RED Offers Faster Development, Easier Maintenance of Data Warehouses

WhereScape touts a quick-and-not-so-dirty on-ramp to your data warehouse

As data warehouse (DW) specialty players go, WhereScape is by no means a newcomer. The New Zealand-based firm was founded more than a decade ago -- but until recently it was best known as a provider of DW consulting and integration expertise, not as a product vendor.

That discrete product, WhereScape RED, was one of several intriguing deliverables showcased at TDWI recent World Conference in Chicago. WhereScape, like competitors including Infobright, illuminate, and others, touts a requisite "distinct" take on data warehousing: it positions RED as an integrated development environment (IDE) for DW.

WhereScape pitches RED to DW developers, touting it as a means to both rapidly develop and -- even more promising -- to more easily maintain a DW environment. To that end, says Mark Budzinski, vice president and general manager with WhereScape USA, RED is able to consume DW source data from several environments (including DB2, Oracle, Teradata, and SQL Server); generate procedural code, scripts, and tables; build cubes; and -- that bane of every developer's existence -- create requisite documentation in HTML format.

At the World Conference, WhereScape announced RED version 6, touting the addition of support for IBM Corp.'s DB2 DBMS as one of the new version's most important features. WhereScape also trumpeted support for Teradata's Linux scheduler along with unspecified "enhancements" for its constellation of supported DW platforms.

When it comes to platform reach, Budzinski contends, WhereScape's claim to "support" a specific platform isn't just a meaningless marketing buzzword. "When I say we 'support' Oracle, what I really mean is that we actually produce the code that you would otherwise have to write if you assigned a team to develop a data warehouse or a data mart," he says. "RED is an IDE that is specifically targeted for the data mart or data warehouse developer. It's a technology that completely performs … the tasks of programming and managing a data warehouse."

WhereScape also handles the data integration heavy lifting, although Budzinksi says that it approaches things from an extract, load, and transform (ELT) instead of an ETL perspective. "Although we don't do classic ETL, we do more ELT: we're essentially creating all of the procedural code, all of the aggregates, … ultimately culminating in an actual data mart or data warehouse -- up to and including a cube," he says.

"We essentially validate the data model. We create a metadata repository, which is very important."

RED is one of many quick-and-not-so-dirty BI or DW tools -- offerings that seem to target end-user frustration with the inertia (or flat-out resistance) of internal BI and DW teams. Depending on who you talk to, user frustration is mounting, has plateaued, or (similarly) is always-already at a constant level.

The salient point, Budzinski says, is that -- at any given time -- a certain percentage of users (or, more important, a key percentage of executive users) will feel as if its needs aren't being met. Such users don't have the time or the patience to wait for IT to develop, test, and implement an enterprise data warehouse, he contends.

"I think a lot of [users] just have much more of a pragmatic … perspective. A lot of developers feel this way, too. They're not here to solve world hunger or build an intergalactic enterprise data warehouse, They're here to quickly build out data marts and the smaller warehouses that smaller companies need, and the satellite operations that satellite offices in bigger companies need," Budzinksi comments. "These developers are being told 'We have to get something done in a hurry!' A lot of companies just can't wait for an enterprise data warehouse, and … [for these companies] that are just starting out, they're fascinated by [RED]."

WhereScape also positions RED as a tool to help speed DW migrations. "If I have something in Oracle one day and it becomes important to relay that down to a DB2 environment, it's going to take a couple of days to get that done and a couple of weeks to validate and make sure everything is working properly [via RED], compared to the horror story of manually moving a lot of code from Oracle to DB2," he says. "Things you can do in DB2 are different from what you can do in SQL Server. It's not just canned code. Each environment has different stuff that's implemented. You as the developer can change the code."

Budzinksi is careful not to downplay the value and attractiveness of an enterprise data warehouse, however. The issue, he maintains, is that an EDW is something that a shop should build up to: an organization must first develop the appropriate in-house skills and (just as important) processes -- in both the line-of-business and data management domains -- to realize the vision of a useful and functional EDW.

Many shops simply aren't there yet, he maintains. "There's a maturity associated with that [EDW vision] and a lot of people haven't even started with what they need to be doing yet," he explains.