Java set the world on fire six years ago with portable code. Now XML is setting the database world ablaze with easily transferable data. And although all database vendors have already added support for storing XML documents, the next wave of tighter XML integration promises a big leap toward bridging structured and unstructured data types.
Nearly every organization complains about being data-rich and information-poor, primarily because data is set off in silos. By using XML as a common data type, users can realistically query relational data and difficult-to-capture information in unstructured data sources, such as e-mail or document management systems.
Over the past year or two, enterprises have invested in content management systems to bring some order to the maelstrom of corporate documents. But that world still lives largely independent from the data and the transactional systems of record that are tied up in relational databases.
Specialized object databases have pursued the opportunities in storing unstructured information, but relational engines are still the turbos of a business. Eventually, ISVs in the content management and search business will adopt full-scale XML data types for storage in tried-and-true relational databases. And with a common database engine, enterprises can leverage data administration skills across more applications.
With Microsoft Corp. defining the APIs to bridge SQL Server and its other servers, such as Exchange, it would appear to have the upper hand in the next phase of XML adoption. But the track records of Oracle Corp.'s and IBM Corp.'s high-end systems and their commitments to XML makes this race worth watching.
Are you sold on XML data storage?