Informix XML’s Its Metadata Transport Layer

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Informix XML's Its Metadata Transport Layer
M. Reed - May 22 , 2000

Event Summary

MENLO PARK, Calif. and Westboro, Mass.- April 18, 2000- Informix Corporation (NASDAQ: IFMX), a software vendor specializing in infrastructure for the i.Economy, announced the industry's first XML Document Type Definition (DTD) for Extraction, Transformation, and Transport (ETT) metadata. Informix's XML DTD will enable more complete metadata sharing, easing business-to-business collaboration and facilitating the integration of disparate tools within the enterprise. This announcement builds on Informix's industry-leading open metadata strategy, and addresses the need for a published XML standard for ETT metadata.

DTD (Document Type Definition) is a language that describes the contents of an SGML document (Standard Generalized Markup Language, an ISO standard for formatting a text document). The DTD is also used with XML, and the DTD definitions may be embedded within an XML document or in a separate file. DTDs are currently required to comprise the "dictionary" used by different XML applications to communicate with each other.

"Informix is committed to providing our customers with leading data management capabilities," said Mikael Wipperfeld, vice president of marketing at Informix Corporation. "Our goal is to eliminate the problem of disconnected metadata environments. By supporting XML as a standard metadata schema, we are giving our customers the ability to combine best-of-breed tools across the enterprise, providing them with the critical components for competing in the business-to-business arena."

"Ardent DataStage Suite from Informix supports reading and writing ETT metadata through this DTD, enabling industry standards-based metadata exchange with any other product that supports XML metadata interchange. Ardent DataStage Suite provides complete data warehouse metadata management and integration that offers broad support for sharing metadata between third-party data warehouse products. Using DataStage Suite for metadata management enables users to achieve a more accurate understanding of data, providing a better basis for business decisions."

Market Impact

Support for XML as a metadata transport layer is a critical component for interoperation between different vendor's products. Informix/Ardent's major competitor, Informatica, has a "plug-in" capability for metadata exchange called MX2, however, this API is proprietary and does not use the standardized XML language. In order for other vendors' products to interact with MX2, they have to write a plug-in based on Informatica's API. When attempting to close new business, Informix can argue that they are open and Informatica is proprietary. This fact may give them a leg up on the competition. Microsoft and IBM are following the same path as Informix, so we expect Informatica to respond by opening their API in the near future (70% probability).

User Recommendations

It should be noted that the industry standard term for this type of product is ETL (Extract/Transform/Load). Informix has decided to create a new term ETT (Extract/Transform/Transport), but the terms are functionally equivalent. Any ETL tool needs to be able to exchange metadata with enterprise repositories of metadata, business intelligence tools, decision support systems, enterprise portals, and other products that will most likely come from another vendor. The challenge is creating an all-encompassing DTD that describes all of the types of metadata that could possibly be exchanged between different products.

A question that remains is whether Informix is attempting to define all metadata types or just a core set. The presence of a wizard to allow modifications to the DTD would be helpful, but opens the door to a snowball effect where different vendors who are trying to interchange information with each other modify the DTDs in different ways, causing elements not recognized on one side or the other to be ignored. This technology will undoubtedly prove to be a helpful tool, but administrators will need to fully understand the logical business functions and units of work associated with the transactions in order to be successful.

We also believe that the next step in this evolution will be the emergence of industry metadata standards for DTDs within specific verticals such as healthcare and consumer goods (similar to what occurred with EDI in the past).

It remains to be seen how successful Informix/Ardent will be in this arena. Reference sites using this release of the product should be consulted before committing to the technology.

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