Friday, January 18, 2013

Data(warehouse) Architects: Building Bridges


Like a lot of of BI and Data warehouse specialists and architects, and I sometimes find myself in conflict with the the architect(s) of the sourcing systems. Be it on data quality, interfacing, data modeling or other kinds of sourcing issues. I then try to advise on changes to increase the quality of the back-end data architecture (components) and infrastructure instead of mitigating this in my DWH solution(s). But due to the nature and scope of the (BI/DWH) project, my position, the infrastructure and the organization there is lot of resistance that makes this difficulty to make this work, despite the better Return on Investment.


The traditional divide between operational and analytic,  between OLTP systems and BI systems is becoming more and more an inhibitor for good Data Architecture. In the past a physical division between BI and OLTP was a given, driven by implementation issues physical and logical separation where the basics for any DWH initiative. This has led to the existence of two separate worlds, the Operational world of operational processes, COTS (Common of the Shelve) systems and operational system integration, and the analytic world of ETL, (custom) Data warehousing and Business Intelligence. But more and more these two world are merging (and rightly so). There are a lot of techniques and trends that bring these 2 worlds together: data federation/virtualization, data vault, combined operational and analytical master data management and operational BI/-Data warehousing. In this light the separation between these two worlds should be transformed into a cooperation.

What's in a name?

Given the merging of BI and OLTP space, what is the role of the Data warehouse Architect? For me, Data warehouse architects are specialized Data Architects, just like Integration and Information System Architects are specialized Data Architects. This role differs from the BI specialist/architect/analyst, who is mainly concerned with the "data into dollars" questions; to make the data actually work for an organization. Data Architects however work on the organizing and structuring of data, be that for operational or analytical usage.

The new Data warehouse Architect

The new Data warehouse Architect understand Data Architecture both from an operational and an analytic standpoint, understand BI and accompanying tooling and architecture, but does not have to be a BI expert/specialist/analyst. He works closely together with other Architects and analysts from both the BI and the operational side. He is literally the bridge builder between the operational and analytical world.