An introduction to data warehousing and decision support systems

Get an overview of data warehousing and learn data warehousing concepts and techniques, including how data warehouse technologies are used. Read a decision support system definition in this data warehousing book excerpt and tutorial.

Data Warehouse Design book cover

This chapter excerpt from Data Warehouse Design: Modern Principles and Methodologiesprovides an introduction to...

data warehousing, explains how data warehouse technologies are used and basic data warehouse concepts. The excerpt also defines decision support systems (DSS) as well as describes what data warehousing and what a data warehouse is.


Table of contents:

    An introduction to data warehousing
    Data warehouse architectures, concepts and phases
    The advantages of multidimensional databases and cube modeling
    Best practices for data warehouse access and reports
    Similarities and differences between ROLAP, MOLAP and HOLAP


Introduction to Data Warehousing

Information assets are immensely valuable to any enterprise, and because of this, these assets must be properly stored and readily accessible when they are needed. However, the availability of too much data makes the extraction of the most important information difficult, if not impossible. View results from any Google search, and you'll see that the data = information equation is not always correct—that is, too much data is simply too much.

Data warehousing is a phenomenon that grew from the huge amount of electronic data stored in recent years and from the urgent need to use that data to accomplish goals that go beyond the routine tasks linked to daily processing. In a typical scenario, a large corporation has many branches, and senior managers need to quantify and evaluate how each branch contributes to the global business performance. The corporate database stores detailed data on the tasks performed by branches. To meet the managers' needs, tailor-made queries can be issued to retrieve the required data. In order for this process to work, database administrators must first formulate the desired query (typically an aggregate SQL query) after closely studying database catalogs. Then the query is processed. This can take a few hours because of the huge amount of data, the query complexity, and the concurrent effects of other regular workload queries on data. Finally, a report is generated and passed to senior managers in the form of a spreadsheet.

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Many years ago, database designers realized that such an approach is hardly feasible, because it is very demanding in terms of time and resources, and it does not always achieve the desired results. Moreover, a mix of analytical queries with transactional routine queries inevitably slows down the system, and this does not meet the needs of users of either type of query. Today's advanced data warehousing processes separate online analytical processing (OLAP) from online transactional processing (OLTP) by creating a new information repository that integrates basic data from various sources, properly arranges data formats, and then makes data available for analysis and evaluation aimed at planning and decision-making processes (Lechtenbörger, 2001).

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