Friday, May 27, 2011

Value In The Integrated Metadata Stack

If you're using or looking at Agile Integration Software (AIS), the chances are you are discovering that there's metadata for everything that's not tied down (and even for those that are). Think about the conceptual epitome of integration. There have been various analogies over time, conjuring up a brain with information flowing (ENS - Enterprise Nervous System), or the flow and pervasiveness of water, and more recently we hear about the fabric. A few years ago I coined the term "synchronapse" to represent the idea of information flowing intelligently, like synapses firing anywhere as needed. Of course, that never took off - new words are fun, but an uphill battle.

I like the fabric metaphor. Good word: the fabric of nations, the geologic structure of a roc; something that represents the essence and the underlying structure; maintaining integrity but flexibly, so that if one point on the fabric moves, the fabric shifts to accommodate that change.

The only way to capture and control the fluid movement of the fabric and be able to ensure that the enterprise can quickly respond to internal and external changes, is to describe everything that can change with metadata. That's a cornerstone philosophy of AIS. Whether the fabric needs to adjust for planned business initiatives or unforeseen external events, the supporting integration infrastructure is adjusted via metadata changes.

Notwithstanding security controls, the full metadata stack must be available to any object or process in the environment, so that conditions at one point on the fabric can affect change in another. That is at best very difficult if each component of your integration stack has its own independent set of metadata. With AIS, as you build your integration with GUI tools, the various layers of metadata and the inter-relationships across the layers is being captured and managed automatically.

What's the value of an integrated metadata stack?
  • Reusability of metadata across the stack
    • Example: a for-purpose data selection from a source (e.g., customer demographics) can be reused as needed for any map. Also rules and formulas are reusable, along with processes and many other objects.
  • At run-time, any business rule can take action based on current values of any metadata
    • Example: a different transformation map can be executed depending on customer ID
  • Any layer can incorporate other metadata by reference
    • Example: an enterprise master data model can reference all the metadata that is needed to bi-directionally access and federate the appropriate sources

This is definitely one of the cool things about Agile Integration Software, possible because it's an IDE, all under one roof.

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