About the UDEF : Frequently-Asked Questions

What is the UDEF?

The Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) is a framework for categorizing, naming, and indexing data. It assigns to every item of data a structured alphanumeric tag plus a controlled vocabulary name that describes the meaning of the data.

For example,"Employee Number" is a data element typically managed in an enterprise's human resource system. It has a UDEF tag a.5_12.35.8 and a controlled vocabulary description "Employee.PERSON_Employer.Assigned.IDENTIFIER"

Why is The Open Group concerned with the UDEF?

The UDEF is a publicly open standard framework that can reduce enterprise costs while simultaneously enabling global interoperability. Establishing the UDEF standard is a significant contribution to realizing The Open Group's vision of Boundaryless Information Flowª.

What are the primary objectives of The Open Group's UDEF Project?

The main purpose of the Project is to establish the UDEF as the universally-used naming, categorization and indexing system for enterprise data. The Project focuses on developing and maintaining the UDEF as an open standard, advocating and promoting it, putting in place a technical infrastructure to support it, and setting up education programs to train information professionals in its use.

Who should be interested in the UDEF?

People that should be interested in the UDEF include:

  • Decision makers interested in reducing costs of data discovery;
  • People involved in data standards;
  • Enterprise architects;
  • Systems analysts involved in building interfaces between systems; and
  • Product designers working for vendors of major applications and meta data management products.

Is UDEF based on an International standard?

Yes - The UDEF is based on the data naming and identification principles described in ISO 11179 Part 5, Information Technology - Metadata Registries.

Can the UDEF help an organization reduce their data management costs?

Yes - A large enterprise typically has many different data stores and applications. In most cases the data is modeled, named, and categorized in different ways. For data to flow between these stores and applications, either within an enterprise or between different enterprises, it must be analyzed for meaning and then transformed between different formats. This requires an in-depth understanding of the ways in which the data is modeled, named, and categorized. It is an expensive process, carried out by teams of programmers, who may have documented descriptions of existing software to help them, but generally have poor documentation of the data that they are transforming.

The UDEF enables enterprises to name and categorize their data in a standard and consistent way. This will greatly reduce the cost of programming data transformations by providing the programmers with better documentation of the data that they are transforming. A free online gap analysis tool provides the mechanism for rapid comparison between any two systems mapped to the UDEF. And it enables the development of automatic transformation methods that will reduce the cost further and will mean that new transformations can be introduced more quickly, in response to the business needs.

If changes occur to the UDEF trees, does this invalidate all my previously defined UDEF identifiers?

No. Changes will be made for new extensions, and to correct errors, but the meanings of existing UDEF definitions will never be changed. Therefore, a given UDEF identifier will not be invalidated by extensions to the UDEF.

The following principles apply when errors are detected in the UDEF trees. There shall be no changes to the tags. UDEF identifiers shall never be re-purposed. Informative descriptions may be added for qualifier terms. Editorial changes may be made to qualifiers and qualifier terms to correct spelling or syntax. Qualifier terms may be replaced by other terms that do not change the meaning but make the intention clearer. UDEF tags may fall out of use as the concepts that they index become obsolete, but they will not be deleted or re-used for other concepts.

Is UDEF an ontology?

No, but you can add UDEF-ids to all elements of any ontology; this facilitates cross-mapping between different ontologies.

How is the UDEF different from an Ontology?

It is simpler and it uses terminology commonly used by business people.  There is no single, universal, top-down ontology. An enterprise may use many different ontologies, to meet the needs of its different information systems and applications. The World-Wide Web consortium has defined a language (OWL) for describing ontologies used in connection with the Web. (It assumes a similar object class/property information model to that of ISO 11179). Thus, while each ontology implies a method of categorizing data, ontologies do not provide a single universal categorization and naming of concepts. The UDEF does provide such a categorization. By doing so, it can enable data categorized by different ontologies to be related.

How does the UDEF differ from data interchange standards used by enterprises?

There are many data interchange standards that are the basis of subject-area-specific data exchange syntaxes. A few examples are OAGIS, RosettaNet, STEP/PLCS, NIEM, X12, EDIFACT, XBRL, and SWIFT. Unfortunately, there is substantial overlap and conflict between the various standards. For instance, each of the examples listed includes the concept of "address" but they do not use the same semantics. The UDEF is an indexing mechanism that is designed to enable information engineers and data architects to relate these standards to each other and to the intrinsic vocabularies used by the applications within each enterprise.

If there was no structure within words, using a dictionary would be impossible. Since words are made of letter symbols which follow a convention of ordering and other semantic considerations, you can take any word and look it up in either a dictionary or thesaurus. UDEF indexing offers essentially the same functionality.

Since UDEF is a classification, naming, and indexing system for data elements used within enterprise applications, it does not conflict with data models used by data standards. In this context, UDEF does not need to maintain the relationships between data elements from the original models, since it performs a rather different role.

How easy is it to name and categorize data using the UDEF?

A small amount of training (perhaps half a day for a competent information engineer or data architect) is needed to enable the user to determine which object class and property from the standard UDEF trees apply to any particular data item.

Is the UDEF complete?

By design, the UDEF can be extended to accommodate new concepts. The UDEF object and property trees currently include many of the common object classes and properties used by enterprises for several domains. It is the aim of the UDEF Project that the UDEF trees will be extended - either within the public UDEF registry or within industry specific or enterprise specific registries - to include as nearly as possible all object classes and properties that are used by enterprises.

Is my data element concept already in UDEF?

The public UDEF currently covers about 1.9 million data element concepts, and is infinitely extensible. If your data element concept (defined in ISO 11179) is not yet covered, you can submit an extension proposal by self subscribing to the UDEF Interested Parties. Anyone with a valid email address can self-subscribe for free.

Can UDEF handle unstructured data?

Currently UDEF can only handle structured data. The UDEF project however is working on future extensions of UDEF that will include mechanisms that can handle unstructured data as well.

Can I use UDEF for my enterprise specific data?

Yes - The next version of UDEF will support knowledge domain and enterprise specific object and property trees in addition to the trees already supported, and all of them are extensible.

In what languages is UDEF available?

Currently, the UDEF is published online in English, Dutch and French. Other languages are being developed, among them: German, Spanish, Chinese, and Afrikaans (South African).

Are UDEF versions in different languages mutually compatible?

Absolutely, meaning is attached to the UDEF-tag. The language trees are just representations of the meaning.

Can I create a new language version for UDEF?

Yes - you are welcome; the Open Group will support you with the processes to develop a new language version.

How can I choose between different branches in a tree or even between trees?

In order to learn how to use the UDEF, it is recommended that you take a half day course.

Is UDEF a licensed product?

No! UDEF is a freely available public standard. Anyone can use it for any purpose. Anyone with a browser can view the entire UDEF online. In addition, anyone who self-subscribes to the UDEF Interested Parties can download the entire UDEF in XML and RDF formats.

What is the relation between UDEF and RDF?

RDF (Resource Description Framework) is a language with which semantic concepts can be expressed. UDEF is available in RDF. In RDF terminology: each node of a UDEF tree can be expressed as a RDF-statement.

What is the difference between UDEF and OWL?

OWL (Ontology Web Language) is a language in which data models can be expressed. UDEF enables business friendly understanding of the meaning of each element of a data model.

Can I use UDEF to create my Data Model?

No, but you can use UDEF to name and index the entity-attribute pairs of your data model. By using the free gap analysis tool, this facilitates the comparison of your data model with data models created by other people.

How long has UDEF been in existence?

UDEF version 1.0 was officially approved by The Open Group Board in October 2006. It was created several years before 2006 but was not available as a public standard.

Can I use different versions of UDEF in different systems?

Yes! All versions of UDEF are and will be compatible; the capabilities in such case are restricted to the capabilities of the lower (earlier) version number.

How can I upgrade UDEF to a newer version?

Download the latest version of UDEF into the same folder as the earlier version. Overwrite the earlier version.

What is the Data Model of UDEF?

None. UDEF is just a collection of words that are organized in trees using language specific rules. The English version of UDEF is based on the rules of English that prescribe that modifiers should precede the word they modify. In the French version the word order is generally the opposite. In other languages other rules may apply. The resultant data element concepts will be grammatically correct and therefore user friendly. No data model is implied or excluded.