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A battle is brewing for a piece of some increasingly lucrative tech turf: Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECM). Analyst group IDC posits that the global Content Management market is growing at a steady rate and that software revenues from the segment will reach US$ 5.9 billion by 2010. The trend clearly has not gone unnoticed by the major players and over the course of the last 12 months we have seen significant movement in the market as the players position themselves to grab their share - and perhaps a little of the other guys’, too.
Why hasn’t this trend gotten much notice in the tech press? Plain and simple: The topic is lacking in the sexy department and it’s all just a little too nebulous to make good tech copy. The term “content management”, for example, is used so broadly in the industry that it is hard to define succinctly and clearly. As a result, the story has never percolated above the lip of the specialty trade publications that focus on such things.
To cut to chase: What exactly did happen in the ECM space in 2006?
The first significant move came early in the year, with RedHat’s acquisition of JBoss. While the trades focused on the middleware aspects of the deal, the acquisition also brought RedHat a powerful portal system. JBoss Portal is one of only two Open Source business portal systems which has a shot at making a mark on the Enterprise market. Competing directly with LifeRay, JBoss Portal was recently hailed by research firm Optaros as the most deployed open source software portal. You can bet that we will see moves to bundle the open source JBoss Portal with RedHat Enterprise Linux; a strategy that will be aimed squarely at IBM’s proprietary WebSphere Portal offering.
While the RedHat trade was the only big move in the first half of the year, things really heated up in the last six months. In August, Open Text edged out competing bidder Symphony to acquire Hummingbird (who in turn had just acquired RedDot the year before). The deal was valued at $89 million, but the actual cost also included an additional kill fee of $ 11.7 million that Open Text had to pay to Symphony. Despite the premium, the deal was a strategic success for Open Text as they eliminated a direct competitor in the enterprise document management space (and an indirect competitor in several other areas). If Open Text can integrate successfully these two systems without a stumble, it will strengthen their presence in the market significantly and may make them the sole independent player in the ECM market in 2007.
Also in August, IBM stepped up to the plate and took down FileNet for a cool $1.6 billion - their largest acquisition since the $2.1 billion purchase of Rational in 2002. The FileNet deal was interesting not only for the content management aspects, but also because FileNet was arguably IBM’s biggest competitor in the imaging market. This acquisition gives IBM serious cred in the business content management space, where imaging and document management are huge drivers. Another bit of relevant trivia on this trade: This was the largest acquisition in the CMS space since ECM grabbed Documentum for $ 1.7 billion in late 2003.
Finally, to round out an acquisition crazy August, J.L. Halsey picked up the CMS HotBanana for an undisclosed price. Regrettably, at this time of this writing J.L. Halsey still has not changed the name of the software… (Don’t even get me started about one of their services: “HotBanana OnDemand.”)
Things quieted down for a couple of months but then November arrived with a boom as industry giant Oracle gobbled up Stellant for $440 million (a 25% premium above their share price). The purchase brought Oracle not only Stellant technology, but also a client base of over 4,700 Stellant customers.
Looking back on these events, one sees clearly a picture of consolidation among major players who are recognizing the strategic advantage of providing for the content management needs of their clientele. One thing is certain: The future will continue to bring greater demands on organizations to acquire, manage and distribute the content generated by their employees, partners and customers. With the emergence of Web 2.0 into the enterprise space, the variety of formats and the techniques for joining that content into collaborative frameworks will additionally impose burdens to provide not only reliable solutions, but to remain innovative.
What’s next? With RedHat, Oracle and IBM now in the game with serious systems in their catalog, traditional players like Microsoft, Interwoven and Sun will be pressed to remain competitive. Moreover, with Microsoft’s SharePoint Portal looking very strong these days, you also have to wonder how many players this market can support and whether the next wave of change in this segment will be characterized by attrition.
This article originally appeared in ComputerWorld (HK) in March of 2007.