RealTime IT News

Microsoft Brings in Data Mining Expertise for XML/A

Looking to beef up the XML for Analysis (XML/A) specification -- a messaging interface for online analytical processing (OLAP) and data-mining applications -- Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. said Monday that SAS Institute Inc. will join them as co-chair of the XML/A Council.

The specification, first published in April 2001, is intended to standardize data access interaction between a client application and business intelligence systems and other applications over the Web and in distributed environments. This, in turn, is supposed to help businesses develop and deploy Web services-based business intelligence solutions more rapidly and efficiently, and also to help integrate diverse applications.

The specification is built on the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) standard.

The council has already released beta and version 1 releases of the specification, and is expected to release the latest version as early as Monday.

SAS, which had been serving as a contributing member of the council, is a specialist in data mining technology, and Microsoft and Hyperion said SAS brings expertise in advanced analytics to the table.

"Having SAS as a co-chair brings additional momentum to XML/A," said Robert Gersten, chief development officer at Hyperion. "Moving this initiative forward in an open forum with other leaders in the business intelligence community will benefit customers, who will gain the ability to protect server and tools investments and ensure that new analytical deployments will interoperate smoothly and efficiently."

Jim Davis, chief marketing officer at SAS, added, "The development of viable industry standards for XML-based business intelligence is critical for the growth of our industry."

Other participants in the council include ANGOSS Software Corp., SPSS Inc., Alphablox Corp., Applied OLAP Inc., Applix Inc., arcplan Information Services AG, Aspirity LLC, Brio Software Inc., Business Objects SA, Cognos Corp., Comshare Inc., Crystal Decisions, Dimensional Systems, Harmony Software Inc., Lawson Software, MicroStrategy Inc., ProClarity Corp, Simba Technologies Inc., and Temtec.

But even as momentum builds around the specification and many other XML-based standards and specifications, Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a new report recommending that federal agencies should take their time implementing the XML standard.

The report said the GAO's reservations were based on the lack of an explicit, government-wide strategy for XML adoption, that the needs of federal agencies have not been uniformly identified so as to represent them before standards-setting bodies, and the lack of a registry of government-unique XML data structures such as data element tags and associated data definitions.

"Although agencies need flexibility to tailor XML-based systems to meet their unique needs, they risk building and buying systems that will not work with each other in the future if their efforts do not take place within the context of a well-defined strategy," the report said. Elaborating on the need for a registry, it added, "Without such a registry, developers are less likely to build systems using compatible data definitions, which would likely defeat the goal of broad data access and exchange. In order to establish such a registry, policies and procedures for adding tag definitions and maintaining the system would also be needed and have not yet been developed."

The GAO recommended that the director of the Office of Management and Budget hammer out a strategy for government-wide adoption of XML together with the CIO Council (a group of federal chief information officers) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.