IBM's IICE heats up content federation

It's an undeniable problem. Many IT sites lack uniform access to unstructured data locked away in ECMSes (enterprise content management systems), workflow software, and other repositories. Data in these systems is frequently accessible only through the vendors' proprietary interfaces, and so federating it is difficult.

Search engines do a terrific job of federating search access, but they merely provide read access. For plenary access, sites need a product that not only locates content but can add, modify, delete, and manage data items through a uniform interface.

IBM's WebSphere IICE (Information Integrator Content Edition) v. 8.3 provides just this capability for ECMSes from IBM itself (DB2 Content Manager, WebSphere Portal Document Manager, and Lotus Notes), IBM's recently acquired FileNet (P8), Documentum Content Server, Open Text Livelink, Stellent Content Server, and Interwoven Team Suite, among others. IICE also provides read-only access to IBM DB2 and Oracle databases, as well as DBMSes that can connect through other IBM products.

Because of the complexity of setting up substantial content repositories on multiple platforms for testing purposes, I reviewed IICE at IBM's site --so this review isn't hands-on in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, I got a good sense of the features and benefits, and it is clear that IICE is a robust and expansive solution. I was impressed with IICE's capabilities, but was taken aback by its hefty price tag and disappointed that it doesn't integrate with more systems.

IICE is generally deployed in conjunction with IBM's other information and data management solutions. However, it is just as comfortable being a stand-alone package. In the former configurations, IICE serves either as a front end to an ECMS or as a middle layer between users and back-end systems containing unstructured data.

IICE works with content repositories by relying on their own proprietary APIs to do the work. For example, to search ECMSes, a user will enter the search terms on an IICE console. The package then runs the search against all the content management systems using their interfaces, normalizes the returned results, and displays them in a Google-like interface. IICE transparently handles single sign-on --with integration with LDAP and Active Directory --for authorization, and it relies on the respective back ends to enforce access control.