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Rick van der Lans

Welcome to my blog where I will talk about a variety of topics related to data warehousing, business intelligence, application integration, and database technology. Currently my special interests include data virtualization, NoSQL technology, and service-oriented architectures. If there are any topics you'd like me to address, send them to me at rick@r20.nl.

About the author >

Rick is an independent consultant, speaker and author, specializing in data warehousing, business intelligence, database technology and data virtualization. He is managing director and founder of R20/Consultancy. An internationally acclaimed speaker who has lectured worldwide for the last 25 years, he is the chairman of the successful annual European Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence Conference held annually in London. In the summer of 2012 he published his new book Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems. He is also the author of one of the most successful books on SQL, the popular Introduction to SQL, which is available in English, Chinese, Dutch, Italian and German. He has written many white papers for various software vendors. Rick can be contacted by sending an email to rick@r20.nl.

Editor's Note: Rick's blog and more articles can be accessed through his BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel.

In this series of blogs I'm answering popular questions on data virtualization. In this blog I address the question: "Do data virtualization products support updates and transactions?" Sometimes this question is phrased as "When I use data virtualization, can I only query the data sources, or can I also change the data in the underlying data sources."

In most situations, when data virtualization is deployed for accessing data stored in data warehouses, staging areas, and data marts. Data is read from those data sources by the data virtualization servers, but is not updated, inserted, or deleted. And because, currently, data virtualization servers are predominantly used in BI and reporting environments, some people may get the feeling that these products do not allow to or cannot update, insert, or delete the data. This is not true.

Some of the data virtualization products were initially designed to be deployed in SOA environments where they could be used to simplify the development of transactions on databases and applications. So, although the focus of some vendors has shifted to BI environments, the ability to run transactions still exists. Most products allow data in data sources (even non-SQL-based sources) to be changed. The data virtualization handles all the transactional aspects of those changes. They even support distributed transactions: when data in multiple data sources are changed, those changes are treated as one atomic transactions. And they support heterogeneous distributed transactions; data in different types of data sources are changed.

Evidently, data can only be changed and distributed transactions can only be executed on data sources that allow and support such functionality. For example, data can't always be changed if the underlying data source is a web service, a Word document, or an external data source. In such situations, data cannot be changed or you're just not allowed to change it.

To summarize, data virtualization servers allow data in the data sources to be changed, and they can guarantee the correct handling of transactions. This makes them suitable for, for example, creating a modular set of services that can be used by applications to change the data. These services hide where data is stored, whether the data has to be changed in multiple systems, how the data is stored, and so on. Note, though, that support for updates and transactions differs between data virtualization servers.

For more information on updates and transactions and for more general information on data virtualization I refer to my book "Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems."

Note: If you have questions related to data virtualization, send them in. I am more than happy to answer them.


Posted January 23, 2013 7:30 AM
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