Microsoft Releases XML for Analysis Beta

Hoping to create an industry standard governing the transfer of information between different databases for use in data-mining applications, Microsoft Corp. Wednesday announced the release of the beta specification for XML for Analysis.

"It will certainly be one of the standards," said Mike Schiff, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. "Of course, the problem with standards is the 's' at the end."

XML for Analysis is an extension to Microsoft's OLE Database (OLE DB) for online analytical processing and OLE DB for data mining. Microsoft said developers from about 50 companies were involved in reviewing the specification before it was released. Details can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site.

The new protocol is also part of Microsoft's .Net initiative, a middleware layer that allows applications and services written in different development languages to run on a Common Language Runtime environment. XML for Analysis uses HTTP, XML and Simple Object Access Protocol Internet standards, according to Wednesday's announcement.

"Web-based services for e-business are definitely on the rise, and in terms of business intelligence, this means accessing analytic databases hosted over the Internet," Philip Russom, an analyst at the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Mass., said in Microsoft's press release. XML for Analysis targets that need by using standards optimized for interacting with Web services, he added.

XML for Analysis involves defining tags embedded in files, so different types of programs can read information created by other programs. The tool is intended to help business partners share information over the Internet.

This beta release isn't Microsoft-centric, Schiff said, but Microsoft competitors such like IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp. may not necessarily buy into Microsoft's proposal. None of these companies was one of the partners announced in the release.

While the standards still need to be ironed out, Schiff said, this is a start.

"A standard with one [company] is proprietary," he said. "A standard with 50 [companies] has some traction. They're preparing the industry for this."

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