survelianceWe do go on at length about master data, reference data and hierarchies. We discover and analyze these datasets, avoid duplicating them, insist on governance - and advocate their reuse, adoption and enterprise sharing. But as of late – and as a nation - we’re very preoccupied with metadata, even viewing its usage and creation as potentially dangerous and threatening to our civil liberties.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation excoriated the Obama administration with this: “If the President's administration really welcomes a robust debate on the government's surveillance power, it needs to start being honest about the invasiveness of collecting your metadata”. The article refers to a telephonic form of system generated metadata which collects call durations, locations, and the phone numbers of call recipients. While the mining for this kind of metadata gives an incomplete picture, smart forensics and a reverse telephone directory can contextually paint a picture of a highly, revealing personal nature.

Happily, there are many more mission-critical but decidedly, less controversial forms of system or technical metadata. For example, the kind of system metadata we typically view about the capacity of a disk drive, the contents of an MP3, or even a data model (captions, columns, field length, etc.). This kind of system metadata is managed as an asset, rather than being governed for improved accuracy or standardization.

Business metadata, however, while providing user friendly and practical instructions about other business data (e.g., master data), and its usage - must be governed. Business Metadata is pervasive, consumed by external users and customers, and often assembled in data dictionaries or glossaries supporting cross-industry standards or business processes, such as clinical testing for life sciences.

But, before the president was accused of hiding our metadata, he was actually seeking to share government-generated metadata openly amongst government agencies. Launched on December 8th, 2009, the White House “issued an unprecedented Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to take immediate, specific steps to achieve key milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration”. In other words, making inter-agency metadata available for sharing, reuse and public consumption.

The ISO/11179 Metadata Registry Standard

Long before the president’s directive, however, government agencies were actively creating data dictionaries to govern and manage metadata terms and definitions in support of documentation registries. The US Federal Aviation Administration (US FAA), has organized metadata terms and definitions around Aviation Forecasts, Commercial Space Data and Passengers & Cargo, to name a very few examples of defined and managed terminologies.

But with the Metadata Registry (MDR) governance of terms and definitions, especially those with cross-agency commonality, comes the need to adopt a specific standard. The International Standards Organization’s (ISO) creation of the 11179 standard is intended not only to help organizations (or government agencies), propagate internal consistency for metadata creation, but also establish the means of supporting data interchange between those organizations.

In addition to providing an extremely comprehensive data model or template for common organizational attributes, the ISO/11179 implementation is based on a six-part process or structure that methodically classifies data elements and attributes - while maintaining a strict data governance framework for administering or work-flowing the approval of new elements.

Indeed, a process that resembles the MDM life-cycle.

Consequently, (as with the case of webMethods OneData), a flexible, MDM architecture and data governance capability provides most of what’s necessary for a metadata registry. (Well, that and the fact Software AG provides the only MDR product with an out-of-the-box, ISO/11179 template).

Additionally, webMethods OneData enables governed metadata to be correlated, when required, to enrich the master data record.


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