CMIS, A Standard Whose Time has Come

Laurence Hart

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Keywords: CMIS, Migration, Composite Content Applications

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For those that aren’t aware, I live for things that make my life easier. In the Content Management space, that usually involves simplifying the work to integrate systems, managing security, and removing migrations (regardless of how lucrative that business may be). As a result, I’ve become a fan of standards and how they apply to interoperability.

This is why I love the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard. Is it perfect? No. Does it need enhancements? Yes. Is it useful now? Definitely. CMIS was designed to be useful with its first release, finalized in 2010. CMIS solves content problems today and is not the lowest common denominator of Content Management functionality.

The real question is this, why does CMIS matter to you?

CMIS is Multi-Purpose

CMIS LogoMulti-purpose? Isn’t that a marketing term that should probably be shot on sight? Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it less true about CMIS. Here are the three basic CMIS Use Cases with examples for each.

  1. Repository-to-Repository (R2R): This is where content repositories talk directly to each other.
    • Migrations: Either all at once or ad-hoc, CMIS can reach out and move content from one repository to another.
    • Publishing: Have multiple systems? Automatic processes can publish and share content behind the scenes.
  2. Application-to-Repository (A2R): This is where an application that uses content is plugged-into a content repository to handle all content services.
    • Manage Collaboration Content: Be it SharePoint, Jive, or some other system, manage content behind the scenes in your System of Record.
    • Component Content Applications: Create one business application, say Correspondence Management, and use any CMIS compliant content repository to manage the content.
  3. Federated Repositories (FR): This is where an application talks to many different repositories while presenting a singular interface to the user.
    • Common client: Have one client to access content from multiple repositories seamlessly. Why migrate if the user doesn’t have to switch between systems?
    • Federated Search: You can use CMIS to provide this functionality without separate interfaces.

There is a lot of usability there. The next question is, what does it mean to me today?

CMIS as a Point-Forward Solution

Nothing is forcing you to use CMIS today. If you have systems that are talking to each other, they can continue to talk to each other. What you need to be doing now is quite simple:

  • Identify Vendors: Has your current Content Management vendor added CMIS support? Do they plan to do so if they haven’t? If they don’t plan to do so, do they care about your business problems or do they just want to lock you into their platform and collect money?
  • Plan for New Development: Planning on new integrations? Look to see if CMIS has the functionality to meet your needs. This will make your entire architecture more flexible and easier to change over time.
  • Reevaluate Migrations: If you can access “inactive” content in a legacy system using CMIS, it is no longer a closed “silo”. Throwing a simple CMIS interface in front of that system may be much more cost effective than a full-blown migration.

The key to remember is that CMIS is a tool to help you solve your Content Management problems. Think of it as a monkey wrench that you can now use instead of a multitude of individual wrenches. Old methods will continue to work, but that is just custom knowledge to maintain.

If you want to know more about CMIS, ask below. You can also check-out the AIIM webinar on CMIS from March 2011.

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Comments

Cheryl McKinnon

CMIS

Great post - the 3 use cases you've outlined are tremendously helpful when explaining CMIS to non-technical users. With respect to asking a vendor about CMIS, I'd also recommend the question of "where" CMIS support is being added in an ECM offering. Many vendors who've assembled their product portfolios via acquisition instead of their own R&D are/can only support it in portions of their overall suite. Ask which products, and which modules...
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Mark Owen

Bring it on

Hi Laurence,

I've been really keen on CMIS since it was first conceived. I agree with everything you have written here.

My question is...what's the reality at the moment. Is this standard actually being embraced by ECMS vendors? Or is it is languishing in the "sounds like a good idea...in theory".

- MarkJOwen
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Laurence Hart

Embraced

Mark, almost all of the leading, and an impressive number of the rest, have embraced it. It is now available in SharePoint and the Apache Chemistry project is helping companies and vendors implement CMIS-based solutions more easily.

http://incubator.apache.org/projects/chemistry.html
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Florent Guillaume

Apache Chemistry

FYI Apache Chemistry is no more incubating and is now a top level Apache project: http://chemistry.apache.org/
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Laurence Hart

Thanks

Thanks Florent. I knew that but I still had the old link.

-Pie
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Cheryl McKinnon

CMIS

A decent list also at Wikipedia - vendors and versions of the products that support it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_Management_Interoperability_Services
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Mark Boon

Very understandeble and clear overview

Hello Laurence,

Thanks for this clear and understandable overview. I also noted that major vendors have embraced this (Sharepoint, Documentum 6.7, Apache and probably much more). What are in general (and not specific to a single vendor) impact to licensing? Cmis provides a very easy way to establish a content management backbone with a limited GUI and so without using the vendor's clients.
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Laurence Hart

Licensing Varies

Mark, the licensing model varies by company. Many are including it as a core part of their platform. Their per-user varies, but I haven't heard of any that cost more than using their native Web Service interfaces. Many allow you to use both services simultaneously without additional costs.

That said, be sure to check with your specific provider.

-Pie
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Paul ONeill

CMIS for BPM/Workflow and Case Management

Hi, I think that there is another broader use case for CMIS (perhaps not quite captured in the "Application to Repository" use case, should that be "Enterprise Platform to Repository"...). Singularity as a BPM/Case Management vendor leverage CMIS support as a common means to inter-operate with a variety of compliant ECM platforms.

I would also highlight that CMIS is being referenced in relation to the standards work that is going on at OMG for the Case Management Standard (which is currently under development).

CMIS is definitely relevant to many organisations, in terms of opening up their content stores, and leveraging their value as enterprise assets!
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Laurence Hart

Definitely covered

Paul, you bring forth specific cases, but they definitely fall into the A2R model. The use of the Repository in that model is as the Content engine for the enterprise.

The cases listed above focus upon categories of use cases. I gave some basic examples that are fairly easy to understand, but they are very basic examples.
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