One of the best things to ever hit the old information technology function must be Web services in support of enterprise application integration (EAI). For a while, we thought we were going to have to replace all of our legacy application systems and data, but no! We can now leave those old systems in place (many of which are running just fine, thank you) and use middleware to expose these systems and their data to the Web. EAI involves software used to integrate applications and processes within an enterprise or across enterprises. EAI is achieved by developing integration standards that facilitate interaction among disparate systems without the need for custom point-to-point application integration work. Data can remain in diverse formats yet be integrated with other relevant data to enable business transactions and decisions. Diversity of data is no longer something to be overcome or reengineered, but rather something to be leveraged.

However, EAI relies on knowing what data is where, which brings in our old friend meta data. Meta data has always been important, especially in data warehouse creation, as a passive guide to the pieces of data that are critical to an enterprise's continuity. Meta data has been housed in meta data repositories and has been important for application developers, business analysts and even users to understand what a piece of data means, where it comes from, how it's calculated and who uses it. However, the problem has been its passivity.

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