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XML's Golden Hammers
The topic AntiPatterns described Golden Hammers, a series of good technolo-
gies employed for ill-suited tasks. In a perceptive paper called “ XML for Data:
Four Tips for Smart Architecture,” Kevin Williams points out two ways that we
can miscast XML . Let's take a look. (For more information, you can see this
paper at / developerworks / xml / library / x-xdtips.html.)
XML is not a search engine
XML provides native searching tools, such as XPath. Even so, XML may not be
the best format for data that is subject to extensive searches. XML parsing can
be expensive, especially when we're frequently searching for relatively small
fragments or complex relationships in data. We must parse an entire XML doc-
ument to perform a reliable search in the proper context. If we intend to
search an XML document regularly, it is best to load the document into a tool
built for that purpose—a database, for example. In his article, Williams points
out that the nature of the document should help you make the right decision.
If the document is text oriented, such as a manuscript, XML provides a good
native format. If the document is data oriented, like an insurance policy, then a
database would probably be the better option.
XML is a poor choice for large-scale summarizing
For complex data reporting and summarizing purposes, relational database
reporting functions are more powerful than those of XML . XML also does not
combine documents into intermediate formats as efficiently. However, some
technologies allow indexed XML , which can provide an effective intermediate
format for communication to a relational database engine. In this way, the two
technologies can be used effectively together.
XML's bitter transitions
When XML bridges two subsystems controlled by a single organization, keep-
ing the schema current and each part relevant is easy. Using XML documents
across major interfaces presents additional challenges. Table 7.2 shows some
of the areas you must watch. In particular, you should throw away anything
that you are not likely to use, and you should look for data in a structure and
format that it is likely to be used.
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