EMC Documentum developers have been begging the mother-ship to open up the code around its enterprise content management offering for well over a decade, and the answer has always been “no.”

Sure, it provided a cloud-based developer's edition that leveraged open source components such as relational database PostgreSQL, application server Apache Tomcat and operating system CentOS, but the secret sauce has always remained under lock down.

Even as viable open source ECM alternatives like Alfresco and Nuxeo arrived on the market attempting to lure clients away.

While corporate executives and ECM buyers might look at lower costs and the idea of no lock-in as the big benefits of open source, developers see something entirely different — a chance to see how things work under the hood, to improve it by contributing code and an opportunity to innovate on top of that.

How big a deal would it be if EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD) were to go the open source way?

It's a Start ...

Last night EMC ECD Chief Technology Officer Jeroen van Rotterdam told CMSWire that EMC would be making a set of tools around Documentum accessible to users on GitHub.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the full Documentum stack is being open sourced (as some tweets suggest). The new initiative provides free sample code and tools across a variety of ECD products on GitHub to help EMC partners and customers innovate around Documentum.

There are REST services samples available which deliver best practices, and a spruced up Spring Data layer. The umbrella framework for easy data access comes with a new interface and is supposed to be much easier to work with.

According to an EMC ECD partner who asked to remain anonymous, the big win for developers is an ability to start fast and to reuse code.

A Documentum engineer who has worked with the product for almost two decades said that access to GitHub code will make it easier for developers who are less familiar with Documentum.

“It will help the new guy who doesn’t know Documentum very well,” he said, “but me, not so much. I think xCP was a bigger deal.” He added that it’s been years since developers have done much to really build on Documentum.

Yet another engineer said that opening anything around Documentum is “a good start,” even though what they’ve started with doesn’t excite him too much.

But Laurence Hart, director at IBC, a DBS company doesn’t seem at all impressed.

"EMC releasing sample code to GitHub is simply moving its previously existing sample code to a universally used code repository. None of its products are making the move so there is very little impact to the average customer. It is a nice move, but in the end, it changes very little,” he told CMSWire.

We’ve Only Just Begun

Reactions like these probably wouldn't surprise van Rotterdam at all. 

“This is just the beginning,” he told CMSWire. “There were (EMC) hoops we had to jump through. It takes forever to get through legal,” he said. “We have now opened the door. There’s much more to come.”

And if what comes is an active, inspired community, that would be huge, especially if developers could access the whole stack without needing to pay for a license. 

But maybe breaking free of EMC CEO Joe Tucci’s iron, proprietary-loving fist, is a bigger first step than it seems. Will we see a new openness coming from EMC Documentum?

All bets are off for now. After all, Dell is set to assume ownership of EMC later this year and it has not yet explained where Documentum will fit into the mix.