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What, when, why and WhereScape

Date:
22 November 2007
Author:
Michael Whitehead

We got a nice write up in the NZ Herald on Friday.  Journalists have a hard enough time explaining what data warehousing is to tech readers, but this piece was in the business rather than the tech section.   Wikipedia defines a data warehouse as:

A data warehouse is the main repository of an organization's historical data, its corporate memory. It contains the raw material for management's decision support system. The critical factor leading to the use of a data warehouse is that a data analyst can perform complex queries and analysis, such as data mining, on the information without slowing down the operational systems.

The classic definition I learned is Bill Inmon's:

Subject-oriented 
The data in the database is organized so that all the data elements relating to the same real-world event or object are linked together;
Time-variant 
The changes to the data in the database are tracked and recorded so that reports can be produced showing changes over time;
Non-volatile 
Data in the database is never over-written or deleted - once committed, the data is static, read-only, but retained for future reporting; and
Integrated 
The database contains data from most or all of an organization's operational applications, and that this data is made consistent.

For non technical audiences I talk about how business decisions are much easier and less risky if you have all the relevant information you need at your fingertips at the time you make the decision and in a format that you can actually use it.  I then explain that the place you store that information is called a data warehouse, and that is what our software builds.

I do use the plumbing analogy used in the article - but I don't remember ever using the line about locating the dishwasher in the lounge.  But hey - if that is how a user wants their data presented who are we to say no.

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