Data Launched on Path to Integration

Ascential's 'Twister,' SAP's CMDM key to companies' Web services push.

Ascential Software Corp. and SAP AG are rolling out tools that will enable data normalization—a key step in making Web-services-based application integration work.

The next version of Ascentials DataStage data integration platform, code-named Twister, will add Web services functions to complement the metadata management and data quality assurance features in the data movement tool.

Twister, by supporting Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Services Description Language and XML, provides wizards that allow IT managers to treat Web services sessions as a source and target of data in the data integration process. Users will be able to take integration events and expose them as Web services through standard protocols.

This will allow companies to create and manage scalable, complex data integration infrastructures and enable specific functions as Web services, according to officials at Ascential, of Westboro, Mass.

Twister, due in the first quarter of next year, will also deal with metadata integration at the business process level by revealing data integration requirements as Web services so that users can take work and reuse it as a Web service, officials said.

Dale Powers, enterprise data architect at NStar, a utility provider in Westwood, Mass., is using Ascential to build a data warehouse and data marts that will conduct performance and reliability analysis for NStars distribution network. Powers wants to maintain a repository of rules as he defines data move- ment processes.

Powers is exploring ways to capture external customer data and move it inside NStars firewalls, perhaps through Web services.

The idea of integrating metadata from multiple environments becomes even more important as companies look to conduct more business-to-business and business-to- consumer transactions, he said.

"The underlying challenge is always having your data quality at a level that can send a message," said Powers. "I am assuming XML is at the core, and messages have data and metadata. If you cant translate that and relate that to your internal nomenclature, your messages cant have the meaning you want them to."

For instance, an enterprise has to ensure that the word "customer" means the same thing in data sources that are being integrated, or data corruption will likely result.

Also addressing data normalization is SAP, which last week announced an integration product called Collaborative Master Data Management, or CMDM, which is designed to solve the challenges of data integration from multiple systems, physical locations and diverse vendors.

Similar to enterprise application integration engines, CMDM offers the ability to integrate and harmonize data as well as the applications necessary to support business processes around collaborative metadata management, said officials of the Walldorf, Germany, company.

CMDM, due in the third quarter next year, is built on the MySAP Technology platform that houses SAPs application server, exchange platform and portal software; it is also a key piece in getting SAPs Web services initiative off the ground.

Because unified data information can be accessed through SAP Enterprise Portal, it can also be accessed via open standards that allow Web services.