Friday, February 24, 2006

The importance of JSR 170

My colleague Apoorv has pointed out in his blog that Alfresco only supports level 1 JSR170 compliance. In my gushing endorsement below I had not noted this and think it well worth bringing to note.

JSR 170 is turning out to be one of the industries best kept secrets. I had a meeting with a client today, one who is very well informed and up to speed on all things CM, but had not realized the significance of this standard. And I find this is not uncommon - would love to hear from others on this.

JSR 170 is not a silver bullet, but it is probably the first meaningful example of a cross integration standard for CM. Previous attempts such as DMA or even the various workflow protocols from the WFMC fell well short of the mark. But the fact that there have been well tried attempts in the past opens up the question why, and if the JSR spec has any more chance of success.

Firstly a bit of history - the DMA (Document Management Alliance) now under the control of AIIM, tried to build specs for a model API for cross repository integrations. The WFMC tried to do something similar for workflow applications. These were worthy attempts but failed due largely (or entirely) to lack of enthusiasm from DM vendors. Why the heck would they want anyone else to access their repositories? In short a good idea for users, a rotten one for vendors.

But then came the portal technology and web applications that often if not always needed to interact with some kind of content repository. JSR 170 came from this need for a standard Java based API to access disparate repositories.

Most ECM and WCM vendors still think its a pretty rotten idea for others to access their repositories - why they cry isn't all of an enterprises content in a single instance of my (insert as neccessary - Hummingbird/OpenText/Interwoven/Documentum etc) repository?

But it just doesn't add up any more particularly in a web services and SOA world - so reluctantly they are coming round to it. More because it can be a disqualifier to RFP's than anything else I suspect. And on that note I would like to recommend here that EVERY RFP ask vendors if they are JSR 170 compliant and to what degree (not just a check box).

Database and Portal vendors are of course leading the way in JSR 170 compliance - but the ECM and WCM vendors are coming along at a steady pace. But all are not.

In my opinion and I am sure Apoorv would agree with me (and James Governor too I suspect) any software that has a content repository or interfaces with one should be JSR 170 compliant, if its not it shouldn't be on your list. By the way 'membership' of the JSR Expert Committee does not automatically mean the companies products are compliant :-)


apoorv said...

I completely agree that all software that have a content repository should be JSR 170 compliant. Life would be so much easier for customers and system integrators as well. It would be as some people say like JDBC in the database world.

But i guess that itself (the fact that life would be easier) is a big reason for lot of vendors not wanting to make their repositories JSR compliant :)

As for Alfresco's JSR 170 support, John Newton has written has written an excellent comment here which is worth reading.

alan pelz-sharpe said...

Good comment - and and excellent link to John Newtons detailed response to JSR 170.

Nonetheless JSR 170 is the only game in town, and from past experience vendors won't adopt it unless they have to. The way I see it Portal vendors and database vendors are adopting it, and if ECM vendors don't they will start to feel the pain as the move to using the database as the repository will speed up.

David Caruana said...

On the day of your post, we released Alfresco v1.2 final which includes JSR-170 level 2 support and the transaction option for all JSR level 1 & 2 capabilities.

Although we consider it important to provide the JSR-170 API to our customers and partners, JSR-170 shouldn't be the only game in town. Isn't it also necessary/time for some form of content management standard tailored to an SOA environment? i.e. Web Service based itself.

alan pelz-sharpe said...

Aha! Ok so that's that one sorted regarding Alfresco :-) Many thanks David.

As for whether JSR170 should be the only game in town, I agree that it should not. But I can only think back to touring the Us vendors in the late 90's asking them if they supported or planned to support DMA or WFMC standards. They would all say yes, but then later over a drink tell me (off the record) the opposite.

So for now JSR170 is probably the only one, flawed though it may be.

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