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First impressions of xCP 2.0

November 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Last week I attended the Momentum Developer Conference.It was the first one to be held in 6 years and it was a great succes.With all the new products that EMC is releasing there was a lot to be learned. And learn we did, in keynote sessions, presentations and hands-on labs.

One of my main interests was in xCP 2.0, a completely new product that can be used to create Documentum applications with a fresh, modern UI.The slides from Momentum in Vienna looked great, so I was keen to find out more. And so I did, in some great sessions, a full day of hands-on labs and a Hack-a-thon where we built our own xCP application.

My first impressions of xCP 2.0 are very positive. Having had experience with Documentum since Workspace 3.0 i can compare it with most of their products. The first thing I noticed is the overall level of enthousiasm. Dan Ciruli and Ahson Ahmad did a great co-presentation about what xCP can do and after that people really wanted to get their hands on and never let go. There is so much excitement in the developer community. They WANT to start building with this new tool. That is very different from the old applications like WebTop, where the feeling was more that you HAD to build with WDK, like it or not (and I won’t even go into RightSite here).

What can we expect from xCP2.0?

It is platform for building applications on top of Documentum 7.

It has a development tool called xCP Designer, that integrates and replaces all of the tools you needed for xCP 1 applications, like Composer, FormsBuilder and ProcessBuilder.

The Designer is used to configure all components of an application. Designer projects can be version controlled using SVN or some other version control system. Projects can be aggragated into libraries that can be re-used in other projects.

WDK has been replaced by a modern user interface based on HTML, CSS and extJS.

It supports all of the new D7 features, such as Business Events, Relationships and Stateless Processes.

Instead of FormsBuilder there is now a Page editor that can be used to build an application’s user interface. There is a Master Page and you can add your own pages. Pages are made up of widgets. The options for inter widget communication are very powerfull. Widgets can be linked so that a widget is updated when another widget’s content changes for instance. Combining that with the new expressions model and stateless processes opens up some great opportunities.

Data Services are operations on objects in the system. Data Services can be used to add, change, or delete information in your xCP application. Data Services are generated automatically for the object types you model in xCP Designer, so if you add a Employee, CaseFolder, or HrDocument type to your application, you will be able to use Data Servies to work with these objects in your application’s UI widgets, or processes. Data Services can also be created from Queries (DQL-, BAM- and full text queries).

Business Events are the replacement of the old TBO and give you the ability to configure many of the things that you needed to program in Java in D6. With a Business Event you can start a process, or add data to the BAM database when things happen to objects in the system, such as its properties change, it is linked, its is related to another object, etc.

Relationships aren’t actually new; they have been in the object model for years, but they have been enhanced so that the relation can have it’s own custom properties. xCP Designer supports releationships everywhere and really makes them shine. This really changes the way be build Documentum applications.

xCP leverages the xMS deployment mechanism. It takes a bit of setting up, but after that, deploying your application can be done by simply clicking the green ‘play’ button in xCP Designer. Very nice!

So, what is my impression, having worked with it for a day?

I think it’s great. This is the sort of thing that Documentum needed, the sort of thing that can change a customer’s mind set from ‘Why do I want this?’ to ‘I really want this!’ The sort of thing that will finally stop the old timers from thinking back warmly to the good old days of WorkSpace.

The new xCP model offers so much power and flexibilty that we spent a full day in labs with a room full of developers and none of them complained that we did not write any code at all.

The only things that can bar xCP2 from being a success now are product bugs and frustrations in run-time debugging. As for the former, we will see in the coming months but it looked pretty stable in the labs. As for the latter, the xCP product team is working on an end-to-end debugger in xCP Designer.

Enough said, I am off to the PowerLink download site. D7 and xCP2 are available there now!

 

Meanwhile at #MMTMDevCon – The EMC Developer Conference

November 14th, 2012 2 comments

Last week Vienna was the place for the annual Momentum conference, the place where the European Documentum community gathers to exchange news and views and to get the latest on what EMC has been doing and is planning for the IIG products. In Vienna a whole list of product announcements where made, most notably the release of Documentum 7.0, xCP 2.0 and Captiva 7.0.

Now this week nerds techies people from around the world gather in Pleasanton for the Momentum Developer Conference, right next to the EMC IIG headquarters. This is where a lot of technical details of all the new products are going to be revealed and where developers can actually get their hands on in lab sessions. The first 2 days of keynotes and presentations where very interesting. Now I am ready to get my hands dirty tomorrow.

I had 2 main questions for this conference:

  1. What are the differentiators between D2 and xCP2. When should my clients use the former and when the latter?
  2. What are the migration options to the new products?

Here is what I gathered so far.

When should you use D2 and when xCP2 ?

D2 4.0 is the User Interface that focuses on configuration instead of coding. Everything plus your grandma’s rocking chair can be modelled using the D2 configuration interface. The downside for some clients is that D2 cannot be extended with custom code. You have to make do with what is in the D2 box. There are simple consequences. For instance eRoom or CenterStage like collaboration functionality is not possible in D2 4.0, as is Records Management and Brava! viewer integration will be added in 4.1. Also in 4.1 or 4.2 all ‘specialized interfaces’ such as CenterStage, eRoom and Media Workspace will be incorporated into D2.

Then there is xCP 2.0. You may not gather this from the name, but this is a completely new product that goes way beyond anything that was offered with xCP 1.x. It offers a completely new way of building applications on Documentum and ties into the new D7 features, such as the Business Objects, the event model, stateless processes and xMS deployment. xCP Designer is a new unified developer IDE that replaces all 6 tools that were needed to build something for xCP 1.
xCP2 also focuses on configuration in stead of coding. The difference being that xCP has build-time configuration and D2 has run-time configuration.
xCP2 also has well defined extension points, that you can use if you need customization.

As far as the UI goes, both D2 and xCP2 produce modern looking flexible user experiences, based on HTML5 and JavaScript. Both offer UI widgets that can be used to compose role based user interfaces. The functionality offered in D2 is more geared towards Content centric applications and the focus of xCP2 is more toward Process or Case centric applications, but that is not a great differentiator. Going forward, the choice will become even more difficult, as there is talk of supporting D2 configuration in xCP and visa versa and there is even talk of the 2 UI’s merging completely into 1 unified UI.

So what to advice to clients that are looking for an improved UI? There are clear cases where D2 is not appropriate. The word is still out on the other cases. If D2 can fully support your use case, why not use it? But then again, why not use xCP?

What are migration options ?

Migration is my other area of interest this week. It turns out that there is a fairly clear migration strategy that most customers can follow. It requires a phased approach.

  1. Upgrade your client UI to version 6.7SP2. This is needed because 6.7SP2 clients are certified against D7 server as well as older servers (6.5, 6.6 and 6.7). This will give you a working system with a 6.7SP2 client working with the server that is still on the version that you were on.
  2. Now you can upgrade the server to D7. The 6.7SP2 clients will work with that server. It is advised to do the upgrade by creating a clone environment first and then performing the upgrade on the clone. This gives you the opportunity to upgrade the server HW and OS and has the advantage that the old server can keep running while you do the upgrade.
  3. Now you can upgrade the clients to D2, xCP, or Webtop 7.0. This may not need to be a big-bang conversion. You can go over 1 application at a time and may even select a different UI for each application that you have, though using more than 1 product may present a challenge on the license front. Webtop is still there but is not being developed. When you do go over to D2 or xCP2, you should redesign your whole application because the interfaces are so different and you would just miss out on most of the fun if you try to rebuild your Webtop as-is in one of the new UI’s.

More to come, stay tuned…