NXT 3 harnesses distributed data

As we move toward the Next Generation Internet—with its promise of less human interaction and more intelligent application-based information exchange — the need to rein in content has never been greater.

Organizations often create content in a distributed fashion, and managing and maintaining it is a major challenge facing information technology professionals today.

NextPage Inc. tackles that challenge with its modular NXT 3 platform. You can get a feel for the power of NXT 3 by visiting the federal government's FedStats Web site (www.fedstats.gov), where NXT 3 helps manage content from more than 100 federal agencies.

In its current form, NXT 3 requires the use of a server running Microsoft Corp. Windows NT (Service Pack 3 or later) or Windows 2000. However, the company plans to add a Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris version this summer.

We set up NXT 3 on a Windows 2000 Advanced Server platform and found it to be a straightforward process.

NXT 3 has seven built-in modules. The first is the Content Server, which aggregates and maintains access to content regardless of format or physical location. We set up NXT 3 to manage content in a distributed test environment, which simulated the content activity of a large university campus with multiple physical locations, departments and users with varying levels of access and publishing rights.

The administrative tools made it easy to define layouts and update processes and user-access rights. For example, the students in our design classes were given rights to author and change documents, but only the instructor was allowed to delete content. NXT 3 uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) to support navigation and the indexing of text and other elements.

Another NXT 3 module, Content Syndicator, provides the power to manage distributed content. The module includes LiveSyndication Protocol, which supports content syndication in real time in a distributed network setting. For example, multiple publishers within our test campus created and maintained content. LiveSyndication Protocol enabled users to access all of that content in real time while the content itself remained with its creators.

Three more modules are called Content Adapters—the ODBC Adapter, URL Content Adapter and File System Content Adapter—which help support access to various formats. The NXT 3 solution was able to support all of our formats, which included HTML and XML documents, Adobe Systems Inc. PDF files and data stored in an IBM Corp. DB2 database.

NXT 3 does a good job of supporting legacy client/server environments by providing access to documents regardless of their native formats. For example, we created several documents using Sun's Star.Office and saved them in a .doc format. Acting as end users on another machine, we were then able to view the same documents using Microsoft Word. The Next.Page solution also is capable of converting documents into HTML on the fly.

The sixth module is a search engine. We particularly liked the conceptual searching and summarization capabilities. The engine analyzes content for key points and can provide related results for users. For example, our test students were able to examine content for several types of biological data, including astrobiology and molecular biology. Using the related content function, our test users could home in on precisely the type of biological data they needed. NXT 3 also can analyze a document and dynamically create a summary for it.

The last module is the Security Services component, which covers authentication, authorization and metering. Authentication supports user name and password access, as well as digital certificates and other forms of security. Users also need authorization to gain access to specific documents or perform certain actions. Metering further checks up on users by applying usage-based criteria before enabling access.

The NXT 3 solution is a step in the right direction and shows promise for helping IT departments finally gain the upper hand on distributed content management.

The NextPage solution may be priced a bit steeply for many agencies. Those who need to keep costs down may want to consider open-source solutions or commercial middle-tier products that address the same issues. However, keep in mind that NXT is more integrated than some other solutions in the marketplace.

Biggs (maggie@biggs.com) has more than 15 years of strategic and tactical, business and IT experience in the financial sector.

REPORT CARD

NXT 3

Score: B+NextPage Inc.
(800) 639-8724
www.nextpage.com

NXT 3 costs $25,000 for 25 users and $85,000 for 250 users.

NXT 3 enables distributed offices to more easily provide access to contentstored in a variety of formats. On-the-fly content conversion is available.The result is highly accessible content that appears as a single sourceof information rather than a distributed information set.

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