Looking for Meaning in the Semantic Web - InformationWeek
Software // Information Management
03:40 PM

Looking for Meaning in the Semantic Web

What is the Semantic Web and how can it help you? The concept may help solve tough corporate information-management problems.

What is the Semantic Web and how can it help you? The concept may help solve tough corporate information-management problems.

The technology behind semantics includes linguistic programming, artificial intelligence, content management and a few new areas as well. The motivation behind it can be attributed to Tim Berners-Lee and a group of Web devotees who coined the phrase "Semantic Web" more than 10 years ago. The idea was to turn the Web into a single repository of information —rather than a collection of Web sites and pages —that could be queried for its content. They created a new type of metamodel called an ontology to capture the rich meanings and relationships of all the Web's resources.

[ THE Q.T. ]
"BPEL is verbose; you need serious horsepower," says CEO Christopher Berlandier about Global Travel Exchange's use of Business Process Execution Language. He sees BPEL heating up network-attached processing.

The group also devised a way to represent ontologies using graph theory: a type of mathematics that powerfully and efficiently traverses complex maps to find the relationships. It's so powerful, in fact, that ontologies can discover implicit knowledge without being told to do so.

There are some problems with the Semantic Web. To build it, every resource must be "tagged" with XML-like tags. Clearly, that is a problem of scale. Who will tag the Web and how long will that take? Among the more creative answers are, 1) let everyone tag it and 2) devise tools that can create tags without human intervention. It remains a work in progress.

The concept of a semantic Web within corporate firewalls is intriguing. If all the digital property of an organization were properly cataloged and query tools able to resolve semantic-based queries were available, it could resolve some of the most vexing problems in information management today. For example, it could provide a rich enough layer of abstraction that single-product, proprietary metadata would no longer be necessary. Instead of source-to-BI-model mappings for three different BI tools, each tool could query the metamodel. It would eliminate the need to research dependencies when source systems are modified.

When implementing service-oriented architectures, one open question is, how can you create services from existing applications if you don't know what you have? Ontologies are being used to catalog and maintain application portfolios. Why can't you do this with a relational database? You can, as some database vendors have embedded semantic capabilities, although they use ontology rather than relational engines. The relational model strips data of its intelligence and reapplies it through a query or stored procedure. Consider data warehousing: Current data warehouse best practices insist on a "single version of the truth." If Division A defines an FTE as 36 hours per week and Division B uses 40, which is the right answer?

With an ontology, there's no need to artificially force a single answer. All contexts can exist simultaneously.

As with many emerging technologies, most of the interesting developments in semantics are coming from small companies such as Metatomix, Cerebra, Metallect and SilverCreek Systems, but Oracle, IBM, Sybase, Microsoft and SAP are all aggressively pursuing it through R&D or partnerships. That's a sure sign semantics have arrived.

Financial Forecasts

84% of global firms say their financial forecasts are less than 95% accurate and 54% suffer inaccuracies of up to 10%, according to a survey by performance management vendor Cartesis. Respondents reported difficulty bringing actual data into plans and an inability to update at least quarterly due to complexity. Nearly 66% say they update forecasts twice a year or less.
Federal ID Theft Legislation

Federal ID theft legislation akin to California's Security Breach Information Act appears to be on the legislative back burner. That stalls efforts to supersede disparate bills in a handful of states with a uniform national bill. Some lobbyists were hoping for higher thresholds for "likelihood of theft" or "substantial harm" before companies would be required to disclose data breaches.
BI Jobs and Offshoring

Business intelligence and data warehousing professionals are among the positions least likely to be outsourced to offshore service firms, according to IT compensation researcher Foote Partners. ERP and CRM pros, data modelers and business process modelers also made the list of positions likely to require expertise not widely available or easily managed from offshore.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Digital Transformation Myths & Truths
Transformation is on every IT organization's to-do list, but effectively transforming IT means a major shift in technology as well as business models and culture. In this IT Trend Report, we examine some of the misconceptions of digital transformation and look at steps you can take to succeed technically and culturally.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll