Over the next few months, we will see how data warehouses can evolve into enterprise portals. We will see how the extensible markup language (XML) uses meta data to build enterprise portals as a central gateway to the enterprise. An enterprise portal (EP) is also called a corporate portal (CP) or an enterprise information portal (EIP).

XML uses meta data to integrate structured data in legacy files or databa ses with data in relational databases. This integration has been difficult to achieve in the past without first redeveloping the legacy systems. However, XML offers an open architecture interface that enables this integration to be achieved more easily ­ without requiring complete redevelopment of the legacy systems. It can be used to give a new lease on life to legacy systems without the enormous effort of the past.

Structured data is the focus of information systems and data warehouses, but it typically represents only 10 percent of the knowledge resource in most enterprises. The other 90 percent exists as unstructured data in text documents, reports, e-mail, graphics, images, audio and video resources. This knowledge has been largely inaccessible to information systems and data warehouses. Decisions have had to be taken by management without easy access to this unstructured knowledge ­ but not for much longer. XML can be used to integrate this unstructured data resourc e with the structured data resource in relational and legacy databases ­ making all enterprise knowledge potentially accessible.

When access to this integrated knowledge resource is provided via the Internet, the corporate intranet or extranets (between customers, suppliers and business partners), innovative new application opportunities emerge. This is one reason for the interest that is developing in enterprise portals.

Enterprise portals can be built from the ground up using XML or can evolve progressively from existing data warehouses. Many data warehouse and DBMS vendors have already seen the potential of enterprise portals and XML. They are extending their products to provide needed support in these areas.

Other vendors are providing a capability to deliver information from data warehouses and enterprise portals by innovative ways ­ not just to client workstations, but also by using browsers via the intranet and Internet. Staff can also register to receive infor mation to be sent to them automatically ­ via printers, fax, pagers, PDAs, voice or voice mail. This can provide information on a regular basis, such as top-selling items for the day. Or it may notify them on an exception basis of certain events that require a decision to be made, such as low inventory of a critical item.

The building of enterprise portals, and their evolution from data warehouses, is covered in a new book, Building Corporate Portals with XML (published in September 1999 by McGraw-Hill) which I co-authored with Peter Aiken. Peter is also the author of Data Reverse Engineering: Slaying the Legacy Dragon.

Together Peter and I cover forward engineering methods in Part 1 of the book to identify meta data from strategic, tactical and operational business plans. In Part 2 we also cover reverse engineering methods to identify meta data from legacy and relational databases. We introduce XML concepts in Part 3 and show how XML can be used for business r eengineering and systems reengineering. We describe how data warehouses can evolve into and can be deployed as enterprise portals using XML.

Products are also discussed in the book ­ including a number of XML applications in many industries. Further information about the book, including an excerpt from Chapters 1 and 15 can be found on the IES Online Store at http://b ne002i.webcentral.com.au/catalogue/visible/default.shtml or by visiting the IES Web site (http://www.ies.aust.com/~ieinfo/) and clicking the "Online Store" link.

The Online Store provides links from the "Home" page to a number of in-house seminars and management presentations that cover various aspects of enterprise portals and XML in more detail. For example, under the book front cover image is a link to an "Overview Workshop."

This in-house overview workshop can be tailored to your environment. It covers all phases required to develop an enterprise portal. It also includes hands-on lab sessions using tools to assist in building enterprise portals with XML. It will help you design your own enterprise portal project. You can also read details of skills- transfer in-house workshops for enterprise portal projects by taking the "Project Workshops" link.

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