Dylan's BI Study Notes

My notes about Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, OLAP, and Master Data Management

EDW and BI Apps (Part 2)

Posted by Dylan Wan on October 11, 2010

Last week I talked about EDW as a data model offering. I also mentioned that it is possible to use the enterprise data warehouse as the source for BI Apps, but it requires a lot of manual work. The topic discussed is about evaluating if you need to have the EDW data model or BI Apps, or both.

There is another commonly seen scenario that you may already have an existing enterprise data warehouse. If you already have an enterprise data warehouse and already have the integration from various in-house systems, what do you do?

First of all, I think that it is not wrong to co-exist. You have existing investments in your EDW and you should consider keeping it for the value it already provides. However, considering the benefits and the cost and time saving you may get from the prepackaged BI apps, you may still want to deploy a prepackaged BI Apps. There is really no conflict.

The other questions come from those people who think of one plus one should not be two, but more. I think that it is possible to integrate the EDW and prepackaged BI apps in several ways to gain the additional values:

1. Dashboard and report level integration

BI tool, such as Oracle BI EE, allows you to have multiple data sources for your BI. You can put the reports or regions from different data warehouses into the same end user business flow. You can even put them into the same page if it makes sense.

If you include a cross reference table or cross reference from at least one side, you can actually drill into from one to the other.

The integration between the two will be similar from the integration between the BI apps and an OLTP system, such as E-Business Suite. For example, you can navigate to a EBS page as long as the page is callable. You can use URL rewrite to pass the context. The URL can encrypt the identifier so the data can still be secured. You can the URL as an presentation layer attribute that can be a derived attribute that include the object instance ID from the record.

You can also define the page navigation from one BI page to the other.

I will call this loosely-decoupled approach.

2. Logical Layer Integration via Data Federation

We can also use the data federation feature from a BI tool such as Oracle BI EE. The concept of the data federation is very simple. Basically, as an end user of BI, you should not need to know where your data is physically located. Your BI design architect can tell the BI system as part of the metedata repository about where the data is physically located and what the semantic layer of the data mode should be and how the data are related. During run time, the BI tool can get the data from the various physical database systems or even the text files and spreadsheet data. It will merge the results and show the data to the users.

3. Data Warehouse and Database level integration

The data federation is done via the BI tool. There is mot much impact to the ETL process as long as we can identify the share nature key.

The Data warehouse level integration means that you can not only make the BI Apps co-exist with your enterprise data warehouse, you may actually build some integration via the ETL process.

For example, you do not really need duplicate the Date dimension. The Calendar Date is an important dimension in the data warehouse. However, the definition of the Gregorian calendar is defined outside your organizations. Most of data warehouses have the similar design on the Date dimension. If the various facts can get the agreement on how to derive the Date dimension foreign key, you do not really need to have two Date dimension tables.

You need to be careful for going into this approach though. The benefit of using a prepackaged BI apps is not just cut your initial cost, but also reduce your lifetime maintenance. When you upgrade your OLTP apps, or when you want to implement additional modules, it may be the time for you to upgrade your BI Apps. The prepackaged BI Apps can provide the upgraded adapters to the latest version of the OLTP. If you change the out of the box date dimension from the BI Apps, you make need to find a strategy to keep the change isolated from the upgrade to make the change be easily redone or be protected from the upgrade.

(to be continued…)


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