SolNet backs local content management firm

SolNet is switching its content management loyalties to a Wellington-based start-up, acknowledging that it has downgraded its relationship with US software giant Vignette.

SolNet is switching its content management loyalties to a Wellington-based start-up, acknowledging that it has downgraded its relationship with US software giant Vignette.

The Sun sales agent and development company is helping E-cision with Java development, understanding the local market and representation “in some cases”, says SolNet e-business solutions manager Mike Lowe. It has also explained the company’s software architecture to venture capitalists and other third parties, he says, but has not directly invested in E-cision.

The company’s flagship product is the high-end content management and workflow software WebNovo, though the company recently launched a lower-end version aimed at the New Zealand market, WebNovo Express.

SolNet was previously a “value-added reseller” of Vignette, says Lowe. He says Vignette’s V5 is a feature-rich content management suite, but SolNet felt the company was positioning the product as a development architecture, a move SolNet was not comfortable with, given that it is “very expensive” and as an architecture is “quite dated”, says Lowe.

Sydney-based Vignette Australasian partner manager Chris Mollo says the two-year relationship with SolNet is up for renewal but he wasn’t aware of any changes to it. Sun remains one of Vignette’s “more strategic partners”, he says.

The technology head at Vignette site nzoom, Alex Filkin, defends the product, saying what it does, it does well. He accepts that it is expensive and the dated architecture claim is “probably fair”, though he notes features such as multithreading have been added to Vignette’s V5.

He has also in the past slammed local support; but says at the enterprise level Vignette still emerges as the best at the price. It is scalable, customisable and a “tried, true” solution, he says. Anyone who thinks they can have a flexible product out of the box is “deluding themselves”. Smaller content management firms are also likely to struggle with larger customers, he says.

E-cision managing director Anton Donde says its six customers to date -- companies such as Istart.co.nz, www.bnb.co.nz and Hitachi Data Systems in this country and one in the US -- have all been developed using Cold Fusion, but it is moving to the J2EE Java development platform and using Enterprise Java Beans, with SolNet’s help. “The Java’s going to do what the Cold Fusion did, plus a whole lot more.”

The company came out with a finished product in June 2000 after developing WebNovo for nine months. Lowe says building in J2EE will produce more flexible, scalable and secure applications than from within suites like Vignette.

Donde says other content management applications “hard-code” the relationships between content, meta data and navigation; E-cision lets business users reorganise a site “generally” without recoding. Nevertheless, Donde says WebNovo is not directly targeting products such as those from Vignette, Documentum and InterWoven, but “one tier below”.

E-cision claims lower pricing -– from $200,000 for WebNovo and from $25,000 for Express -- quicker implementation and thus faster return on investment than through larger vendors. The high-end product, he acknowledges, will need customisation, though Express can be used “out of the box”.

The five-person E-cision implements its product through companies such as SolNet and Sytec, and prefers to perform “second-tier support” itself.

Donde, who spent nearly two decades in the US, is looking stateside for future company growth, projecting 85% of revenue to come from the US within five years. E-cision’s chief architect, Jeremy Buckley, completed his maths PhD in the US. Part of the company’s recent rebranding, from Infinet, was because there was a US company with same name. Donde believes there are only 200 to 300 “high-end opportunities” in New Zealand.

E-cision, whose growth so far has been funded by shareholders in the company, expects to raise the necessary venture capital for ongoing expansion by the end of the year.

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