To Buy a Repository or Not to Buy a Repository? That is the Question…Here is the Answer
By David Marco
More companies than ever before are reducing their IT (information technology) costs and delivering a competitive business advantage by building successful meta data repositories. The companies that are building these repositories are faced with a fundamental question. Should we buy a meta data integration tool and use that tool to build our repository or should we build a custom meta data repository? This article will address the four essential questions that will guide your decision whether to build or buy. Before you can answer these four questions there are some upfront tasks that need to be completed. First, make sure to define the specific business and technical requirements of your meta data repository. This is best done by completing a meta data repository project scope document. DO NOT look at tools until you have completed creating the project scope document. Second, an important component of the project scope document is that it identifies the sources of meta data that you will need to integrate into your meta data repository. It is important to note that not all meta data needs to be stored into the central meta data repository. Third, once you’ve identified the sources of meta data that you will bring into the centralized meta data repository you will need to decide how frequently you will extract the meta data from these sources. The frequency with which you will update the meta data within your repository is based on your company’s specific business requirements for the repository. Fourth, it is important to gauge your corporate “climate”. By climate I mean that there are some companies that have the IT philosophy that they always custom build their applications. Other companies believe in the reliance of tools and prepackaged applications. Your company’s climate could dictate your choice.
When talking about purchasing a meta data integration tool (e.g. Allen Systems Group Rochade, Data Advantage Group, Ascencial MetaStage, Computer Associates PRMVS and PROEE) it is important to understand what you are buying. First, all of these tools come with their own meta model. A meta model is a fancy term for a physical data model that holds meta data. Second, these tools typically come with prebuilt impact analyses that pull meta data from the base meta model. An impact analysis is a technical meta data driven report that significantly aids a company’s IT department to drastically reduce the time for IT development (for examples of these reports see this column in the September 2000 DM Review “Meta Data ROI: Making Your IT Department Better, Stronger, Faster”). Third, a meta data integration tool has the ability to bring in specific sources of meta data (e.g. Erwin, Business Objects, copybooks, database logs, etc.) and integrate them into a meta data repository. In addition, as these sources change over time (e.g. upgrade to a later version of Erwin) the meta data tool vendor will enhance their tool to accommodate these changes. Do not underestimate the task of keeping your repository’s integration processes up-to-date with the changes that will occur to your meta data sources.
Question #1: Can your company afford $500k – $750k on software?
The cost of purchasing a high-end meta data integration tool (i.e. Computer Associates PROEE, Computer Associates PRMVS, or Allen Systems Group Rochade) typically starts at $500,000 and in a more unique case can go as high as $850,000. In addition to this purchase price, the annual maintenance fees can run anywhere from 15% – 25% of the original purchase price of the tool. If your company cannot afford this type of purchase or will not allocate this amount of funds for software, then you should consider a custom-build or a lower cost meta data integration tool (e.g. Data Advantage Group).
Question #2: Can you assign dedicated resources to become knowledgeable on the tool?
Any of the meta data integration tools require that multiple dedicated resources be assigned to work on the tool. If you do not have resources to allocate and do not have funds to get these resources from a vendor (software or consulting), then you should not be purchasing a tool. Like any other major IT initiative, meta data repository projects require dedicated resources. If you do not have dedicated resources to your project then you need to have a very limited project scope.
Question #3: Is there a tool that certifies enough of your key meta data sources?
When a meta data integration tool vendor states that their tool certifies a specific source of meta data it means that the tool has an existing process that pulls meta data from this source and loads it into the meta model (for more on this topic see my column in DM Review December 2000 “Evaluating Meta Data Tools). Certified sources of meta data typically do not require a great deal of effort to load into the repository.
Question #4: Will your company save enough development costs (current and future) to justify the tool’s purchase?
By understanding how many of your sources of meta data that the tool certifies you can decide if it will be cost effective to purchase one. If the tool does not certify a sufficient number of meta data sources to justify the cost of the tool then than you will most likely do a custom build; however, if you are starting your project small and want to grow it then maybe a tool is still a good choice.
If you have answered no to any of these four questions then you should not be purchasing a meta data integration tool. On the other hand, if you’ve answered yes to all of these questions than most likely a tool is in your future. As a guideline, at Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc (EWSolutions) around 60% of our meta data repository clients select building over buying. Keep in mind that most of our clients tend to be conducting larger meta data repository initiatives.