Monday, June 08, 2009


It occurred to me the other day that CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services, the proposed OASIS "common protocol" for Enterprise Content Management) is actually a Document Management standard, not a Content Management standard. Its name should therefore be DMIS.

For proof, one need look no further than the data model. "Document" and "Folder" are the principal first-class objects in the CMIS model. Thus, "content" (the 'C' in 'CMIS') is assumed, by the authors of the standard, to mean "document."

The CMIS data model is also RDBMS-centric and SQL-friendly (as it is in all good DM systems). It follows the tried-and-true relational model of every respected legacy DM system.

I might add that the authors of the standard have basically declared WCM to be out of scope.

Basically, anything that doesn't fit the "everything is a document or a folder" model is either out of scope or will be extremely difficult to force-fit into the CMIS mold. At least, that's how it's starting to look to me.

I can't see WCM or DAM fitting easily into the CMIS worldview (which is a 1999 worldview, in terms of content being nothing more than documents and folders). What do you do with XMP in a CMIS world? Indeed, what do you do with unstructured content, in general? CMIS looks for content that's structured. That's not today's world. Sorry.

So CMIS is, for all practical purposes, a document-management standard -- a way to let DM systems (mostly legacy DM systems) talk to each other. There's nothing at all wrong with that. DM is still a critical piece of the ECM puzzle. But it's important not to mistake CMIS for what it is not and can never be: a universal content management API.


  1. Hi Kas,

    I don't think I agree with this. Sure, the first class object is called a "Document", but it doesn't look much like a Document in a Document Management system to me. Is supports arbitrary attributes (including sub-types/aspects/mixins) which mirrors most Content Management Systems pretty well. The binary attachment is optional, and Documents don't have to live in folders at all. And most CMS's have a primary folder structure too, although they'll often call them a Tree with Nodes rather than Folders.

    My biggest gripe would be that maybe the "Document" object should have been called something like "ContentItem". And maybe a "Folder" should have been called a "TreeNode". But, naming aside, I think the object model can cater for lowest common denominator Content Management quite nicely.

  2. A previous discussion on this same topic is available here:

  3. Stephane, thanks for the link, that's an excellent thread. Very very interesting. Jon, when you can make CMIS calls using AJAX, let me know. Also, when you can force fit a DAM system into the CMIS mold, let me know. The trouble comes when you realize that DAM, WCM, and ECM/DM are starting to converge in some fundamental ways. In fact, this growing realization (that unstructured content is driving convergence in DAM, WCM, ECM spaces) was quite noticeable at the recent Henry Stewart DAM Conference in New York and Gilbane San Francisco, both of which I attended last week. Also, I have heard more than one DAM vendor say that the term "DAM" is becoming obsolete. (A topic for another blog...) Anyway, interesting discussion. Anxious to do more blog posts around it.

  4. @Jon Marks:

    Are you saying, a "Document" in CMIS is not really a "Document" as in "Document Management"? ...and even could be called a "Node"? ;)

    Personally, I think that if "Document" and "Folder" were specializations of something more generic, such as a "Node" we would be in great shape to to cover a lot more than DM with CMIS.

    Some more on Nodes, Folders, Files etc...

    ...and of course I agree with Kas.
    See: and

  5. ... and, of course, I agree with Pie:

    I don't like the CMIS naming of "Documents" and "Folders" - they sound too specialised. But I can model granular content objects using the CMIS data model. It can't do *Web* Content Management *yet*, but that's fine with me. Let's sort out the definitation of pages/templates/etc later :-)

    @Kas - DAM isn't a CMIS use case yet either, so I have no intention of force fitting a DAM system into the CMIS mould. Also, I haven't given it much thought, but why do you think it will be difficult to do an AJAX CMIS call? I'm assuming it would be quite easy ....


  6. Some restrictions on Documents and Folders objects in CMIS makes it unnacurate for general CMS use. Such that "one Folder only for one Document" and "no localized titles on Documents or Folders"


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