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Is an Inmon-modeled BI system, like Madison, the future of data warehousing?

Learn the future of data warehousing, read an expert's take on Microsoft Madison, read about data warehousing concepts and methodologies and find a comparison of the core relational and dimensional data warehouse.

It seems that we reached (independently) the conclusion that Madison pushes the move from a Kimball-modeled business intelligence (BI) system to an Inmon one. Since I was convinced that the design one could achieve with AS2005/2008 was modeled on the Kimball approach, I'm asking how much Madison and Analysis Server can become some fighting alternatives. Have you had some discussion on that with Microsoft people on what this means for the future of data warehousing?
Yes, I've certainly discussed it. Of course, people differ in their approach to data warehouse design and the individual people within Microsoft are no different. However, I believe that the formal approach that Microsoft would take here is that the company is agnostic in its approach. In other words, if you want to model your core warehouse dimensionally, that's fine by them. If you want to do it relationally, that's also fine. Madison, I believe the company would say, simply gives you more choice. If you want to go relational then the performance will be much better with Madison. But this is my opinion of what Microsoft Corp. would say -- if you need a definitive answer approach the company itself.

Having said all of that, I did discuss the matter with Jim Gray before his untimely demise (this was before Madison)....

We discussed what was the canonically correct way (ignoring tedious concerns like performance, hardware costs, etc.) to structure a data warehouse. He was in no doubt that the relational core, with no OLAP data marts, was the best approach. In other words, the way in which Teradata stores and manipulates data today. But (to be sure I don't misrepresent a man I hugely admired) he DIDN'T say that we all should be doing it this way at present. In addition, he most certainly did not say that Microsoft's current approach was incorrect for the market it addresses. He pointed out that, in the current world, a core relational data warehouse (with no OLAP marts) is typically very expensive to implement, which is why many people use a dimensional one and why people use OLAP data marts. But, at some point in the future, when hardware (and specifically MPP) is cheaper, then that will change. And we can see Madison as, perhaps, the first steps along that road.

This was last published in May 2009

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