Metadata repository

A metadata repository is a database created to store metadata. Metadata is information about the structures that contain the actual data. Metadata is often said to be “data about data”, but this is misleading. Data profiles are an example of actual “data about data”. Metadata adds one layer of abstraction to this definition– it is data about the structures that contain data. Metadata may describe the structure of any data, of any subject, stored in any format.

A well-designed metadata repository typically contains data far beyond simple definitions of the various data structures. Typical repositories store dozens to hundreds of separate pieces of information about each data structure.

Comparing the metadata of a couple data items – one digital and one physical – clarify what metadata is:

First, digital: For data stored in a database one may have a table called “Patient” with many columns, each containing data which describes a different attribute of each patient. One of these columns may be named “Patient_Last_Name”. What is some of the metadata about the column that contains the actual surnames of patients in the database? We have already used two items: the name of the column that contains the data (Patient_Last_Name) and the name of the table that contains the column (Patient). Other metadata might include the maximum length of last name that may be entered, whether or not last name is required (can we have a patient without Patient_Last_Name?), and whether the database converts any surnames entered in lower case to upper case. Metadata of a security nature may show the restrictions which limit who may view these names.

Second, physical: For data stored in a brick and mortar library, one have many volumes and may have various media, including books. Metadata about books would include ISBN, Binding_Type, Page_Count, Author, etc. Within Binding_Type, metadata would include possible bindings, material, etc.

This contextual information of business data include meaning and content, policies that govern, technical attributes, specifications that transform, and programs that manipulate.[1]:171

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The metadata repository is responsible for physically storing and cataloging metadata. Data in a metadata repository should be generic, integrated, current, and historical. Generic: Meta model should store the metadata by generic terms instead of storing it by an applications-specific defined way, so that if your data base standard changes from one product to another the physical meta model of the metadata repository would not need to change. Integration of the metadata repository allows all business areas’ metadata to be in an integrated fashion: Covering all domains and subject areas of the organization. The metadata repository should have accessible current and historical metadata.[2] Metadata repositories used to be referred to as a data dictionary.[1]:239

With the transition of needs for the metadata usage for business intelligence has increased so is the scope of the metadata repository increased. Earlier data dictionaries are the closest place to interact technology with business. Data dictionaries are the universe of metadata repository in the initial stages but as the scope increased Business glossary and their tags to variety of status flags emerged in the business side while consumption of the technology metadata, their lineage and linkages made the repository, the source for valuable reports to bring business and technology together and helped data management decisions easier as well as assess the cost of the changes.

Metadata repository explores the enterprise wide data governance, data quality and master data management (includes master data and reference data) and integrates this wealth of information with integrated metadata across the organization to provide decision support system for data structures, even though it only reflects the structures consumed from various systems.

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