So what Safyr does is Data Discovery – Right?


Well  er…Yes, and No.   We get this comment lots of times.  It’s sometimes hard to explain the difference.  Strictly speaking, we do ‘metadata discovery’.

I like analogies.  Imagine I’ve moved to a new town.   I want to know where is the nearest Supermarket, Post Office, ATM, etc.   What do I do?

I can ask people who know

I can drive out in my car and see where things are

I can look at Google Maps (other Digital Map providers are also available J)

Each has there advantages and disadvantages.  Asking people can often get you the quickest answer, but of course they have to be on hand, and you may have to filter their advice (“what’s the best restaurant around here?” might not give you the answer that will help if you’re on a budget)

Driving around get the whole picture in your head, and you see other things on the way – but it can be time consuming (and expensive).

Google Maps lets you work out where things are ‘virtually’.  You can find things at a dramatically quicker rate than actually driving around.  It’s no replacement for the real thing, but if the area to be explored is large, then it’s going to save a lot of time.  And of course if the area was very large, say a whole country, driving around would be impractical.

The analogy doesn’t fully work, but data discovery/metadata discovery is similar.  Imagine we are trying to do Data Discovery on SAP…  First step might be to ask someone who knows.  “Where can I find the Purchasing Document information in SAP?”   And if you ask the right person, they may know.  But you have to keep asking for each new enquiry.

Data Discovery is a bit like driving around the data and usually comes down to some kind of Data Profiling:  whizzing thru the actual data in the database working out how it hangs together by looking for unique identifiers, potential Foreign Keys, etc. This can give a very good, high quality result, but it’s not practical on large numbers of database Tables.  Just like it’s not practical to drive round every road in a large city looking for a particular store.  SAP has 90,000+ tables – not really realistic to profile Terabytes of data spread over so many ‘buckets’.    And that’s where ‘metadata discovery’ comes in.

Metadata discovery allows the user to ‘scope’ the likely set of tables and relationships that are required.  It’s similar to data discovery, but rather than doing that on the data, it’s doing it on the metadata.   And whereas data discovery is about the actual rows and columns in the database, metadata discovery is about the context of that data:  “where is the Customer Master data stored?” and “Which Tables are used by the Customer Payments function?”

So what we do is like ‘Google Maps’ for SAP data.  It provides a practical mechanism for working out where things are stored in SAP from the comfort of your own PC.


Nick Porter is Technical Director of Silwood Technology Ltd, the originators of Safyr, the metadata exploration tool for large application packages such as SAP, Salesforce and PeopleSoft

Nick has over 30 years IT experience, the last 20 being in the Information Architecture space, providing tools and consulting to support projects needing an understanding of data structures for ERPs.

Nick is also the guest author of this blog.


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