Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sea Change in BI

sea change (sē chānj) noun. idiomatic
  1. profound transformation: "Full fathom five thy father lies: / Of his bones are coral made: / Those are pearls that were his eyes: / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea change / Into something rich and strange." -Shakespeare
  2. a striking change, as in appearance, often for the better
The data warehouse has gone from a means to an end.

It's time to step back and look at the forest.

In thinking about data mashup, I asked myself why more vendors don't provide it. My initial thought was that it was an innovation that was never thought of before, but I then humbled myself and returned to reality. I now believe a combination of two factors cause the lack of availability of data mashup.

First, my vision of user-driven data mashup would not be an effective standalone product. Think of using a separate application to pull/massage/transform/combine disparate data sources. Now, what is the result? In only a few cases is the query the end of the story. Typically that dataset now needs to be presented in an interesting/useful/appealing way. To have this dataset be the input to a separate BI product would require some integration point, like a web service, and a generic way of communicating a recordset of any size in both dimensions. This starts to get complex, and require skills that are possessed only by IT professionals.

Second, let's ask the question of why other BI vendors don't provide data mashup. It is not very hard to see that it is not because they can't, but rather they choose not to. The remainder of this article is devoted to this topic.

Tom Gonzalez wrote a blog entry called What is wrong with the Business Intelligence Industry?. As an "outsider", Tom brings a fresh perspective from his experience applying next generation technology to business problems.

Some industry analysts are even starting to challenge the status quo, which is refreshing.

Colin White wrote an article, Is Data Warehousing Essential to Business Intelligence?, that concludes, "No, it's not." He reminds us of the 5 issues that data warehouses address, and that these issues are solvable through other means.

At the risk of spreading an unconfirmed rumor, Claudia Imhoff, co-author of books on data warehousing, has allegedly admitted that some BI implementations do not require a DW. A baby step, but at least it's in the right direction.

More on this later.

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