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Content management standards mature

As standards mature, users will find it easier to mix and match content applications and integrate multiple content repositories.

In many ways the development of content manage systems has followed the same trajectory as relational databases. First there has been a consolidation of vendors into a few major players. Now we see the introduction of interface standards. These will open up vertically integrated vendor solutions into separate content repository and content application layers. As standards mature, users will find it easier to mix and match best of breed content applications and to integrate multiple content repositories.

One of the most successful of these content standards has been the World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Distribution standard (WebDAV). WebDAV provides a standard infrastructure for asynchronous collaborative authoring across the Internet. It provides a standard interface between a range of authoring tools and WEB content. The interface supports version management and locking and management of metadata such as author and the last date the content was modified. In effect WebDAV supports universal collaboration over the Internet.

More new standards are emerging. The first set establishes standards that enable portlets to be used by any compliant portal server. (Portals use portlets as pluggable user interface components to provide a presentation layer to information systems). Organisations can use standardised portlets to access compliant Web services, provide services for any number of portals and share portlet code. Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP) standard 1.0 provides interoperability between .Net and Java-based portal elements so that organisations can share a hosted portlet.

JSR 168 and WSRP have strong industry support. Vignette Corp is the latest portal software developer to announce new products built on the WSRP 1.0. Plumtree Software Inc. recently announced new products that support WSRP 1.0, as well as JSR 168. These standards will play a key role in opening up portals to the resources of a growing community of portlet developers.

The same opportunity exists for content applications. Despite, or maybe because of the consolidation amongst content vendors, content application developers have to adapt to a wide range of proprietary APIs to work with multiple content repositories.

Day, a Swiss content management vendor of enterprise content management software CommuniquÉ, has led the development of a standard for repository access. JSR 170, which has recently been placed in public review, allows developers to use the same API to access all content repositories. JSR170 has strong industry support with Apache, IBM, SAP, BEA Systems and Oracle all serving as members of the expert group. Other leading industry participants include, Documentum, Filenet and Vignette. Venetica, a vendor of the VeniceBridge content integration solutions is also a strong supporter of the standard.

The common interface provided by JSR170 will support:

  • Facilities to create versions of any content and retrieve these versions.
  • Monitoring and notification of content events - for example changes to a document.
  • Full-text Search and filtering of content.
  • A unified, extensible, access control mechanism.
  • Standardised access to the locking and concurrency features of a repository.
  • A standard mechanism to soft/hard link items and properties in a repository and provide a mechanism to create relationships in the repository.
  • Although the JSR170 standard is designed for a J2EE environment, its usefulness is leading to calls to extend it to non-Java environments as a Web service. This has already happened with JSR 168 described above.

    Despite the recent consolidation of enterprise content vendors, most organisations will continue to support several content repositories and portals. The emerging standards for interworking will play an important role in allowing them to gain maximum value from their wide variety of content.

    Copyright 2004. Originally published by, reprinted with permission. provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.

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