CMIS and SharePoint 2013: Native Support for Better Interoperability

4 minute read
Mike Ferrara avatar

With the new year comes a new release of the CMIS 1.1 standard. Let's take a look at how SharePoint 2013 has improved support for the standard and why this should matter to you.

CMIS Background

Content Management Interoperability Services was founded in 2006 by EMC, IBM and Microsoft with the goal of improving interoperability amongst the various ECM systems in the market. If you’re looking for more general information on the history of CMIS, you can read more details here in an article I wrote during the SharePoint Conference 2011 (#spc11).

Since last year’s writing, the committee has been working on the CMIS 1.1 specification. It should be approved in 2013. CMIS 1.0 has been supported in SharePoint 2010 since its ratification in 2010. It’s available by means of an add-on in the SharePoint Admin Toolkit.

SharePoint 2013 Support

Even though it’s still the 1.0 standard, the biggest change with support of CMIS is the fact that it’s a native feature for on-premises deployments of SharePoint 2013. It’s simply another feature that can be activated on a site, which will expose the web services endpoints that CMIS-enabled applications are looking for.

This makes it incredibly simple to enabled support for CMIS, which was more of an administrative burden in SharePoint 2010. And although most IT pros have no idea how or why they should use CMIS, it’s a clear example of how SharePoint is aiming to simplify support of interoperability with other ECM vendors and client-side applications.

The Beneficiaries

The question I’m sure you’re dying to ask is, why do I care? The fact is, the CMIS spec is still relatively an obscure reference, as it’s not as marketable as something cool like the new Yammer features, right? Yes and no. While I’ll admit that the topic can be incredibly painful to read about, the fruits of the governing committees’ labors can actually be seen much more easily with SharePoint 2013.

I do want to add though that I’m not suggesting that Microsoft is the only vendor doing cool things with CMIS. In fact, EMC and Alfresco (to name a few) have been major innovators supporting CMIS from the early days, and they too support the spec in their respective ECM products. But this IS a SharePoint article, after all.

One of the better examples I’ve seen lately of how easy it is to expose CMIS to an actual user was during a session at #spc12 last month. A demo was given on how Adobe users can easily connect to a SharePoint document library (via Adobe Bridge) and work with documents the way they would expect in Adobe Photoshop.

Learning Opportunities

The really great thing here is that this is a no-code solution. You can check out a document that’s stored in SharePoint right from the Adobe Bridge file share via a right-click context menu. All versions and metadata are exposed in Photoshop, so you can work with the document appropriately without leaving the application itself. Remember, all that’s needed is a site owner to activate a feature in SharePoint 2013.



Much to the chagrin of cloud-based customers, CMIS functionality is still nowhere to be found in Office365. The scoop is that it’s certainly in the works, but there is no official timetable for when this will be crossed off the roadmap and implemented. I would expect there to be a clearer picture on support in Office365 when the 1.1 standard is adopted. With that being the main focus of the committee, including Microsoft, I can’t imagine including support for 1.0 being as critical as getting 1.1 ratified.

Parting Thoughts

It’s nice to see that Microsoft is still working to push for further adoption of CMIS standards as well as offering tangible benefits in SharePoint 2013. I’m hoping that the next time I write about CMIS, it will be to share how the 1.1 spec is being supported in SharePoint, whenever that may be. In the meantime, the current 1.0 standard is still suitable for primetime. There are still a great deal of vendors who can and should take advantage of CMIS, which may help their products from being referred to as “legacy”.

Editor's Note: To learn more of Mike's thoughts on what's to come with SharePoint 2013, be sure to read What's New in Enterprise Content Management for SharePoint 2013 #spc12

About the author

Mike Ferrara

Mike Ferrara is a vice president in the Legal Management Consulting practice at Duff & Phelps. He has over 12 years of experience with information systems integration, and he specializes in the Microsoft SharePoint and Autonomy WorkSite platforms.