SAP Tuesday emphasized the importance of users continually maintaining master data, a single version of attributes that best describe products or customers, as corporations work to rearchitect their IT systems.Defining a company\u2019s master data can help customers improve the quality of their core data, and reduce errors and out-of-date or duplicated information. It\u2019s also essential to successfully implementing a service-oriented architecture. SOA, a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services, is proving increasingly popular among corporations looking to more effectively use their existing data.Companies wanting to consolidate IT resources should first define a list of master data, according to Shai Agassi, president of SAP\u2019s product and technology group. But that definition process shouldn\u2019t be a one-time thing. "Master data is a treadmill; you need to continue to go on it," he said during a keynote address at the Americas\u2019 SAP Users Group (ASUG)\u00a0in Orlando Tuesday. ASUG is collocated with SAP\u2019s Sapphire user conference.SAP is among many vendors, including IBM and Oracle, currently talking up master-data management (MDM). Earlier this month, IBM highlighted the enhanced MDM capabilities in the latest version of its WebSphere Product Center middleware.As companies go through mergers and acquisitions, the first thing they need to do post-purchase is get a list of the acquired firm\u2019s master data and integrate it with their own, Agassi said.While discussing consolidation, Agassi couldn\u2019t resist taking a few shots at SAP\u2019s main business applications rival, Oracle.During his presentation, he put on-screen a list of software vendors, including PeopleSoft and Siebel, that Oracle acquired. "They met the big, bad wolf and disappeared," he said. Agassi compared Oracle\u2019s taste for acquisition to his childhood love of pop rocks, sugar candy that fizzled on the tongue. "There\u2019s the initial excitement, the bad aftertaste and the desire to do it again," he quipped.Agassi reiterated SAP\u2019s take on SOA, that the approach needs to include enterprise services developed by third parties including SAP as well as specific services developed in house by individual customers. "Every 10 years, the IT industry comes up with a three-letter acronym that\u2019s supposed to solve all the problems of the world," he said. "We actually believe in SOA; it\u2019s not going to fade away in a few years."He drew a comparison between SOA and language. Think of SOA as being a way to bring together letter and words, while enterprise services provide the semantics so that those words are readily understood within IT systems, he said. Corporations are creating their own dictionaries as they populate repositories with internally and externally developed enterprise services, he said.-China Martens, IDG News ServiceFor related news coverage, read SAP to Use HP Print Mgmt. Technology.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.