Using Web interfaces, a customer might use SAP's front end to access multiple back-end content repositories, archive SAP data in Microsoft SharePoint, or use Microsoft Office or SharePoint to access back-end data inside EMC's Documentum content-management platform.
These examples would be made possible by the new Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification, which is ready to be submitted to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) for approval, the specification's developers announced Wednesday.
"The goal was really to create a specification that is language- and platform-agnostic" and easy for vendors to implement, says IBM's Ken Bisconti, vice president of the company's enterprise content management (ECM) products and strategy.
The specification is being submitted to OASIS this month and is expected to be ratified sometime by the end of 2009. Full interoperability among content management products will have to wait until after the standard is ratified and vendors build the new capabilities into their systems. But "there should be no shortage of CMIS-based widgets and services," perhaps within the next few months, Bisconti says.
The CMIS effort was started two years ago by EMC, IBM, and Microsoft, but since then Alfresco Software, Open Text, Oracle, and SAP have joined the project. All vendors will be able to use the specification to build Web-service layers on top of existing products, Bisconti says.
Current options for integrating ECM systems involve purchasing third-party products, building one-off connectors to allow interoperability in limited scenarios, or manually migrating content from one system to another. Current standards also are not inclusive of all major ECM vendors, members of the CMIS coalition say.
Using the SOAP protocol and the Web software architecture known as representational state transfer (REST), the CMIS specification will result in Web interfaces that give users the most critical capabilities of content management repositories and applications.
"The goal is not to expose every little ECM capability," says Razmik Abnous, CTO of the content management and archiving division at EMC.
E-discovery and archiving in particular would be enhanced by better interoperability, vendors say. "There's been an explosion of interest in using attractive front-end technologies like SharePoint, Lotus, and mashups, against lots of different applications," Bisconti says.