Blogger: Larry Cannell
This morning content management vendors EMC, IBM, and Microsoft (with support from Alfresco, OpenText, Oracle, and SAP) announced they are jointly proposing a standard to enable interoperability among content management systems. Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) is intended to provide standard methods for accessing content stored in repositories like Documentum, FileNet, or SharePoint. Details of the standard are just coming out. CMIS specifies a Common Domain Model as well as standard bindings for SOAP and REST-based services.
The most significant aspect of today's announcement is the size and breadth of the vendors voicing their support of the standard. Alfresco's John Newton blogged his enthusiastic support for CMIS while also announcing the availability of the last release of Alfresco Labs which provides a working demonstration of CMIS via their web scripts capability.
Many uses cases for CMIS come to mind. Here are just two I can think of:
- Content aggregation and mashup. For example, imagine pulling content from multiple repositories and mashing it together in innovative ways, perhaps a visualization based on common metadata or an analytical summary.
- Content publishing. For example, it may be possible to use a desktop word processor to publish content to any number of repositories without having to load a separate connector for each. Think of this as a new and improved WebDAV.
At first blush this new standard appears to compete with Java Content Repository (JCR, JSR-170/283) which also provides a standard content management API. But, JCR is (obviously) a Java standard and is not likely to receive support from Microsoft, a major backer of CMIS. In addition, CMIS comes with specifications for SOAP and REST bindings, something presently missing from JCR (although Apache Sling is emerging as a compelling REST-based interface for JCR). However, JCR does have a number of successful product implementations. Time will tell if CMIS supporters can claim the same level of success.
The challenge with assessing these type of announcements is the likelihood we will not see results for quite some time. The only available implementations of CMIS are proofs-of-concepts developed by the vendors for demonstration purposes (even Alfresco Labs is a beta release). The announcement implies that "provider" implementations (code that provides or serves content via CMIS) will be delivered by the vendor (EMC, IBM, Microsoft, and others). But, this code also could be provided by anyone (similar to what Day has done with JCR). In any case, there also has to be compelling consumer applications that accesses content via CMIS. So, it's kind of a chicken and egg scenario at this point.
For now, I suggest the following:
- Don't assume CMIS will become the de-facto standard until, well, it becomes the de-facto standard. The standard isn't ratified and there are no production implementations at this time. This is an important announcement but, although the array of vendors voicing support for this standard is impressive, actions will speak louder than PR.
- Stay focused on your requirements. Depending on your situation, other alternatives may suffice (even strengthen) and still others may emerge over time. JCR is very much alive and kicking (and Sling looks intriguing). In addition, methods used by an earlier release of Alfresco Labs, which demonstrated support of the MS-DWSS SharePoint protocol, might also be an alternative to explore. We may yet see other vendors and open source projects learn from Alfresco and support MS-DWSS or other SharePoint protocols which, by the way, has many content providers (SharePoint, soon Alfresco) and consumers (Microsoft Office 2007/2003) already in production deployment.