The next generation of data integration
Simple business questions can be surprisingly hard to answer using today's IT systems. For a large company, a question like “how many employees are tax-exempt?” may require querying hundreds of databases using multiple data models and possibly inconsistent definitions: for example, is a “contractor” also an “employee”? Over the past five years, our team has developed a new technology for performing data-integration tasks—such as querying, combining, and evolving databases—based on category theory, a branch of mathematics that has already revolutionized several areas of computer science. Category theory gives us theoretical guidance missing from the widely-used relational model of data, and we have used it to build a prototype software tool, FQL, for integrating databases more quickly and more accurately than tools that use the relational model.