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Metadata Management Component

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Metadata Management

Metadata is ‘data about data’, providing further descriptors to turn data into information. As the most basic level, it means siloed metadata repositories that provide either additional information in the case of data dictionaries or may provide an abstraction layer in a user-driven reporting environment.

Basic metadata management and definitions are considered one of the Foundation Capabilities for Information Development. More advanced techniques for managing metadata are classified as Enabling Technologies of the SAFE Architecture. A Metadata Reference Architecture provides an overlay on the SAFE Architecture.

Foundational Capabilities for Metadata Management

There are many categories business and technical metadata. In the context of data modelling, the absolute minimum of metadata should be considered to be the following:

  • Entity Definitions, including any implicit business rules (such as “only NSW assets can be involved”). It is wise to also spell out the sentences involved in the critical relationships , e.g. “A customer may have many addresses”.
  • Attribute Definitions. This includes the purpose of the attribute, the data type and any valid values involved.
  • Table Definitions, including any implicit business rules. If not a direct map this should say which entity / entities are implemented here.
  • Column Definitions. This includes the purpose of the column, the data type and length and any valid values involved.

Active and Integrated Metadata

Advanced Metadata Mangement

Metadata represents a comprehensive "documentation" of all aspects of the Business and Technology components. This includes both the process and data perspectives. Metadata understanding is a pre-requisite for advanced capabilities related to Information Development.

In the past the term Metadata tended to refer to the documentation of the data – particularly "at rest" in the databases. Data in motion was typically called message and interface documentation while the data within an application was depicted by Use Cases.

Active and Integrated Metadata includes all of these forms of documentation. Key aspects of metadata management are described in the SAFE Conceptual Architecture and include:

The goal is to use the knowledge contained in the metadata environment to actively enable development and production activities. The processes and standards as well as the metadata architecture to support this are the makings of data quality. Advanced capabilities of the SAFE architecture recommend an integrated metadata environment, where multiple metadata repositories are kept synchronized to ensure this information is timely, accurate, and contextual. This is provided in an architectural overlay for metadata management that is part of the SAFE architecture.

When meaningful information is comprehensive and accumulated to form knowledge, the metadata becomes the conduit for informed decisions. This approach to metadata management is crucial in delivering a “model-driven” integration approach (an emerging area) that is recommended as part of the delivery of the SAFE framework.

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