|By Steve Drucker||
|August 12, 2003 12:00 AM EDT||
After evaluating and deploying a number of content management systems over the past five years, I guess I've become a bit jaded. Frankly, they all just started to look the same. To be sure, each one has core strengths and weaknesses. Each is usually geared to fit a certain vertical market (education, for example), and many have similar levels of functionality. All of them have significant usability issues - particularly when authoring content that requires HTML tables.
So when I was asked to write a review of LayerIT CMS (priced at $2,695 for the enterprise edition), I expected to find another run-of-the-mill low-end system that wrapped a minor bit of code around a third-party WYSIWYG editor. What I discovered was an innovative, technically sophisticated, easy-to-use content authoring system that may someday be a real force to be reckoned with.
What Is a Web Content Management System?
A good CMS enforces business rules and facilitates the addition and editing of content on a Web site. Typical features include the ability to modify content through a Web browser based on a series of templates, full-text searching, approval workflow, security, data versioning, and library services. The goals of deploying a CMS include, but are not limited to, pushing the task of Web site authoring down to the original content authors, ensuring consistency in the site branding through the use of templates, keeping content up-to-date, and making content easier to locate for both contributors and end users. Oddly enough, price does not necessarily correspond to features or quality in this particular market segment of computing. Frequently, less expensive products yield better results than those positioned for the "enterprise."
To Boldly Go Where No CMS Has Gone Before
One of the most common complaints I hear from CMS content contributors regards the overall usability of their systems. In particular, users have a difficult time with content layout - largely due to the morass of table-based positioning. LayerIT eschews the traditional CMS authoring model of using table-based formatting in favor of the long-ratified W3C CSS positioning standards. Content is generated following XHTML guidelines and wrapped by <div> tags that stipulate x, y, and z coordinates on a page.
As depicted in Figure 1, positioning content is a simple matter of using LayerIT's drag-and-drop DHTML-based interface. I found the content creation experience to be not unlike using Microsoft Publisher, whereas most other Web CM systems follow a Microsoft Word-centric approach to authoring and placement.
Worship at the Altar of Dan Steinman
Many facets of the authoring environment even functioned correctly in Netscape 4! Entering WYSIWYG content, however, remains browser-specific as LayerIT utilizes the SiteObjects editor (www.siteobjects.com), which does not support Netscape. Content generated from LayerIT displayed identically in all browsers tested.
Preventing Use of the <BLINK> Tag
Templates are created in LayerIT using the same authoring mechanism that's used to create content. No programming is required. It uses a metaphor that's usually found only in more expensive content management systems - treating templates as virtual transparency layers. If any template "layer" is modified, all pages that include that layer will reflect the change. This design is much more flexible and maintainable than using the single, monolithic template approach found in most CMSs. It also ensures that specific aspects of a site's branding will always remain intact, despite the desires of the amateur "designers" on your staff.
WISINWIW - What I See Is Not What I Want
As previously mentioned, LayerIT uses the SiteObjects Lite 2.5 editor (soEditor Lite 2.5). The integration of this component into their overall framework seems far from complete, however. There is no way to restrict access to WYSIWYG features for "challenged" users. Furthermore, I was shocked when my attempt to insert an embedded image into the WYSIWYG field was met with a generic image dialog box instead of a popup referencing the LayerIT asset repository. Furthermore, the editor is completely unaware of CMS-based pages when attempting to create a hyperlink between content.
Repeat After Me: 'It Wasn't Me...I Didn't Do It'
My evaluation version did not contain any versioning features; however, LayerIT has implemented this functionality for their next release. Planned functionality includes the ability to preview the current work-in-progress page, published page, and all prior versions of a page.
'If the Code Don't Fit, You Must Decrypt!'
Source code for LayerIT is encrypted; however, they provide an extensibility model for adding custom ColdFusion code. You can drop a reference to a custom ColdFusion module anywhere on a page. The output from the script will render within LayerIT's generated
Conan the Librarian
Library services, or the ability to upload, search, and deploy non-HTML content items such as images, are limited in this release. As depicted in Figure 2, while you can upload any document type into specified directories, there is no additional classification scheme that can be applied to the files. I suspect that this UI would start to become ungainly once hundreds of images were uploaded into a production system.
Worse still is LayerIT's "insert image" feature which takes all .gif and .jpg files and unceremoniously drops them into a single drop-down box from which the user must make his or her selection.
Content Approval and Security
Content approval and security have been implemented as a rigid, six-level hierarchy. Users may be assigned the following rights and each succeeding level inherits the rights, of those above it:
1. A READER can only view published pages
2. A CONTRIBUTOR can edit existing pages
3. An EDITOR can create, edit, and delete pages
4. An EDITOR II can create and edit templates, and edit the CSS
5. A DEVELOPER can create and initiate portlets
6. A PUBLISHER can approve pages for publication
This scheme should suffice for organizations that require only a single level of approval prior to publication. Pages can be marked for either anonymous login or member login.
HTML Is Good
The product allows you to create static HTML files from the dynamic content. This feature is typically found only on high-end content management systems and has a direct impact on scalability and portability of the site. Back when I was in the hosting business, we had an old P-90 that would regularly serve up 100K HTML page views a day. Unfortunately, I could not verify this particular feature as it failed when tested with an HTTP server 500 error.
I Am Not the Center of the Universe
I freely admit that I am an "ugly American" when it comes to localizing my applications for a non-U.S. market. Working with LayerIT reminds me that in order for an application to succeed on multiple continents, some attention must be paid. At the time of this review, all documentation for the product was in Norwegian; however, an English translation should be available by the time you read this. More regrettable is that while the system can automatically output the last updated date on a page, the list of formats does not include mm/dd/yyyy.
Fill in the Blanks
LayerIT shows remarkable poise for being essentially a 1.0 release. However, there are a number of issues with their architecture that could prove to be show-stoppers for those of you interested in the product. In particular, there appears to be no direct support for generating "printer-friendly pages." Also, the system utilizes a URL-based approach for distinguishing content. For example, the home page of my sample site is accessed through the following URL: http://localhost/layerit/index.cfm? pageID=2, while a different section page is displayed by typing this URL: http://localhost/layerit/index.cfm?pageID=23.
This URL-based data representation scheme can be difficult for Internet search engines to catalog appropriately and has been abandoned by higher-end CM systems in favor of more traditional "human readable" URLs. The lack of deep integration with the SiteObjects editor is particularly troubling.
I Could Have Been a Dentist...or a Doctor...or a Journalist...
One of the great "life lessons" that I have learned is that an innovative use of technology does not necessarily guarantee market success. In fact, sometimes the relationship between the two is inversely proportional. While LayerIT has a strong technical foundation for being a force in the CMS world, at the time of this writing they have but six commercial customers. Most established players have over a hundred. The company officially launched in February of this year, so there is a bit of risk associated with their "staying power" in the marketplace.
LayerIT is a dichotomy. While conquering the battle for creating a highly usable interface and embracing CSS positioning, its weak implementation of the WYSIWYG editor seriously compromises its usefulness. While striving to include high-end features like HTML generation, it contains a pedestrian implementation of library services. Considering its price-point, however, much of this is forgivable. For those of you on a tight budget wanting to deploy a CMS, LayerIT is certainly worth considering. I anxiously await their "official" 2.0 release that should clear up many of the issues I encountered. Then it may actually qualify as a "best value" for low-end CMS implementations.
LayerIT 2.0 (Pre-release)
Office: (+47) 71 11 50 00
Direct: (+47) 71 11 50 80
Fax: (+47) 71 11 50 01
E-mail: [email protected]
Dell Latitude C640, 512MB RAM 2.2 GHz P-4
ColdFusion 5.0, Windows 2000 SP2, Microsoft Access DB
Professional Edition: $1,398 USD
Enterprise Edition: $2,695 USD
Hosting Edition: $149/month USD
Target audience: Organizations that have small (<500 page) html-based Web sites
Pros: Low-cost leader, usable interface, easy to deploy
Cons: Limited approval/security framework, WYSIWYG editor integration needs work, new product with limited market penetration
Client platform: Administrative GUI supports IE 5+, Netscape 7/Mozilla. Server OS: Tested on Windows platforms only, CF 5/MX
Database support: MS Access, MS SQL Server
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Jan. 25, 2015 01:00 PM EST Reads: 3,717
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
Jan. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,112
“The age of the Internet of Things is upon us,” stated Thomas Svensson, senior vice-president and general manager EMEA, ThingWorx, “and working with forward-thinking companies, such as Elisa, enables us to deploy our leading technology so that customers can profit from complete, end-to-end solutions.” ThingWorx, a PTC® (Nasdaq: PTC) business and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider, announced on Monday that Elisa, Finnish provider of mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, will deploy ThingWorx® platform technology to enable a new Elisa IoT service in Finland and Estonia.
Jan. 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,421
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
Jan. 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST Reads: 2,825
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
Jan. 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST Reads: 2,761
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
Jan. 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,724
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...
Jan. 25, 2015 10:45 AM EST Reads: 2,870
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Jan. 25, 2015 10:45 AM EST Reads: 2,354
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Jan. 25, 2015 10:30 AM EST Reads: 2,209
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Jan. 25, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,795
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
Jan. 25, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,468
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Jan. 25, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,011
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Jan. 25, 2015 09:30 AM EST Reads: 2,067
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
Jan. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 2,361
Recurring revenue models are great for driving new business in every market sector, but they are complex and need to be effectively managed to maximize profits. How you handle the range of options for pricing, co-terming and proration will ultimately determine the fate of your bottom line. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder at Aria Systems, session examined: How time impacts recurring revenue How to effectively handle customer plan changes The range of pricing and packaging options to consider
Jan. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 2,378
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Jan. 25, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 2,647
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Jan. 25, 2015 01:45 AM EST Reads: 2,248
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Jan. 25, 2015 01:00 AM EST Reads: 2,454
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
Jan. 25, 2015 12:30 AM EST Reads: 3,377
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Jan. 24, 2015 06:15 PM EST Reads: 3,735