Introducing Cumulus 9.2
For me as product manager, major releases are the best time of the year. I can finally share what we have been working on in the past months – and there is really a lot! As I promised when we announced our new software as a service offering Canto Flight, we have not stopped working on Cumulus nor shifted any resources. Instead, Cumulus development is running with full speed and we plan to even accelerate it in the coming months.
For Cumulus 9.2, we have innovated on the following three major topics:
- Social DAM
Let’s look at each of the topics in more details and also review what else has been done.
People are using social networks such as Facebook to organize their lives, be it the next big party, a political campaign or study group. They create special interest groups, use comments, get notified about replies, and can ping a peer by mentioning him. This kind of interaction feels natural to many users and people get used to it easily.
As such an ad-hoc collaboration works great in the consumer market, it should also do the trick when managing digital assets. It’s time for Social DAM. Of course in case of DAM, we don’t have special interest groups, but our interest are the assets we manage. Therefore, comments on files including visual annotations is a key concept of Cumulus. You can also mention other users to notify them when you need their attention. Subscribe to files to get automatically notified when they are changed.
We released the mentioning feature already with a monthly update. In a nutshell, when typing a comment use the “@” character to mention another user.
Type the name of the user and a suggestion list of possible matches is shown. Select the user you want to mention. When you submit your comment, the mentioned user is informed via email about your comment. The email includes a direct link to the comment page so that he can respond easily.
You can now also subscribe to files. Click the subscribe icon on the file’s profile page in Web Client.
When a user changes the metadata of the file or uploads a new version, you are notified via email. An administrator can define the fields triggering a subscription notification. By that, he can ensure that people are not receiving emails with irrelevant changes.
Another important tool in context of Social DAM are collection links. In Cumulus, you can collect files you want to share and send a download link to another person. The other way around is supported, too. You can send an upload collection link so that externals can upload files you need from them. With the latest version, you are notified via email when a file is uploaded to your upload collection. On the details page of upload and download collections, you can always review when a user has accessed the collection the last time – if at all.
With the Social DAM functionalities of Cumulus you have everything you need to collaborate with other users in an ad-hoc manner. You can ping other users and get notified about their changes and updates to your assets.
Social DAM features are great for ad-hoc collaboration on individual files. However, social DAM is not the right tool if you want to ensure a predefined process is executed on each single file. For example, if you need legal approval before a file can be used, you don’t want to rely on that someone eventually mentioned the right person from legal department. Instead, the file should be assigned to the legal department and nobody else should be allowed to use it until legal approved it.
Cumulus now has built-in support for such status-based workflows. You define upfront the states of a file and who is responsible for handling a file in a certain state. In addition, you define activities for transitioning files from one state to another. Activities can apply metadata and permission templates or execute asset actions when they get invoked by a user.
As shown in the screenshot above, each user has access to his personal todo list showing all files currently assigned to him. The toolbox on the right side lists all available activities as defined in the workflow definition.
You can define multiple independent workflows and apply them to the same files. While the legal department is doing their license review, marketing might already initiate a retouching workflow simultaneously. Workflows can be started automatically when a file is added or updated. In the next service release of Cumulus, status-based workflows will be integrate with RoboFlow – our component for machine-to-machine integration automation.
Workflows are also supported by having emails adapted to the needs of its users. With Cumulus 9.2, we are introducing email templates, allowing administrators and integrators to completely customize and theme any email sent by Cumulus. You can now adapt email texts to the language spoken by your business users and change the email appearance to match your corporate identity so that users feel at home.
Part of a good DAM workflow is controlling what gets added to your catalogs. For example, with a prefiller you can force users to also input metadata while ingesting new files. When they upload new files, a dialog is shown asking the user for additional input. The provided values are added to the belonging metadata fields after the files are uploaded and ingested.
Often, you might want to prevent people uploading the same file again. You can now also make use of content-based duplicate control in Web Client. When Web Client detects a duplicate, it marks the upload as failed and shows a link to the already existing files.
Sometimes, a simple content-based duplicate test is not enough. You might have custom business logic determining if an item is considered to be a duplicate. For that purpose, it is now possible to implement custom upload validators. Your code of such an upload validator gets executed before an uploaded file is added to the Cumulus catalog. You are not limited to comparing the file to existing Cumulus content, but you could also e.g. query an external system. For example, you could reject images using a wrong color model or when you can’t determine the correct license.
Status-based workflows are great new ways to streamline your asset management processes. I will go into more depth about this topic in another blog post using a concrete example process.
Managing IT infrastructure is a tough topic and many companies are looking for options to offload it. With the new Amazon S3 AssetStore, we enable companies to store assets in Amazon S3 instead of managing their own file server. Amazon S3 is a fully managed cloud storage service with very high reliability and security.
Using Amazon S3 has many advantages compared to an in-house storage solution. For example, you get a fully managed storage solution with a reliability and robustness hard to achieve on your own unless you have access to several regionally distributed computing centers with high interconnectivity. With Amazon S3, you only pay for what you use instead of buying storage volume upfront before you actually consume it.
The following chart illustrates how the Amazon S3 AssetStore for Cumulus fits into the overall architecture.
Metadata of a file is stored by the Cumulus Server including a thumbnail of the file. The file itself is stored in Amazon S3. When a user changes metadata fields, this is done directly in the Cumulus Server. When a user requests a file for download, the file is retrieved from Amazon S3 and sent to the user. This is transparent to the user and requires no special actions.
The Amazon S3 AssetStore makes also use of Amazon CloudFront. Amazon CloudFront is a globally distributed content delivery network (CDN) allowing for fast global file access. When a user requests a file, the file is retrieved via Amazon CloudFront to ensure very fast access. It is ensured that always the latest version of a file is available via Amazon CloudFront.
With the Amazon S3 AssetStore, you have all deployment options at hand. The Cumulus Server and additional components like Web Client can be deployed on-premise in your computing center or you can also move them in the cloud. The Amazon S3 AssetStore enables hybrid cloud deployment scenarios. You might even want to mix different storage options and only push published files to Amazon S3 to ensure fast global access. I will go into the details in a future blog post.
You want to upgrade or see Cumuls 9.2 in a personal Demo? Contact us!