Adobe puts LiveCycle in the cloud

The document-based workflow system LiveCycle Enterprise Suite will be hosted in the Amazon computing cloud and accessed on the go from smartphones

Adobe Systems is preparing an update to its document-based workflow system, LiveCycle Enterprise Suite, that can be hosted in the Amazon computing cloud and accessed on the go from smartphones, the company said Monday.

LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2 (ES 2) will also gain a new portal-like technology, called LiveCycle Mosaic, for creating custom workspaces where employees can view contextual data from back-end systems in a series of windows, or "tiles," on their computer screens.

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Adobe is showing the product at its Adobe Max conference, which kicks off Monday in Los Angeles. ES 2 will be released later this year, with the ability to host production instances on Amazon Web Services starting early next year, said John Knightly, Adobe's vice president for enterprise marketing.

LiveCycle ES is a set of server-based tools for creating automated workflows using PDF documents that can span both sides of a firewall. A bank can design an interactive form that helps a customer fill out a loan application, for example, and then kicks off a series of internal processes to approve or reject it.

Adobe said it has 5,000 customers for the product, many of them in financial services, manufacturing and government. The software competes with Microsoft SharePoint, IBM WebSphere and products from EMC, among others. It's been a bright spot for Adobe at a time when sales of its core creative products have declined during the recession.

Adobe said in January that developers could start testing and developing LiveCycle processes in Amazon's cloud, but they still can't deploy production applications there. Starting early next year that will be an option with ES 2, Knightly said. Adobe will provide preconfigured instances of ES 2 on Amazon's servers, along with 24x7 monitoring and support. Adobe won't disclose the subscription pricing until next year.

Another new feature, LiveCycle Mosaic, is a composite RIA (rich internet application) framework for building workspaces that employees can customize to show data related to the task they are working on. A fund manager could have tiles displaying the portfolio and investment history for a client, for example, and a Web application displaying stock prices. The data is retrieved from back-end systems using LiveCycle Data Services and viewed in a browser using Flash Player, or on the desktop with Adobe's Air runtime.

LiveCycle Workspace ES 2 Mobile lets workers take part in a document-driven business process from an iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile device, each of which will now have a native LifeCycle front-end. "If I'm a hiring manager and someone wants me to approve a new employee, I could do that by signing a document on my phone, which would kick off a process to provision a new computer and a new office," Knightly said.

The company has also updated the Flash capabilities within PDF documents, so a company can send to a customer a document that has an embedded marketing video.

Bank Midwest has been using LiveCycle since 2006 to automate internal processes like ordering new debit cards, said Josh Laire, the bank's application development and integration manager. "We shuffle a lot of paper, so anything we can automate and get the paper out of here saves a ton," he said.

The bank picked LiveCycle partly because it is cross-platform, he said. Because it is browser-based it can run on Windows, Linux and Macintosh desktops, and it can work with several different databases and application servers on the back-end, he said.

He is using an older version of the software, but is interested in ES 2 because it has a new, model-driven development environment that should let his developers write less code when creating business processes, he said.

One challenge for Adobe is that some CIOs still view it as a creative tools company. "That's less of a problem than it was, but as an enterprise software vendor they're a lot smaller when you stack them up against IBM, Microsoft and Oracle," said Melissa Webster, an IDC analyst.

LiveCycle is usually priced per CPU, per document or per user. Deployments start at around $50,000 at the departmental level and scale to millions of dollars for large, company-wide deployments.

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