ISO/IEC 11179

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ISO/IEC 11179 (formally known as the ISO/IEC 11179 Metadata Registry (MDR) standard) is an international standard for representing metadata for an organization in a metadata registry.

Intended purpose[edit]

Organizations exchange data between computer systems precisely using enterprise application integration technologies. Completed transactions are often transferred to separate data warehouse and business rules systems with structures designed to support data for analysis. A de facto standard model for data integration platforms is the Common Warehouse Metamodel (CWM). Data integration is often also solved as a data, rather than a metadata, problem, with the use of so-called master data. ISO/IEC 11179 claims that it is a standard for metadata-driven exchange of data in an heterogeneous environment, based on exact definitions of data.

Structure of an ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry[edit]

The ISO/IEC 11179 model is a result of two principles of semantic theory, combined with basic principles of data modelling.

The first principle from semantic theory is the thesaurus type relation between wider and more narrow (or specific) concepts, e.g. the wide concept "income" has a relation to the more narrow concept "net income".

The second principle from semantic theory is the relation between a concept and its representation, e.g., "buy" and "purchase" are the same concept although different terms are used.

A basic principle of data modelling is the combination of an object class and a characteristic. For example, "Person - hair color".

When applied to data modelling, ISO/IEC 11179 combines a wide "concept" with an "object class" to form a more specific "data element concept". For example, the high-level concept "income" is combined with the object class "person" to form the data element concept "net income of person". Note that "net income" is more specific than "income".

The different possible representations of a data element concept are then described with the use of one or more data elements. Differences in representation may be a result of the use of synonyms or different value domains in different data sets in a data holding. A value domain is the permitted range of values for a characteristic of an object class. An example of a value domain for "sex of person" is "M = Male, F = Female, U = Unknown". The letters M, F and U are then the permitted values of sex of person in a particular data set.

The data element concept "monthly net income of person" may thus have one data element called "monthly net income of individual by 100 dollar groupings" and one called "monthly net income of person range 0-1000 dollars", etc., depending on the heterogeneity of representation that exists within the data holdings covered by one ISO/IEC 11179 registry. Note that these two examples have different terms for the object class (person/individual) and different value sets (a 0-1000 dollar range as opposed to 100 dollar groupings).

The result of this is a catalogue of sorts, in which related data element concepts are grouped by a high-level concept and an object class, and data elements grouped by a shared data element concept. Strictly speaking, this is not a hierarchy, even if it resembles one.

ISO/IEC 11179 proper does not describe data as it is actually stored. It does not refer to the description of physical files, tables and columns. The ISO/IEC 11179 constructs are "semantic" as opposed to "physical" or "technical".

The standard has two main purposes: definition and exchange. The core object is the data element concept, since it defines a concept and, ideally, describes data independent of its representation in any one system, table, column or organisation.

Structure of the ISO/IEC 11179 standard[edit]

The standard consists of six parts:

  • Part 1 - Framework (referred to as ISO/IEC 11179-1)
  • Part 2 - Classification
  • Part 3 - Registry metamodel and basic attributes
  • Part 4 - Formulation of data definitions
  • Part 5 - Naming and identification principles
  • Part 6 - Registration

Part 1 explains the purpose of each part. Part 3 specifies the metamodel that defines the registry. The other parts specify various aspects of the use of the registry.

Overview of 11179 Data Element[edit]

The data element is foundational concept in an ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry. The purpose of the registry is to maintain a semantically precise structure of data elements.

Each Data element in an ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry:

  • should be registered according to the Registration guidelines (11179-6)
  • will be uniquely identified within the register (11179-5)
  • should be named according to Naming and Identification Principles (11179-5) See data element name
  • should be defined by the Formulation of Data Definitions rules (11179-4) See data element definition and
  • may be classified in a Classification Scheme (11179-2) See classification scheme

Data elements that store "Codes" or enumerated values must also specify the semantics of each of the code values with precise definitions.

Adoption of 11179 Standards[edit]

Oracle was a major commercial supporter of ISO/IEC 11179 but has canceled its support for this standard (see below). Software AG's COTS Metadata Registry (MDR) product supports the ISO 11179 standard and continues to be sold and used for this purpose in both commercial and government applications (see Vendor Tools section below).

While commercial adoption is increasing, the spread of ISO/IEC 11179 has been more successful in the public sector. However, it is unclear if this is due to different requirements for data exchange in the public sector, since its spread seems to follow the sphere of influence of the participants in the development of the standard, i.e. the reception is with U.S. government agencies, and with a limited group of national and international statistical organisations.

The United Nations and the US Government refer to and use the 11179 standards. 11179 is strongly recommended on the U.S. government's XML website.[1] and is promoted by The Open Group as a foundation of the Universal Data Element Framework.[2] The Open Group is a vendor-neutral and technology-neutral consortium working to enable access to integrated information within and between enterprises based on open standards and global interoperability.

Extensions to the ISO/IEC 11179 standard[edit]

Although the ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry is a complex standard comprising several hundreds of pages, there are users that are attempting to extend these standards to meet various challenges. For example the XMDR project states its purpose as being: ...concerned with the development of improved standards and technology for storing and retrieving the semantics of data elements, terminologies, and concept structures in metadata registries. It is, however, uncertain as to how active this effort is at present: the XMDR website ([1]) does not list project meetings after October 2007, and also whether it has been able to influence ISO to enhance its standard.

Examples of ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registries[edit]

The following metadata registries state that they follow ISO/IEC 11179 guidelines although there have been no formal third party tests developed to test for metadata registry compliance.

Metadata registry vendor tools that claim ISO/IEC 11179 compliance[edit]

No independent agencies certify ISO/IEC 11179 compliance.

See also[edit]