Welcome!

Open Source Authors: Liz McMillan, Plutora Blog, John Savageau, Elizabeth White, Alan Clark

Related Topics: XML

XML: Article

Integrating Enterprise Information on Demand with XQuery - Part 2

Integrating Enterprise Information on Demand with XQuery - Part 2

In Part I of this article (XML-J, Vol. 4, issue 6), we introduced the enterprise information integration (EII) problem and explained how the XML query language XQuery and related technologies - specifically XML, XML Schema, and Web services - are central to enabling this age-old problem to be successfully addressed at last.

We provided a technical overview of the XQuery language and presented a simple "single view of Customer" example to illustrate XQuery's role in the EII domain. The example was based on an electronics retailer that wanted to share customer information across three portals - portals for customer self-service, credit approval, and product service. The information to be integrated resided in a variety of back-end information sources, including two relational database management systems, an SAP system, and a Web service.

In this article, our XQuery/EII saga continues. In this installment, we look at how EII relates to two other technologies designed for integration tasks, namely enterprise application integration (EAI) and extract-transform-load (ETL) tools. We also take a brief look at BEA Liquid Data for WebLogic, an XQuery-based EII offering, and discuss how XQuery and Liquid Data were put to use recently in a telecommunications-related customer project.

What About EAI?
Given the industry buzz around EAI today, a natural question about EII is "so why bother?" That is, why isn't a modern EAI solution alone - for example, a workflow engine with XML-based data transformation capabilities - sufficient to solve the EII problem? The answer is, in principle, that EAI is in fact sufficient to solve the EII problem. A developer could always choose to hand-build a set of workflows, writing one workflow per application-level "query" to deliver the desired information back to the calling applications. In the example from Part I of this article, three hand-tailored workflows could instead be written to provide information retrieval capabilities comparable to our XQuery-based solution. But is that the best approach, in terms of development time and maintenance cost?

The basic question here is when to use a declarative query language (XQuery in the case of modern EII) versus constructing code in a procedural language (a workflow language in the case of EAI). The lessons from the relational database revolution are clear: When applicable, a declarative approach offers significant advantages. Instead of hand-constructing a "query plan" (EAI workflow) to extract the needed data from each of the data sources in some manually predefined order, the EII approach allows a single, smaller, and simpler declarative query to be written.

The resulting benefits should be obvious. First, the user does not need to build each query plan by hand, which could involve a considerable effort. Instead, the user specifies (when defining the core view) what data sources are relevant and what logical conditions relate and characterize the data to be retrieved. Second, queries can be optimized automatically by the EII middleware, resulting in an optimal query execution plan (order of accessing the sources, queries or methods to extract the data, etc.) for each different query. For example, using EAI, one central workflow could be written to retrieve all of the customer information in Part I's example, and then other workflows could be written to first call this workflow and then further filter the results. However, in the EII approach, the query processor will (for each query) prune out irrelevant data sources as well as push SQL selection conditions (such as only retrieving "Open" support cases in Listing 2 of Part I) down to any RDBMS data sources. Third, as the data sources change over time in terms of their schemas, statistics, or performance, the EII user will not be forced to rewrite all of his or her queries. Simply maintaining each base view query and re-optimizing the other queries will adapt their query execution plans to the new situation. In contrast, in the case of EAI, many workflows would have to be rewritten to handle most such changes.

There really isn't an either/or choice to be made between EAI and EII at all. Both technologies have critical roles to play in an overall enterprise integration solution. These technologies are complementary: EII provides ease of data integration, while EAI provides ease of process integration. EII is appropriate for composing integrated views and queries over enterprise data. EAI is the appropriate technology for creating composite applications that orchestrate the functional capabilities of a set of related but independent applications, Web services, etc. Moreover, EII can be used to handily augment EAI in scenarios where workflows need to access integrated data views. For example, if our electronics retailer wanted its order process to offer free shipping to customers who have ordered more than $1,000 of goods during the year and who have accumulated more than 5,000 reward points, the integrated view of customer from Part I could be used to easily access the relevant information from within the order entry workflow.

What About ETL?
Another technology related to EII is ETL. In fact, ETL tools are designed precisely for the purpose of integrating data from multiple sources. These tools are therefore another category of software that naturally leads to a "why bother with EII?" question - why isn't ETL technology the answer? As you'll see, the answer is again that both technologies have their place in modern IT architectures.

ETL tools are designed for use in moving data from a variety of sources into a data warehouse for offline analysis and reporting purposes. As the name suggests, ETL tools provide facilities for extracting data from a source; transforming that data into a more suitable form for inclusion in the data warehouse, possibly cleansing it in the process; and then loading the transformed data into the warehouse's database. Typical ETL tools are therefore focused on supporting the design and administration of data migration, cleansing, and transformation processes. These are often batch processes that occur on a daily or weekly basis.

Data warehouses and the ETL tools that feed them are invaluable for enabling businesses to aggregate and analyze historical information. For example, our electronics retailer might very well want to keep track of customer data, sales data, and product issue data over a period of years in order to analyze customer behavior by geographic region over time, improve their credit card risk model, and so on. A data warehouse is the appropriate place to retain such data and run large analytical queries against it, and ETL technology is the right technology today for creating, cleaning, and maintaining the data in the warehouse. However, ETL is not the right technology for building applications that need access to current operational data - it doesn't support the declarative creation of views or real-time access to operational data through queries.

For applications that need to integrate current information, Part I of this article showed how XQuery can be used to declaratively specify reusable views that aggregate data from multiple operational stores and how XQuery can be used to write XML queries over such integrated views. We also explained how standard database query processing techniques, including view expansion, predicate pushdown, and distributed query optimization, can be applied to XQuery, making XQuery-based EII an excellent technological fit for such applications.

Clearly, both ETL and EII technologies have important roles to play in today's enterprise. ETL serves to feed data warehouses, while EII is an enabler for applications that need timely access to current, integrated information from a variety of operational enterprise data sources. As with EAI, there are also cases where the two technologies come together. As one example, an ETL tool could be used to help create and maintain a cross-reference table to relate different notions of "customer id" for use in creating XQuery-based EII views across different back-end systems. As another example, an ETL-fed data warehouse could be used to build a portal for analyzing the historical behavior of a company's top customers, with an EII tool used to allow click-through inspection of the customers' purchases in the past 24 hours.

Putting XQuery-Based EII to Work
For the reasons discussed in this article, XQuery-based EII middleware is an emerging product segment that promises to deliver the tools and technology needed in this important space. One commercially available XQuery-based middleware product is BEA Liquid Data for WebLogic. Liquid Data is capable of accessing data from relational database management systems, Web services, packaged applications (through J2EE CA adapters and application views), XML files, XML messages, and, through a custom function mechanism, most any other data source as well. For illustration purposes, the architecture of Liquid Data is depicted in Figure 1. Liquid Data provides default XML views of all of its data sources and provides an XQuery-based graphical view and query editor for use in integrating and enhancing information drawn from one or more data sources. It includes a distributed query processing engine as well as providing advanced features such as support for query result caching and both data-source-level and stored query-level access control.

As a final example of the applicability of XQuery to enterprise information integration problems, we'll describe an actual customer integration exercise where Liquid Data was put to use. In that project, a large telecommunications vendor wanted to create a single view of order information for one of its business divisions. The goal of the project was to make integrated order information available to the division's customers (other businesses) through a Web portal, enabling their customers to log in and check on the status of their orders, as well as making information available to the division's own customer service representatives.

The division had data distributed across multiple systems, including a relational database containing order summary information and two different order management systems. Order details were kept in one or the other of the two order management systems, depending on the type of order. Functionality-wise, a limited view of order details was provided through the customer order status portal that the division built using Liquid Data, whereas customer service representatives were permitted to see all of the order data through their portal. In both cases, it was possible to search for order information by various combinations of purchase order number, date range, and order.

The use of XQuery-based EII technology enabled the customer to complete their portal project in much less time than they had expected it to take with traditional technologies, and their total cost of ownership was also lower due to the reusability of Liquid Data assets and the low cost of maintenance enabled by EII.

Summary
In this article, we have explained how XQuery is beginning to transform the integration world, making it possible to finally tackle the enterprise information integration problem where past attempts have failed. In Part I we provided an overview of XQuery and illustrated how it could be used to integrate the disparate information sources of a hypothetical electronics retailer. In Part II we discussed the relationship of EII to EAI and ETL technologies and then briefly presented BEA's XQuery-based EII product and described one of the customer projects in which it was used.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
“The age of the Internet of Things is upon us,” stated Thomas Svensson, senior vice-president and general manager EMEA, ThingWorx, “and working with forward-thinking companies, such as Elisa, enables us to deploy our leading technology so that customers can profit from complete, end-to-end solutions.” ThingWorx, a PTC® (Nasdaq: PTC) business and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider, announced on Monday that Elisa, Finnish provider of mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, will deploy ThingWorx® platform technology to enable a new Elisa IoT service in Finland and Estonia.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...