Version 8, scheduled for release in September, is capable of accessing and retrieving information in various forms, including scanned images as well as audio and video files. This capability should ultimately make corporate accounts respond faster and more efficiently to the needs of their users and business partners, IBM officials believe.
IBM has for several years focused on content management (CM) as part of its overall data management strategy.
"Companies are beginning to think about assets like scanned images and other multimedia data as just that - information assets that they need to leverage," said Janet Perna, vice-president and general manager of IBM's data management business. "But to do that they need a place from which this content can be repurposed," she said.
A recent report released by analyst organisation Meta Group predictred that 95% of all Global 2000 firms will have a CM infrastructure in place by 2004.
IBM officials said they have improved the performance of their product's search capabilities by 35%. In addition, Version 8 includes improved programming capabilities that enable developers to build applications some 30% faster than Version 7, according to Brett MacIntyre, vice-president of content management at IBM.
"There is more and more application development going on around IBM Content Manager," he said.
The improvements should cut down on the cost and resources used to integrate CM-related data into both new and existing third-party applications, company officials claimed.
The product's added performance in accessing rich media files, in part, comes from better leveraging the existing capabilities of IBM's DB2. Using what IBM officials call "federated data management," the product can now access data in Lotus Notes and products made by Oracle, Documentum, FileNet, Sybase and Microsoft's SQL Server.
A federated approach - compared to a more centralised approach used by some IBM competitors - allows users to build more efficiently on their existing infrastructure, resulting in increased scalability and reliability while lowering the product's total cost of ownership, IBM officials claimed.
According to Rob Perry, senior analyst at the Yankee Group, CM through a federated management layer makes sense as a way to manage data strewn across multiple repositories.
"The federated approach is a good approach because it assumes not all content is right for a single repository, or that content may exist in many different repositories. It recognises that companies are very diverse, particularly large companies," Perry said.
Content Manager Version 8 features a new "unified programming interface" that officials contend eliminates the need for developers to write multiple programs for specific text search requests and to more easily integrate Content Manager with new applications.
"We are really unifying our API set to get to much simpler APIs," MacIntyre said. "We are also building widgets and common building blocks within the browser client and within the Windows client for rapid application development."
Other improvements include the integration of Content Manager with LDAP and new Java-based tools that allow for central administration from any location. This should cut down the time associated with carrying out system administration.
"What we have done [with Content Manager Version 8] is to provide a data store with a Java-based open API so independent software vendors, systems integrators and corporate clients can build applications and be able to store and retrieve their content including unstructured data," Perna said.
IBM has also added support for the MPEG-4 standard for steaming media as well as enhanced support for XML through a new query features based around the XPath Query Language. It has also added a single sign-on capability.