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META DATA REPOSITORY SHOPPING LIST
by William Laurent

Deciding on a 'best of breed' enterprise metadata repository for your organization can be a time consuming and politically charged affair. Significant bi-directional and extensible integration of metadata from heterogeneous sources to a common environment will be a major task, with many stakeholders--all of whom may have their own visions of what a centralized and distributed repository or repository application suite should be.

Here are a few "checklist" topics that may jump-start your repository needs assessment and subsequent procurement efforts.

What are the Repository's Strengths? Things to Look for:

  • Powerful versioning capabilities help manage and administrate complex configurations of data.
  • Powerful extensibility.
  • Large array of scanners/interfaces, many of which are bi-directional.
  • Strong data stewardship capabilities--for instance: metadata groupings, impact analysis, searching, etc.
  • Strong support of systems development standards.
  • Can accommodate unstructured data. Places no limitations of types of metadata that can be included in repository.
  • Repository client allows for the identification, shopping, and linking to a single business element across the enterprise. This is called data name rationalization, i.e. the automated identification of synonyms utilizing matching criteria, and is driven from a powerful data name glossary list.
  • Sound separation of the repository platform from the database.
  • A solid web-enabled meta data browser: Meta data 'publishing' can be highly customized.
  • Inclusion of a search engine that provides potent meta data and document indexing capabilities.
  • Cataloging of pointers to unstructured metadata present no limitation on what kind of metadata can be managed within the repository, providing true distributed meta data.
  • Underlying relational nature of the repository enables reporting and analysis against the repository using 3rd party SQL compliant tools.
  • Underlying file management system is proprietary and non-relational [can be good or bad] and does not have to rely on external resources to dictate the details of the internal architecture or API's, promoting greater efficiency in design and responsiveness to market conditions.
  • Ease of extension and customization because of the separation of the repository engine from the database.
  • Interactive GUI for quick utilization of the repository, offering interactive and updateable graphic representations of data. A bundled web-enabled application can change query and manipulate data in the actual repository in real time.
  • Supports XML as the standard for meta data interchange, with the goal of progressively reducing the need for customized support of tool-specific environments. Accompanying modeling tool can make XML DTDs and custom repository information models (RMI).
  • A true 3-tier/n-tier solution using browser based clients. May also allow applications to treat the repository contents as a large XML document, which can be viewed in various ways using XML stylesheets.
  • Multitude of customizations possible. Repository of functions and services for C++, VB, and other 3GLs.
  • Effective security model.
  • Supports all standard RDBMS and operating system platforms.

What are the Repository's Limitations? Items to Consider:

  • Proprietary nature of file management system means reporting and analysis against the repository cannot be accomplished using third party SQL-compliant query tools, negatively impacting the accessibility of the metadata.
  • Administration complexity.
  • Lack of BI tool interfaces and scanning.
  • Unstructured data, such as Word documents, are not able to be physically stored in the repository. Instead a directory pointer is maintained in the repository to a physical location on the LAN.
  • Limited OS support, specifically UNIX/LINUX or AS400.
  • Read-only data shopping.
  • Lack of vision or corporate instability of vendor.
  • Rough interfaces and steep learning curve.
  • No easy migration capabilities (i.e. promotion path/gateway from test to production) for meta data.
  • Some degree of proprietary dispensation toward vendor specific ETL tools, making 3rd party ETL tool integration more difficult.

Buying a meta data repository may offer an attractive alternative to a homegrown one built from scratch. It is vital that IT management know what to look for when shopping for an extensible and scalable repository. The preceding checklist is merely a good starting point for the formulation of questions and issues that will help an organization determine the best repository for their needs.

Article content is either copyrighted to the magazine that published it or to William Laurent.
Copyright © 2018 by Loyer TCG, Inc.