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CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Specification) is a light-weight services-based interface specification for accessing documents and metadata in content management systems. EMC, IBM and Microsoft were founding members of the committee that created the CMIS specification. CMIS is now being reviewed and modified by OASIS and is expected to be finalized by late 2009 or early 2010.
While CMIS is not complete, working prototypes of CMIS implementations and CMIS applications are popping up. EMC/Documentum and Alfresco have CMIS repository implementations. Microsoft SharePoint too has an example of how it will be able to interoperate using CMIS with external non-SharePoint repositories.
The Sharepoint example was described in a Microsoft technical MSDN article and reported by CMSWire. It describes how an external repository can be configured to be accessed by SharePoint. Access to the repository is coordinated with the SharePoint Single-Sign-On service. Once connected, basic repository services with CMIS can be used, like check in, check out, versioning and delete.
The example shows how SharePoint can create and manage MetaData parallel to that stored in the external repository by maintaining stub documents within SharePoint. External documents can be associated with tasks of a SharePoint workflow. In the MSDN example, the external document is first checked out and referenced from SharePoint. Once the workflow completes, the document is checked back into the external repository with any changes that may have occurred during the workflow.
The example is simple, but it shows that CMIS has the possibility of having a huge impact on ECM space. The analogy rings true that CMIS can become a standard for unstructured data in a similar way that SQL became a standard for database-driven applications. The focus of ECM will likely shift from core repository capabilities to application functionality.