Data Documentation and Retrieval Using Unity in a UniVerse® Environment Your Name
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa E-mail Address
Data storage, however well implemented, is worthless without the ability to retrieve that data. While the logical and physical connections may be available, if the data layout is not well documented, it may be near impossible to retrieve the data except through previously developed interface programs. These programs may be limited in their implementation based on static ideas of their use. In order to implement new interface methods, it is necessary to have complete documentation. It may be possible to use an automated approach to document the tables and fields of a database system This project will explore using Unity, and ODBC connectivity to document a large system of tables in a UniVerse® environment. It will also explore using a set of host based programs to generate equivalent documentation, and the modification of Unity in order to produce RETRIEVE queries used by UniVerse® instead of standard SQL queries used by typical ODBC data sources. The remainder of this proposal will examine motivation for the project, the project architecture and associated details.
In an ideal situation, a company that creates a piece of software would document it, and understand it before selling it. In the same ideal situation, a company that creates and sells a suite of software with hundreds of tables would understand and document the complex interactions of these programs and tables. Each field of every table would be documented and, hopefully with little effort, that company would be able to tell which programs required each field. However, not all programmers are software engineers, and not all companies that create software do it by using the appropriate methods. The type of documentation described takes time, and time is money, especially in environments where hourly rates charged to customers are above one hundred dollars and projects range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Given a limited budget a client company might choose additional functionality over complete documentation and therein lies the root of the problem. Incomplete documentation when it comes to software systems of any magnitude is equivalent to no documentation. Any additional changes to the software or database system must be researched heavily and the only testing that will
suffice is full integration with the “live” suite. Once a client company has made a decision for functionality over documentation, it is up to the client company programmers and analysts to take up the challenge of documenting the suite of tables and programs and to integrate them with other business tools. Unity is a tool for documenting ODBC accessible data with X-Specs in a semiautomated manner. Some limitations exist in using an ODBC client to access the data necessary to create X-Specs for the UniVerse® environment. Thus it would be preferable to use host tools to create the X-Specs using programs on the host system which provide more information about relationships and data than would be accessible to an ODBC client. Once these X-Specs are created, Unity can be used to build data queries to access the data. By documenting tables more precisely using X-Specs, the complexities of future modifications to the system are reduced.
This aim of this project is to evaluate the efficiency and efficacy of developing XSpecs using Unity verses creating the same X-Specs using a host based system of programs. To do this, a sample set of tables will be identified from those in use at a local company. Using Unity, these tables will be explored and mapped. Thereafter, host programs will be developed in order to create X-Specs using internally available data that is not available to the ODBC client. The resulting X-Specs will be compared in order to evaluate the different approaches. Additionally, Unity will...
References: R. Lawrence and K. Barker: Unity - A Database Integration Tool. TRLabs Emerging Technology Bulletin December 4, 2000
IBM: IBM Software: Database and Data Management: U2 product family: UniVerse: Overview. http://www-3.ibm.com/software/data/u2/universe/
 R. Lawrence and K. Barker: Integrating Relational Database Schemas using a Standardized Dictionary. SAC '2001 - 16th ACM Symposium on Applied Computing March 11-14, 2001 Las Vegas, USA, pages 225-230.
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