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Next XML trend emerges

The next trend in the application of XML technology is likely to be the creation of an enterprise-wide "virtual data access layer," according to BEA's Michael Carey, chief architect of Liquid Data for WebLogic.

Carey said he has been discussing plans with BEA's larger customers about future information technology, and most of them want to have all of their enterprise data on customers, products and so on accessible from one point. The virtual data access layer in the enterprise system architecture would potentially solve the data integration problem for every department.

As Carey envisions it, "all the corporate enterprise data would be accessed through some logically centralized point where they know what they have, can get at that data and create reusable services around that data. So each department doesn't have to solve the data integration problem to be productive."

While emphasizing that none of the customers he spoke with are beyond the talking stages on creating a virtual data access layer, the BEA chief architect believes XML and related W3C standards will make this possible in the near future.

"For years as database people -- which has been my background -- we've been trying to solve this problem that has had different names over time: federated databases, heterogeneous distributed databases, multi-databases," recalled Carey. "We tried to solve it with a lot of different technologies. People have tried to use functional languages, SQL. They've invented new languages. Back when object-oriented databases were in vogue, people tried using object-based query languages. And nothing has really stuck."

Now with XML coming into widespread use, he believes it is the "game-changing technology" that will make this difficult job doable. "We have a technology, finally, where rather than database people having to say 'Please just make all your data look like tables and we'll query it,'" he said, "people are already making their data XML or providing it through Web services."

If all data is either in XML format or, at least, can be represented as XML, the virtual data access layer may finally be a reality, Carey believes.

He is hoping that Liquid Data, with its XML-centric view of data integration and ability to represent non-XML data as if it were XML, will be one of the products enterprises use to create the virtual data access layer.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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