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Embarcadero unveils support for Universal Data Models

Data modeling expert Len Silverston discusses Embarcadero's support for Universal Data Models and offers some data modeling words of wisdom.

Embarcadero Technologies Inc. has unveiled new support for Universal Data Models in its ER/Studio data modeling tool.

The San Francisco-based software vendor says the data models, which were designed by data modeling expert and author Len Silverston, improve consistency while reducing data model development and maintenance time. The company also hopes that the new products will make complex data modeling capabilities more readily available to small and medium-sized businesses with limited IT resources.

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"We're reselling the models," said Jason Tiret, Embarcadero's senior product manager for ER/Studio. "We took Len's massive master model, we compartmentalized it into subject area models, and then also combined those into what we call a corporate model so people can buy a model that is highly integrated."

The Universal Data Models start at $1,295 and are categorized into nine individual subject areas that can be combined, Tiret said. The nine subject areas are people and organizations, products, orders and agreements, shipments and deliveries, work effort and project management, invoicing and time billing, accounting and budgeting, human resources, and e-commerce.

In addition, seven industry-specific data models are available. They cover banking, investments and financial services, healthcare, insurance, professional services, manufacturing, and telecommunications and travel.

Tiret said the Universal Data Models can also serve as a quality-assurance standard to help companies validate work and foresee possible data modeling problems ahead of time.

Founded in 1993, Embarcadero specializes in cross-platform database management tools. Its signature product, DBArtisan, is a cross-platform database administration tool. Tiret says the company boasts about 12,000 unique customer firms, a number that translates to about 70,000 end users.

"We [see] a big need for templated data models," Tiret said. "[Companies want to] purchase models off the shelf that would give them kind of the same thing that they would spend months developing in house."

Avoiding data righteousness

Silverston, the author of the The Data Model Resource Book, said that one of the big problems that tends to plague data modeling projects is data righteousness. Data modelers tend to think that their creations are the best, but that kind of one-mindedness can derail a data modeling project, he warned.

Silverston, who has taught courses on the pitfalls of data righteousness at data management conferences, said there's always more than one way to get the job done, and recognizing the value of alternative approaches can contribute to project success.

"You could take five different modelers and they could all come up with an A-plus design. You have to understand the pros and cons of each and move away from this righteousness," Silverston said. "The whole idea of data modeling is about integration. It's about seeing all the data integrated. Once [you] start saying, 'This is the right design,' you move away from that."

The author added that a certain "old joke" about data modelers often rings true today, but perhaps it's time for that to change.

"What's the difference between a data modeler and a terrorist?" he asked. "You can negotiate with a terrorist."

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