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Microsoft Partners on ECM Spec

Microsoft, IBM and EMC band together to form the Content Management Interoperability Services specification.

Microsoft, IBM Corp., EMC Corp. and other vendors last month proposed a Web services interoperability specification for enterprise content-management (ECM) systems.

The group's Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification aims to standardize the way software interacts with ECM systems to access basic functionality. Proponents of the effort say it could eventually help untangle a fast-growing market space that has been fraught with incompatible object models, rigid APIs and conflicting technology stacks.

"We believe that CMIS will dramatically help to reduce the amount of custom and one-off integration code, saving customers both time and money," says Ethan Gur-esh, a program manager at Microsoft. "As this standardized interface gains popularity among application developers, CMIS has the potential to open the ECM market and increase the usage of ECM systems within IT departments -- much like the SQL standard triggered the maturation of the database market."

Melissa Webster Quote

Welcome for CMIS
The companies plan to submit CMIS to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) standards-making body. But some companies are likely to adopt CMIS before ratification -- certainly by the end of 2009, says Melissa Webster, program VP for content and digital media technologies at research firm IDC.

"I don't think we'll see shops waiting for OASIS ratification," Webster says. "This is going to have a wonderful impact on the ECM marketplace. Finally we have all the leaders in the ECM market signing up to support the same Web-services API."

In a Sept. 10 report, Webster endorsed the CMIS effort, noting: "CMIS provides a language -- and development platform-agnostic standard, one that lets customers leverage their existing expertise in SOAP and REST."

Simple ECM
Guresh says CMIS won't replace deep-integration projects, but it should map reliably to existing vendor APIs and constructs that expose top-level functionality: "CMIS provides access to core ECM capabilities and as such, ECM vendors should not need to modify any core capabilities to support the new interface. That said, there's obviously work to be done to build CMIS over the top of existing APIs once the specification is ratified."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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