While much of the world was enjoying their vacation, EMC made a quiet announcement of some significance: buying X-Hive, a Dutch company that provides a native XML database and content component management system (called "Docato"). It was so quiet that it almost seemed apocryphal; after all there was no matching press release on either companies' site. Yes, it happened and the acquisition is complete.
At first glance, it seemed unusual. What about EMC's existing XML offering and content component management capabilities? Una Kearns, EMC's Director of Technology says, "XML is really coming of age; we see it as being central to information management. EMC has been looking for a rich and robust XML repository solution with great strengths in XML and XML query management and X-Hive was the product that measured up. We're very excited about the opportunities to integrate with our existing content component strategy and provide next-generation smart delivery of content."
Over the next year EMC says it plans to have X-Hive/DB become core to every EMC product offering that requires a native XML repository for XML content, and provide robust XQuery for fast search, retrieval and content delivery. Eventually the functionality of Docato will also be integrated. We anticipate that X-hive will first be integrated in EMC's relatively new DITA offering (its "Technical Publications Solution").
Coming on the heels of the recent Tridion acquisition by SDL, which validated the role of XML and content component management in translation, this move highlights the value of XML as an information management tool, moves content component management (CCM) fully into the realm of the enterprise, and increases the functionality of search through XQuery. This also changes the CCM market dynamics, where currently the key players are small companies that provide good solutions, to one where there is now a "heavy" Tier 1/Enterprise competitor in town.
This acquisitions is not without its shortcomings. What's going to happen to the existing X-hive customer base and partner integrations? While EMC has promised to continue to support them and improve the product, I suspect that X-hive will become so deeply integrated that these customers will either be converted to full Documentum or fall by the wayside. Also, it adds another repository to EMC|Documentum's stack after the company spent a lot of energy touting its "single repository" approach to enterprise content management.
I also wonder if this move will be as industry-shifting as EMC has positioned it. Will a good product disappear into the arms of a really big company? Will the integration occur but only be realized in Technical Publications Solution, only one facet of content component management? Will the benefit to the enterprise information management extend only to XQuery and not full content component management to every aspect of enterprise information management? We'll be watching...