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SOA and MDM: New techniques address old problems

MDM is still in its infant stages, but the issues it addresses go back years. When paired with SOA, MDM can streamline data management and prevent future issues from arising. This is part 2 of 5 in our special report on MDM and SOA.

As these are infant days for MDM, the segment sports a wide variety of vendors with far-ranging perspectives on the task. Industry giants IBM, Oracle Corp., SAP AG and Microsoft are joined by best-of-breed specialists including Siperian Inc., Initiate, D&B Purisma and DataFlux Corp. Meanwhile, established SOA market vendors such as DataDirect Technologies, Red Hat Inc., Composite Software Inc. and others are involved with MDM.

The concept of real time has become more important, so we can deliver this trusted view of data to the right stakeholder at the right time.
Rob Karel
AnalystForrester Research
Still, MDM is not necessarily a product category. With MDM, corporate teams ensure that consistent information can be dependably shared across the enterprise. The information in question usually relates to precise definitions of important elements of a business—for example, accounts, customers, locations and the like.

Although it is not a product itself, MDM can be accomplished with combinations of software tools. Some of these tools have grown into full-fledged servers, replication stages, registries, repositories and hub architectures. Now they are poised to improve the quality of data services and ease the task of data integration.

MDM addresses issues that go back even before object oriented technology. Master data management seeks a single view of the business for both analytical and operational systems. While there may always be a corporate team scrum around what data is, MDM tools can enforce consistency and ease implementation.

What is new is that historically, these efforts have been aligned around BI initiatives, says Rob Karel, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. What is changing is that in recent years there has been an increase in operational requirements for master data. "The concept of real time has become more important, so we can deliver this trusted view of data to the right stakeholder at the right time," Karel says.

An early locale for master data management has been ongoing efforts to improve the customer view in customer relationship management (CRM) and other enterprise applications. It also has a place in straight-ahead data management systems. What about SOA?

In fact, MDM's role in SOA was not immediately apparent to some, but that view is changing. Data has sometimes been described as the "Day Two" issue for SOA implementers. Of course, other SOA implementers grasped the need early.

"Three years ago, the first SOA application many people did was their MDM hub," says Aaron Zornes, chief research officer at The MDM Institute. "They were building out a customer master [record] as services."

According to Karel, MDM and SOA data services share the same goals and challenges. Very often, these initiatives are assessed separately.

Karel says there are dueling architectures. The data management architects are quite often trying to fix the confidence problem in the data warehouse or ERP or CRM systems. "They are fighting fires trying to get trusted data to flow through the pipes," he says.

Meanwhile, the SOA architects are trying to enable real-time business services by leveraging SOA to increase reusability and agility, he says.

"There are MDM capabilities that don't require SOA and SOA capabilities that do require MDM," Karel says. "It is the overlap that is being ignored. Organizations think that it is a nice thing to have but will figure it out later."

By Karel's estimate, the most significant MDM services include lookup services, cleansing services, matching services and trustworthy update services.

SOA and MDM: GIGO 2.0?A five part special report
Part 1: SOA with MDM prevents messaging confusion
Part 2: SOA and MDM: New techniques address old problems
Part 3: Data architecture project practices with SOA and MDM
Part 4: MDM brings SOA and BPM closer together
Part 5: With MDM and BPEL, business users become data stewards

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