All Agog Over Data Warehousing

IBM last week made a pair of notable moves on the business intelligence front

IBM Corp. last week made a pair of notable moves on the business intelligence (BI) front, touting both a new spin on the enterprise data warehouse (which it dubs “Dynamic” Data Warehousing) and a new data warehousing promotion in tandem with BI stalwart Business Objects SA.

Dynamic Data Warehousing emphasizes real-time business decision-making, in contrast to the largely batch-driven—and inherently latent—kind of decision-making that’s associated with traditional data warehousing, IBM officials say. The promotion with Business Objects, on the other hand, has Big Blue bundling the former company’s BI tools with its data-warehouse-on-a-palette—or “Balanced Warehouse (nee Balanced Configuration Unit, BCU)—systems.

Big Blue’s original BCU systems were data warehouse appliances in everything but name (see http://www.tdwi.org/info.aspx?id=28232). Data warehouse appliances promise a turn-key data warehousing experience: the appliance includes connectivity into source applications, its own host operating environment, built-in CPU and I/O processing silicon, and oodles of storage. Some appliances (such as those from DATAllegro Corp.) are based on commodity x86 processors from Intel Corp.; appliance pioneer Netezza Inc., for its part, uses Big Blue’s own Power chips. Most appliances are designed to be daisy-chained together to form a large, massively parallel, system.

The Data Warehouse Reborn?

Decision-makers use traditional data warehouses in conjunction with query and reporting tools to reactively understand what has happened, IBM officials say. They make use of related technologies, such as online analytical processing (OLAP) and data mining tools, to better understand why things happened.

The predictive power of the traditional data warehouse always seems most compelling in hindsight, or so IBM officials maintain. Any organization wnts to know more than where it’s been but where it should go. Big Blue’s advice: get a Dynamic Data Warehouse.

IBM says its dynamic data warehousing vision is enabled by a combination of technologies, including its new DB2 version 9 Warehouse, which provides canned connectivity and transformation capabilities (otherwise known as ETL), performance optimization features, and improved compression technology. DB2 Warehouse is now available in Starter, Intermediate and Advanced Editions, in addition to the classic Base and Enterprise Edition flavors.

In addition, IBM unveiled a new wrinkle on its BCU systems of old: the Balanced Warehouse, which—like its garrulous predecessor—is a software, hardware, and storage bundle. Big Blue says its new Balanced Warehouse units are available in three different classes: C-Class (for application solutions), D-Class (for growth solutions), and E-Class (for enterprise solutions).

It was the new C1000 that IBM and Business Objects joined forces last week to promote. That bundle combines DB2 Warehouse Starter Edition, Business Objects’ Crystal Reports Server, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Crystal Reports Server is a mid-market-friendly version of Crystal Enterprise, which Business Objects markets to large enterprise customers. The value-add, IBM and Business Objects officials say, is turnkey production reporting, query, and analysis: the C1000 is pre-integrated, pre-tested, and configured for single install to accelerate deployment, they claim.

IBM’s Dynamic Data Warehousing announcement is a timely one. Arch-rival Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) last year launched an appliance of its own—dubbed NeoView—that leverages the massively parallel, highly-available assets of its Tandem NonStop subsidiary. Earlier this year, HP acquired Knightsbridge Solutions, a highly respected BI and DW consultancy. The Knightsbridge acquisition helped lend HP a patina of legitimacy in the contentious—and anecdotally difficult-to-crack—high-end appliance segment. In addition to Netezza and DATAllegro, a host of quasi-appliance competitors—including high-end DW powerhouse Teradata (a division of NCR Corp.) and Sun Microsystems Inc.—are touting the strengths of commodity-based DW platforms.

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