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Data Warehouse Architecture: The Great Debate

Inmon Vs. Kimball--Differences Between Industry Titans.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

Almost everyone who has a connection to the concept of a data warehouse has an opinion concerning the best way to construct one for optimum results. The two prominent proponents of data warehouse architecture are Bill Inmon, considered to be the father of the data warehouse and Ralph Kimball, the creator of the data mart.

Since the first time these two industry leaders published their conception of data warehouse architecture, there has been anticipation of a live debate of the similarities and differences between their concepts. It had been hoped that having Mr. Inmon and Mr. Kimball on the same stage, whether live or virtual, would provide a dialogue and clearly delineate their personal perspectives on data warehouse design.

Unfortunately, for everyone who has expressed an interest in such a thought-provoking, milestone event, it is still not possible to have these two industry leaders square-off in the same forum. Mr. Kimball, in the past, has declined on several occasions to accept the invitation to such a debate and has also declined to be associated with this series of articles. The latest response from Mr. Kimball’s office to our request to participate will appear at the end of this series.

However, because both Mr. Inmon and Mr. Kimball are very prolific in publishing their ideas and offering their opinions, I have undertaken the task of “staging” a debate between them based on their writings. It will appear as a series over the next five weeks.

In preparation for this series, Bill Inmon has provided me with a source article ”The Great Inmon/ Kimball Debate that Never Took Place.” In presenting Mr. Inmon’s position, I have also generally relied on the numerous articles he has published on Business Intelligence Network and, for the most part, will not be providing specific citations to them. I recommend them to you for reading at your leisure. When directly quoting Mr. Kimball, I will provide specific citations to his materials.

Even though by training and professional background  I am a lawyer, this is not intended to be an “empty chair” examination. This will be a best effort to present the two viewpoints as impartially and accurately as possible, given the constraints of the circumstances.

That being said, allow me to introduce our participants:

Bill Inmon is recognized as the “father of the data warehouse” and co-creator of the “Corporate Information Factory.” He has more than 35 years of experience in database technology management and data warehouse design. He has spoken at seminars worldwide on developing data warehouses. He has published more than 650 articles and 45 books on the subject.

Ralph Kimball is known worldwide as an innovator, writer, educator, speaker and consultant in the field of data warehousing. He maintains a strong conviction that data warehouses must be designed to be understandable and fast. He has written more than 100 articles and his books on dimensional design techniques have been the all-time best sellers in data warehousing.

This establishes our players’ eminent credentials for this forum.

Our Agenda will be:

  • Article I: Data Warehouse: Ralph Kimball’s Vision;
  • Article II: Data Warehouse: Bill Inmon's Vision;
  • Article III: Data Warehousing: Similarities and Differences of Inmon and Kimball;
  • Article IV: Data Warehousing: Relational vs. Multidimensional Data; and
  • Article V: Data Warehousing: Our Great Debate Wraps Up.

At any time during the series, we will readily accept feedback from either Mr. Inmon or Mr. Kimball and these will be published as their comments, clarifications or rebuttals. Readers’ constructive comments and questions are also welcomed and will be published and addressed in a special blog.

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