CMIS Deep Dive, Roadmap & SharePoint's Implementation #spc11

6 minute read
Mike Ferrara avatar

At last week’s SharePoint Conference in Anaheim, I attended the “CMIS Deep Dive and Roadmap” session, which was led by Adam Harmetz, Program Manager at Microsoft and Microsoft’s lead CMIS rep; Mike Mahon, President and CEO of Zia Consulting; and Ryan McVeigh, Director at Zia Consulting and CMIS Secretary and Technical Editor. The talk opened up with Adam giving a brief overview of what CMIS is and what its goals are.

If you’ve been following the CMIS standard, then you already know that Microsoft, Alfresco, Oracle, Adobe and HP are just some of the players who’ve signed on as sponsors. The primary objective is to alleviate the burden of supporting multiple enterprise CMS platforms in a single organization, something that is still a major IT problem today.

The CMIS Story

If you have been following the standard since its adoption in May 2010, then you’re probably wondering why it’s had relatively little movement in the industry. It was a hot topic, especially when Microsoft released a connector for it, but it just hasn’t caught on yet across the board. More than likely this is in regards to the fact that it’s still just a 1.0 standard right now, and there are some notable deficiencies, like a lackluster records offering, that make it a tough sell for many vendors.

But Adam did point out that the upcoming 1.1 and future 2.0 revisions will attempt to address these forthcomings to help push greater adoption. To round out this particular topic, Ryan mentioned that there are 50+ known implementations utilizing CMIS right now, so there is some traction worth noting.

For those who don’t have a strong understanding of the capabilities of CMIS, Ryan went through some high-level benefits and examples. “Cutting costs and improving developer productivity” are the top benefits of utilizing the standard. This may be a pretty obvious goal, as most new technologies use this particular line. But this is really the only technology where so many independent vendors are supporting the same effort by offering a compatible connector.

Some specific examples of how CMIS apps could be used would be a “SharePoint web part that uses CMIS to roll up personnel data from several different legacy systems” or a “mobile application that can access documents from any ECM system.” The latter is actually a real product built by Zia Consulting to prove this tech is not vapor.

On the technical side, CMIS repositories must abide by certain requirements outlined in the specification itself. Anything considered a basic service in the spec must be provided for, including support for REST and SOAP bindings. A vendor may, however, extend CMIS capabilities beyond what is available in the current spec, which could pave the way for formal adoption into a future release.

Vendor Adoption

Since this presentation was being given during the SharePoint Conference, Ryan did show the SharePoint-supported CMIS mappings for the data model. Some of the current capabilities when integrated with SharePoint include:

  • A CMIS repository is represented by a document library in SharePoint.
  • SharePoint Content Types are available in CMIS as read-only sub-types of “Document.”
  • CMIS properties map directly to SharePoint column types.
  • SharePoint exposes a document library’s folder structure via CMIS; however, a document can only belong to one folder.
  • SharePoint exposes a document’s ACL (access control list) via CMIS.
  • All major permission levels in CMIS are supported in SharePoint.
  • Versioning is essentially the same between CMIS and SharePoint and the check in/check out experience should be identical.
  • SharePoint supports metadata and full-text queries.

In addition to the functionality exposed through SharePoint, there are many other well-known vendors who have CMIS connectors of some sort. EMC Documentum, Alfresco, IBM FileNet, KnowledgeTree, Nuxeo, OpenText, OpenWGA, TYPO3, Apache Chemistry, Adobe CRX, eXo Platform, Fabasoft, ISIS Papyrus, O3spaces, OpenIMS, Seapine Surround SCM and Sense/Net are just some of the other vendors already enabling CMIS interoperability.

Learning Opportunities

Just about all of these vendors are being covered by CMSWire today, and it shows the true potential and scope of how CMIS could break down the walls that isolate these offerings from each other. If anything, it will hopefully allow organizations to continue to support specific flavors of various CMS products required by different user types, while at the same time providing a basic link between them for IT support purposes.


As far as the roadmap goes, Ryan did show some of the planned changes for versions 1.1, and 2.0. 1.1 will support pure browser based applications, the ability to define your own types and associated properties and support for the concept of mix-ins. Annotations, tagging, batch operations and retention and hold management are some of the staple CMS features that are being discussed for inclusion into CMIS in a future release, as they are currently not available in the basic feature set. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything specifically divulged for the 2.0 roadmap, but it’s nice to know that the discussion is happening now even when 1.1 remains unreleased.

The CMIS Value Proposition

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, Zia Consulting was able to expose the CMIS standard to specific clients that have challenges supporting multiple platforms. The concept is simple. They developed an iOS/Android mobile CMIS application that allows users to search, browse, upload documents, create folders and view/edit metadata. The application, Fresh Docs, has been tested against SharePoint 2010, IBM P8 FileNet, EMC Documentum, Alfresco, OpenText, Nuxeo and HP TRIM. The app is available today in the Apple App Store and the Android Market for free. This is more or less what the CMIS committee is looking for from industry players, an entry point that highlights the CMIS value proposition.

In conclusion, CMIS is not dead! I say that, because I’ve been told that by some noncommittal followers of the standard. Of course, if you’re living and breathing outside of the SharePoint bubble, then you probably don’t feel this way. But it’s certainly nice to see a fresh look at what CMIS is planning for the future and how a consulting firm took the initiative to provide an application for their clients that proves how CMIS can really provide tangible value to organizations operating in multiple enterprise CMS worlds.

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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.