Someone asked me if it was possible to have a single page with links to just the "Integrating SharePoint with Traditional ECM Systems - Eight reference architectures" articles. I think that they were politely saying that they had no interest in my other articles...so this is it, alternatively, you can click here to filter by the relevant category. I'll try to make it "stick" to the top of the Blog.
In this architecture the publishing of content between SharePoint and the Enterprise Content Management system is performed manually by the end user. This is not an approach that I’d advocate but it is included for completeness and because it is a method frequently used today simply out of necessity.
This is probably the key architecture behind any real unification solution today. In this architecture, content is moved between systems depending on its value to the organization. For example, work in progress might live in SharePoint and formal records might live in your ECM system. The move between systems is performed by a process and can be invoked manually or triggered by a specific event.
In this commonly seen architecture, SharePoint hosts Web Parts that point at your SharePoint repository or at your Enterprise Content Management system. For example, one part of the screen’s real estate is displaying content from SharePoint while another part is displaying your ECM system’s Inbox. This is stretching the definition of “unification” IMHO but for reasons that will become clear later I think that this approach is often essential to make up a complete solution.
In reference architecture 3 the unification occurs within the SharePoint portal container. In this architecture the unification occurs within a specific Web Part; a single Web Part displaying content from a variety of disparate systems. We will look at this unification model from a passive perspective – only allowing the user to view or export the content.
Building on reference architecture 4, we will see what happens if you attempt to add more complex operations to the affray; supporting operations like checkout, managing versions, connecting objects to a workflow, etc. The addition of these more complex operations increases the complexity exponentially.
The first five architectures are all focused on unification. This penultimate example creates a passive aggregation model where we use tools to create a virtual aggregation across the SharePoint and traditional ECM environments. We can then monitor the aggregated environment and take actions as required. For example, we might compare the access rights on a piece of content that lives in 10 different document libraries and report on access inconsistencies.
The Holy Grail or Pandora’s Box? Real aggregation of the SharePoint and traditional ECM silos allows us to perform many operations that would be very difficult or even impossible otherwise. Having all objects from all environments addressable within a single space and supporting operations on those objects allows us to really address some of the current limitations in a scalable & secure way – think “single instance storage” for example.
Reference Architecture 8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcutting
In this model the ECM system stores the only copy of the actual payload of an object, (the document, spreadsheet, image, etc.). A shortcut/stub/proxy/pointer is created in SharePoint; this points to the object in the ECM system and mirrors all of the appropriate object metadata. Actions applied to the pointer object are redirected to the ECM copy when appropriate. Both the SharePoint object and the ECM object are protected by event triggers so that changes to the properties, location, etc. can be synchronized and when either is deleted the other will also be disposed of.
Note that this RefArch works for content that already exists in the ECM system, is being created by a 3rd party process or is "published" from SharePoint.
Unification at the Middleware Layer
You may have noticed that the integrations above all manifest themselves in the client or server layer however the majority of SharePoint’s strength lies in the “middleware” layer. I am not ready to discuss middleware-level integrations yet but I expect to be able to add some more meat in to that layer of the sandwich by the time the book is ready to go to press…you may have to part with some cash to learn those bits!