XML Gets Organized
As XML content expands, good management tools are key. Native XML databases, SQL database add-ons and third-party integration tools all present advantages -- and trade-offs.
Computerworld - When the Classwell Learning Group began building a database of online lesson plans and other information for teachers, it needed to store and access content ranging from word processing files to copy scanned from textbooks. Because it needed to store, access and query all those data types, the publisher chose an XML database product.
"XML was pretty much a no-brainer for us," says Brendan Collins, director of IT at Classwell, a division of publisher Houghton Mifflin Co. in Boston.
IT organizations are using XML for everything from integrating applications to content management and access control. Native XML databases can help with storing and managing the resulting flood of XML documents, but they're not the only option. Major databases now offer XML translator features that transform XML documents into fields within their relational structures. That transformation process can eliminate many of the benefits of using XML, however, so SQL database vendors say they're planning to add native XML capabilities to their products.
In the meantime, third-party vendors offer tools that they claim offer more complete integration among XML, relational and even flat-file databases.
Deciding which XML data store is right for you depends on whether you have a stable schema, or design, for your XML data; the degree to which you need to store and audit transactions in their original form; and whether the application is critical enough to justify the expense of a separate, native XML database, say users and software vendors.
XML is a hierarchical data description language that uses tags, such as "customer," to define the data components within a document. In contrast, relational databases such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server or IBM's DB2 organize data in well-defined rows and columns within tables.
The fact that XML documents carry not only the data but also the definitions of that data makes it easier for those documents to "describe themselves" to multiple applications during a transaction. Compared with SQL, XML is also much more capable of dealing with unstructured data and data that can be more dynamic in both its meaning and its structure, says Paul Hessinger, executive vice president of HealthRamp Inc. in New York. HealthRamp develops software that allows doctors to prescribe medications using handheld computers. "The permanent data we need to take care of we store in SQL Server. But as we move the data from a handheld device to a Web server, that's largely done via XML," he says.
Choosing an Approach
XML also makes it easier to change the type or format of data stored in a database, says Jake Freivald, director of marketing at iWay Software, a division of New York-based Information Builders Inc. that develops XML integration tools. In an XML database, he says, adding a business-address field to a database only requires creating an extra set of data description tags within the document. In a relational database, he says, that change would require a new set of tables for the business addresses and defining how those new tables relate to every existing table in the database.
- Big Data, Big Mess: Sound Risk Intelligence Through Complete Context This paper examines the insecurity of the small businesses in the supply chain and offers tips to close those backdoors into the enterprise.
- CIOs strive to harness Big Data while keeping an eye on the bottom line Read this whitepaper to learn how Red Hat Storage Server allows CIOs to confidently support business growth, manage cost and risk, capitalize on...
- Enterprise architects challenged to manage data explosion Read this whitepaper to find out how Red Hat Storage Server can allow enterprises to quickly and confidently deliver business applications that minimize...
- Software Asset Management: Ensuring Today's Assets Today's trends like BYOD and SaaS are new and exciting in terms of how they will help make our jobs more productive but...
- Charting Your Analytical Future - "Making predictive analytics part of your business processes" Webinar This session will show how predictive analytics can be used throughout the organization by anyone looking for answers and how organizations can make...
- Capturing Data in Motion: Delivering Real-Time Insight from Data Streams This webcast will help organizations of all types and sizes learn about a technology and business strategy for tapping into the wealth of...