To Buy a Repository Or Not to Buy a Repository?

Published in April 2002

More companies than ever before are reducing their IT (information technology) costs and delivering a competitive business advantage by building successful meta data repositories. The companies
that are building these repositories are faced with a fundamental question. Should we buy a meta data integration tool and use that tool to build our repository or should we build a custom meta
data repository? This article will address the four essential questions that will guide your decision whether to build or buy. Before you can answer these four questions there are some upfront
tasks that need to be completed.

First, make sure to define the specific business and technical requirements of your meta data repository. This is best done by completing a meta data repository project scope
document. DO NOT look at tools until you have completed creating the project scope document.

Second, an important component of the project scope document is that it identifies the sources of meta data that you will need to integrate into your meta data repository. It is
important to note that not all meta data needs to be stored into the central meta data repository.

Third, once you’ve identified the sources of meta data that you will bring into the centralized meta data repository you will need to decide how frequently you will extract
the meta data from these sources. The frequency with which you will update the meta data within your repository is based on your company’s specific business requirements for the repository.

Fourth, it is important to gauge your corporate “climate”. By climate I mean that there are some companies that have the IT philosophy that they always custom build
their applications. Other companies believe in the reliance of tools and prepackaged applications. Your company’s climate could dictate your choice.

When talking about purchasing a meta data integration tool (e.g. ASG Rochade, Data Advantage Group, Computer Associates Advantage/390 and Advantage/DS) it is important to understand what you are
buying (1). First, all of these tools come with their own meta model. A meta model is a fancy term for a physical data model that holds meta data. Second,
these tools typically come with pre-built impact analyses that pull meta data from the base meta model. An impact analysis is a technical meta data driven report that significantly aids a
company’s IT department to drastically reduce the time for IT development. Third, a meta data integration tool has the ability to bring in specific sources of meta data (e.g. Erwin, Business
Objects, copybooks, database logs, etc.) and integrate them into a meta data repository. In addition, as these sources change over time (e.g. upgrade to a later version of Erwin) the meta data tool
vendor will enhance their tool to accommodate these changes. Do not underestimate the task of keeping your repository’s integration processes up-to-date with the changes that will occur to
your meta data sources.

Question #1: Can your company afford $350k – $750k on software?

The cost of purchasing a high-end meta data integration tool (i.e. Computer Associates Advantage/DS, Computer Associates Advantage/390, or ASG Rochade) typically starts at $400,000 and in a more
unique case can go as high as $850,000. In addition to this purchase price, the annual maintenance fees can run anywhere from 15% – 20% of the original purchase price of the tool. If your company
cannot afford this type of purchase or will not allocate this amount of funds for software, then you should consider a custom-build or a lower cost meta data integration tool (e.g. Data Advantage
Group MetaCenter).

Question #2: Can you assign dedicated resources to become knowledgeable on the tool?

Any of the meta data integration tools require that multiple dedicated resources be assigned to work on the tool. If you do not have resources to allocate and do not have funds to get these
resources from a vendor (software or consulting), then you should not be purchasing a tool. Like any other major IT initiative, meta data repository projects require dedicated resources. If you do
not have dedicated resources to your project then you need to have a very limited project scope.

Question #3: Is there a tool that certifies enough of your key meta data sources?

When a meta data integration tool vendor states that their tool certifies a specific source of meta data it means that the tool has an existing process that pulls meta data from this source and
loads it into the meta model. Certified sources of meta data typically do not require a great deal of effort to load into the repository.

Question #4: Will your company save enough development costs (current and future) to justify the tool’s purchase?

By understanding how many of your sources of meta data that the tool certifies you can decide if it will be cost effective to purchase one. If the tool does not certify a sufficient number of meta
data sources to justify the cost of the tool then than you will most likely do a custom build; however, if you are starting your project small and want to grow it then maybe a tool is still a good

If you have answered no to any of these four questions then you should not be purchasing a meta data integration tool. On the other hand, if you’ve answered yes to all of these questions than
most likely a tool is in your future. As a guideline, at Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc (EWS) around 60% of our meta data repository clients select building over buying. Keep in mind that
most of our clients tend to be conducting larger meta data repository initiatives.

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David Marco

David Marco

Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on metadata.  Mr. Marco is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”.  Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40". He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture and managed metadata environment technologies (

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