Last month we discussed data content analysis, an enterprise application integration (EAI) technology that normalizes a database by analyzing the live data content. In this column, we will discuss another EAI approach, based on XML, used to expose all aspects of databases including business rules. This is called inter-enterprise data integration.

Inter-Enterprise Data Integration

Inter-enterprise data integration (IDI) is an enterprise application integration technology that is used by infoShark (http://www.infoshark.com/). It is based on use of XML in their latest product, called XMLShark. This enables rapid exchange of data between enterprise databases and Internet-based users by generating relational XML data directly from legacy data sources. XMLShark enables XML data to be securely used, shared and exchanged on the Web, parsed and returned to a corporate source.

XMLShark automatically scans existing data sources to understand their structure and underlying business rules and generates data mappings. This renders seemingly incompatible data sources instantly interoperable. Says Barbara Bouldin, CTO of infoShark: "XMLShark will broker, cache and synchronize information via the Internet in real time or batch, based on business rules as well as preserve the integrity and security of the data."

The XML data generated by XMLShark uses the industry-accepted XML (commerce accelerated relational data CARD) schema that contains both the data and the database structure. It converts relational data to and from XML. It translates the relational data in real time to an XML-based information cache that enables the bidirectional exchange of relational data to the Internet or anywhere in an enterprise.

infoShark created the CARD schema to represent relational data and its meta data in XML. This schema conforms to the current working draft of the W3C and, according to infoShark, has been accepted by BizTalk as a standard. CARD is freely available on numerous Web sites, including http://www.xml.org, http://www.biztalk.org and http://www.infoShark.com.

Documents adhering to the CARD schema can provide all the necessary information to recreate relational databases and populate them with their data. This information includes such things as primary/foreign key relationships, indices, constraints and native data types. This schema can be used by a business to provide a subset of a production database to business partners. It contains commerce-related information for pricing individual pieces of data contained within the document. By setting a business value for information, companies' data can be easily sold in an e-commerce environment. The main goal of the CARD schema is to provide a common language (complete with basic business rules) for a bidirectional XML-based information flow. The following XML examples, provided by Barbara Bouldin, illustrate some of the power of the CARD schema.

In one example, an Oracle constraint might be a rule such that a manager's base salary must be a minimum of $75,000 per year but cannot exceed $100,000. (See Figure 1.)


   
     
        salary >= 75000 and salary <= 100000
     

       
   

Figure 1: Card Scheme

Another example, shown in figure 2, illustrates the inclusion of meta data with the data, so that information becomes bidirectional. This bidirectionality provides the ability to update the original database.


  
    
      
          1.234]] ></columnValue><BR>     </insertData><BR>     <deleteData><BR>       <columnValue columnName="emp_id" isNull="no"><BR>           <![CDATA[5.678]] ></columnValue><BR>     </deleteData><BR>     <updateData><BR>       <columnValue columnName="emp_id" isNull="no"><BR>           <![CDATA[5.678]] ></columnValue><BR>       <previousData><BR>        <columnValue columnName="emp_id" isNull="no"><BR>           <![CDATA[1.234]] ></columnValue><BR>       </previousData><BR>     </updateData><BR>   </data> <BR></alterData></P> </TD> </TR> </TABLE><B>Figure 2:</B> Example Shows Bidirectionality</TD> </TR> </TABLE> <P>The CARD schema contains generic relational attributes so that data can be shared between two completely different database management systems. For example, information can be accessed from an Oracle database, shared, used on the Web and changed. The updated data can then be returned to a MicroSoft SQL Server database. The CARD schema defines all meta data and data content to achieve this inter-database sharing. </P> <P>Data content analysis (described in my column November 2000) and inter-enterprise data integration are two examples of enterprise application integration technologies. Another technology approaches integration from a completely different perspective, based on primary and foreign keys. This is called hyperrelational analysis and is the subject of next month's column. </P>

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