PLATFORMS: Windows 95 and Windows NT.

BACKGROUND: kisMETA Validator is used at HUD to test the compliance of proposed systems' meta data to HUD data standards. Reconciling and re-engineering legacy systems at HUD is a major effort in which the consistency and interoperability that stem from standards are of paramount importance. Yet, resources available for data administration as a standards enforcement mechanism are minimal. Validator is a way for us to do a great job on a key DA task with minimal resources.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Standard meta data is one of the keys to successful data sharing and software reusability. If you don't have meta data standards, with Validator you could create a decent and highly enforceable set of standards in a day. If you have standards, Validator can ensure that they are used. At HUD, all new and re-engineered systems are tested by Validator to easily and quickly point out the many small corrections that will standardize proposed meta data--with turnaround time of as little as an hour. Rapid turnaround means that standards are seen as an aid instead of as an obstacle by system designers and developers. The result of appropriately used standards is the best systems environment for the least cost.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Validator creates valid term and data element name lists from existing exemplary data structures automatically. This means that complete standard sets for any common database tool can be created very quickly. Most common standard parameters can be set with a few mouse clicks. Meta data maybe imported from common formats such as comma delimited or dBase and import ERwin and UML meta data. Validation results can be reviewed from several perspectives. For example, one is a list of "issues" per element per table (e.g., name too long, should use '_' as separator character, unapproved word used, etc.). Another summarizes compliance with standards using color codes.

STRENGTHS: Testing standards is one of the best ways to ensure that people will look beyond their own system boundaries and start thinking about how their system will impact other systems and share functionality and data that exist elsewhere. Validator is a tool that helps make data and component object-label standards practical and enforceable. Validator allows those who create and work with meta data, including system architects, designers, DBAs and programmers, to test meta data at their desks at every stage of the process. A database design is one of the first things to be done in any systems project, (especially a RAD project using VB, PowerBuilder or Delphi). If a formal review changes the data, this will lead to major system redesign and yet another late system blamed on those standards.

WEAKNESSES: Currently, Validator runs only on Win 95/NT PCs and not in UNIX or mainframe environments. Additional ability to access meta data directly from mainframe sources, and especially directly from the Platinum and Microsoft repository would be helpful (and is being planned for a future release).

SELECTION CRITERIA: This is the only tool of its type available, that I know of, and is an effective solution to an important problem.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We worked with this tool through the beta stage, and Kismet responded to problems and fixed bugs promptly. A small company, their product support is informal and the developers are accessible and helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: A comprehensive and in-depth hard-copy user manual and on-line help are available. Separate manuals focus on the needs of standard setters and standard users. Other materials provided include a primer on data standards and a step-by-step tutorial.

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