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The Changing World, Part 2

Originally published November 2, 2006

Editor's note: This is the second installment in this four-part series.  Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4 of this series are available on the BI Network.

The Trauma of Change
There is a great deal of trauma associated with the changing business requirements of the world. Each time the business environment undergoes change, there is trauma in the information processing environment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1


Dividing Data into Two Classes
All data can be divided into two basic types of data – temporal data and static data (see Figure 2). 

Figure 2

The difference between static and temporal data is simple. Static data remains the same for long periods of time, or even forever. Once static data is created properly, it rarely changes. Unlike static data, temporal data changes often. The structure, the contents, the general shape and demeanor of temporal data change frequently. There is no real stability when dealing with temporal data. 

Another way to look at temporal data is that the structure, the metadata and the values of temporal data depend upon the moment in time when the temporal data is measured or captured. The dependence of time to indicate the proper value of data gives temporal data its name.

Static Data
Static data is data that remains constant over a long period of time. Figure 3 illustrates a classic example of static data.

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows data that has been organized to capture the specifics of a sale. Some of the static attributes include date of sale, amount of sale, item sold, tax on sale and so forth. The items captured here apply to almost any sale. Regardless of the business and regardless of the time, these static data elements would apply.  

Temporal Data
The opposite of static data is temporal data. Temporal data is data that is in a constant state of flux. Data values, data structures and data relationships change on a frequent basis when dealing with temporal data. Figure 4 shows temporal data. 

Figure 4

A typical form of temporal data is the organization chart. Organization charts are notorious for frequent changes. And, the organization chart affects important aspects of the organization such as budget, projects, personnel, HR administration, and so forth. While organization charts are important to acknowledge, it is predictable that they will change over time. 

There are many other forms of temporal data – sales territory, bill of materials, schedule of flights, congressional legislation, tax laws and so forth. 

A Different Perspective
When the perspective of static data and temporal data is considered, the view of the problems with the information infrastructure starts to take on a different slant. Figure 5 shows this perspective. 

Figure 5

It is seen that the classical information infrastructure makes no distinction between the two types of data. Classical database design – normalization, star schema design, et al – makes no distinction between static and temporal data. As a consequence, there is trauma when a change of business requirements needs to be accommodated. 

Stated differently, when static data and temporal data are freely and indiscriminately mixed (as is the case in most forms of classical database design), then data undergoes chaos when business requirements are changed.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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