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A repository in its most basic form is a storehouse for documents, applications, and objects-information in general. A typical company collects a variety of information in database form over time. Some of the information may be about people and some may be about products, marketing, sales, and so on. Each database has different structures, elements, attributes, metadata (information about the data), and so on. At some point, the company may want to share these information assets so that users throughout the company can access, understand, and exploit the information. A repository can provide an "integration environment" for doing just that.
A repository is a central place to share metadata. Metadata is a description of data with a structure that is based on a common information model. For example, there are information models that describe business data, geographic data, or medical data. Microsoft developed the OIM (Open Information Model) as an industry standard to describe metadata objects for developing applications and building data warehouses. Standard models can provide a consistent view of data so that developers can create applications that access the data.
Since the repository is a central place for information about corporate data, it is a place where common business rules and data definitions can be enforced. All updates and changes to the way data is described are also made in the repository.
In the data warehousing model, the repository is where data is "extracted," "cleansed," and "integrated" in some way to make it more consumable to users. New models are emerging. Oracle's iFS (Internet File System) is designed to be a repository for a variety of information, including Web pages, media, messages, and so on. The system integrates the relational database and file system worlds and enables integration through XML and Java-based tools.
Microsoft describes its "Microsoft Repository" as follows:
Repository technology is the integration platform for metadata, acting as the hub for data and component definitions, development and deployment models, reusable software components, and data warehouse descriptions. Integrated metadata management provides a global and consolidated view of the structure and meaning of applications and data-information that usually is scattered throughout the enterprise and buried in individual files, catalogs, or databases.
Microsoft Repository provides a place to integrate metadata for application development and data warehousing. It implements COM and SQL interfaces and ships in Visual Studio and SQL Server. It also includes the OIM, as just described; a repository engine that provides object management; a software development kit and modeling environment; and an XML interchange format that provides a standard way of interchanging instances of OIM.
As a side note, there has recently been talk of creating a central repository to store information that is in government databases and auctioning off rights to "mine" that data. Think about the diversity of data, how it is formatted, and how it is stored. Now consider what it will take to give people easy access to those databases.
Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.