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Canto Release Cumulus X

by Ralph Windsor on July 27, 2015

Last week, Canto, released an upgraded ‘X’ edition of their long-standing Cumulus DAM application.  There are three major new features:

  • “Portals” for sharing Cumulus assets via externally accessible websites
  • iOS mobile client
  • Updated REST API

As should be clear to those with some experience of the DAM software market, none of this is particularly innovative stuff and these features are all available elsewhere (and have been for some time now).  Here is a paragraph from the press release:

The Cumulus X API addresses a major hurdle that has hindered DAM from becoming a critical component of marketing technology stacks. In order to leverage the full benefits of enterprise DAM, companies have been required to create custom integrations between their DAM solution and enterprise systems, such as content management systems (CMS), project management, marketing automation, ERP, ecommerce and publishing applications. The Cumulus X API solves the issue of time, cost and complexity for creating these integrations, while providing an unparalleled level of interoperability.” [Read More]

The reality is that most DAM vendors now have REST APIs, Canto were fairly late in getting their own one ready, even far smaller client/server competitors have added these features and also enhanced them recently (see last week’s news about Daminion’s upgrade).  This is something they have had to bootstrap into their legacy architecture, unlike web-based apps where these capabilities are a lot more straightforward to implement (which might explain why it took them longer than others).  When vendors trumpet their recent achievement of functional or performance parity with the competition, you have to wonder how restricted it was previously and what else is still not up to scratch that they haven’t told you about.  This post has more detail on their API (and other features).  It looks like they have caught up a bit more with those who already offered API functionality to manage users, generate asset download links, add metadata fields etc.

Moving on, the new Portals feature allows asset collections to be published externally via a configurable website which can have design/styling options applied to it.  This also has been done before by other DAM vendors, including WebDAM, Picturepark, Widen and Brandworkz, to name just a few.  Some of the approaches taken by their competitors are arguably more modular and flexible, for example, by being able to embed a given section of the UI functionality within another web application.  My guess is that the Portals are implementations of their API – so these are web designs or templates that use the API to allow users to get access to assets and initiate searches etc.

They appear to have taken the ‘responsive’ attributes of a web design and reverse applied this to suggest they are general characteristics of their whole platform:

Now available, Cumulus X was built using responsive design, which enables support for all screen sizes, standard mobile devices and operating systems, including iOS and Android. The software allows for future adaptation to new platforms and even IoT-supported devices. In addition, its mobile-first architecture empowers companies to simplify access to their digital assets and collaboration with distributed teams, partners, agencies and freelancers.” [Read More]

It is important to note that these are characteristics of some, but not all, of the various clients that Canto provide for users to manage assets with Cumulus and if you plan to become a Cumulus user, you need to verify that you can do everything you need to in your client technology of choice.  With that said, it is creditable that different options are at least available and from what I have witnessed, hybrid DAM is certainly not going away as a common user requirement for a range of different reasons.

This release gives the impression of being more of a work-in-progress than the ‘X’ branding would suggest.  For example, they mention an updated iOS mobile client, but no corresponding Android update.  I am not sure of the reasoning behind that, it might be because most of their users have indicated a preference for iOS devices, or it could be that they just haven’t built it yet.

How significant the mobile support will really be is open to debate. A point we have made before on DAM News is that most users still use DAM solutions when they are in production mode, i.e. sat at a desk in front of a computer with a keyboard, larger monitor and mouse. The need for mobile seems to be either more casual users who just want to check what items might be available, or possibly for in-the-field asset ingestion. As ever with technology topics, the best advice is to focus very clearly on what you need to do right now and avoid trying to project too many potential future needs.

Canto appear to be busily building web-based integration facilities to work around the limitations of the desktop client/server heritage which their application originates from.  They seem to be embroiled in an extended process of migrating away from their original architecture and reliance on their own proprietary database into an http-based stack where the range of interfaces can be extended, so in many ways, offering hybrid deployment options is effectively another virtue born out of necessity.  I have seen this with other software applications platforms, within DAM and elsewhere.  How successful it will be for them is harder to say.  Much depends on the choices made by the implementation team involved and how quickly support issues are addressed.  All technology gear-changes are complex undertakings and whether you are better off just dumping old systems and moving to new ones is a ‘six of one and half-a-dozen of the other’ kind of proposition.  Newer solutions tend to be unencumbered by all the previously ill-advised decisions to go down some route or other made by their older counterparts which subsequently creates design flaws and bugs that tie up the development team (sometimes for years).  On the other hand, as discussed with Bynder’s release two weeks ago, more recent systems can lack core back-end features that many users won’t think about until they are presented with the reality of doing serious work and find that facilities they are not built yet.

My impression of Canto’s PR is that it is represents a studied mastery of the art of selectively describing the characteristics of your software using a range of buzzwords which are currently in-favour.  There isn’t anything which is obviously untrue, but suggestions are made which invite the reader to make assumptions which may not be entirely accurate ones.  As a piece of marketing communications, it demonstrates a high level of competence and sophistication (albeit a less useful one from the educational perspective).

I note that Canto themselves appear to be hedging their bets by offering their pure-play SaaS ‘Flight’ DAM system.  Some might say the titling of this alternative application says more about the firm’s longer-term intentions for supporting Cumulus, but evidently this release does demonstrate they are not likely to cut and run from their current flagship application just yet.  This upgrade might be significant for Canto and anyone who still uses their applications now, but for everyone else, it is nothing new that you can’t get elsewhere.  Further, in buying into their platform, you may acquire more than you bargained for, especially in regard to the 25 years that the product has been in existence.

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