Adobe's LiveCycle Enterprise Suite, the latest version of which began shipping in November, is a set of Web services with which organizations can build applications for interacting with users, implementing business processes and managing document-based communications, all through Adobe client technologies, such as PDF, Flash and Air.
Take, for instance, the "my first app" project from Adobe's LCES tutorial documentation: a system for serving up PDF-based loan applications from a Web portal, accepting the form input through Adobe Reader, routing the applications to the appropriate decision maker, notifying the applicant of their approval or rejection, and filing the proper documents to a networked location for archiving.
I worked through this project to get a feel for what LCES is capable of, and I was impressed by the amount of sophistication achievable in a short amount of time with the LiveCycle suite. Further shortening the amount of time required to achieve results with this product was the method I used to test it.
I tested LCES in a hosted implementation of the product that's managed by Adobe and run from Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service. Adobe has made LCES available in this way for about a year as part of its enterprise developer program. Starting this month, the hosted edition of LCES became available as a full-fledged product offering under the name LiveCycle Managed Services.
I found the hosted edition of LCES easy to use, thanks to a console for launching the EC2 instances, which is much friendlier than the spartan front end that Amazon provides for the service by default. The administration console for LCES is Web-based, and I was able to use a simple Java-based networking application that was provided as part of the service to access the console securely from my Linux desktop. The networking application comes in Windows and OS X flavors, as well.
The hosted nature of the LiveCycle edition I used for my testing definitely shortened my setup time. However, I found that the Windows Server 2003 EC2 instances on which Adobe hosts LiveCycle Express took quite some time-at least 20 minutes, and sometimes much more-to spin up, and twice during the time that I was testing, networking issues between Adobe's controllers and Amazon's EC2 infrastructure lengthened these startup times considerably.
In a production setting, I would expect instance startup and shutdown times to be less of an issue, since the LiveCycle instance would remain running over long periods of time. The next time I test out LiveCycle, I'll likely opt for the ready-to-run VMware software appliance that Adobe makes available for evaluation.
The managed version of LCES that I tested ran on a stack comprising the JBoss app server and MySQL database server running atop Windows Server 2003 on a "Large" EC2 instance with virtual processor cores and 7.5GB of RAM.
In its on-premises incarnations, LCES also supports IBM WebSphere and Oracle WebLogic for the app server layer; IBM DB2, Oracle and SQL Server for the database layer; and Solaris SPARC, IBM AIX, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for the underlying operating system.
Adobe chose Windows Server 2003 for the operating system layer of this managed service in order to allow for remote hosting of the suite's form designer component, which only supports Windows. However, the company plans to add a Linux option for the hosted service in the near future.
The Adobe LiveCycle Express service I tested is available to subscribers of Adobe's Enterprise Developers program, which costs $1,495 per year and comes with 10 hours of use of the hosted service per month. Pricing for LiveCycle Managed Services is based on an annual subscription model that varies based on number of users and the LiveCycle modules included, but according to Adobe, an average one-year subscription to LiveCycle Managed Services runs around $50,000.