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In a large modern enterprise, it is almost inevitable that different portions of the organization will use different systems to produce, store and search their critical data. Yet, it is only by combining the information from these various systems that the enterprise can realize the full value of the data they contain. Information integration is a ubiquitous need for today's businesses. Database federation is one approach to information integration in which a relational database management system serves as middleware providing transparent access to a number of heterogeneous data sources. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that database federation is a fundamental tool for information integration. While other approaches to information integration may be useful for particular integration problems, database federation has some unique characteristics that make it suitable for a broad range of integration tasks. In this paper, we describe the virtues of database federation, introduce several styles of database federation, and outline the conditions under which each style of federation should be used. We discuss the benefits of building information integration on database technology, and demonstrate the utility of this approach through a number of usage scenarios.
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