a blueprint of a hybrid enterprise content management on the cloud. The diagram below depicts the same.

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Highly passionate about utilizing Digital Technologies to enable next generation enterprise. Believes in enterprise transformation through the Natives (Cloud Native & Mobile Native).

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