The first law of thermodynamics in essence states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It seems the same rule applies to data. In many of our systems, data is neither created nor destroyed—but it is pumped around an awful lot. We have data in legacy systems, we have data in our ERP systems, and we have data in our Web-based systems; and let’s not forget we still have departmental and desktop systems data. In addition to numerous storage locations, it is typically stored across heterogeneous hardware platforms. With the advent of Internet business-to-business partnerships, no data can exist on the outside of our firewalls (and unfortunately, on the other side of someone else’s firewall).

In an ideal world, all the data our applications ...

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