June 15, 1999: Previous issues of TEN discussed Metadata,
Markup Language) and Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML). We
discussed changes in the Internet that will help businesses not only survive the coming Competitive Armageddon
but also grow and prosper in the resulting turmoil (see previous
issues below). This issue
discusses the convergence of Metadata, XML, Internet, Intranet and
Data Warehousing technologies to build Corporate Portals for
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter
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Data Warehousing and Intranets
The last few years have seen
rapid growth in the implementation of Data Warehouses within
enterprises, including public sector, private sector
and Defense organizations. These have provided ready access to
information derived from data sources such
as relational or legacy databases. Extracted periodically as time-based snapshots
from these operational databases, this source data is cleaned, summarized, categorized
and loaded as non-volatile information into enterprise-wide Data
Warehouses. Or it may be loaded into subject-area Data Marts that
focus on information needed for specific business purposes - such as
marketing, sales, customer relationship management, products, finance
and many other areas.
From the Data Warehouse (or from Data
Marts) this information is further analyzed, categorized and reported using
Executive Information System (EIS), Decision Support System (DSS),
Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) and other related Business
Intelligence (BI) tools. The result is information to assist
decision-making, made available through client workstation
environments that are specifically supported by those BI software
But increasingly, this information has now
begun to be
delivered directly to the desktop by using Intranet technologies and
Web browsers. This open architecture Intranet environment allows ready
access to information by authorized staff anywhere within the
enterprise. It can also allow access to the Internet, making
other knowledge resources available to the Data Warehouse or Data
An excellent book that addresses this extension to the Internet
was written by Richard Hackathorn, titled: "Web Farming for
the Data Warehouse", Morgan Kaufmann (1999) [ISBN:
We have also seen the emergence of
software tools designed to deliver information from the Data Warehouse
or Data Marts to anywhere in the enterprise. These tools allow
managers and staff to subscribe to receive regular reports and other
information on a scheduled basis, or to receive exception or special
reports when certain events occur. Many types of devices can be
selected by the recipient so that this information can be delivered
automatically. These devices include client workstations, web browsers
and printers. They also allow information to be sent via email, fax or
pager, by Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), or by phone or voice mail.
The requested information can be delivered anywhere within the
enterprise, or via the Internet anywhere in the world.
An example of one product with such an
automatic information delivery capability is DSS Broadcaster (from
Inc) at http://www.strategy.com/.
Back to Contents.
We have discussed the importance of
metadata and XML in previous issues of
TEN. The metadata defining the structure and content of relational and
legacy databases, used as operational data sources for a Data
Warehouse or Data Marts, is extracted using reverse engineering techniques
applied by Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) tools. This metadata is then used to extract, transform, summarize
and load information derived from the source data to the Data
Warehouse or Data Marts using Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tools.
A typical example of an ETL tool is DataStage
Software). More information can be found at http://www.ardentsoftware.com/.
In the future, XML will provide assistance to these ETL tools to
integrate otherwise dissimilar databases during the Extract,
Transform and Load stage. We discussed in TEN
#4 that many legacy and other systems cannot be easily integrated
because they were built using different metadata. XML can use metadata
derived from the legacy and relational databases used by these systems
to integrate them. As for Data Warehouses and Data Marts, this metadata is
defined by using reverse engineering techniques and CASE tools. XML
offers great promise in integrating legacy and other systems that
operate against those source databases.
Introductory XML articles can be found
on the White Papers page of the IES web site at
These include "OK, So What is this XML
Thing?" by David Hay and "The
Role of XML in Business Reengineering" by Clive
Typical CASE tools for both reverse
engineering and forward engineering to build Data Warehouses or Data Marts, and to integrate
legacy and other databases, are Visible Advantage and Visible
Analyst (from Visible Systems Corporation). More information can be
found at http://www.visible.com.au/
or at http://www.visible.com/.
Back to Contents.
During 1998, Internet Portals became
very popular. These provide consumers with personalized points of entry
(or gateways) to a wide variety of information
on the Internet. Examples include MyYahoo (Yahoo), NetCenter
(Netscape), MSN (Microsoft) and AOL. A Merrill Lynch report (published
on November 16, 1998) was the first time that
"portal" was also used for enterprises ... coining the term: "Enterprise
Information Portal" (EIP). The report indicated that Data Warehouses
were expected to follow the trend of Internet
Portals, evolving over the next 2 - 5 years into EIPs. They
described them as follows:
Portals are applications that enable companies to unlock internally
and externally stored information, and provide users a single
gateway to personalized information needed to make informed business
Information Portals (EIP) are an emerging market opportunity; an
amalgamation of software applications that consolidate, manage,
analyze and distribute information across and outside of an
enterprise - including Business Intelligence, Content Management,
Data Warehouse and Mart, and Data Management applications.”
the size and growth of the EIP market as follows:
have conservatively estimated the 1998 total market opportunity of
the EIP market at $4.4 billion. We anticipate that revenues could
top $14.8 billion by 2002, approximately 36% CAGR
(Compound Annual Growth Rate) for this sector.”
The complete Merrill Lynch report is
available from the SageMaker web site at http://www.sagemaker.com/company/lynch.htm.
This was also widely reported in a front page article by InfoWorld.
This latter article is on the InfoWorld Electric web site at http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?/features/990125eip.htm.
Back to Contents.
Enterprise Information Portals are also
called Corporate Portals or Enterprise Portals. They provide ready
access to information from the Data Warehouse or Data Marts via the
Intranet and Internet, based on web farming and other techniques as we
saw earlier. But the attraction of Corporate Portals is that they can
move beyond the delivery of data as discussed above. They also provide
a way to integrate the many disparate systems and processes that are
typically used within an enterprise.
Corporate Portals use XML to integrate
previously separate legacy systems with previously discrete, non-integrated
systems. They provide a single point of entry, or gateway, to these
processes - as well as to information from the Data Warehouse - via a
web page that is personalized to the needs of each staff member. This
offers easy access to the workflow and other processes that staff
require to carry out their jobs.
In discussing the move towards
Corporate Portals over the coming years in "The
Portal is the Desktop", Gerry Murray (Director of
Knowledge Technologies research at IDC) says:
"Corporate portals must
connect us not only with everything we need, but (also) with everyone we
need, and provide all the tools we need to work together. This means
that groupware, e-mail, workflow, and desktop applications - even
critical business applications - must all be accessible through the
portal. Thus, the portal is the desktop, and your commute (to work)
is just a phone call away."
"This is a radical new way of
computing. It's much more effective for companies than traditional
approaches, since they can outsource the entire infrastructure as a
monthly service." He makes the point that: "Corporate
Portals will provide access to everything from infrastructure to the
desktop, so portal vendors will be the Microsofts of the
He discusses four stages in the
evolution of Corporate Portals:
- Enterprise information portals,
which connect people with information
- Enterprise collaborative portals,
which provide collaborative computing capabilities of all kinds
- Enterprise expertise portals,
which connect people with other people based on their abilities,
expertise, and interests
- Enterprise knowledge portals,
which combine all of the above to deliver personalized content
based on what each user is actually doing.
You can read Gerry Murray's article:
Portal is the Desktop" on the Intraspect web site
He discusses products that are starting to appear in each of these
Corporate Portal evolution stages. Another article on the Decision
Processing web site: "The
Enterprise Information Portal" discusses and categorizes
a number of EIP products. This article can be found at http://www.decisionprocessing.com/dp_portal_overview.htm.
We are beginning to see the early moves
into the portal environment described above by Gerry Murray, with the
emergence of Application Service Providers (ASPs). Early ASPs will
typically also be Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They will not
only provide ready access to the Internet, but also offer access to
much of the software that you need from your desktop, as well as to
other products such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems from
SAP and others.
This will be the true realization of
Network Computing. Not by using Java as a portable language as
promoted by Sun and Oracle. But by outsourcing hardware, servers,
networks and network management, software and software management,
help desk, maintenance and other Total Costs of Ownership (TCO) to
ASPs. This is a radical move that will transform desktop computing as
we know it. It will provide ubiquitous computing through the Internet
and the Intranet. And with a move to wider bandwidths on the Internet
- with higher data rates available also through wireless computing via
PDAs or mobile phones that access the Internet for email and browsing
- we will soon be able to work not just from the office, but from
anywhere. In a few short years these ASPs will become Information
Utilities for the future.
Seeing the potential threat to its
desktop monopoly that is presented by Corporate Portals and by ASPs,
Microsoft has decided that it will adopt a win - win strategy by also
becoming part of this ultimate move to Network Computing. The recent
release of Internet Explorer 5.0, followed on June 10 by the release
of Microsoft Office 2000, provide some support for this capability.
With Office 2000, Microsoft Office Web Server extensions for Intranet
web servers within the enterprise can support collaboration and other
groupware applications. But Microsoft will also offer these extensions
to ISPs to help them become ASPs. In the future, many of these ASPs
will offer rental access to Microsoft and other applications, either
for a fixed monthly fee, or on a pay-for-use basis. So Microsoft will
benefit both ways: not just by new product sales and upgrade sales as
we have today, but also by pay-as-you-go license fees that are paid by
ASPs to Microsoft.
Back to Contents.
With the emergence of Corporate Portals
(Enterprise Portals) over the next few years, we will see radical
changes in the way we use computers. The Internet and Intranet will
become more and more a part of our daily work lives. Instead of
commuting by road, rail or bus to work, increasingly we will be able
to telecommute from wherever we are via the Internet or Intranet. The
Corporate Portal will be our desktop, available anywhere we log-on to
our personalized portal page. From there we will have access to all of
the software, systems and other knowledge resources that we need to do
Data Warehouses and Data Marts will
evolve to the Intranet and Internet, using the power of XML to
integrate structured and unstructured data sources and systems in
Corporate Portals. To help you achieve this, in September McGraw-Hill
will publish a co-authored book by Clive Finkelstein and Peter Aiken.
This is titled: "Building Corporate Portals using XML".
Peter is the author of "Data
Reverse Engineering: Slaying the Legacy Dragon" (1996). Clive is
the author of "An Introduction to Information Engineering"
(1989) and "Information Engineering: Strategic Systems Development"
(1992). (Each of these links will take you directly to the relevant
book on Amazon.com.)
We will provide more information about
this book and selected extracts over the next few months at
- which is the White Papers page on the IES web site. You will also
find articles on Data Warehousing, XML, Internet and Intranet,
Corporate Portals, Enterprise Architecture and on Business Process Reengineering.
Some of the latest information on
Corporate Portals can also be found on the Web Farming web site at http://webfarming.com/.
You will find past issues of the monthly WebFarming newsletter,
published by Richard Hackathorn (author of the Web Farming book above)
available for your review. To keep abreast of new developments in this
rapidly emerging field, you should also register to receive future
issues of the free WebFarming Newsletter.
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