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Metadata integration

IBM's Xperanto is much in the news. It is aimed at data integration. This IT-Director columnist wonders whether if Xperanto can be used for data integration, it could also be used for metadata integration.

Market Analysis

Metadata integration
IBM's Xperanto is much in the news (and I hope to discuss here it some detail in the near future). Xperanto is aimed at data integration. Put simply, it uses DB2, XML and a software layer to allow you to look across heterogeneous data sources and view the data thereon as if it all existed on a single central platform.

So far, so good. Then it occurred to me to wonder whether, if Xperanto can be used for data integration, it could also be used for metadata integration. There seems to be no reason why not. But before getting all excited about the possibility of improved facilities for metadata management using Xperanto, I thought I'd better check what the Repository vendors were planning. Sure enough, ASG (Allen Systems Group), the owner of both Manager Products and Rochade, is planning a Virtual Repository.

How is this similar to Xperanto? And why is it significant? The answer to the first question is that the Virtual Repository will support federated repositories in a very similar way to Xperanto's support for federated databases, with a single central view across metadata that may be scattered in various locations across the enterprise.

Why is this important? Metadata is generally managed in isolated islands just like data was managed 30 years ago - there are multiple versions of the truth, with multiple owners and no overall control. But, unlike the introduction of the database, the use of Repositories has not become widespread. This is because they are much more complex than databases and require a major investment if you want to make them work.

So, with a few exceptions, Repositories have been limited to use as embedded functionality within other products such as development tools, systems management products and so on and so forth. Even security directories like LDAP or Active Directory are, effectively, repositories in their own right. So, you can see the problem, integrating all the metadata from these environments into a single monolithic installation would be a nightmare.

What the Virtual Repository will enable you to do is to leave metadata in situ but view it centrally. Management over all the different metadata elements out there may be some time coming, not least because not all vendors support the relevant standards, but at least there is the realistic prospect of some sort of inroads being made into the problem.

Repositories have not been sexy since IBM dropped AD/Cycle. But they fulfil a much needed function. Perhaps the advent of the Virtual Repository can re-kindle the flames of desire.

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