Data Warehousing – time to change house?
Data Warehousing is not a new approach. In fact, Data Warehousing – the concept, approach and philosophy has been around for decades. Since software applications started capturing and storing transactional information in the 1970's, there has been a necessity to take this information, normalise and present in a way to enable the business to make decisions quickly and easily. As these applications and systems became more complicated and increased in number, the requirement to develop a consistent view across all systems became a real issue.
Data Warehousing was born…
Pioneered by William H.Inmon & Ralph Kimball in the 1980s, Data Warehousing used database technology to bring these disparate sources of information together into a singular source where the information can be aggregated and reporting against (using such technologies as OLAP cubes and SQL statements), and also to share a singular schema and fix errors or inconsistencies within the data.
What’s involved in building a data warehouse?
Building a Data Warehouse is not for the faint hearted. It requires you to define the business requirements, create a data model and have specialist skills in data modelling, SQL, OLAP and report development. It is a strategic investment which needs to be carefully managed otherwise it can quickly spiral out of control (from both a time and cost perspective).
In addition, the world and technologies since the origination of Data Warehousing has changed considerably. Everyone is able to access information through via Internet and through mobile devices and a growing number of people do not want to learn or do not have SQL or other similar skills in order to access and report information needed to make business decisions.
Data Warehousing is a substantial undertaking and falls outside of the scope of many small and medium sized business who cannot afford or do not have the skillsets or resource numbers needed to undertake such a major project. Despite this, the business is still subjected to the “Big Data” explosion through internal and external information sources (including social media sources) and somehow has to find a way to make sense of masses of structured and unstructured data.
So if you can’t access your information and can’t afford a data warehouse or don’t have the skills to build one – what do you do?
- Do nothing and muddle through?
- Keep using spread sheets and feed the in house “cottage industry”?
- Be innovative and look at other ways of doing things…
Search engine technology and data analytics. The new kid on the block…
Search technology is prevalent across society – just think of when you do a search in Google of a morning. Finding the information you need by typing words or phrases and clicking, used by everyone and no need for learning SQL.
It also mirrors human thinking – starting with all of your data, filtering and narrowing down to find the information you want, and not being restricted to aggregated values or limited snapshots of data.
Inherently scalable to cope with the explosion of information and intuitive to meet the requirements across the organisation, search technology provides a modern approach to the sound concepts developed in the 1980s.
So what conclusions can you draw from this? There is a growing deluge of data. Tried and tested techniques for storing data are now tired and stressed. Technology has changed even though the same old problems exist, they’re just bigger.
Old traditional technologies such as SQL and OLAP are decades old and it’s time to try out some new ways of doing things. Whilst search technology may not be the answer to everything, it is designed for the 21st Century and it is designed to cope with the monsoon of data that is flooding our air waves.
The concepts of William H.Inmon & Ralph Kimball still hold true today, but the building blocks available today are significantly better. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade so replace your SQL and OLAP warehouse with something that’s more functional, pleasing on the eye and ready to move into without months and months of planning and construction.
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