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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

March 2009 Archives

I was a speaker at the TDWI World Conference in Las Vegas last week, and if there was one phrase that kept occurring to me, especially in the vendor exhibition, it was disruptive technological change.  Those of you who've read "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton Christensen will know what I mean by that phrase. For those who haven't, I'd say it's a must-read for anyone involved in a technology-driven industry.

By Christensen's definition, disruptive change occurs when a new technology has some feature that is not applicable in an existing market and performance characteristics worse than existing technology in that market, but capable of growing to meet that market's needs in time.  What happens is that the new technology debuts in another, often related, market and then moves back into the original market, often displacing the existing suppliers there.  Christensen's key example relates to the development of the disk drive market form the '70s to the '90s and the failure of many of the incumbent 14-, 8- and 5.25-inch drive manufacturers over that period.

What struck me at TDWI was the explosion in novel and even radical approaches to the database and storage side of data warehousing that were on view.  While most of the technologies are not new, the combinations and price-points are certainly innovative and maybe disruptive.  For many years, the DW database market has been very quiet, but the last couple of years has seen an explosion in new entrants.  What the newcomers have in common, from the more established ones like Netezza to the more recent entrants like ParAccel, is a focus on query performance and large data volumes in specific analytical applications that might traditionally be called data marts.

As these vendors' technologies and techniques are proven in largely stand-alone environments, they are beginning to raise questions in the traditional enterprise daat warehouse arena.  We've already seens the incumbents (Teradata, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft) introduce appliance-like solutions.  But the real question I see relates to the underlying architecture of the data warehouse itself.  After more than 20 years, are we about to see a fundamental change in the way we design business intelligence environments?

I'll be exploring this question over the coming months, but I'd love to hear your views at this stage!  

Posted March 3, 2009 7:10 AM
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