Microsoft, Industry Discordant Over Data Warehouse Spec

The Object Management Group Inc. (OMG, unveiled its new standardfor enterprise metadata -- dubbed the Common Warehouse Metamodel (CWM) -- earlythis summer. CWM had been submitted to the OMG in September 1999 by aconsortium of industry heavyweights -- Oracle Corp. (, IBM Corp. (, Unisys Corp. (, Hyperion Solutions Corp. (, among others.

From the beginning, however, CWM lacked the broad industry support thatwas required of a would-be standard. To this day, the support of software giantMicrosoft Corp. ( is conspicuously lacking. Instead,Microsoft is throwing its support behind its own Open Information Model (OIM)metadata standard. Almost a year older than CWM, the proposed standard enjoysthe support of the Meta Data Coalition (MDC). Redmond claims that OIM providesthe same services and functionality as CWM. Microsoft has even stripped OIM ofits COM dependencies to make it an "open" information model.

The metadata space could prove to be an important one. Metadata -- thedata about data -- provides information about the kinds of data stored in adata warehouse. A metadata standard is becoming increasingly important becausethe applications used to create data warehouses are being based on proprietarydata formats that are preventing the sharing of information between products.

CWM builds on three existing industry standards -- Unified ModelingLanguage (UML), XML, and XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) -- to provide astandard infrastructure for the exchange of enterprise metadata.

Its proponents say CWM is designed to work with object, relational,record-based, multidimensional, and XML-based databases. They say CWM supportsdata mining, data transformation, OLAP and information visualization, amongother analytic processes.

CWM's June unveiling came only two months after the OMG announced that itplanned to work with the MDC to reach a consensus on a single metadatastandard. As of press time, no such standard had been reached, nor did anyappear to be forthcoming.

This issue threatens to boil over. The industry is demanding a commonstandard to address data warehouse information. Eventually, a compromise mustbe worked out to accommodate both standards, warns Rob Enderle, senior analystat Giga Information Group Inc. ( Today, most enterprises manage orotherwise manipulate their data by means of tools or platforms supplied byMicrosoft, Oracle, and IBM, making it more important than ever that all threevendors agree on the crucial area of metadata standards.

Mike Schiff, director of data warehousing operations at Current AnalysisInc. (, agrees. "If you're a vendorpartnering with both Oracle and Microsoft, you don't want to have to worryabout supporting two sets of standards," he stresses.