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Content Management Server Overview

Microsoft Content Management Server is designed to provide enhanced authoring and management of web sites of all sizes, including routing and approval processing of content, freshness dating for content, and tight integration with .NET. Therefore, in many ways it is the center of the overall .NET portal framework. For outward-facing portals, the bulk of content consists of web pages, and keeping those pages up to date is the most daunting task for a webmaster.

MCMS has evolved from a product called Resolution created by the nCompass, which was purchased by Microsoft in May 2001. The 2002 version of MCMS is the first major overhaul of the product since the acquisition, and this effort dramatically remolded nCompass into the .NET Framework and web services paradigm. The 2001 version was rebranded by Microsoft but was not very different from nCompass's product.

The following sections of this chapter introduce these MCMS features:

  • Site framework

  • Content creation and approval process

  • Site navigation

  • Site management

  • Template creation

  • .NET and web services integration

There is insufficient space here to provide a feature-by-feature tutorial on MCMS. Our goal is to introduce the key concepts and then go beyond the product help and documentation with practical guidance on how to use the product to achieve the overall goals of the portal.

MCMS Architecture

MCMS provides a repository to store content, along with content creation and site management tools as well as APIs to connect to other services in the portal. It consists of the following logical elements that make up its architecture:

  • Content Repository. SQL Server is the database where content is stored for use in the site.

  • Site Manager. Webmasters are provided a rich Windows client to manage many aspects of the MCMS site.

  • Authoring Connector. This component allows authors to create content in Word XP and post it directly to MCMS. Note that this feature works only with Word and not with other Office programs.

  • Content Connector. The Content Connector component allows programs to access content in MCMS without risking data corruption with a direct connection to the MCMS database tables.

  • Publishing API. MCMS 2002 contains a number of APIs that are wrappers around COM (Component Object Model) APIs used in earlier versions, and also new APIs to be used within the managed .NET environment. The managed APIs in the Microsoft.ContentManagement.Publishing namespace are known as the publishing API.

  • ISAPI. The Internet Server API is the API for Internet Information Server. It provides one of the means of extending MCMS and also provides security services for HTTP requests by means of ISAPI filters.

  • APIs. Programs can access the CMS content by means of APIs, such as the publishing API.

  • Word XP. Users can publish directly from Microsoft Word XP without using the web user interface to MCMS. Developers can create authoring connectors to streamline this process. These are essentially wizards that define the format of the content and the location where it will be published. Once the user creates the content, it enters the standard MCMS routing and approval process.

Additional elements in the architecture (Figure 9.2) are outside of MCMS per se, but remain critical elements in the total portal picture:

  • Visual Studio.NET. For developers, Visual Studio.NET is the integrated development environment for MCMS, and it is difficult to imagine implementing MCMS without Visual Studio. This is where templates are created, and .NET web services are created and maintained. With MCMS 2002, sites can be saved as Visual Studio projects. This means that .NET tools are used to directly manipulate every aspect of MCMS and extend it to provide new functionality.

  • Commerce Server. While MCMS provides authorization-based personalization, it does not provide rule-based personalization capabilities, which are available in Commerce Server 2002. See Chapter 7, "User Profiles," and Chapter 8, "Personalization," for detailed information on how to implement personalization. As with MCMS 2002, Commerce Server 2002 sites can be saved as Visual Studio projects.

09fig02.gifFigure 9.2. MCMS Architecture

The MCMS architecture is extensible because it has been built on the .NET Framework and integrated with other Microsoft enterprise servers such as Commerce Server, SharePoint Portal Server, and BizTalk. In the next product generation, this integration will probably be even tighter, and code reuse will be even greater.

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