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Integrating XML and Relational Database Technologies:
A Position Paper

XML is here to stay. With the noteworthy exception of HTML, no other standard has been so successful so quickly. One critical measure of XML's success is how pervasive it has become in the computing industry. It's safe to say that virtually every branch of the computing industry has embraced the XML standard in one form or another. The database industry is no exception, and in the area of database management systems, XML has a major role to play.

While the industry generally agrees that XML and relational data will become interchangeable, converting XML to and from relational data is often difficult. In fact, when a project requires that relational data be converted to or from complex XML formats (XML schemas or DTDs), there is no silver bullet. One offered solution, automatic conversion utilities, fails to address the intricacies of the required conversions. Instead, complex-mapping instructions must be drawn to specify the conversion methods. To aid this process, a GUI application can prevent syntax errors and maintain semantic consistencies among all the tabular data in relational databases. Also, standard XML processors such as XQuery, XPath and XSLT should be integrated with the mapping processor to provide the maximum amount of query and transformation flexibility on the database data.

No vendor is currently covering all aspects of XML integration, but significant progress is being made on an almost daily basis. While some middleware companies are trying to find a solution that applies across database vendors, most of the major players aim to provide XML integration by extending their standard SQL support with proprietary features. This bodes poorly for future interoperability. The general trend is a progressive movement toward an XML-oriented view of both data and data storage.

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