Data Warehousing: A Working Definition

So, what’s a data warehouse? In a literal sense, it is properly described through the specific definitions of the two words that make up the term:

  • Data: Facts and information about something

  • Warehouse: A location or facility for storing goods and merchandise

Today’s data warehousing defined

Data warehousing is the coordinated, architected, and periodic copying of data from various sources, both inside and outside the enterprise, into an environment optimized for analytical and informational processing.

The keys to this definition for computer professionals are that the data is copied (duplicated) in a controlled manner, and that the data is copied periodically (batch-oriented processing).

A broader, forward-looking definition

A data warehouse system has the following characteristics:

  • It provides centralization of corporate data assets.

  • It’s contained in a well-managed environment.

  • It has consistent and repeatable processes defined for loading data from corporate applications.

  • It’s built on an open and scalable architecture that can handle future expansion of data.

  • It provides tools that allow its users to effectively process the data into information without a high degree of technical support.

The information that you use to formulate decisions typically is based on data gathered from previous experiences — what works and what doesn’t. Data warehouses capture similar data, allowing business leaders to make informed decisions based on previous business data — what’s working in the business and what’s doesn’t work in the business.

Executives are realizing that the only way to sustain and gain an advantage in today’s economy is to better leverage information. The data warehouse provides the platform to implement, manage, and deliver these key data assets.

Data warehousing is therefore the process of creating an architected information-management solution to enable analytical and informational processing despite platform, application, organizational, and other barriers.

The key concept in this definition is that a data warehouse breaks down the barriers created by non-enterprise, process-focused applications and consolidates information into a single view for users to access.

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