Autumn marks the new school year, business year and CMIS year
It's that time again. Autumn and the new school year and we are about to take another major step with CMIS, the Content Management Interoperability Services proposed standard at OASIS, and we will be that much closer to having CMIS become an official standard. As of today, a majority of the technical committee has voted to put the CMIS specification to public review with zero no votes.I was recently reminded that I wrote about the public introduction of CMIS around the same time last year. This was the time that IBM, Microsoft and EMC decided it was time to announce the Content Management Interoperability Services that they started October 2006 and release it to OASIS to become an official standard. At that time Alfresco was fortunate enough to have been involved in the process for the previous year before joining the original three, along with Open Text, BEA and SAP. For the year before that, IBM, Microsoft and EMC broke away from AIIM iECM committee to speed up a process that itself had been going since Autumn 2005. Much of the groundwork was laid with iECM and the parallel, but Java-focused JSR-283 committee. All in all, this will not be a fly-by-night standard, but a standard that has been carefully deliberated, considered and grounded in real world use cases.
This last year has seen the number of vendors participating increase substantially with plenty of beneficial results. We have had a few face to face meetings that have triggered some great collaboration in a very competitive industry. The number of eyes looking at the spec has increased, but so have the minds contributing new ideas and expertise. SAP presented real world requirements that needed security in the form of ACLs, so something that we had been willing to punt on before, we added in. Microsoft, IBM, SAP and other owners of search engines participated in a working group to define APIs to get changes to a repository to keep search indexing up to date. Also, Day and Nuxeo set up an Apache project to share Java API and SPI components along with Gabriele Columbro from Alfresco and our friends at SourceSense. David Caruana, Alfresco's chief architect, contributed interfaces to handle renditions and specifically thumbnail previews.
More importantly, committee members were building real life implementations of the specification at each stage to really test its implementability and completeness. As Ethan Gur-esh from Microsoft once said, "I relish the fact that CMIS is retrospective." It can work with existing repositories, not be overly prescriptive, but still describe a powerful content application platform. Regular plug-fests ensured that the systems interoperated with each other. This alone distinguishes it from all other content management standardization initiatives - real life integration matching the current state of the specification. Dave Caruana's Java test harness, now in Chemistry, provided a tool for other vendors to test the completeness of their server implementations.
Developers started creating new applications based upon the early specs, such as CMIS Spaces and CMIS Explorer, which tested its usability as a platform interface for content-centric applications. CMIS's initial focus on real-life use cases has so far paid off as the level of functionality seems to match new applications being built and existing applications integrate content management capability, such as Drupal, Joomla and Confluence have with Alfresco through CMIS. I certainly encouraged anyone who wanted to integrate with Alfresco to do so using CMIS.
Today, unless some catastrophic event occurs, CMIS will go into public review. This is the last step in OASIS before becoming an official standard. As the process is laid out, it could take a maximum of 6 months for completion of the step and CMIS becoming a standard. It also means that only typos and minor corrections will change in the spec, currently at version 0.7. The determination of the spec leads, David Choy from EMC as Chairman and Al Brown from IBM and Ethan Gur-esh from Microsoft as Editors, has ensured that we got to this point and they have done an excellent job marshalling the process along. Everyone on the committee seems determined to see this to as speedy a completion as possible. It seems likely that CMIS will become a standard in the first quarter of 2010. I can't see anything getting in the way of this other than the US government disapproving or Google, whichever is more powerful. All the rest of the major players backing the standard. (Craig Randall, formerly of EMC Documentum, just popped up at the last call representing Adobe.)
Being the eternal optimist, I have very high hopes for CMIS, but I believe I have reason to be optimistic. I have seen it before first hand with SQL. Without vendor lock-in, it will now be possible to build content-rich applications that can run against many different systems. Customers will be able to move content from repository to another. It will be much easier to find stuff in random repositories without having to build multiple connectors. As the breadth of applications and utilities becomes available against these repositories, usage and deployment of content repositories will become more widespread and grow a much bigger pie for all vendors. As Alan Pelz-Sharpe reports in CMS Watch, CMIS is already gaining traction in 15% of AIIM members before it has reached standard status.
I'm really looking forward to this new year!