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Monday, January 02, 2006

Contentbases Of Tomorrow Vs Databases Of Yesteryears

Content management systems /Portals are areas that are special to me – Like a few other areas, I have worked in this space at various levels and am tracking the advances in this field for more than almost a decade. The growth in this space in the last few years have been quite significant – but may be they are dwarfed by the potential growth that lay ahead. Dave Kellogg of marklogic points to a big divide that exists in information technology. I am liberally excerpting form the nice article : While data is a first-class citizen in the IT world, and has a nice home, lives in databases that offer control, consistency, security, backup/recovery, indexing, and a query mechanism – in contrast most content, on the other hand, is homeless, relegated to the file system. He argues that therefore our understanding of content has become comparatively impoverished, our expectations for what is possible with content are reduced, and a myth gets perpetuated that content can and should be managed with the same tools and approaches as data. While some upper class of content that gets to live in databases (e.g., corporate web content, aircraft repair manuals, new drug applications), pushed through enterprise content management (ECM) systems that both break the content into bite-sized morsels that fit into relational "square tables" and track metadata about it (e.g., author, version, check-in status, required approvals). Such systems tracks and manages a lot of information about the content, it actually does relatively little to help get inside content. ECM today isn't really about content - it's about metadata. As he sees it Vista’s much talked about delay can be partly attributed to the fact that WinFS be implemented on top of SQL Server. Relational databases are poor at modeling hierarchy - Modeling a hierarchical file system in which each file itself has a rich, internal hierarchy of nodes is simply a lousy application for a relational database. He recommends that we abandon the notion that content is a special case of data. Indeed, it's the other way around; data is a special case of content that happens be highly regular in structure and calls for creating enabling technologies must model hierarchy, provide for support to free-form data in upload, search and system build. The final punch really highlights the big-bang effect - as our kids listen to iTunes today and ask us what "records" were, so one day they will they query contentbases and ask us what databases were.
I do agree that the content related ecosystem in this digital world is poised for a substantial transformation and we haven’t seen even the contours of it. More is bound to happen in this world which lives by regulations like SOX, Patriot act etc.

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