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Turkey store makes data easier to swallow

First releases after IBM's Ascential acquisition will focus on metadata interchange, easy distribution and traceability.

The Jennie-O Turkey Store in Wilmer, Minn., sells plenty of turkey, but senior data/integration analyst Peggy Hehr looks forward to the day when her entire company can talk turkey.

The Hormel Foods Corp. subsidiary resembles many other businesses in that its data has long been divorced from the applications that generate it. Hoping to change that, Hehr has signed up for the beta program for a new IBM software suite designed to bring the data arena into concert with the emerging service-oriented architecture (SOA) market.

To really take advantage of a service-oriented architecture you have to have your data aligned.
Michael Curry
Product Marketing Director for Information Integration SystemsIBM

The beta announcement comes on the heels of IBM's March acquisition of Ascential Software, bringing metadata sharing and traceability into IBM's WebSphere middleware product line.

"Right now, if I've got metadata in one repository, it's not in all repositories," Hehr said. "That limits the access to that data."

Michael Curry, IBM product marketing director for Information Integration Systems, called metadata "the glue that holds everything together" and said the ability to make it universal would "bring the data close to the development environment."

Hehr lamented that her job often requires her to guard data rather than distribute it.

"If you mess it up, we get in trouble," she said.

Without coordinated and enforceable data management processes, audit trails and integrity assurances, Hehr has to defend against potential "garbage-in" scenarios.

Curry argues that sloppy data backbones have proved and will continue to prove a barrier to SOA adoption.

"To really take advantage of a service-oriented architecture you have to have your data aligned," he said. "Once you do that it's easily pluggable into application integration environments and business processes."

The key resides in not asking application developers to understand the complexities of data models. The "information services" model, as Curry termed it, wraps the data in Web Services Description Language (WSDL) tags and enables business rules to be built on top of it, putting it in a comfortable format for the developer community.

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"It allows for information to be easily published as a service," he said.

For instance, data could be uploaded from its host repository into a SOA registry and be made available through that avenue.

Hehr said she welcomes any tool that enables the data and development sides of the IT shop to work together rather than be at odds with each other.

The complete IBM information integration suite will be generally available in the fourth quarter of 2005.

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