In need of single standard to purge incompatibilities, metadata has two now

In need of single standard to purge incompatibilities, metadata has two now

By John H. Mayer

Special to GCN

Though sometimes viewed as an arcane technology, metadata plays a crucial role in the design and implementation of data warehouses and the use of extraction, transformation and loading, or ETL, tools.

Some tools, for instance, allow users to import metadata to populate internal repositories, reducing development time in the process.

And most of the tools allow the user to export metadata from internal repositories into other tools to permit the sharing of data, simplifying development.

What metadata lacks at the moment is a path to interoperability.

A single industry metadata standard would, in theory, greatly simplify the exchange of information and make the design and implementation of data warehouses easier. It would define a single data format for interoperability across all warehouse, business intelligence and enterprise portal products. That, in turn, would help eliminate software incompatibilities and the costs associated with managing data in multiple systems.

In late June, the Object Management Group, backed by IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp., took a major step toward that goal by ratifying a new Extensible Markup Language metadata standard. Called the Common Warehouse Metamodel (CWM), the new standard will help ensure that mission-critical data can be shared across all internal and external systems.

A must for all

'It's essential for e-businesses to have a unified view of their customers,' said Michael Howard, vice president of Oracle's Data Warehouse Program Office. 'Metadata standardization allows organizations to consolidate and distribute consistent customer information and therefore gain further market advantage through the power of fact-based decision-making.'

The industry, however, still faces a major compatibility conflict. Last year, the Meta Data Coalition, backed by Microsoft Corp., issued its own metadata standard called the Open Information Model. Work to bridge the two standards remains unfinished.

The coalition reportedly will release new technology later this year designed to simplify data interchange between applications that run on the different standards.

In the meantime, a few companies are selling products that conform to the CWM specification, and others are planning to do the same.

Oracle, for instance, has announced plans for a new set of metadata management tools called OneMeaning. Scheduled for beta release later this year, the tools will feature a set of management features for integrating, documenting, browsing, searching and querying metadata within a data warehouse. The new tools will allow users to view a lineage report on data they are analyzing.

Oracle also is releasing a Common Warehouse Metamodel enablement kit that will simplify the task of building bridges between Oracle and other vendors' products.

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