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October 4, 1999

Is War Over Meta Data Standards Looming?

By CBR Staff Writer

With Oracle Corp and Microsoft Corp backing different camps for the future control of meta data standards, the stage is set for an interesting and some say long and drawn out battle. On the one side, there’s Microsoft and the Meta Data Coalition. Microsoft started working to develop a standard for meta data interoperability and then last December, it handed over its work to the coalition who combined it with its own development and duly ratified the new specification, called the Open Information Management standard, or OIM, in July.

But as is always the case with standards, Microsoft’s efforts weren’t supported by everyone. No surprise then that last week a group of software vendors, backed by none other than Microsoft arch enemy Oracle Corp, proposed an alternative to OIM and sent its spec – the CWMI Common Warehouse Meta Data Interchange – to the Object Management Group for approval. Oracle was joined in its efforts by Unisys Corp, IBM Corp, NCR Corp and Hyperion Solutions Inc, all of which have been working together to develop the standard since last year.

While both versions purport to be an attempt to help users simplify the management and deployment of data warehouses and business intelligence applications by ensuring interoperability between meta data, the fact that Microsoft and Oracle can’t agree on a standard version of the spec is bad news for users, and could mean they end up having to make a choice.

The Meta Data Coalition says that’s not case and says that the two groups have been working together for the last nine months to try and converge their standards. The only problem, said spokesperson David Marshall, is that the coalition’s spec is completed and ready for implementation, while Oracle & Co won’t have theirs ready till some time next year. But Mike Schiff, director of data warehouse strategies at Sterling, Virginia-based Current Analysis, is not so convinced.

While Schiff thinks that, in the long term, the two groups might come together, in the short term he can’t see an immediate end to the dispute. You won’t get Oracle and Microsoft in the same meeting at the moment, he said, because of its presence in the database world, Oracle should have owned this market but they blew it. This latest move is just Oracle playing catch up. Schiff says that ultimately two standards are better than several dozen, but thinks that given industry pressure for a single version, the two will come together eventually. I just don’t think it’ll happen tomorrow, he said, I think there’s going to be some battles for some time. But he added: Regardless of the politics, metadata integration and interoperability are highly desirable, in the long term I’m sure industry pressure will transcend the internal politics.

But Oracle wasn’t so reassuring. A spokesperson said it was less about everyone versus Microsoft and more about the entire industry working toward a common goal: a single metadata standard. It is in everyone’s best interest that all data warehousing players, big and small, come together behind one standard. As it happens, many already have, and that standard is CWMI.

Michael Howard, Oracle’s VP, data warehouse program office, further points to the irony of Microsoft working on meta data standards when the vendor is not a leader, or even a significant player in the data warehousing market. He added: In addition, the Meta Data Coalition, by which Microsoft’s Open Information Model standard, OIM, was adopted, is not a credible body. None of the cooperating companies still exist in their original form, they are either defunct or have since been acquired. By contrast, he says, CWMI is an industry-wide standard originating from an established organization where the industry leaders are members. Nothing has come out of the MDC, he said.

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The current proposal review process for CWMI will result in a revised specification likely to be submitted to the OMG by the end of this year, and the supporting companies hope to see it ratified as a stan

dard by the early spring of 2000. á

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