The rumored multi-vendor ECM interoperability effort has been unveiled. IBM, Microsoft and EMC (and others) have collaborated on a draft specification – Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) – that is meant to addresses basic interoperability and accessibility for repository-based content. The goal is to make it easier to pull/push managed content to/from other apps without the need for custom integrations or third-party connectors.
Some write-ups are already out there, with more detailed explanations:
Microsoft Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Team Blog – Announcing the CMIS Specification
Chuch Hollis – CMIS — it’s not JAS (just another standard)
John Newton’s Content Log – Alfresco releases first CMIS implementation
Chuck Hollis, as usual, has a particularly concise and on-target analysis. He notes several of the following points that the standard effort has going for it, and I’ve added a few of my own:
- Interoperability is a real and growing problem (James McGovern has several intereting posts on this topic). The industry needs to start to take some steps to solve it.
- This effort, though clearly still 1.0, has the right vendors behind it as it involves Oracle, Adobe and, Alfresco (kudos to still-small (and open source) Alfresco for getting a seat at the table on this one), along with the leads IBM, Microsoft and EMC.
- The multi-platform / multi-language approach is a must — a Java-only standard would have left SharePoint out of the picture and not covering SharePoint interoperability would seriously hamper the effectiveness of any ECM standard at this point.
- By working at a services layer and utilizing REST and SOAP, layering on top of existing systems and not requiring major re-writes or upgrades will be more feasible and potentially have the quickest impact. This may also limit the sophistication of the what the standard is able to accomplish, but it’s better to get some lightweight interoperability with a larger number of existing systems.
What are the drawbacks or potential pitfalls?
- It will likely be 2010 before we see commercial products supporting CMIS, though Alfresco has already announced an implementation of the draft spec in its Labs (fka Community) edition. An open source vendor of course has more flexibility in pushing out (unsupported) code than a commercial vendor, though Alfresco’s REST architecture makes this more straightforward. (Alfresco does plan to support the draft spec in its commercial Enterprise code during the ratification process; no word on whether commercial vendors will follow suit).
- Early integrations will in some cases be wrappers, perhaps shipped as downloadable modules outside of regular release cycles. We’ll have to watch to see what this means and enables.
- Standards efforts often go nowhere fast.
I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that occur to me at the moment.
At this point, all we can do is note that the vendors have made the effort to develop the standard and watch as it is handed over to OASIS for ratification. It’s a slow process – the vendors involved began work on this in 2006, which is indicative of the pace of such projects.