Content Lakes Are Rising

Cloud Innovators Are Driving the Emergence of “Content Lake as a Service”

Joseph Bentzel, Platformula Group


Introduction: CLaaS Acts in Cloud

If you work in enterprise IT or cloud computing you’ve no doubt heard the term “data lake”, i.e. a unified repository of big data used by multiple parts of the business. If you haven’t, here’s a quick overview from Hortonworks.

As 2015 unfolds, we’re seeing something very similar to the enterprise data lake architecture pattern driving the evolution of content-centric computing in the age of cloud. I think of this as the rise of ‘content lakes’.

Smart folks that understand the importance of “intelligent content” to 21st century enterprises have seen the content lake pattern coming into focus for some time now — and have evangelized the need for a creative fusion of “content strategy and information architecture” (Ann Rockley). We’re now seeing creative implementations of this vision take hold in meaningful ways across multiple cloud markets.

The content lake pattern is on the rise inside industry clouds, commerce clouds, and of course enterprise document clouds — -delivering what XaaS cheerleaders like myself call “content lake as a service” (CLaaS).

Here’s 3 examples.

1. Industry Cloud: Veeva Vault

Veeva is a an “industry cloud” platform for the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries. If you’re not familiar with the concept of industry cloud, check out Emergence Capital VC (and Veeva board chairman) Gordon Ritter’s piece in Forbes laying out 5 common attributes of industry cloud leaders.

As Ritter explains, one of the defining characteristics of a vertical or industry segment cloud model is what he calls a “layer cake product strategy”. As implied by the term, a layer cake strategy enables an industry cloud player to provide multiple services to the same vertical segment — -and then continuously diversify those services within their target industry segment — iteratively driving a virtuous cycle of market share expansion and category leadership.

Within Veeva’s layer cake product model for life sciences companies, their content services platform, Veeva Vault, plays a key role. Vault serves as a single, unified, multitenant environment for powering content-centric customer applications for R&D, market trials, regulatory agency submissions and more.

And because of the Vault unified content model, Veeva can continuously and confidently move forward with new content apps, e.g. Vault RIM, a regulatory content offering to be launched in 2016.

What’s the takeaway here?

Simple. If you’re building a vertically-focused or industry-specific ‘layer cake’ cloud offering, learn from Veeva’s best practices at the intersection of “single source of truth” content strategy and industry-specific domain expertise.

2. Commerce Cloud: AmplienceOne Big Content Platform

Over the past year, the market conversation around the relationship between content and omnichannel commerce success has gotten louder.

Commerce-focused research firm L2 — in partnership with cloud commerce innovator Demandware — published a detailed report documenting the close ties between rich, relevant visual content and digital commerce conversion best practices.

Analyst firm Forrester weighed in on the technology front, highlighting the downside of functionality gaps between digital asset management system silos and customer experience delivery for multi-device customer journeys.

Headquartered in London, with U.S. offices in New York, Amplience is a venture-backed startup that helps global brands optimize omnichannel customer journeys and deliver new retail commerce experiences with AmplienceOne, their “big content” platform.

Like Veeva Vault in the life sciences industry cloud space, AmplienceOne delivers on the promise of a ‘single source of truth’ unified content environment — increasingly a must-have for brands engaged in global omnichannel commerce.

Consistent with the ‘big content’ vision, AmplienceOne bridges and brings together content ‘composites’ from web and enterprise content management systems (WCM/ECM), digital asset management systems (DAM), online catalogs, video hubs, marketing systems, social user-generated content, and more.

AmplienceOne’s cloud-first headless content repository approach enables it to rapidly augment and extend the functionality of the online commerce and mobile app initiatives of its customers and platform partners. But they also take it a step further with what they call ‘big content indexing’, i.e. measuring the relationship between relevant, experience-optimized shoppable content and customer conversion.

The takeaway here? On a commerce landscape characterized by the rising importance of ‘big content’ — brand marketers, e-commerce teams, and mobile commerce app developers need to collaborate more closely and ‘draw their digital water’ from a unified content lake — One purpose-built to transform rich visual content into customer-relevant digital experiences.

3. Paper Cloud: Adobe Document Cloud

In Q1 2015, Adobe announced its new Document Cloud service — the company’s re-invention of its PDF ecosystem for the age of cloud services and mobile devices.

As outlined in a sponsored IDC white paper, “Addressing the Document Disconnect/Hidden Opportunity, Big Payoff”, paper-based business processes have become increasingly inefficient, fragmented and costly across multiple enterprise departments — from sales to HR to procurement to legal.

Consistent with the content lake pattern described above, Adobe Document Cloud provides a unified environment for the digitization of paper document workflows across enterprise departments and devices.

As does Veeva in industry cloud and Amplience in ‘big content’ for omnichannel commerce, Adobe Document Cloud will provide developer APIs — designed to integrate digital paper workflows into enterprise systems and build new apps that leverage Document Cloud services.

The takeaway. As an industry leader with $4+Billion in annual revenue, Adobe’s ongoing re-invention of its document franchise in the age of cloud is a big deal — and will accelerate innovation at leading enterprise content management (ECM) providers who will see it as potentially disruptive to their businesses. It will also drive new partnerships between established ECM players and new born-in-cloud ‘content lake as a service’ (CLaaS) innovators.

Final Thoughts

In the XaaS (anything-as-a-service) economy, new categories of cloud-native capability are continuously emerging from both disruptors and incumbents.

And existing content-centric categories, e.g. B2C file-sharing as a service, are rapidly evolving into B2B app-embeddable platform services.

As unified content models continue to take center stage inside industry clouds, commerce clouds, enterprise digital transformation initiatives, and marketing services platforms — look for even more content lakes to rise.

At the end of the day a cloud-powered content lake model is something that the CIO, the CMO and the CDO can all align with and build on.

And in the 21st century enterprise, that’s something you don’t see everyday.

Joseph Bentzel is the senior consultant at Platformula Group and the author of “Asymmetric Marketing: Tossing the ‘Chasm’ in the Age of the Software Superpowers” available on Amazon.com. He can be reached by email at joe@platformulagroup.com. Follow him on Twitter @Platformula1.