Enterworks expands data integration tool

Middleware vendor Enterworks Inc. last month announced a new release of its Virtual DB data integration software that expands the range of tools the product works with, including Microsoft Corp.'s Windows-based database tools.

Virtual DB is an "information generation" tool that lets users build a unified view of enterprise data and then lets them access the data through that framework, although the information is dispersed across the organization in different storage systems, databases and formats. As an alternative, the software provides utilities for moving data to new databases, either to create data marts or data warehouses or to migrate legacy data to new platforms.

Release 2.3 adds support for Microsoft's Open Database Connectivity, letting users easily access Virtual DB through Microsoft Excel and other ODBC-based data tools.

The new release also adds support for two popular data access servers— Information Builders Inc.'s EDA/SQL connectivity software and Sybase Inc.'s Omni-Connect 11.5— thereby expanding the range of data sources available to users through Virtual DB.

These data-access tools provide "the raw plumbing" for getting to various data sources, while Virtual DB provides the ability to create a unified view of the data and to remodel the data to suit users' needs. Support for EDA/SQL alone will provide access to another 22 sources, bringing the total to 75, Enterworks said.

For users needing access to widely dispersed data, "it may not be practical to move all the data into one system," said Bob Lewis, Enterworks' president, Ashburn, Va. "We make it appear to be one system and simplify access to information." Virtual DB provides a "unified structure" to organize access.

Key to Virtual DB is its "metacatalog," which is a layer of software that "directly reflects what's in the source systems," Lewis said. Once the locations of files of interest have been determined, the user can "roll them up into a higher view," he said. Starting from the higher view, users drill down to the files they want to see. "People can interact with the new view as if it were a physical database," Lewis said.

Data migration is also important as organizations try to preserve the value of legacy systems and access varied data sources, said Jeanine Fournier, a senior analyst with Aberdeen Group, Boston. Virtual DB lets users have it both ways, she said, providing access to data where it is or the tools to move that data elsewhere

The Army's Industrial Operations Command, Rock Island, Ill., is using Virtual DB to obtain a view into three primary materiel data sources scattered across 22 domains. Part of a larger project, the application is slated for production this month, said Geoff Myers, chief of the command's ammunition systems integration team. Some of the sites use DMR, a 30-year-old database technology found on Amdahl Corp. machines.

Today an electronic query for data takes 24 to 48 hours, while a phone request takes about half an hour, Myers said. "It's a labor-intensive job that takes people away from their management functions." But with Virtual DB, using a World Wide Web-based front end, the Army "created an integrated picture" of the data. The new application will bring response times to "30 seconds or less," Myers said. The Army also is building in extensive access control and is going through security accreditation.

Virtual DB is available on the GSA schedule from Telos Corp.

Adams is a free-lance writer based in Alexandria, Va.

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