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One of the details that distinguish CMIS from other standard efforts is that all major ECM vendors have built CMIS prototypes long before the specification has been ratified. It’s not surprising that most of these prototypes are repository interfaces and simple GUI clients. But an enterprise-ready client library was missing. So Open Text, SAP and Alfresco teamed up in summer 2009 to build an open source CMIS client library for Java. We called it OpenCMIS.
All three companies brought their CMIS experiences to the table. Our first CMIS prototypes go back to spring 2008. We already had experimented with CMIS clients and knew how a client library should look like. And we could also contribute proven code fragments. Meanwhile the low-level client that implements the CMIS bindings has been tested against most of the public CMIS implementations and against some that are not publicly available.
Today OpenCMIS is more than a client library. It also consists of a CMIS server framework and a set of tools. It was time for a bigger community. The OpenCMIS group proposed a contribution to Apache and has been invited to join Apache Chemistry. Finally, the OpenCMIS source code will be added to Apache Chemistry this week. We are really looking forward to this collaboration. Together we can extend and improve our code bases and foster the adoption of CMIS.
On 23 October 2009 CMIS 1.0 entered the Public Review. This is a big step for CMIS and a great achievement of the Technical Committee. We encourage everybody to read and comment on the specification draft.
Open Text will release a technical preview of the CMIS Connector for Enterprise Library soon. And there will be more exciting news from Open Text regarding CMIS in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!
A couple of weeks ago with the beginning of the CMIS plug fest in Basel Open Text made the first CMIS implementation available for public tests. It is the intent of the CMIS Technical Committee to improve and settle the standard by running continuous interoperability tests between the various vendors and their implementations. Anyone who is interested can get an account and run his code against the available AtomPub and SOAP end-points. This helps in identifying different interpretations of the standard, detect incompleteness or areas for other improvements. Many of the active members in the standardization group use it already and others have followed this idea or will follow making their services public. Additional activities take place during the regular face-to-face meetings (called PlugFest) that allow quick direct interactions between the parties to identify and track issues.
We have chosen to host the public CMIS server in the Amazon EC2 computing cloud. This platform provides us the flexibility to quickly setup, upgrade/modify and shut-down the service on demand. Getting familiar with the infrastructure and installing the first virtual machine was a real pain. But now it appears to be a reliable and stable platform.
Today this is mainly for development and testing purposes. However, these first steps towards cloud computing also give some insight into the future of cloud computing services. You can easily imagine CMIS standard test clients being replaced by real customers connecting to the Enterprise Library Web Services from their SAP system, SharePoint or other applications. Without the need to buy and maintain your own hardware, without the need to take care about a 24×7 availability for your servers you get the ability to come much faster to productive systems and you can scale on demand your server landscape. You can still benefit from the feature set that the Open Text server provides such as single-instance-archiving, compression or encryption of content. You can use your own private storage volume in the cloud (Amazon S3 storage or Microsoft Azure) and organize the content according to your business needs. You can use Retention Management, benefit from the DoD certified Records Management facilities, automated backups and so on and so on. There is potential for having pre-configured appliances for certain business-cases and for service providers to offer added value on top of an existing base. So there are a lot of opportunities in cloud computing and you can start today if you want. The CMIS server is up and running.
If you are interested in accessing our CMIS test server, just drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
A few weeks ago we started the development of a proof-of-concept CMIS client based on Enterprise Connect. Enterprise Connect is a framework that hooks into desktop applications including Outlook, Microsoft Office and the Window Explorer. It provides a plug-in architecture to extend these applications.
The client can connect to CMIS repositories with an AtomPub or a SOAP binding that implement the CMIS draft 0.61. It presents the folder tree and file list in the look and feel of the application it is embedded in. Since it is a proof-of-concept we only implemented a selected set of features:
- folder browse
- display of object metadata, allowable actions and list of versions
- documents open with double-click
- documents can be downloaded via context menu
- folders can be created via context menu
- drag-and-drop works from and to CMIS repositories
- folders and documents can be deleted and renamed
- some document types can be opened in a preview pane
- search is supported to some degree
In addition to this end-user orientated plug-in, we also built a plug-in for administrators and developers. It provides access to all logical repositories a CMIS endpoint exposes and lets the user browse the type and property type definitions.
We have tested the client at the CMIS plug-fest end of April in Basel and it worked quite nicely with most of the available repositories (see screenshots). We also found interoperability issues with a few servers during that event. Most of them were caused by incomplete implementations. So we are confident that those issues will be solved until the next plug-fest.
Although the proof-of-concept just provides limited functionality, it already demonstrates the potential of this approach. A complete implementation would allow users to drag an email directly into a CMIS repository without leaving Outlook. A CMIS repository would be browsable with a tool all users are familiar with: the Windows Explorer. Word, Excel and Powerpoint could open documents directly from a CMIS repository and the user would be able to set the appropriate CMIS metadata for that document in the Save dialog.
The idea of the proof-of-concept turned out to be really compelling. The seamless integration into applications the users already know could fosters the adoption of CMIS. We will do more experiments with it over time.