1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

More Manageable

Enterprise information integration (EII) is the general heading under which such a strategy would fall today. But approaches to solving the problem have been around for years under a variety of names (see chart). Three main factors have made the situation more manageable today:

The growing use and acceptance of XML as a cross-platform standard.
Cheaper and more capacious storage combined with faster, more powerful processors.
The emergence of new tools to tackle the problem head-on.

EII products make it broadly possible to combine data from different sources whenever you need it. They accomplish this by creating an intermediate data services layer (middleware) that allows access to the data in a standardized way, instead of having to interact directly with each separate back-end data source.

Although named after enterprise application integration, a group of older technologies designed for linking applications, EII is more service-oriented than traditional EAI.

XML is probably the biggest single force driving the advance of EII today, because XML gives us the ability to tag data -- whether for format, content or both -- either at creation time or later on. And these tags can be extended and modified to accommodate almost any area of knowledge. (For a glimpse of how adaptable and wide-ranging XML can be, go to QuickLink 55873.)

Also, consider that Microsoft Corp. has announced its intention to make XML the default save format for its successor to Office 2003.

Besides XML, EII applications today are generally built around metadata repositories and specific connectors to link to these repositories.

Metadata Repositories
For EII to be practical, it can't simply be another data warehouse. Instead, it must pull together information when needed, in a timely and ad hoc fashion. The simplest way for an enterprise to do this is to establish and maintain a metadata repository or detailed catalog that describes what data is available, how it's stored, where it's located and the relationships among data components.

Relying on metadata also helps reduce data redundancy, data movement and inappropriate data transformations, potentially saving both time and money.

Early metadata systems were file-based data dictionaries; these were superseded by metadata repositories based on relational database systems. A modern, XML-based metadata repository lets data architects work with dissimilar data sources that are distributed throughout the organization or even outside its firewalls.

Most EII products come already equipped with a set of tools for accessing some "standard" set of repositories. But integration almost always involves customization, so you should expect to either create new connectors or modify existing ones.

Also, some EII approaches focus on a one-way interaction with data -- find what you need and aggregate with others -- while others are more interactive and bidirectional in locating and dealing with information.

Finally, the type of information you're going after (transactional documents, rich media, graphics and video, or technical data) also affects the type of interaction and connectivity needed, so EII products may have quite different sets of connectors according to the domains of knowledge they are accustomed to working in.

Kay is a Computerworld contributing writer in Worcester, Mass. You can reach him at russkay@charter.net.

See additional Computerworld QuickStudies

Special Report


Smarter BI

Stories in this report:

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon