This is a critical subject. As I said when the CMIS standard was released, the key to its success will be vendor adoption. This means more than just signing off on the standard. The vendors have to incorporate it into their message and start to show clients, partners, and analysts how they plan to support and implement CMIS. Based on how the ECM marketplace has begun to revolve around SharePoint, I consider Microsoft’s support a major component for success. CMIS can succeed without them at first, but it will be a much steeper hill to climb without Microsoft.
Well, Microsoft appears to be doing things right so far. In addition to showing a desire to participate in the AIIM effort (along with EMC, Alfresco, IBM, and Nuxeo), they hosted the first OASIS CMIS Technical Committee meeting out in Redmond, WA. More important than either of those actions is the implications of this MSDN article, Integrating External Document Repositories with SharePoint Server 2007.
What Did Microsoft Do?
From all appearances, they created a way to consume some CMIS services within a specialized Document Library, called an External Library. They used a Microsoft Silverlight application for the custom Web Part interface. Why Silverlight? I suspect it was to promote two technologies at the same time.
For the external repository, they created a custom repository consisting of just a simple directory structure with XML files to store document metadata and repository specific information. In front of that, they implemented four of the CMIS services: repository, navigation, object, and versioning. This is in no way a CMIS compliant implementation, lacking all the services and the REST implementation, but it is sufficient enough to demonstrate the capabilities, and benefits, of SharePoint working with an external repository.
Does this answer the question of how best to integrate Documentum and SharePoint? No. It does show how SharePoint can act as a Federated front-end and expose existing content into SharePoint. This approach allows for a single SharePoint integration point, supported by Microsoft, that will allow users to interact with content from multiple external repositories. That is all I ask from Microsoft at this point as that is the one of the strongest use cases for SharePoint and CMIS.
There is still a long way to go though. Getting the authentication and authorization mapped properly is not addressed, but is recognized as a weakness. They mention a few ways to address this as well. I don’t consider it an oversight as this is more of a practical proof-of-concept than a finished product. With CMIS only at version 0.5, I’m not overly concerned at this time.
If you want to play with the project, you can grab the code from Microsoft. As Shawn Shell at CMS Watch indicates in his post, Making it Real, there is a lot to dive into here, and even more to watch for down the road. This implementation may not be how things are done when the final implementation is released, but it does show some of the current thinking.
Meanwhile, In Redmond
As mentioned above, the OASIS CMIS Technical Committee met in Redmond in the latter part of January, and Microsoft hosted. According to John Newton, who gives a nice write-up of the 3-day event, this is not the first CMIS event that they have hosted. The event was well attended. Attending companies/organizations include:
- AIIM (by phone)
- Day Software
- EMC…David Choy is the chair of the committee
- IBM…Al Brown is the secretary for the bindings
- Microsoft…Ethan Gur-esh is the secretary for the data model
- Open Text
- SAP…Presented the security proposal
From John’s account, which you should read, this was a very productive event and I am enthused by the progress. I look forward to hearing more about the future meetings. It looks like the standard is about a year away from finalization, but that is more determined by the process for comment than any real hurdles at this point. I just hope I didn’t just jinx it.
One sentence that caught my eye, in a non-CMIS way, was, OpenText presented hierarchical properties. I think that comes from the old Docs Open product that they acquired from Hummingbird. It was a great feature and one that I wish I could implement effectively in other systems. DOCS Open is the first Document Management system I ever implemented. I even worked as a consultant for Hummingbird back in the day.
Here’s to Microsoft, EMC, Alfresco, and the rest of the committee giving us some good ones.
[Edit: The meeting notes are online in PDF format.]