The Core Model at the Heart of Your Architecture

We have taken the position that a core model is an essential part of your data-centric architecture. In this article, we will review what a core model is, how to go about building one, and how to apply it both to analytics as well as new application development.

What is a Core Model?

A core model is an elegant, high fidelity, computable, conceptual, and physical data model for your enterprise.

Let’s break that down a bit.


By elegant we mean appropriately simple, but not so simple as to impair usefulness. All enterprise applications have data models. Many of them are documented and up to date. Data models come with packaged software, and often these models are either intentionally or unintentionally hidden from the data consumer. Even hidden, their presence is felt through the myriad of screens and reports they create. These models are the antithesis of elegant. We routinely see data models meant to solve simple problems with thousands of tables and tens of thousands of columns. Most large enterprises have hundreds to thousands of these data models, and are therefore attempting to manage their datascape with over a million bits of metadata.

No one can understand or apply one million distinctions. There are limits to our cognitive functioning. Most of us have vocabularies in the range of 40,000-60,000, which should suggest the upper limit to a domain that people are willing to spend years to master.

Our experience tells us that at the heart of most large enterprises lays a core model that consists of fewer than 500 concepts, qualified by a few thousand taxonomic modifiers. When we use the term “concept” we mean a class (e.g., set, entity, table, etc.) or property (e.g., attribute, column, element, etc.). An elegant core model is typically 10 times simpler than the application it’s modeling, 100 times simpler than a sub-domain of an enterprise, and at least 1000 times simpler than the datascape of a firm.

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