CMIS Standard Aims to Reshape ECM Industry

May 20, 2010

Content management systems do not always like to play nice with each other. With the May 4 announcement of the OASIS international consortium's approval of Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) version 1.0-a new open standard that enables information to be shared across Enterprise Content Management (ECM) repositories from different vendors-that could all be changing.

"A lot of applications need content management, and here is a standard that is actually able to support them," says Alfresco's CTO, John Newton, who was also on the CMIS Technical Committee. Using Web services and Web 2.0 interfaces, CMIS dramatically reduces the IT burden around multi-vendor, multi-repository content management environments. Companies no longer need to maintain custom code and one-off integrations in order to share information across their various ECM systems.

Even before it became a standard, CMIS attracted a great deal of attention. "According to CMS Watch [now The Real Story group], close to a quarter of all enterprises are already looking at how they are going to implement CMIS and figuring out their strategic plans. Seeing as this all happened before it became a standard, it is pretty significant," says Newton. CMIS is offered for implementation on a royalty-free basis.

According to Alan Pelz-Sharpe, principal analyst and director at The Real Story Group, this standard means CMS users will no longer be confined to solitary application use. "Now, we can map all of our capabilities with this standard. That has been the failure of other standards in the past," says Newton. In efforts to begin integrating the new standard, Alfresco has already integrated CMIS into its most recent product release, Community 3.3-as have many other vendors.

Attractive to enterprise content management (ECM) vendors, CMIS has entered the game in a timely fashion. "It's the right standard at the right time for a whole new class of applications," says Newton. "Now, people can have something that they can standardize in order to be able to access content that they need."

The CMIS presents new opportunities, but it is the idea of interoperation that is predicted to be the building block for progression. According to Pelz-Sharpe, this means legacy systems will run longer and other document sources will run more efficiently.

Because of this, Melissa Webster, the program vice president of content and digital media technologies at IDC, predicts a broad adoption pretty quickly. "CMIS interoperability will make it much easier for vendors and customers to build applications in heterogeneous repositories," she says.

However, it will take time before making a drastic impact. "It won't initially, at least, change the way content management systems operate, other than to open them up for access. That may not sound revolutionary, but as of today to do a simple thing like that can necessitate a huge amount of development work and associated costs," says Pelz Sharpe.

CMIS, he adds, will affect the future of content management "by making what has traditionally been an incredibly proprietary sector of the business software market much more open. It will also push vendors to support open standards more than they have, and, in time, allow developers to more richly incorporate and utilize document resources."

Alfresco is already looking ahead to how open standard technology might grow and progress in future releases. "What comes next is the extensive use of CMIS to build applications. What we are hoping for, and seems to be happening, is that Alfresco, as an open source implementation, is the place that people are actually building their applications using CMIS," says Newton.