Day Software's David Nuescheler (CTO) and Kevin Cochrane (the company's new CMO) were in town last week, and we had an interesting lunchtime conversation, much of it centered on the long-awaited Version 5 of Day Communiqué, the planned release date for which is ... November 14.
Without spoiling the suspense, let me just say that CQ 5 (not unexpectedly) demos well and is replete with enhancements that are certain to wow many a new customer while also mollifying many an existing customer (including some who've waited years for these functionalities).
But for me, the most impressive features of CQ 5 are in areas other people might not think are sexy. Admittedly, I'm a bit of an alpha-geek; I like to know what's going on under the covers, and I get jazzed about architectural minutiae that would bore the average system administrator to tears. But I've also spent enough time (in prior lives at SilverStream and Novell) installing, troubleshooting, upgrading, configuring, using, and documenting Java-based systems to know how important the seemingly small things can be for achieving acceptable quality-of-life.
Installation pain is a prime example of what I'm talking about. I can name popular products (you probably can, too) that require two full days of hair-pulling and hoop-jumping before you can light up localhost and get "Hello World" to stop throwing exceptions. The excuse is often given: "You only have to go through this pain once, therefore it's not really a cost-of-ownership issue in the broader scheme of things..." Which of course is not a good excuse for having to endure a time-wasteful, ibuprofen-intensive installation process. With Communiqué 5, Day has made installation about as painless as it can be. With just a couple of mouse-clicks to kick off the installer, you can lay down a sandbox-worthy system in less time than it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn.
"Upgrade pain" is another qualty-of-life issue for ECM and WCM system admins. Day Software has done some exemplary work here. With CQ 5 comes a hot-upgrade utility that allows you to migrate from CQ 3 or 4 straight to CQ 5 while editors, content creators, and administrators are still using the old system. You don't have to take the system down in order to upgrade, nor do you have to go through a two-phase process of migrating content, then migrating changes that occurred while the original migration was underway. During the hot-migration process, Day activates change-listeners on your old system, ensuring continuous synchronization of content even as users continue to author and approve material in the old environment.
System backup and "point in time" snapshots with rollback capability are yet another area where most WCM vendors leave customers in the House of Pain. Again, Day has done some good work here. Unlike other products that merely back up your content and templates (and maybe a few artifacts here and there), CQ 5 actually backs up your entire system, including all configuration settings, all logs, license keys, credentials, state information, dependencies, everything necessary to fully recreate the running system. When you later unpack the snapshot (a .zip file), it "installs" itself and recreates the previous environment bit-for-bit. "This is a boon for customer service scenarios," David Nuescheler explains, "because now you can just send me your entire system as a snapshot, and I can reproduce your problem on my machine exactly."
Probably the most impressive thing I saw in CQ 5 when David demonstrated it to me on his PowerBook was the hot-scale-out capability of the newly updated CRX repository. Every copy of CRX comes clusterable by default (i.e., cluster capability is not "added on" or sold as an extra-cost upgrade). In essence, a single-repository install of CQ 5 is just a cluster of one. To add more nodes, you simply install more CRX instances (on as many different boxes or blades as you want), run a wizard that asks you for the URL of the primary node, click OK, and wait for the new nodes to connect themselves together automatically. In demos, David and Kevin routinely do the grid-expansion trick between their two laptops (one of which is a Windows machine, the other of which runs MacOS), wirelessly, in real time -- and I must say, it's a jawdropper. I've never seen clustering done this easily.
These are just a few of the seemingly less important, easy-to-overllook features of CQ 5 that may not make for sexy screen shots or wow the typical business user, but are bound to have a big impact on people who administer, maintain, troubleshoot, and/or implement solutions built on Day Communiqué. In today's market, most WCM vendors are struggling mightily to come up with differentiators for their products. Day, it seems, has found a few -- in the unlikeliest of places.
If there is a fly in this nice ointment, it is that (as Web CMS Report readers know), Day has a history of demonstrating impressive engineering feats that don't always work as well as intended in real enterprise environments. So, as always, test first, before you buy.