Eprise: Content management contender

Eprise has been around the CM (content management) space for some time, and the 2004 version puts this Web content management application on solid footing.

Having helped manage a large and complex Eprise-based Web site for several years, I found the changes in Eprise 2004 very appropriate. Performance is much improved, Web services support streamlines site integration, and the app is more reliable.

I tested Eprise 2004 in a secure, three-tier datacenter environment: three load-balanced, multi-processor Windows 2000 Web servers connected to three Eprise 2004 application servers that feed a Microsoft SQL 2000 database cluster.

Eprise has always shone in rendering custom Web content based on users' roles, and continues to do so in this version. To set this up, developers block out areas of each Web page and assign correct permissions using the Java UI.

Doing this work and ongoing maintenance is relatively straightforward, because the Eprise UI presents all components in a neat hierarchical fashion. A single copy of content is shared among many sites, with each site presenting the content with a different look depending on a user's permission level. The content sharing makes managing multiple sites less complex.

Another development consideration is how contributors create, edit, and approve content. Eprise 2004 has a new ReadyEdit feature that can sometimes be used instead of JavaScript-based forms for code-free, in-place editing and a true WYSIWYG experience. Most large Eprise sites will also want to employ PowerCode, SilkRoad Technology Inc.'s VisualBasic-like scripting language for interacting with the CMS (content management system) database, manipulating folders, and handling workflows. Significantly, PowerCode 2.0 now allows you to use .Net languages such as C# and VB.Net to build and compile the aforementioned functions so they run faster.

Furthermore, Eprise 2004 both consumes and exposes Eprise functions as callable Web services; because many Web developers are familiar with Microsoft Corp. and Web services technologies, creating and integrating Eprise sites is easier and faster.

Changes to Eprise 2004's underlying application code dramatically improve performance in how pages are rendered and with maintenance tasks. This version adds a new command that caches common elements included on each page; in one case, this reduced page loading from 4 seconds to a half-second. Log-in times are also greatly reduced, and the time required to import content to the database is reduced by 80 percent compared with Version 4.2.

I found the suite more reliable in several scenarios. Cache synchronization is now fault-tolerant, ensuring that all servers contain a copy of the most recent content should one go down. Eprise 2004 is also qualified for Microsoft Windows Server 2003, giving you the benefits of this OS's improved stability, security, and app partitioning.

I would like to see better content replication. In Eprise 2004, replication involves a rather convoluted process of manually transferring content files from one database server to another. Ideally, a content change in one setting would be automatically published to other designated databases. SilkRoad officials say better content replication may come in a release later this year.

Eprise 2004 provides very good value for its reasonable cost, and I believe it should be on a CMS evaluation short list. With the new Eprise Software as a Service option, it's a low-risk proposition for pilot or departmental projects.

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Mike Heck

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