Metadata Management, MacGyver Style

Loraine Lawson

Did you know you could use clear nail polish to keep an eyeglass screw in place, deter rust stains in the bathroom or seal an envelope that's lost its stickiness? I didn't either, although, after reading about this and other unusual uses for everyday objects on Real Simple Magazine, it seems obvious, doesn't it?


And a bit silly. But then again, everybody's trying to make do with what they already have-do more with less, and all that jazz, right? And that's precisely why you should check out this recent Information Management article explaining how you can capture, build and manage a metadata repository using an ETL tool, a wiki and a stick of gum.


OK, I threw in that gum part to make it sound more MacGyver -ish. But I'm dead serious about the wiki and the ETL tool.


Tom Spitzer, vice president of Systems Architecture at IT services firm EC Wise, wrote the article. Apparently, it's not that uncommon. He writes that in an independent research report involving 56 IT professionals with a metadata strategy, 68 percent said they were considering using ETL technology as part of their metadata strategy.


True, there are niche products that can do it for you, but in these economic times, it's not an easy sell to management, he argues. And, as it turns out, many ETL tools are pretty adept at handling metadata:

For instance, ETL vendors offer metadata management applications that serve to catalog and manage ETL metadata, and in some cases they also provide the tools to catalog the metadata associated with source and target systems. If not, the repositories that underlie these tools can be extended to serve broader metadata management applications.

As for the wiki, that's for building a metadata repository, a use he says is a growing trend due to a wiki's flexibility:

Insofar as the metadata repository can be exposed essentially as a content management system, and wikis are becoming common interfaces to content, this makes a lot of sense. By using a wiki, you can provide a place for users to comment on, add business context, and discuss the information that is in the metadata repository.

It's not just the ETL tools that can help you with the metadata. Spitzer makes the excellent point that you can also find help from ETL developers, who are already adept at dealing with metadata.


I continue to be surprised by how flexible ETL tools are. Back in 2008, Bloor Research Director Philip Howard shared four other unusual markets for ETL, including providing data services for SOA. And last year, I shared information about how to use ETL for data quality. Of course, that post prompted a lot of upset comments about what a bad idea it was. So, it'll be interesting to see how people respond to this one.


Still, in this economy, it might be worth considering. What is that they say about a penny saved being a penny earned?

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