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Documentum snaps up Xerox 'snapshot' unit

The content management software company plans to buy Xerox's AskOnce for technology that takes a digital snapshot of where data is stored.

Documentum, a maker of content management tools, plans to acquire a Xerox business unit for technology that will give its software broader access to corporate data.

The division of storage giant EMC plans to announce on Tuesday that it has bought Xerox's AskOnce unit, which is based in Grenoble, France. The terms of the deal are not expected to be disclosed.

The AskOnce technology allows companies to create a "virtual repository" of corporate data--a digital snapshot recording documents from hundreds of sources, ranging from e-mail servers to Web sites.

Documentum's main product creates and manages an actual repository, a server-based system used to store corporate documents to allow companywide access and meet regulatory requirements.

Even companies that have adopted content management plans typically put only a small portion of their data in a server-based repository, Documentum President Dave DeWalt said. Combining real and virtual repositories allows businesses to take a more comprehensive approach to content management, he said.

"Customers may have hundreds of thousands of Web sites, files systems and other resources," DeWalt said. "This product creates a unified view of all those data sources, so you know where things are. You can't do anything with it until you know where it is. It's a big problem for a lot of companies--they don't know what they have sitting around."

Documentum will sell the AskOnce technology as Documentum Virtual Repository. It will be offered next month in three ways: as a stand-alone product; as a suite with management and work flow tools; and integrated with Documentum's main enterprise content management product.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Documentum is one of the leading players in the fast-growing market for content management software. The niche has seen a wave of acquisitions in the past year, as companies seek to add features such as collaboration tools and instant messaging to their products.