Edmunds Web Site Makes CMS Drive

Case Study: The popular automobile Web site taps Communiqué content management system from Day Software to help streamline its process.

With more than 350,000 people a day relying on its automobile Web site for the latest information on new and used cars, Edmunds.com recently turned to a content management system to bring together content throughout the company.

By deploying the Communiqué CMS from Day Software, Edmunds.com has made it easier for corporate users to quickly update and manage the content on the Web site, said Stephen Gandee, director of enterprise architecture at Edmunds.com, in Santa Monica, Calif.

"Our strategy and initiative for this past year was a notion we call self-service and automation," Gandee said. "We want to allow our users to interact and maintain the site."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about how CMS helps a car-parts maker schedule for accuracy.

Founded in 1966, Edmunds.com provides consumers with pricing tools, insurance and financing resources, vehicle reviews and comparisons, warranty and performance information, and access to new- and used-car buyers and sellers.

Two years ago, Edmunds.com set a goal of empowering business users to manage Web content without having to get lengthy estimates for the level of effort and number of programmers required to add something to the Web site.

The company decided that a centralized content repository would be the best way to automate the process. The company hired CMS Watch, an analyst firm in Olney, Md., that specializes in CMSes, to provide an evaluation shortlist of mid- to top-tier vendors of enterprise CMS solutions. Last summer, Gandee and his team completed a product evaluation; CMS vendors then went on-site at Edmunds.com to provide a proof of concept.

Gandees main requirement for any CMS product was that it be easy to implement, open and flexible. Since no CMS product he evaluated did everything Edmunds.com needed out of the box, Gandee also wanted a product he could customize—one that was more of a framework than a traditional CMS.

On the business side, Gandee wanted a product that would be easy to use, control and secure, among other things.

"We wanted to put the product in the hands of our businesspeople and have them be able to get up to speed quickly," Gandee said. "We wanted it to be Web-based, support digital asset management, have a decent workflow and have user access rights so we could control and secure the content and allow certain people to do certain tasks."

Based on the proof of concept and its own testing, Edmunds.com in October 2005 decided to go with Communiqué from Day Software. Version 4 of Communiqué came out in December 2005, which is when Edmunds.com set to work implementing the software.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about the plethora of choices in open-source CMS.

Edmunds.coms software stack comprises Red Hat Linux Enterprise Server 4, J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) on BEA Systems WebLogic Server 8.1, Oracles 10g RAC (Real Application Clusters) database, the Apache Software Foundations Apache Web server and, now, Communiqué. The software stack runs on Dell PowerEdge 1850 servers and Network Appliance storage systems.

"One of our requirements was that the software would be compatible to our software stack because we were not looking to do .Net or make changes to our infrastructure," Gandee said. "We needed something that could fit right into our existing application stack, and Communiqué did."

Edmunds.com used to rely on homegrown systems, which took a lot of time to develop and update. With Communiqué, IT managers now have time to focus on other things.

"In our development, the only thing we focus on now is our components, because we are going to allow our users to maintain the Web site," Gandee said. "The tool has been a big benefit."

In July 2006, Edmunds.com will go live with the CMS, which Gandee said will power most of the Edmunds.com Web site. After the product is implemented, business users will be able to update and manage the content on the Web site. Communiqué also will let Edmunds.com share data with partners, such as auto manufacturers.

While the company has focused mainly on using the content management piece at this time, Gandee said Edmunds.com will eventually leverage Days CRX repository, which implements the new JSR-170, or Content Repository API for Java technology, standard.

When and to what extent Edmunds.com will use CRX, however, will depend on Days plans for the product, Gandee said.

"Were going to use CRX, but we dont have any specific plans yet," he said. "Its a promising technology, but were going to see where Day Software heads and get more familiar with it ourselves before we actually plan to do something major with it."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in Web services.