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Meta Data and Data Administration: Whassup!?! XML and Data Warehousing that's What!

by David Marco

XML and data warehousing are hotter than the beer commercial that spawned the whassup catch-phase. Data warehousing is a proven technology, while XML offers the hope of making the Internet a much easier world in which to live and develop. There has been a great deal written about the potential uses of XML; however, there are few articles that discuss its uses in data warehousing. Last month, we discussed how XML could be used to bring data into a data warehouse environment. This month, we will present how XML is used to get data out of the data warehouse and send it to other corporations, Web sites and wireless devices.

Web Site Generation

Often the information in data warehouses/data marts is published to a company's intranet Web site. XML will replace hypertext markup language (HTML) in building these Web sites as it makes the data much more accessible and valuable. With XML, the enterprise's decision-makers can have their corporate portal locate the information that they're looking for. Since XML was used to build the Web site, these users can electronically pull this information off their Web sites and manipulate it as they choose. Let's walk through this process.

Figure 1: XML Getting Data Out of the Data Warehouse

Figure 1 shows that data is read from the data warehouse and its data marts (see Figure 1, bullet 1 & 2) and then brought into the XML transformation process. The XML transformation process will then match this data to its corresponding XML schema (bullet 5). As we discussed last month, one of the key challenges with XML is having standard names and meanings for the XML data tags. Unfortunately, XML appears to be going the way of many of the past information technology (IT) standards efforts. Corporations are rushing to use it and in their hurry are creating their own proprietary XML data tag standards. Therefore, many of us in IT will have the unenviable task of juggling multiple XML schemas in our corporations. Next, the XML transformation process will write this data to a corporate intranet Web site (bullet 7). The decision-makers can now use their corporate portal to locate this information and even download it from the Web site onto their client PC for further analysis (bullet 10).

Wireless Devices

The Internet has changed the way many of us purchase products and services. Today, we can order any book online at Amazon or go to Ebay and become the high bidder for the new talking Pokemon action figure. These business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions are meeting the wireless world of cellular phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Many companies are creating products (such as the Palm Pilot VII) to enable you to go shopping at selected Internet e-commerce Web sites directly from your wireless device, whenever you want and wherever you may be. A key technology to enable these transactions is XML's sister technology wireless markup language (WML).

Figure 1 illustrates data that is read from an e-commerce Web site (see Figure 1, bullet 4) and brought into the WML transformation process. The WML transformation process will then match this data to the corresponding WML schema (bullet 6) because WML, like XML, will have multiple WML schemas depending on the wireless device. Lastly, the WML transformation process will push the information to a cellular phone, PDA, pager or some other wireless device (bullet 9).

In addition to these B2C transactions, WML will also allow corporations to extract data out of their data warehouses and operational systems (bullet 3) and send it to their field employees. This is especially valuable for sales force automation.

B2B Information Selling

When we think about Internet revenues, we tend to envision B2C transactions. This is a mistake as the greatest promise of the Internet age may be the quickly growing business-to-business (B2B) economy. Traditionally, data warehousing systems were focused on using their information to help corporations make better strategic decisions. For some companies, a natural progression is to turn their data warehouses into a revenue-generating vehicle by selling some of the information. In fact, there are firms whose chief product is information. Some of these firms will even build customized data marts for their customers. XML will facilitate this movement of data from one company to another.

Figure 1 illustrates data being read from the data warehouse and its data marts (see Figure 1, bullet 1 & 2) and then being brought into the XML transformation process. The XML transformation process will then match up this data to the corresponding XML schema (bullet 5). Next, the XML transformation process will send this data to the B2B (business-to- business) trading partner (bullet 8).

It is clear that XML will greatly aid the new Internet world in which we live. Just keep in mind that XML, like any other new technology, comes with its share of challenges. Use it wisely, and you will know exactly whassup!

David Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence and is the world's foremost authority on meta data. He is the author of Universal Meta Data Models (Wiley, 2004) and Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide (Wiley, 2000). Marco has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain's Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40."  He is the founder and president of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc., a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing and meta data repository technologies. He may be reached at (866) EWS-1100 or via e-mail at

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