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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!

I was intrigued by a webinar entitled "Extending Data Warehouse Architecture: Deploying a Data Warehouse without Databases" by Bill Inmon and Compact Solutions, so gave up an hour of my evening the other night to listen in.  I have to say that I didn't learn much about extending the Data Warehouse architecture.  Nor was I even mildly convinced that the solution offered was either a Data Warehouse or lacking a database.

The solution was described as being based on Unix Compressed Files that are partitioned and indexed to support querying along commonly used dimensions.  Now, what is not "database" about that?  From what I could gather, the data can only be queried from Compact's own proprietary user interface, so appears not to support SQL.  Updating seems to take place only through ETL tools such as Ab Initio, so I guess it's not ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) compliant.  So certainly, it's not a full-function database and thus cheaper to implement and maybe faster running, but claiming it's not a database at all seems like marketing-speak.

More important - is the resulting solution a data warehouse?  Well, it was claimed that no modeling was needed to to set it up (another low cost implementation selling point).  So, how does data integration and cleansing get defined?  It sounded like the partitioning and indexing was done with some specific types of access in mind.  So, maybe a cheap and large data mart at best, but not a data warehouse.  And if you want to use any of your standard BI tools, you have to export the data into a (real) relational database or cube!

And finally, in response to a question on where to position this in his own Data Warehouse 2.0 architecture, Bill replied ... ummm, it doesn't really fit anywhere ... it's a special category on its own.

Personally, I don't think I buy it as a Data Warehouse or a non-database...

Posted April 21, 2009 3:27 AM
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