A Requiem for Rhythmyx (the Original Headless CMS)?

Launched in 2000, Percussion Rhythmyx is one of the older Web Content Management (WCM) tools on the market. The product has been fading since the vendor released a lower-end tool called CM1 in 2010, but Rhythmyx retained a meaningful, if declining, customer base.  A couple of licensees recently shared with me that Percussion had officially "sunset" the platform.  Is it too early to sing a requiem?

[Update 24 July: the vendor vehemently denies this and says they remain committed to the Rhythmyx product and customer base, while "looking forward to taking the product through its next couple of evolutions."]

The Original Headless CMS

From the very beginning Rhythmyx was noteworthy for its semi-unique decoupled architecture: it only managed content and not your delivery environment.  Unlike nearly all other WCM tools, you managed all the CMS configurations — as well as your delivery application — in your separate source code control system.  Developers and architects loved the idea, though not always the execution, which seemed to be perpetually buggy and under-performant.

Rhythmyx Publishing Queue
The Rhythmyx publishing queue always seemed to be a fraught subsystem

For reasons I never fathomed, Percussion eventually jumped on the "experience" bandwagon, first promising a connection with Sybase (!) portal, then building some bespoke delivery applications that you could put on your own front end.  This turned out to be the wrong approach, since highly coupled systems like Sitecore and Drupal were always going to give more control over the experience to marketers.

Percussion the company wandered into other areas, successfully spinning off some Lotus/Domino tools (a strategy it appears to be recreating) and coming out with a simpler tool in CM1, nominally to compete against WordPress.  We stopped covering them last year.

Lessons for Customers

I think there are two lessons for you:

1) In your search for architectural elegance, be sure to also assess the quality of the technology and — perhaps more importantly — the strength of vendor "intangibles," most critically its customer/developer/partner ecosystem.  Percussion has had serious problems there.

2) If you're looking for a headless WCM platform, make sure that your marketing and communications teams are on board with the implications — both pro and con.  For certain use cases like retrofitting a content management system in front of a transactional application, headless makes good sense.  For other more content-heavy experiences, headless can prove too developer-intensive for fast-moving marcom teams.

Over the past few years RSG has been counseling more of a "head-optional" approach. Unfortunately the WCM vendor community isn't fully getting there yet. Rhythmyx could never seem to get there either. But today the WCM industry is strong and broad, and I think the next few years will see some useful innovations in melding content and applications.

[So don't sing a requiem for Rhythmyx yet, as it's not dead, more like "undead."  That's good for existing customers who may be loathe to move, yet, but remember there's a difference between a technology being alive and one that's truly thriving.]

For a look at how three-dozen WCM tools stack up today, consult RSG's tough vendor evaluations.


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