Big news in the content management world last week. The big guys(EMC, IBM, MS, Oracle…and pretty much everyone) came together and proposed a protocol based standard for content management. The standard, which basically leverages the Atom Publishing Protocol appears to be primarily a REST based service, with additional support for SOAP and potentially JSON formats.
Take away all the acronyms for a moment and basically we are talking about a language and repository independent method for communicating with content management systems.
The CMIS standard will expose core/common ECM repository capabilities in an intentionally generic way. These will allow for applications to be constructed that can work with content residing in one or more ECM repositories, without having to understand implementation differences between the individual repositories or worrying about interface inconsistencies between the repositories. From CMIS Part I – Introduction, General Concepts, Data Model, and Services
There it is. Abstraction, it’s a thing of beauty. Code to an interface not an implementation. This is exactly what the industry has been needing for some time, a standardized method for interacting with a content repository. No more APIs, hierarchical repositories or windows explorer plugins, just a simple http-based standard for managing content.
Why is this cool
You’re talking about Microsoft, IBM, EMC, Oracle, SAP(and many others) getting together and agreeing on a standard way of doing things. Assuming they not only implement the standard in their content repositories, but leverage in their other applications(portals, email servers, databases, app servers, BPM apps, search engines, ERPs, etc) we could be looking at a new wave of interoperability in these systems.
Everyone uses the JDBC example for ECM standards because of the obvious similarities between a content repository and a database, but I always thought that it was way to optimistic of a goal. All of these systems are so very different that it’s been hard to imagine a single standardized method for communicating with them. A change like that would require all the vendors to get on the same page and agree on a single integration method..that seemed like a pipe-dream until last week.
Some questions though
At the risk of bringing down all the positive feelings on CMIS, I did have a couple questions as I read through the documentation:
- Nothing about workflow – I have never seen a content management system that lacks workflow or at least some sort of approval mechanisam. Even if it’s just an approve and reject, I think if you’re going to support creating and updating content, you have to have a way to approve changes, otherwise you still have folks heading back to the CMS.
- CMIS SQL – CMIS will leverage a SQL-92 subset for querying content in the repository. There will be a full text search as well, but SQL? Perhaps it’s me but I feel like you query for data and search for content. Search, like workflow, is something that most CMSs provide natively and very often the language of search is the Universal Query Syntax. CMIS SQL seems like a tough integration to implement, as you’ll have to bypass the search engine and directly query the database, in addition to it being a great place to introduce a security hole.
Why Oracle Should(and probably is) ALL ABOUT THIS
I am also little surprised that EMC and IBM are the first companies mentioned on this standard, when, to me at least, it so clearly gives Oracle such a clear advantage. Not to sound like a sales pitch, but Oracle’s 11g database right now is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to storing files. You can compress them, encrypt them, cache them and de-duplicate them. The functionality is known as SecureFiles and Oracle’s latest CMS offering, Universal Online Archive, as well as (and this is all based on rumor) the next version of UCM leverage SecureFiles by default. As the content repositories becomes more decoupled, I really have a hard time seeing how Oracle doesn’t end up just owning that space. Get ready for SharePoint, powered by Oracle and CMIS.
And the wait begins
I’m a consultant, so like many of the current and potential CMS customers out there, I’m now starting the waiting game to see where this goes. Open Source ECM vendor Alfresco apparently has already developed their CMIS integration, we’ll see how long it takes the other vendors to follow suit. The real fun part will actually not be when the content management systems begin implementing the service, but when the other applications begin supporting it’s consumption. This should be a lot of fun.