Waasszzup!?! XML and Data Warehousing That’s What!

By David Marco

XML and data warehousing are hotter than the beer commercial that spawned the wasszzup catch-phase. Data warehousing is a proven technology, while XML offers the hope of making the Internet a much easier world to live and develop in. There has been a great deal written about the potential uses of XML, however there are few articles that discussed its uses in data warehousing. Last month we discussed how XML could be used to bring data into a data warehouse environment. This month we will present how XML is used to get data out of the data warehouse and send it to other corporations, websites, and wireless devices.

Figure 1 : XML Getting Data Out of The Data Warehouse

Website Generation

Often times the information in a data warehouse/data marts is published to a company’s Intranet website. XML will replace HTML (hypertext markup language) in building these websites as it makes the data much more accessible and valuable. With XML the enterprise’s decision makers can have their corporate portal locate the information that they’re looking for. Since XML was used to build the website these users can electronically pull this information off their websites and manipulate it as they choose. Let’s walk through this process.

Figure 1 shows that data is read from the data warehouse and its data marts (see Figure 1, bullet 1 & 2) and then brought into the XML transformation process. The XML transformation process will then match up this data to its corresponding XML schema (bullet 5). As we discussed last month one of the key challenges with XML is having standard names and meanings for the XML data tags. Unfortunately, XML looks like its going the way of many of the past IT (information technology) standards efforts. Corporations are rushing to use it and in their hurry are creating their own propriety XML data tag standards. Therefore, many of us in IT will have the unenviable task of juggling multiple XML schemas in our corporations. Next, the XML transformation process will write this data to a corporate Intranet website (bullet 7). The decision maker can now use their corporate portal to locate this information and even download it from the website onto their client PC for further analysis (bullet 10).

Wireless Devices

The Internet has changed the way many of use purchase products and services. Today, we can order any book online at Amazon or go to Ebay and become the high bidder for the new talking Pokemon action-figure that our children have pledged eternal allegiance for. These B2C (business to consumer) transactions are meeting the “wireless world” of cellular phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants). Many companies are creating products (like the Palm Pilot VII) to enable you to go shopping at selected Internet e-commerce websites directly from your wireless device, whenever you want, and wherever you may be. A key technology to enable these transactions is XML’s sister technology WML (Wireless Markup Language).

Figure 1 illustrates data that’s read from an e-commerce website (see Figure 1, bullet 4) and brought into the WML transformation process. The WML transformation process will then match up this data to the corresponding WML schema (bullet 6) because WML, like XML will have multiple WML schemas depending on the wireless device. Lastly, the WML transformation process will push the information to a cellular phone, PDA, pager, or some other wireless device (bullet 9).

Besides these B2C transactions, WML will also allow corporations to extract data out of their data warehouses and operational systems (bullet 3) and send to their field employees. This is especially valuable for sales force automation.

B2B Information Selling

When we think about Internet revenues we tend to envision B2C transactions. This is a mistake as the greatest promise of the “Internet age” may be the quickly growing B2B (business to business) economy. Traditionally, data warehousing systems were focused on using their information to help corporations to make better strategic decisions. For some companies, a natural progression is to turn their data warehouses into a revenue generating vehicle by selling some of the information. In fact, there are firms whose chief product IS information, even so far as to build customized data marts for their customers. XML will facilitate this movement of data from one company to another.

Figure 1 illustrates data being read from the data warehouse and its data marts (see Figure 1, bullet 1 & 2) and then being brought into the XML transformation process. The XML transformation process will then match up this data to the corresponding XML schema (bullet 5). Next, the XML transformation process will send this data to the B2B (business to business) trading partner (bullet 8).

It is clear that XML will greatly aid the new Internet world in which we live. Just keep in mind that XML, like any other new technology comes with its share of challenges. Use it wisely and you will know exactly waasszzup!

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