Metadata Gaining Momentum

Steve Elkins is wrestling with a data warehousing project for a Latin American airline. The project involves combining marketing information from several sources, but some new metadata-related tools mean that the warehouse Elkins, a consultant with Chicago-based Technium Inc. (, sets up will be flexible enough to respond to unanticipated challenges in the future.

At a recent Hyperion Solutions Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif., conference in Dallas, Elkins and an engineer from Informatica Corp. (Palo Alto, Calif., applied Hyperion’s newly shipped Integration Server and Informatica’s ETL tools to the airline’s massive data warehouse. In a matter of hours the two rearranged the data into manageable OLAP cubes.

"It’s like OLAP on demand," Elkins says. "You do it quickly, and it’s just as easy now as creating reports."

The demonstration was based on the use of Informatica’s MX2 metadata standard and Integration Server, which allows users to leverage metadata by enabling the rapid carving of existing relational data into OLAP cubes. "The goal of this product is being able to respond when something hits, like the Asian financial crisis," says Dan Druker, director of product marketing for OLAP technology at Hyperion.

Metadata has been gaining momentum in the last month, with many vendors bringing forward products designed to free the data in data warehouses and data marts for use by more than one application. In addition to Hyperion, Microsoft Corp. recently announced an expansion of the Microsoft Data Warehousing Alliance with a heavy focus on metadata, Pine Cone Systems Inc. (Englewood, Colo., brought forward a metadata management product, and several other vendors announced an arrangement called MetaConnect.

In late October, Microsoft announced that 20 vendors will support new technical specifications for the Microsoft Data Warehousing Framework, a Microsoft architecture for data warehousing with several integration points. The first integration point is the Microsoft Repository, where SQL Server 7.0 will store metadata. Microsoft officials say more than 40 other companies have requested the alliance criteria, which are available online at

Microsoft’s announcement involves SQL Server 7.0, which is expected to broaden the market for data warehousing to small- and mid-size companies that previously found the startup costs of warehousing projects prohibitive. Pine Cone recently announced a metadata product aimed at high-end customers using distributed data on Unix systems. Pine Cone’s administrative piece, Meta Exchange, and its business-user interface, Meta View, run on Windows NT.

"To date, the metadata issue has been handled by what we believe to be very mainframe-centric, centralized repositories," says Bob Butchko, vice president of marketing at Pine Cone. "The reality of the marketplace is very distributed and heterogeneous technologies."

Butchko says leaving metadata on the nodes where the data resides allows metadata to grow realistically as the system grows, as opposed to pouring money and effort into building a centralized repository at the beginning of a project and guessing about future needs.

One of the members of the Microsoft Data Warehousing Alliance has launched an arrangement of its own. Ardent Software Inc. (Westboro, Mass., is using patented metadata technology gained from its acquisition of Dovetail Software as the foundation for MetaConnect Cooperative. The setup creates tight integration between Ardent’s DataStage ETL tool and business intelligence tools from BMC, Brio Technologies, Business Objects, Cognos, Embarcadero Technologies, Information Advantage, Informix, Seagate Software and Whitelight Systems.