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XML Data : Beyond the Hype

-- Kranti M

Many a person may be disillusioned into giving too much credit to a technology due to the hype surrounding it, while others may dismiss it as a farce for the very same reason!

XML as a data storage and retrieval medium has been enthusiastically promoted by few and shunned by others as being nothing more than old wine in a new bottle. It is interesting to note that the XML database model is uncomfortably similar to the hierarchical database model that was supposedly "killed" by the relational database model back in the 80s.

XML databases may not come in with all guns blazing and kill the traditional databases, but they do present some very bright possibilities for those of us who can look beyond the hype and apply the technology where it can deliver the goods.

In any business application one has to exchange data between a database and other systems (other applications, another database, etc.). As the same data model is not used by everyone, you'll have to find one that allows a wider audience usage and yet manages to capture all the semantics entailed.

XML presents an ideal solution to these needs. Formats like CSV files do not enable us to capture enough semantics, and more complicated solutions like Java serialized objects or CORBA objects-by-values are an overkill.

Other arguments in favor of using XML are that, one seldom exchanges large, complex set of data between two systems. Realistically a view or subset of the database would suffice and a hierarchical model should effectively address this.

Furthermore, a hierarchical format like XML is perhaps the most structured format that is still readable by humans. Aren’t humans after all an integral part of any information system?

XML’s potential impact is significant, Web servers and applications encoding their data in XML can quickly make their information available in a simple and usable format, and such information providers can interoperate easily.

It is also worthwhile to note that XML differentiates between information content and information rendering (using XSL eXtensible Stylesheet Language), thus greatly reducing the effort in extracting usable data, as opposed to HTML, where one would have to follow laborious and error-prone methods like screen scrapping to extract any useful information.

XML is an evolving standard and is actively pursued and promoted by some of the biggest names in the industry, these companies maintain that XML has the potential to transform existing information systems on the web, into a far more comprehensive, result centered and universally accessible enterprise solutions.

Eventually all companies may use XML to manage their web based data, the difference between truly leveraging on the power of XML and merely being an also ran will come from how quickly and effectively one can convert their existing data into XML usable formats.

While, it may be prudent to wait and watch as others take the risk (and XML matures into a global standard), It maybe a smarter business move to convert your data now and be ready for the revolution when it arrives. XML conversion can be a low risk entry point into the future of the web, especially with all the outsource options available in today’s vibrant industry.


In addition to offering XML Data Storage and Retrival as a service, we also offer other services like Business Process Engineering, Porting Legacy applications to the web and Enterprise Application Integration. Please contact us here for more details.

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