Behind Business Objects' New Metadata Management XI Release

The revamped Metadata Management XI could be a boon to bilateral integration between SAP and Business Objects environments.

At its TechEd 2008 conference, held earlier this month in Las Vegas, SAP AG unveiled a new version of Business Objects Metadata Management XI. It's the first update to the product in two years, according to SAP officials.

It's also a case of good -- perhaps impeccable -- timing. SAP just bought Business Objects last October. On top of its other assets -- many of which overlap SAP's own products -- Business Objects has an SAP integration goldmine in Data Integrator (DI), an ETL toolset built on technology it acquired from the former Acta Technology.

Acta specialized in connectivity to SAP environments, and some of DI's integration features -- namely, its impact analysis and data lineage capabilities -- have since been grafted into Metadata Management XI. That sets the stage for the new Metadata Management XI, version 3.0, which officials say should be a boon to bilateral integration between SAP and Business Objects environments.

Metadata Management XI 3.0 also complements the impact analysis and data lineage capabilities of Business Objects Data Integrator with a bevy of new capabilities, including a "Metapedia" feature; improved integration with the InfoView portal; metadata source group analysis capabilities; an event search feature; and a new annotation and tagging mechanism.

Bill Rojas, product marketing manager with SAP Business Objects, says the revamped Metadata Management is a good prescription for what ails many companies.

"There are plenty of challenges for all BI deployments and data migration projects. That's because they involve a number of pools that you need to manage, so each of these metadata [pools] creates its own metadata," he explains. "Each metadata creates its own format or representations of that [metadata]. At the same time, it's nearly impossible to view that data across all of the pools that you're creating for your projects. That's what we're trying to address."

The centerpiece of Metadata Management XI 3.0 is the new "Metapedia" feature. "It's basically a business encyclopedia," Rojas says. "It translates metadata into business definitions, so the organization is now able to easily navigate and discover that metadata. What we are able to do with this Metapedia concept is to first organize your terms -- and you can do it by subject or business unit, and you can also link the business term to related metadata objects. Then you can also build this standard business definition or vocabulary of all of these words that have been used in the organization -- of phrases or even business concepts -- so it really helps you to create an encyclopedia of business terms."

Rojas points out that "Added to this, there are synonyms or key words that you can associate with the metadata objects. If you type 'Revenue,' you may also want to see 'Profit,' and see if that information is also related to what you're trying to find. It's a better way to organize your metadata in a more user-friendly way that the business user and not just the IT user can take advantage of."

Other amenities include a new metadata source group analysis component. "What you can do now is you can group the metadata integrator sources -- such as those you find in a development environment or testing environment or even production environment -- and after the groups are defined, you can actually view the impact analysis in the metadata lineage for a specific source group," he says.

"The source group analysis is quite important for the organization when they're trying to get quite specific visibility of the data at a quite granular level."

There's also improved integration -- via a single sign-on capability -- with InfoView, the Business Objects BI portal.

"The [InfoView] user can now see where the data came from, all the way back to the original transaction source. This is critical. You want to make sure that you can trace reports back to the source, that you have the ability to say, 'I [created] this report based on the following data and source,'" he comments.

"Any BI user can view the data from WebIntelligence directly from InfoView. You can actually be within your InfoView reporting and scroll down the menu and click metadata management and actually open that application right on the spot, so it is a single-sign on [experience] from InfoView basically." The revamped Metadata Management XI boasts a Google-like event search facility, too. "The UI is very Google-like. The customer can add custom attributes and do a thorough search based on terms, so it's quite easy to use."

Rojas touts broader platform reach -- including support for Linux, Solaris, AIX, and a host of third-party application servers -- as the final link in a strengthened Metadata Management deliverable. "We're also adding support for application servers like WebSphere, WebLogic, and Oracle Application Server, so that is also a major improvement in this release."

Metadata Management XI may have grown out of Data Integrator, Rojas concedes, but version 3.0 departs significantly from that product.

"When we built Data Integrator as a product, one of the things that we figured out was that customers were asking for this traceability -- [this] impact analysis and data lineage. It got to the point where we saw an opportunity to create a separate product that goes beyond impact analysis and data lineage. So we said, 'Let's create this separate product called metadata management and build this to be more enterprise-wide.

"So what you have is the same impact and data lineage [capabilities] from the Data Integrator tool, but complemented with other features, too. The Metadata Management user gets access to the Metapedia concept, and the tight integration with InfoView is not available for Data Integrator. The metadata source group analysis is also not available, the annotation and tagging in supplemental metadata is not available, and the event search is not available, either, so they don't get this Google-like UI."

The company says that Metadata Management XI 3.0 is available now.