Informix XML's Its Metadata Transport Layer
22 , 2000
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.
(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."
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."
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).
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
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.