The Content Management Interoperability Standard

Editor’s note: The following article was published in conjunction with the release of the Basex report series, The Definitive Guide to Today’s Content Management Systems and Vendors.

For organizations with multi-vendor, multi-repository content management environments, the time and money that must be spent to integrate these systems with other enterprise tools, as well as to get disparate content management platforms to somehow talk to one another, is significant.  Until such integration occurs, a sizable amount of content is accessible only within its original platform.  This means that most organizations have not even come close to unlocking the full value of their content.

As companies move deeper into the knowledge economy, content management is no longer a platform that can evolve separately from other key application platforms in a company’s information infrastructure: it has to be fully integrated.

The future of the knowledge workers’ desktop lies in a fully-integrated Collaborative Business Environment, a workspace that supersedes the traditional desktop metaphor and provides the knowledge worker with access to all forms of information, resources (including people), tools, and applications that support his work.  A true Collaborative Business Environment will include systems that integrate multiple content repositories and provide seamless access to enterprise content.

Content management vendors recognized that a common standard was needed; one that would allow knowledge workers to access disparate repositories and, in 2006, EMC, IBM, and Microsoft began discussions towards that end.  The result was the Content Management Interoperability Standard, or CMIS.  The new standard is a jointly developed specification that uses Web Services to enable application interoperability with disparate content management repositories.   By the time CMIS was announced in September of 2008, the three partners had been joined by Alfresco, BEA (now Oracle), Open Text, and SAP.  At that time, the standard was turned over to OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) for advancement through its standards development process.

The goal for CMIS is to reduce the impact on IT stemming from maintaining multi-vendor, multi-repository content management platforms.  Companies typically incur high costs in order to create and maintain code that integrates different ECM systems within their organizations.  Software vendors have to create platform-specific applications that work with a specific CM platform.  The CMIS specification is designed to support integration between multiple vendors and repositories, making the added expense a thing of the past.

CMIS, which is development platform and language agnostic, is designed to support existing content repositories, meaning that organizations will be able to unlock content they already have built up, in some cases, over several decades.  It will decouple Web services and content from the repository itself, thereby allowing organizations to manage content independently.  It also supports the development of composite applications and mash-ups.

Currently, multiple vendors and platforms support CMIS including Acquia, Alfresco, Day Software, Drupal, Ektron, EMC, Fatwire, IBM, Joomla, Microsoft, Nuxeo, Open Text, Optaros, and Vignette (recently acquired by Open Text) among others.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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