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Ubiquitous XML: It's not obvious

Impact of XML on the data center.

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Ubiquitous XML: It's not obvious
Ed Tittel

How does XML relate to the data center, the hub of commerce, database processing, and organizational activity? In this tip, I seek to explain and explore the role that XML knowledge can play in the data center, particularly where savvy IT professionals who work in such operations might be concerned.

To begin this discussion, I'd like to pose and answer the question: "Where is XML in today's data center?" The answer is a somewhat mystifying "It's potentially everywhere, but seldom encountered explicitly or directly." Let me begin my explanation by stating that while XML applications for many kinds of activities and applications that are routine in data centers are both common and amazing in their variety, XML is not something one encounters in most data centers unless one goes looking for it and stays on the case.

If you visit general XML sites that track XML applications and standards -- Robin Cover's outstanding "Cover Pages" ( is a great example -- you'll quickly observe that XML standards and markup languages touch directly upon lots of activities and applications found in every data center:

  • Databases, for everything from database schemas, to queries, data formats, and even native or import/export formats for all well-known DBMSs including Oracle, Informix, MySQL, SQL Server, Access, and many others.
  • All kinds of e-commerce and e-business applications ranging from single-shot financial transactions to all kinds of funds exchanges, market data analysis, order taking, tracking, and fulfillment, and so forth
  • System and network management tasks, from collecting and aggregating data from individual managed elements, to supporting all kinds of Desktop Management Task Force initiatives, including Web-Based Enterprise Management and their Common Information Model (CIM)
  • Countless mechanisms to support Web-based applications, from encryption, access controls, signatures, security assertions, and security services, to all kinds of object-oriented user interface, forms input, data checking and presentation, and other tools for supporting distributed applications
  • Scripting and batch control languages—tools well-beloved in most data centers to help automate routine tasks—are becoming increasingly XML-savvy, if not XML driven outright.
  • Vendors of all kinds, for hardware systems, software applications, plus services and operating systems are increasingly switching over to XML to capture and manage configuration files for their offerings.

In short, if products, activities, or applications involve working with text or binary data, chances are pretty good that some industry association, working group, or consortium somewhere is looking to reinvent that information in XML form. Thus, if looking into the details of just about any data center tool, activity, or platform can be likened to flipping over rocks, you'd end up finding XML under the vast majority of rocks you flipped over.

This argues strongly that most data center professionals should possess basic XML literacy, and sets the stage for my next tip, in which I explain what that means, and describe what such professionals will benefit from knowing.

About the Author

Based in Austin, TX, Ed Tittel is a principal content developer, and also a writer, trainer, and consultant for Capstar a full-service e-learning company headquartered in Princeton, NJ.

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