Book Review: Advanced Data Warehouse Design
by Bill Inmon
Originally published April 2, 2009
The origins of data warehousing are rooted in solid practicality. Data warehousing began as a response to the pain and frustration of the analytical/management community in large corporations.
It is thus a sign of maturation that a theoretical work has arisen that explains the theory behind data warehousing. Advanced Data Warehouse Design by Elzbieta Malinowski and Esteban Zimanyi (Springer Press, Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, 2008) is that work.
The book is well thought out. While not a breezy read, it is nevertheless accessible to the common practitioner. One feature of the book is that it includes ample material on both traditional data warehousing and spatial and temporal data warehouses. The work on spatial and temporal data warehouses is an extension of current data warehouse thought and is welcome. In fact, it can be said that the heart of the book is the contributions on spatial and temporal data warehouses.
But there are many other features that are positive contributions as well. Equally covered are the relational model and the object relational model. The book fairly recognizes both the strengths and the weaknesses of the different model types and is quite fair in the criticism. (This is important because, for whatever reason, often when models are discussed, the discussion turns into a religious food fight, where each side professes that its model is the only true and righteous way. This book does not condescend to this low level of discussion.)
I saw only one small passage that I took exception to in the book. The book states that data marts can be created directly from source systems. While this is true – such creations can be made – when they are made, the resulting structure is not a data warehouse. But this is a small point and does not detract from the other very positive contributions made by the book.
As one reads the chapters on the different types of structures that can be found in conventional, spatial and temporal data warehouses, there is a faint echo of the seminal works of Donald Knuth who, decades earlier, wrote the leading book on data structures. It is interesting to see how far data structures have evolved from the early days of Knuth to the sophisticated data warehouses of today.
One of the really nice features of this book is that it is readable. So many theoretical books get wrapped up in theory and conventions to the point that they are essentially unintelligible to the mere mortal. This book does a very nice job of blending theory with readability. One big thank you to the authors for this aspect of the book.
This book is a very welcome contribution to the body of knowledge surrounding data warehousing and analytics, and belongs on the bookshelf of every serious student and practitioner.
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