TDWI Meeting Focuses on Growth of Data Warehousing

The data warehousing and OLAP markets are breaking out of their niches to become mass-market products, as Microsoft Corp.’s arrival on the scene and a wave of mergers and acquisitions are transforming the industry.

That was the message from The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) meeting in San Francisco last month, which brought more than 700 data warehousing professionals together for a week-long conference.

Wayne Eckerson, vice president of technology services for TDWI, predicted that the market for data warehousing hardware, software and services would grow from $16.9 billion in 1996 to $40.5 billion in 2001.

Much attention was focused on Microsoft’s beta 3 release of OLAP services (code-named Plato), the company’s effort to define a metadata standard, its marketing plans for SQL Server 7.0, and its rapid acquisition of partners in the market.

"The data warehousing products will be like most Microsoft software: The price will be low and the tools will be integrated and easy to use," said David Marco, president of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions Inc., a Chicago-based consulting firm, at the TDWI meeting. "The number one front end to data warehouses is [Microsoft] Excel, and there are 32 million copies of that out there. In addition, 50,000 beta copies of the Plato server have been shipped, which is more than all the installs of the top three OLAP vendors combined."

Plato is clearly intriguing to end users. "We’ve had Plato for about a month, and it is really easy to use," said William Callaway, managing consultant for data warehousing service at Gapware Solutions (Houston), in an interview at the TDWI meeting. "It has some capabilities that make it architecturally sound, but I’d like to see more [third-party] front-end tools that work with it, especially Web-based front-end tools. Plato does provide a primitive method for viewing data, but it is somewhat limited -- for example, if there is no data on a row or column, it will still return the empty row or column."

Mark Sweiger, business development manager for decision support system marketing, Sequent Computer Systems Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.,, suggested that the metadata standard and Open Information Model (OIM) being developed for the Microsoft Repository could quickly dominate the market. "The sleeper is Repository 2.0, because metadata is the crux of the whole data warehousing problem," he said. "It’s an open product that runs in a non-Microsoft environment, including Oracle and DB2. It means [Microsoft] will be able to hijack the APIs of all the other products on the market."

Microsoft’s increasing attention to data warehousing seems likely to accelerate the merger trend. TDWI’s Eckerson illustrated the point by noting nearly 20 recent consolidation manuevers, including acquisitions by Hummingbird Communications Ltd., Red Brick Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc.