The Challenge of CMIS

I started this to talk about some of the things out there, but there is sooo much that I am drawing the line. Kas is writing some good things on CMIS as he attempts to grok it.  Others, like Jon Marks, are grappling with CMIS as well. They raise some excellent points that probably deserve posts unto themselves. I find myself, today, focusing on the more immediate and of the more “outside-the-box” thoughts.

Updates and Announcements

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How the iECM CMIS Demo for the AIIM Conference was Made

Okay, that title should handle all of the words I need for lots of hits.  🙂  In all seriousness, that title is exactly what I am focusing on in this post.  I’m going to cover some of the background and non-technical challenges in putting this demonstration together so that you can better appreciate what went into the effort. You can read the official announcement for the official description.

Before I do that, I want to offer thanks to the following:

  • Thomas Pole: Thomas is the chair of the iECM committee for AIIM. He was in charge of this demo and was able to identify a host platform for us to run the system on for no charge.  In addition, he built the User Interface while I focused on the back-end components.
  • Betsy Fanning: Betsy is the Director of Standards at AIIM.  She helped keep us on track and coordinated with the various vendors that participated in this effort.
  • The iECM Committee: They helped make sure that what we were doing made sense from a business perspective and worked with us to develop the requirements and design.
  • The Vendors: This is more than the obvious ones. I’ll go into more details in a subsequent post. I just want to say now that all the vendors involved worked hard in this effort. Just because you don’t see their content right now doesn’t mean that they didn’t participate.
  • Harris Corporation and Washington Consulting, Inc.: Thomas’s and my companies, respectively, helped us by allowing us time and additional resources to build and put our pieces together. We both have full-time day jobs and only support from our companies made this possible.

Okay, on to the show…

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CMIS and SharePoint

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.

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AIIM’s iECM Committee, Validating CMIS

As you may have heard, I’ve been a member of AIIM’s iECM committee for over a year.  I’ve been more of a lurker as I was a little nonplused at the efforts of the committee, but I stayed with it to learn more about their efforts in detail and hoping to one day be able to help in a substantive way.

Well, that day has arrived.  We are taking on the creation of a prototype, CMIS-based, system to store the presentation from the 2009 AIIM Expo.  The basic premise is to have one or more CMIS back-end systems storing content with a central interface that would provide content, seamlessly, to users.  Rather than explain the details, I’m publishing the “official” write-up.

Before you dive in, if you are a vendor with a CMIS implementation, we want to speak to you.  You can contact me or the people listed below.

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Vendor Support for CMIS

As I discussed yesterday, I’ve been waiting a long time for the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard.  There is still a fair amount of excitement out there as more people join the conversation.  I’m still excited, but the excitement is beginning to be tempered by reality.

There are two primary factors to standard adoption:

  • Is the standard technically sound?  It has to actually solve the stated problem.  It is okay if a standard is limited in functionality in initial drafts as long as it evolves to accomplish everything required.  At the same time, it must be easy enough to use.  These are not small technical challenges.
  • Is there vendor support?  Let’s face it, if the vendors don’t support it, then it will fail.  The JSR-170 and JSR-283 standards are perfect examples.  They aren’t supported by a critical mass of vendors.  The reasons range from the technical (we work in Java), to the philosophical (it is a bad standard, let’s focus elsewhere), and to the lazy (nobody cares so let’s ignore it).

Customers are important, but it takes a large mass of them to force the vendors to act.  I would qualify them as a secondary factor.  While I digest the technical aspects, take a look at the Vendor Support factor.

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Enter CMIS, a Proposed ECM-SOA Standard

I am almost too excited for words.  Every thought I have is leading down ten different paths.  You may ask why.  Simple, they finally announced an ECM-SOA standard.  This new standard, Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS), has been submitted to OASIS for approval.  This is the same standard that I initially learned about at EMC World.

Emails streamed to me all day alerting me to this announcement, and I was blissfully offline.  Now I wish some people (you know who you are) had told me to pay attention this morning.  As it is, I’ve decided to let everyone of you know about it and give some thoughts to the effort.  I still have to review the actual specification and find out what this means to each of the key vendors.

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SharePoint and Documentum, Patience is a Virtue

Well, the time has come to talk about the elephant in the room, SharePoint.  It was a slow conference for me regarding SharePoint.  I didn’t attend any normal sessions on it as I was usually being pulled away by other items.  I did get a lot of time with Andrew, Erin, Craig (yes, Craig), and a boatload of partners talking about the SharePoint problem.

Problem?  Yes, problem.  The problem is that nobody knows what to do to make everyone play together.  I’ll tell you right now, playing together is required.

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The Future of Documentum Security in the SOA World

A month or so ago, I asked people to post questions that I would try and get answered at EMC World. Every question had to do with security. Unfortunately, I was unable to track down all the right people to ask the right questions in a timely fashion. Part of this was my fault as I didn’t keep on top of the questions that I had promised to get answered. There was one situation where I was told by person X that I needed to talk to person Y. The irony was that I had spend half an hour the previous night socializing with person Y, never realizing that I should ask that question and I never saw person Y again.

So if I don’t answer your question, I didn’t ask it and I am sorry. If it is any consolation, I didn’t get all of my questions answered either. So to Robin, no idea about the future of Common Criteria certification. James, I neglected to ask about about Ounce Labs and static code testing as a whole (whenever I remembered the question, I was invariably talking to a marketing person and not one of the product managers).

I would like to thank all the product managers for patiently letting me ask my questions repeatedly until we were sure that we were talking about the same thing. I also want to thank Craig Randall for all the time that he spent with me during the conference, and later via email. He was very helpful and worked with me to more fully understand my business scenarios. He successfully directed me to the correct product managers to give the scenarios to directly. Now I am bothering them, leaving Craig to talk about more relaxing topics (at least until my next hard question).

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The Rumors of My Promotion are Greatly Exaggerated

I was just relaxing with my first cup of coffee, reading the morning news and blogs, when I stumbled across this post by James saying that Laurence Hart will be the lead of a new standards body focused on ECM. The quick answer is that it is not true. James heard it through the grapevine, so let me list some facts that could easily lead to this fact occurring. Note that I met a colleague of James at the conference and we talked about everything below.

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