Technology | Data

Common Data Model (CDM) – Where did it come from?

Words by Alex Matheson
Common Data Model (CDM) – Where did it come from?

Data comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be collected about essentially anything you can imagine and organising it can be a bit of a headache sometimes. Every organisation in the world now depends on data in some form or another, and that presents a particular type of problem.

When organisations share data, how do they know they have the same idea of how that data should be understood? More importantly, when computer systems need to communicate about data, how do they know they’re talking the same language, so to speak? That’s where the Common Data Model (CDM) comes in.

What is the Common Data Model?

The CDM is Microsoft’s attempt to provide a shared data language that systems can use to understand and communicate about data in a unified way. The CDM metadata system enables the sharing of data and its meaning across business and analytical applications.

How is the Common Data Model structured?

The CDM consists of over 340 standardized, extensible data schemas created by Microsoft and their partners. These schemas are made up of elements such as entities, attributes, semantic metadata, and relationships.

Each of the 340+ schemas that make up the CDM relate to easily identifiable, near universal concepts within business, such as ‘Product’, ‘Client’, ‘Lead’, or ‘Contact’. By clearly defining these schemas, it’s easier to create, collect and analyse the related data.

Why is the Common Data Model useful?

The CDM enables applications to share and understand data better by unifying how that data is categorised. Imagine you’re building some apps in house. One is for your sales team, another is for your manufacturing plant, and one is for your logistics team. Each application will have its own purpose, but the data each one requires can easily find crossover with the other apps and departments.

If you built these apps independently, each app might have a different way of understanding data. Obviously you want each of these apps to work well together, but if the way they aggregate and communicate data is different then they won’t be able to.

If the app you’ve built for your sales team has a different idea of how stockpile data should be handled that would be a big problem. The sales app can’t easily get information on how much product you have from the department that’s creating it.

The problem is obvious and the solution is pretty clear; build each of these apps with a unified data model. But, that only solves the problem internally, and only works if you’re in control of the entire supply chain. What if the manufacturing, logistics, and distribution are all handled by different organisations?

That’s why the Common Data Model is useful. By offering a standardised way of understanding data, they allow businesses to share and understand that data implicitly. Whether it’s sharing information in house or across time zones, the CDM enables.

How is CDM used in manufacturing?

ATS, Atlas’ parent company, has been working with the AMRC in the UK to enable the creation of Factory+, an open framework designed to simplify the way data is used across a manufacturing organisation. Without concepts like the CDM, the many different systems, both physical and digital, that make up a manufacturing organisation can’t work seamlessly.

Without a command data model, it’s nearly impossible to connect multiple types and variants of devices to a common architecture. With it, previously disparate systems can be brought together happily under one digital umbrella.

How is CDM used in Telecoms?

ATS has also been working with TM Forum on the 5GEM Project. The project is a test bed for utilising 5G networking in British manufacturing and the connectivity of diverse systems and devices is one of the key factors.

Without CDMs, the whole project would come to a halt. The project uses two CDMs, one designed by TM Forum for the telecoms industry and another using Ford’s own customer specifications, both are mapped to our own internal CDM.

With these we’re able to allow for interchangeable data with frictionless exchange. This enables peak levels of interoperability which is exactly what the project calls for.

How does Atlas use CDM?

Atlas uses CDM to convert and contextualise all of the data flowing between the cloud and the Atlas Edge. Our technology is designed to facilitate next level data handling but without a shared data language that systems can use to understand and communicate about data in a unified way, that power would be hampered.

By making use of CDM, we can be sure that the data flowing between any system we’re integrated with or helping to integrate can be easily shared and understood.

How does data factor into your day-to-day? Do you find your systems struggling to talk about data nicely? Hopefully the CDM can lend a hand with that.