Any discussion of metadata has to begin by defining what it is. The usual definition, that it is “data about data,” is extremely unhelpful. It is not really accurate either, because metadata can be data about applications, or networks, or a whole host of other things that are not strictly data. I define the term as follows: metadata is the data that describes any aspect of an enterprise’s information assets and enables the organization to use and manage these assets.

However, there is general agreement that “core” metadata for data management will include information about entities and attributes found in data models. More lukewarm assent is usually given to relationship metadata being included in this mix, although it is extremely important for certain requirements.

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