What is metadata?
The term metadata arises often when discussing data architecture. Summarizing, it refers to data about data. However, interpretation can be rather ambiguous, since we use it in different contexts. We know the most common context as structural metadata, which describes the design and specifications of data structures such as tables, columns, constraints, and indexes. This also applies to semi-structured data such as JSON, XML, or Parquet files.
Another interpretation is descriptive metadata (also known as meta-content), which describes the data asset. For example, who created it and why, when we created it, and where we created it? An example of this is the cataloging information that is captured with photographs using modern digital cameras; for example, date, time, exposure settings, and global positioning system (GPS). This adds context to the data object.
Then we get on to the meaning of the data. Understanding this helps with reduction in ambiguity and error. There then may be classifications, policies and rules around the data such as flags to designate personally identifiable information (PII) or sensitivity level.
We often store metadata in a repository, which is often a database structure itself. A variety of modeling, data integration, business intelligence, and service oriented architecture tools use metadata repositories, which are sometimes called registries. data governance projects will refer to a data catalog which may hold a technical data dictionary holding the catalog of data assets and their structural metadata, and also a business glossary holding a catalog of business terms which focus on the meaning, policies and rules around data. These two catalogs are linked together to enable users to find information and understand the meaning and rules around data assets.
ER/Studio and metadata
As a modeling and collaboration platform, ER/Studio is a very capable environment to define, manage and organize metadata. This allows business and data consumers to understand how we use data across the organization.
ER/Studio Data Architect
ER/Studio is a powerful, repository-based data architecture and modeling suite that supports top-down and bottom-up metadata creation, cataloging and sharing for most industry leading database platforms. Top-down allows data models to be designed, elaborated and created as physical database specifications, facilitating collaboration at every step. Metadata includes, but is not limited to, tables, columns, relationships, permissions, definitions, notes, security information, and data lineage. ER/Studio Data Architect supports logical and physical layers.
Create bottom-up metadata through the powerful reverse engineering capabilities for most database platforms, as well as the ability to transform metadata to and from many data integrations, business intelligence, big data, and other third party platforms. ER/Studio is the custodian of vital corporate metadata that it can share with those other platforms. We can extend the metadata to support almost limitless characteristics through the use of the built-in attachments functionality. We can extend this power through other built-in automation capabilities, macros, naming standards and universal mappings which transcend across models. Many users will build enterprise data models that contain standardized definitions of important company data such as ‘Client’ which enables interoperability between systems, better what if analysis and a platform for data management.
ER/Studio Team Server
ER/Studio Team Server adds powerful collaboration capabilities to metadata management. All stakeholders, ranging from technical staff and business analysts through business subject experts and data stewards, can work as a team, with views of the metadata that are appropriate to specific roles. ER/Studio Team Server provides users with catalogs of data models including the enterprise models along with a Data Catalog which allows users to browse business glossaries of terms to find data assets or a technical data dictionary of assets. Team Server will support simple data governance or integrate tightly with industry leading data governance tools like Collibra. There are powerful tools to help start off a data governance program with harvesting of business terms from data models.
This social collaboration paradigm allows users to have meaningful discussions regarding specific areas of interest, with a full audit trail. Thus, it not only records the decisions, but also the process that led to those decisions. This capability allows all participants to reach a much higher level of knowledge and understanding. This is important for both data creation and data consumption. The capabilities of Team Server are being enhanced to provide even greater capabilities in the future.
To experience for yourself how ER/Studio can help you with your metadata, schedule a product demonstration with one of the industry experts of IDERA now.