CMIS is Helping Application Separation, Today

It is already happening, and I couldn’t be happier.  There are CMIS-base custom clients being developed and released that are taking some of the pain out of using ECM systems.  I’m not talking about open source clients, but commercial clients with dedicated teams and one goal, to make money.

I know that there is pain in the use of ECM systems, and not just because I use them.  I know this because of one simple metric; In my list my most successful ECM projects, the top of the list is dominated by systems that do not use the default user interface.  I’m not talking about customized clients.  I’m talking CUSTOM clients.

A Market is Born

image Well, there are some companies that are addressing the problem.  As I said in my Fierce Content Management guest piece on The Future of CMIS, two companies are leading the way by taking existing custom ECM client applications having them use CMIS to create a broader market for their software.

Generis updated their existing common interface, CARA, to leverage CMIS to work against multiple repositories.  WeWebU has announced plans to follow suit with their OpenWorkdesk interface in the second quarter of this year.

This is great!  Companies are looking to address the largest pains out there with ECM systems.  We may actually be entering the time of true Application Separation!  I’ll address some impacts shortly, but first, let’s look at what I saw over the past couple of weeks.

There is a Market, Now

So, three things triggered this post.  The first was watching Generis’s CARA application being shown to a continuous flow of prospective clients at last week’s DIA EDM conference.  Many were Documentum users, but there was a healthy collection of SharePoint users as well.  The response was consistently positive across the board.  Even those that said they were happy with their existing interfaces were impressed.

The second was talking to a company that was starting over fresh.  They had written a set of architectural principles that they wanted every component in their new Knowledge Architecture to meet.  Documentum’s interface didn’t cut-it.  The platform may have cut it, but having spent years being ignored by EMC, they were moving on to another platform.  They did feel that CARA, using CMIS and being browser neutral, met the bill.  They still had tests to run, but they were enthusiastic about the prospects.

Those two events showed me that there is not only a market for applications, but potentially a strong market.

The final triggering event is this Implementation Spotlight on CARA3 on the Ext JS website.  They used the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) to build CARA, using Ext GWT to round out the functionality.  This allowed them to build CARA very quickly, allowing them to hit the market quickly and to throw in all sorts of cool features with very little effort.  The result is quick, light-weight, and browser independent.

The important part about the article, while it has a healthy amount of marketing, it gives you more background into what led them to develop a CMIS-base interface and about the underlying technology.  The first is important from a market perspective.  The second is pretty cool from a development perspective.

Enough on that, on to what this means…

The Landscape is Shifting

imageThis is actually part of a perfect storm.  Look at this:

  • ECM Platforms have gotten stronger to keep up with the increasing volume and more diverse nature of content.
  • ECM interfaces have been steadily falling behind the innovation curve.
  • CMIS allows a common way to communicate with a repository.  Chemistry is providing a common implementation for those that already support the JCR standard.
  • Documentum and FileNet were bought by EMC and IBM.  Oracle bought Stellent, but they aren’t the user-friendly people.  Open Text bought everyone, leading to a shifting product lineup that leave people wondering if they are coming or going.
  • Open Source ECM has matured, providing multiple options for an ECM platform.
  • Microsoft has been Microsoft.  They are fixing every problem with SharePoint, but they haven’t caught-up to the curve yet.  Meanwhile, their biggest flaw remains, Works best with Microsoft products. (IE and with SP2010, Silverlight).

Fun fact: Did you know that many ECM vendors charge a separate license for their user client?  I wonder if they could take that money and buy a better client for less?  That is what we are about to find out.

We are now looking at vendors creating custom user interfaces.  Generis may have been first to release, but they are going to be far from the last.  WebWeU has been aggressively marketing their interface and I am looking forward to seeing it when it is released.

History says that the first couple of vendors typically don’t win the war in software (Wordstar, Novell, AOL).  When you take that into consideration, you can see why it is way to early to make any judgments regarding either of these offerings.  What we can say is that unless things change, this may become a permanent market niche.

Until Open Text buys them all. 😉


This time, there really is something to disclaim.  Generis is a partner of my company, Washington Consulting, Inc.  While my company, as policy, does not accept any revenue from any technology vendor if their software is used/purchased by a client, there are still some co-marketing efforts and lead-sharing that takes place.

That being said, this post was entirely MY idea, not my company’s or Generis’s.  I heard about the spotlight and thought it would be a good time to highlight the first commercial CMIS client already in the market.  In six months, there will be more competitors and it is entirely possible that one will be better.

None of this changes the fact that the release of this client shows that CMIS is already changing the Content Management landscape for what I hope is the better.

5 thoughts on “CMIS is Helping Application Separation, Today

    • Doesn’t. There is still momentum to build and the established application vendors to move adopt. This is just one more step. I will say that this does put that prediction at risk. To be honest, if this turned into the year of CMIS, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.


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