In November, SAP release version 7.1 of their MDM technology, the first major release since 5.5. This is an important release in many ways. In terms of features, there are several areas of improvement. Previously there had been a significant limitation in MDM data modelling, whereby it was not possible to associate together different data-types in the same repository e.g. a project involving both "customer" and "product" would need two separate repositories, and you could not have a supplier being related to several products. These limitations go away in version 7.1 of SAP MDM. Moreover, previous limitations on the way complex objects were handled are now removed, so allowing nested structures to be modelled e.g. a supplier can now have multiple addresses with multiple phone numbers.
Next, a new web services adaptor means that, in addition to just using the web services supplied with a standard installation, it is now possible to customise the underlying data model and then generate new web services based on this custom model. This removes a major limitation in the way that SAP MDM could be used for SOA. In the previous version, realistically it was necessary to use guided procedures or write code on top of the API for most real-world purposes.
Another important architectural constraint has been cleared up. In version 5.5 the MDM import loader used to use intermediate flat MS Access files to load into the repository. This was a major performance bottleneck in the case of hierarchies, whereby a single input XML structure could result in an explosion of records for the import file as the hierarchy was flattened out prior to loading. This limitation has now gone away.
Another key performance bottleneck in version 5.5 was that the "write" process took an exclusive lock on the repository, blocking even "read" access while records while updated. If a batch run of updates occurred then user access was interrupted until the records were updated. Now updates are "sliced", meaning that imports are split into smaller chunks, with the locks released between updates, allowing better co-existence between imports and read access. In addition there are numerous usability and other minor enhancements.
Finally, version 7.1 integrates much better with some of the underlying SAP infrastructure components, such as the change and transport system, while the MDM console now allows processes such as importing master data to be managed e.g. checking log files and stopping or starting servers.
Version 7.1 addresses some major architectural limitations that had been holding the technology back from more widespread market acceptance. This is an important release that addresses a number of core issues in the technology, and is a big step forward for SAP MDM.
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