IBM simplifying the data warehouse
Not perfect, but it's a start
IBM has just announced the second strand in its strategy for simplifying data warehousing. It contends, rightly, that deploying and managing an enterprise data warehouse is horrendously complicated. Moreover, those complications directly drive costs up. So, it is simplifying the data warehouse and driving costs down.
The first strand in this strategy was last autumn, when IBM introduced the BCU (Balanced Configuration Unit). This is a combination of two things: first, it is a hardware platform that has been optimised to run DB2 along with best practices that IBM has learned over the years about partitioning, indexes, tuning, and so forth—all of these are pre-implemented for you within the BCU. We might call this a hemi-appliance in the sense that while a good deal of tuning and optimisation has been undertaken; it isn’t a complete bi-lateral optimisation as you would get in a full-blown conventional data warehouse appliance.
The second strand is the latest release of DB2 Data Warehousing Edition, which is version 9.1 (presaging the forthcoming Viper release of DB2 UDB). The main theme of this release is, again, to simplify the environment for data warehousing administrators. The main way IBM has done this is by integrating a number of existing (and new) tools and bundling them together.
There will be two editions: the Base Edition will include Cube Views (which will no longer be available as a stand-alone option), Data Modelling (new, developed by the Rational group), OLAP modeling and the Integrated Installer, as well as the database itself. The Enterprise Edition will include all of this plus the Data Partitioning Feature, Query Patroller, Intelligent Miner (also no longer available as a separate product), Alphablox, a web-based Admin Console that spans all of the products in the suite, the Design Studio (which is an Eclipse-based design environment that includes the Data Flow and Data Mining Editors as well as the aforementioned Data and OLAP modeling), and the SQL Warehousing Tool (which allows you to build in-warehouse transformations).
All these elements, apart from the database itself, have been enhanced in this release, some very significantly, to the extent that I do not have space to go into everything. However, the one point I would like to emphasise is the integration that has been built into these tools. Thus data modelling can feed into Cube Views, for example; and transformations in the SQL Warehouse Tool can link into the data mining facilities that are provided.
IBM’s aim is to provide a single, integrated suite of tools that work together, rather than a disparate morass of separate functions. The company has achieved this and it certainly should simplify the environment for administrators and users, though IBM does not span the entire environment, of course. For example, if you use SPSS Clementine or SAS Enterprise Miner for predictive analytics, then you can continue to do so. Moreover, since IBM does not provide traditional BI functions, you will probably go on using Business Objects or Cognos or whoever. So, IBM does not simplify the whole environment but it has made a good start (or continuation if you count the BCU as the start).
I do have one reservation. Suppose you want to use Intelligent Miner: now you have to licence Alphablox, the Design Studio, the SQL Warehouse Tool and so on, even if you have no interest in these products. Okay, you might regard the pricing for what you do want as reasonable, and that you can treat the other products as freebies that you can try out at your leisure—but you might not. Certainly there is a trend towards one-stop shopping and if you have bought into this approach you will like IBM’s new deal (provided you like their shop in the first place). If you haven’t, however, you may feel you are being forced to buy stuff you don’t want. Personally, I think a little more flexibility in the packaging would be appropriate — though this may apply across the negotiating table, even if it doesn’t on the price list.
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