Exploring data lineage: Get a complete picture of your data flows

Analyze enterprise data movement through extended lineage in IBM InfoSphere Metadata Workbench


Recently, increasing numbers of government regulations and internal corporate data governance initiatives have prompted IT organizations to implement automated processes to provide accurate data lineage on key enterprise information assets, such as business intelligence reports. IBM InfoSphere Information Server is a data integration software platform that helps organizations derive value and understanding from complex, heterogeneous information in their organization. The platform is composed of various components to understand, cleanse, transform, and deliver information. Following is a list of the components in Information Server 8.1:

  • Metadata Workbench
  • Business Glossary
  • FastTrack
  • Information Analyzer
  • QualityStage
  • DataStage
  • Information Services Director

To achieve a high degree of active sharing and reusability of information, all components of Information Server access and persist their metadata through a common metadata layer consisting of a metadata server and a shared metadata repository.

InfoSphere Metadata Workbench plays an integral part in Information Server by providing data lineage and impact analysis reports on various assets stored in its metadata repository, including business intelligence reports, databases, legacy data assets, and so on. One of the core features in Metadata Workbench is its built-in support to automatically deduce linkages among metadata that Information Server components create or import.

Using these functions, business users can get answers to questions such as "What are the sources for this report that I'm looking at?" and "I don't trust the data in this report. Which transformations were applied to the data on which this report is based?" The answers to such questions are critical to the compliance laws currently in place in many industries, including finance, banking, and manufacturing. Similarly, IT analysts can get answers to questions regarding impact of change, including "Which assets and processes would be affected if I change the constraints on this column?" and "Can I decommission this database?"

Lineage reports

Out of the box, Metadata Workbench provides various lineage reports about assets, including:

  • Imported databases (tables, columns) and table-structured files and their fields
  • DataStage and QualityStage ETL jobs and contained stages
  • Imported BI reports and report fields

Figure 1 shows an example data transformation and movement process in which data from two sources (RUT_UT and RUT_EMEA) are being moved by two separate DataStage ETL jobs into a staging database (CRT_STAGING). From there, another DataStage ETL job moves the data into a data warehouse called ENT_DWH. Finally, a fourth DataStage ETL job (TO_MART) builds out a data mart (MART) that three Cognos BI reports are then using.

Figure 1. Sample data flow topology in enterprise
Flow diagram as described in paragraph                     above.
Flow diagram as described in paragraph above.

In this particular data flow, Metadata Workbench supports all participating components (jobs, database tables, and BI reports). Therefore a data lineage report started on one of the BI reports, such as the SalesPerQtr report, would successfully report the entire flow all the way back to the two data sources. Listing 1 shows how the results of a data lineage report would look for the SalesPerQtr report.

Listing 1. SalesPerQtr report

For the example, all metadata describing how the data moves from one place to the next is stored in the metadata repository, and thus enables Metadata Workbench to build out the complete lineage report by deducing the chain of source-to-target relationships.

In an ideal world, a customer would only need one tool, Information Server, to do data transformation and movement. However, in almost all cases, a customer uses more than one method or application to perform data transformation and movement. Examples include stored procedures, other vendors' ETL systems, ERP systems, and homegrown applications. The fact that metadata for these processes and systems is not natively stored in Information Server's repository impacts a customer's ability to see the complete data flow that Metadata Workbench data lineage reports provide.

Incomplete data lineage reports

To showcase this impact, the next example uses a different data transformation and movement process. Instead of a DataStage job, the data warehouse is now populated by stored procedures STG_TO_DWH, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Sample data flow topology in enterprise with non-Information Server processes
Same flow diagram as Figure 1, except that                     CRT_STAGING leads to a crossed-out STG_TO_DWH Stored Procedures, and                     the flow after that goes only to the Sales Per Qtr Report.
Same flow diagram as Figure 1, except that CRT_STAGING leads to a crossed-out STG_TO_DWH Stored Procedures, and the flow after that goes only to the Sales Per Qtr Report.

If you run a data lineage analysis on the BI report SalesPerQtr, you get the following result:

Listing 2. SalesPerQtr BI report

The lineage stops at ENT_DWH because the Metadata Workbench does not have enough information available to know that the stored procedures are moving data from CRT_STAGING to ENT_DWH. An IT analyst familiar with the Metadata Workbench might realize this and consequently run another lineage from CRT_STAGING. Listing 3 shows the results:

Listing 3. Running lineage from CRT_STAGING

So when information from the staging database is moved to the data warehouse through stored procedures, there is a gap in the lineage. The stored procedures or other external applications that manipulate data prevent the user from seeing complete data lineage reports.

With Metadata Workbench 8.1.2, these gaps in the data flow analysis are closed by describing data-movement processes that occur outside the Information Server through a method called extended data lineage. The rest of this article describes how to obtain accurate extended data lineage reports based on the example scenario in Figure 2.

Using extended data lineage

With extended data lineage, you can track the flow of data across your enterprise, no matter which process or application is moving or transforming your data.

For the Metadata Workbench, an external process is a black box with known endpoints (sources and targets). Extension mappings are essentially source-to-target mappings that describe data movement from one or more sources to one or more targets. The extension mappings are linkage points to fill the gap between Information Server assets and external processes (see Lineage reports). By using extension mappings, data lineage analysis can be performed on data flows external to Information Server.

Extension mapping documents

Extension mappings are organized into extension mapping documents. Each row in a mapping document contains a source-to-target mapping usually created for a particular process or routine. Mapping documents can be created and managed in a logical way that maps to how the data transformation logic is partitioned in the enterprise.

Figure 3 shows the corrected data lineage report after creating an extension mapping document to track the lineage through the example stored procedure STG_TO_DWH.

Figure 3. Data lineage report of ETL process with stored procedure corrected with extension mappings
Flow diagram highlighting                     Extension Mapping stored procedures and its description.
Flow diagram highlighting Extension Mapping stored procedures and its description.

Custom attributes

In addition to the predefined fields, you can add extra custom fields to the extension mappings by defining custom attributes on the mappings. See Related topics to find details about these capabilities.

Creating extension mapping documents

Creating, importing, and deleting extension mapping documents are administrative tasks that require an Information Server user with Metadata Workbench administrator access.

Create extension mapping documents in the Metadata Workbench by following these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced tab in Metadata Workbench on the left control bar. This tab is visible only for a Metadata Workbench administrator.
  2. Select Create Extension Mapping Document in the Extension Mapping Documents section. Figure 4 shows the window that holds details of this new extension mapping document. The window shows 2 tabs: Properties and Mappings.
Figure 4. Properties tab of Create Extension Mapping window
Screen cap:                                 Properties tab with Name, File Name, Type, and Description                                 fields completed.
Screen cap: Properties tab with Name, File Name, Type, and Description fields completed.
  1. On the Properties tab, enter a name for the mapping document. This should be descriptive enough to be able to identify it later.
  2. Optionally enter a type. This is a free-text field that can be used to provide categorization of extension mapping documents. For example, if documents are created to describe stored procedures, mainframe applications, or Web services, it would be useful for the Metadata Workbench user to search for extension mapping documents by type or by name. Alternatively, you could also categorize by business domain, so types such as finance, human resources, logistics, and product could also be useful.
  3. Optionally enter a description of the extension mapping document. This might contain information such as the source systems that this mapping document is describing, any relevant notes that would be useful in the future, and so on.

Creating mappings

On the Mappings tab, enter extension mappings that describe the actual data movement. Each extension mapping describes the data movement of sources to targets.

The Mappings tab is arranged in a table format in which each row in the table is an extension mapping. The following table details each field of an extension mapping and how to complete them.

Table 1. Extension mapping fields
Field namePurposeCompletion instructions
NameInformative name of the mapping to uniquely identify this mapping within the mapping document.(Optional)
Click the cell and enter text.
SourcesOne or more sources of this mapping. See Defining sources and targets(Required)
Figure 5 shows how the asset selector window appears when you click the source field, in which you can locate the required assets to use as the source for the mapping.
RulesInformal rules of this mapping. For example, concatenate the first and last names together, sometimes with salutation.(Optional)
Click the cell and enter text.
FunctionsFormal rules for this mapping. For example: slt+". " +fName+' '+lName=fullName(Optional)
Click the cell and enter text. There is no formal validation of the content of this field.
TargetsOne or more targets of this mapping. See Defining sources and targets.(Required)
Targets are selected the same way that sources are.
DescriptionText describing the mapping(Optional)
Click the cell and enter text.
Figure 5. Selecting a source or target
Screen cap: Asset Selector window                     to indicate a source or target.
Screen cap: Asset Selector window to indicate a source or target.

Editing mappings

After entering a mapping, additional rows can be added to the table to add new mappings. Once all mappings have been entered, the new extension mapping document can be saved by clicking Save, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Editing mappings
Screen cap describing                     REP_PROC157_DTP001 and showing a concatenation rule being changed.
Screen cap describing REP_PROC157_DTP001 and showing a concatenation rule being changed.

Defining sources and targets

Sources and targets can be of many different asset types. The assets are selected from a list of the available assets in the Information Server metadata repository. The available asset types are:

  • Database assets (database, schema, table, column)
  • Data Files fields
  • DataStage assets (jobs, stages, stage columns)

It is also possible to select extended data sources, which represent assets such as applications, methods, and parameters. Extended data source enable things like Web services or API calls to be sources or targets of a mapping.

It is important to ensure that all the required assets are already imported and are up to date. Although a typical mapping has one source and one target, there are scenarios where a mapping can have multiple sources or targets. For example, a mapping with multiple source tables and a single target table might describe a process of selecting rows from multiple tables (using SQL joins or unions) and of inserting the result into a single table.

Similarly, a mapping that describes the splitting of an address field into Line1, Line2, City, ZipCode would have one source column and four target columns.

These examples show that mappings can be described at different levels of granularity. For example, a stored procedure can be described on a coarse-grained level where sources or targets point to database tables. Alternatively that stored procedure can be described on a fine-grained level through numerous mappings, where sources and targets point to table columns. The decision of what level of granularity to map depends on the resources available to document the relationships and on the level of lineage required. If an enterprise has 10,000 stored procedures on which lineage reporting is required, it might be more practical to map at the table level, as opposed to creating hundreds of thousands of column mappings. However, if the level of required lineage reporting is only to the level of which database a report is sourced from, then there might not be any need to document to a finer level of granularity.

Finding and viewing mapping documents

You can view extension mapping documents in any of the following ways:

  • On the Discover tab, click the Find link, and select Extension Mapping Document as the Asset Type.
  • On the Discover tab, click the Query link, and create a query to find the extension mapping document.
  • Search for an individual extension mapping by doing a find or query for extension mapping in the Asset Type. For this type of search, giving meaningful names to individual mappings makes searching for mappings easier.
  • On the Discover tab, select Extension Mapping Document from the Additional Types drop-down, and click Display to view all the extension mapping documents.
  • On the Advanced tab, click Manage Extension Mapping Documents to view all the extension mapping documents.

An example of the results of a search is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Extension mapping document search results
Screen cap: Find window                     searching for the letters 'mat' and the Find Results window showing 3                     assets containing the word 'Maturity'.
Screen cap: Find window searching for the letters 'mat' and the Find Results window showing 3 assets containing the word 'Maturity'.

Once an extended mapping document appears on the displayed list, you can view it by clicking on the related mapping document. Figure 8 shows how the extended mapping document opens in view mode.

Figure 8. Extension mapping document in view mode
Screen cap showing the Extension                     Mapping Document and Extension Mappings for REP_PROC157_DTP001.
Screen cap showing the Extension Mapping Document and Extension Mappings for REP_PROC157_DTP001.

Managing extended mapping documents

This section describes how to edit extended mapping documents and how to assign terms and stewards.

Editing extended mapping documents

To manually modify mappings in an extended mapping document, a Metadata Workbench administrator can access the edit window for an extended mapping document in one the following ways:

  • In the Find/Query results window, right-click the extended mapping document and select Edit.
  • In the view mode window of an extended mapping document, click Edit in the right-hand panel.

Both of these methods open the edit window for the extended mapping document. This is the same window you see when you create an extended mapping document. You can change all properties on the Properties tab, and you can make any changes to the mappings on the Mapping tab.

Assigning terms and stewards

You can assign terms and stewards to extension mapping documents. Understanding a mapping document is a lot easier when it has a shared business meaning and when there is someone in the organization who is accountable for it.

Figure 9 shows that you can select multiple extension mapping documents and click the Assign Term link. The Business Term select window opens. After you select the term, it is assigned to all of the selected extended mapping documents.

Similarly, you can assign a steward to extension mapping documents. You can select one or more extension mapping documents and then click the Assign Steward link. The Steward select window opens. After you select the steward, it is assigned to all of the selected extended mapping documents.

Figure 9. Assigning terms and stewards
Screen cap: Extension Mapping                     Document Results window showing some of the Extension Data Mapping.txt                     assets selected with checkboxes.
Screen cap: Extension Mapping Document Results window showing some of the Extension Data Mapping.txt assets selected with checkboxes.

Importing extension mapping documents

Metadata Workbench provides an automated way to create extension mapping documents by enabling import of mapping documents from csv files. Instead of creating and maintaining many extension mapping documents in the edit window (Figure 5), you can import them from csv files into the Metadata Workbench. Many businesses require hundreds or thousands of extension mapping documents, and importing these files greatly accelerates the deployment of the lineage capabilities. Because csv format is well-documented and simple to comply with, IT developers can easily generate Workbench-compliant mapping document files from existing spreadsheets, databases, and other sources.

A Metadata Workbench administrator can import extension mapping documents by doing the following:

  1. In the Advanced tab, click Import Extension Mapping Documents.
  2. Select one or more csv files or directories by clicking the Add button.
  3. If the sources or targets in the csv files contain relative paths to the assets to be mapped, add the source prefix in the Source field and add the target prefix in the Target field. For example, if the extension mapping document contains mappings between columns in a server SVR, database DB1, schema MY_SCH, and table MYTBL; the csv file could relate to the columns by full name, such as SVR.DB1.MY_SCH.MYTBL.COL1. Or, it can reference them just as MYTBL.COL1, in which case the Source field in the import dialog should contain the prefix SVR.DB1.MY_SCH.

Extension mapping documents that are imported can be re-imported by simply importing the same file with any changes. This allows for the extension mappings to be maintained externally, and whenever desired, the new version of the mappings can be imported into the metadata repository.

Extension mapping document file format

Extension mapping document files are in csv format with each extension mapping being represented by one row in the csv. On each row, the values of the mapping fields are entered as described in Table 1. The file must comply with the following rules:

  • The file must be in UTF-8 or ANSI encoding.
  • The first line must be a header with the following columns (case and order irrelevant):
    • Name
    • Source columns
    • Target columns
    • Rule
    • Function
    • Specification description
    • (Any other columns are ignored)
  • The separator must be a comma.
  • Dot notation identifies a source or target asset. The identity should use the same names as they appear in the metadata repository. Using the Metadata Workbench to see the names of the assets helps to accurately name the assets. Each asset type requires a different notation as follows:
    • Schema is identified as {server}.{database}.{schema}
    • Table is identified as {server}.{database}.{schema}.{table}
    • Column is identified as {server}.{database}.{schema}.{table}.{column}
    • File is identified as {server}.{data_file}
    • File field is identified as {server}.{data_file}.{data_file_field}
  • Multiple sources and targets should be surrounded by double-quotes ("), with each entry separated by a comma.
  • Rule, function, and specification description values should be surrounded by double-quotes (") if the values contain a comma.
  • Content can be in any language, as long as the encoding is in UTF-8.
  • If any of the sources or targets cannot be located in the metadata repository, the mapping in which the source is referenced will be ignored.

Listing 4 shows an example csv file.

Listing 4. Sample extension mapping document csv file
[Line 1] Name,Source Columns,Target Columns,Rule,Function,Specification Description
	"DB2.ENT_DWH.HAYDEN.SALES_AGGR1A.REGN","conc city and country, based on IS...",
	"REGN = CITY+""["" + SALES_COUNTRY+""]"" ","speak to Bob for more info"
	"just subtract the RETURNS from the TOTAL_SALES ",,

Importing from FastTrack mapping specifications

You can also import extension mapping documents from FastTrack (see Related topics) by exporting FastTrack mapping specifications to csv files and then importing those files into Metadata Workbench. You can do this because FastTrack mapping specifications and extension mapping documents share the same file format. Content can be edited in a spreadsheet-type application from which the file can be saved as a csv file. These applications generally deal elegantly with adding double-quotes when needed, as well as providing clear, tabular view of mappings.

An imported extension mapping document is automatically given a name based on the file from which it was imported. When importing a large number of mappings, a progress window notifies you of progress and any errors during import.

Monitoring status

Details of all administrative operations on extension mapping documents are recorded in the Information Server. You can view these details by creating a logging view in the Web console for Information Server by following these steps:

  1. Log in to the Web console for Information Server.
  2. Navigate to the Administration tab, and open the Log Management section.
  3. Select Log Views > New Log View.
  4. From the Categories list, select WORKBENCH-EXTENDED-LINEAGE as shown in Figure 10, and select Save and Close.
Figure 10. Creating log view
Screen cap: Log Views window                     showing WORKBENCH-EXTENDED-LINEAGE highlighted in the Categories                     section.
Screen cap: Log Views window showing WORKBENCH-EXTENDED-LINEAGE highlighted in the Categories section.
  1. Use this log view to see extension mapping document activity, as shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11. Viewing logs
Screen cap: Log View window showing                     rolling activity for WORKBENCH-EXTENDED-LINEAGE.
Screen cap: Log View window showing rolling activity for WORKBENCH-EXTENDED-LINEAGE.

Using the command-line interface for extension mapping documents

You can import and delete extension mapping documents through the Metadata Workbench Web interface or from the command-line interface. With the command-line interface, you can schedule frequent imports of extension mapping documents and deletions of mappings that are no longer relevant without need for human intervention.

In order to access the command-line scripts, install Information Server Manager before installing Metadata Workbench 8.1.2. The command-line scripts are available on both Windows® and UNIX®-style operating systems on a client installation of Information Server. The command line interface is located at <InformationServer_Root>/Client/istools/cli.

Import and delete of extension mapping documents is performed through the istool application. In this way, scripts can be written that import or delete extension mapping documents with whatever logic the administrator requires, and, of course, these scripts can be executed by any third-party scheduler.

Listing 5 shows how a whole directory of extension mapping document files can be imported into the Metadata Workbench with a single command.

Listing 5. Sample command-line calls to import
cli>istool workbench extension mapping import -domain is1 -username isadmin -password ****
	-filename /mappings/entanys/eg2 -output /mappings/reports/output.log

Full details of the syntax and examples of the command-line are available in the Information Server Information Center (see Related topics).


The extended lineage feature in the Metadata Workbench 8.1.2 provides IT analysts with the tools to get accurate lineage and impact-analysis reports over their whole enterprise and to manage the extension mappings in a clear and coherent manner. These new functions can help alleviate the high cost that IT organizations have been paying in recent years for not having the tools to understand their data fully.


The author would like to thank Beate Porst, Brian Byrne, Ernie Ostic, Ilan Prager, and Laurie Marr for their valuable feedback and reviewing of this article.

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Zone=Information Management
ArticleTitle=Exploring data lineage: Get a complete picture of your data flows