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Evolution and Technology: Data Warehouse Infrastructure

Originally published abril 23, 2009

Consider evolution. How does evolution occur? All sensibilities suggest that evolution occurs in going from a general-purpose, crude, one size fits all state to a specialized, streamlined, efficient diverse state. 

There are many examples of this evolutionary trend. 

Let’s start with early caveman. One day man found that living in a cave was a good thing to do. It kept the cave man out of the rain. It kept out the mammoth and the saber-toothed tiger, and it was easier to keep warm when a howling north wind blew, or when snow fell. There were some altogether very positive things that happened when mankind came into the cave. Time passed and soon there were portable caves called teepees, yurts, or even caravans, depending on your locale. Then there were inverted pits where tree trunks held up a roof. With pits, you could have your own cave in the middle of the prairie. A move up from the pit was the adobe hut. Flash forward to today and you have many different kinds of domicile. You have apartments, ranch style homes, Winnebagos, and skyscrapers. Evolution has occurred from some very simple and somewhat crude circumstances to a very rich set of choices.

What about autos? In the early days there was Henry Ford with the basic Model T. You could buy your Model T in your choice of black. Today, we have sports cars, SUVs, sedans, motorcycles, Winnebagos, and Smart cars. You can get your car in pretty much any color of the rainbow. You can get cars that seat two, four or even ten people. You can get an air-conditioned car. You can have the driver on the left or the right. You can have the odometer set in miles or kilometers. You can have a stereo if you want. If you have a race car, you can go 200 miles per hour.

Once again, the natural course of evolution is to go from a simple crude beginning to a world of massive choices.

Now let’s consider the TV. In the 1930s, television was crude. The picture was black and white and the audio was scratchy. Today, we have color TV. We have flat screen plasma TVs. We have TVs in our cars or Winnebagos. We have small 4-inch TVs. We have sports stadiums with 20-foot televisions. As in the previous cases of evolution, the world has progressed from a simple crude beginning to a rich world of choices. 

As one more example of evolution, consider the airplane. The Wright brothers built a contraption (is there any other word for it?) that flew a few feet above the ground. Today, we fly far above the ground. The Wright brothers flew for a hundred yards. Today, we have flights from Los Angeles to Singapore. The Wright brothers flew at a rate of ten feet per second. Today’s airplanes fly at hundreds of miles per hour. The Wright brothers could seat one person. Today’s planes seat hundreds of people.

And the choices of aircraft abound. There are gliders. There are Cessnas. There are Boeing 747s. And there is a whole lot in between. As in all the other cases of evolution, the progression has been from a simple, crude beginning to a sophisticated, powerful present.

And these are only the most obvious cases of evolution. There are many, many others. 

So what is with the hardware vendors and the software vendors that keep trying to stick all sorts of processing in the same box? As an example of the attempt of the vendors making an "all things to all people" technology, the DBMS vendors once had a technology that processed transactions well. There was good availability. There was high performance. There were lots of users. And the world of clerical processing thrived. Then, along came DSS, analytical processing. And the DBMS vendors were the first to raise their hands and say – guess what – my DBMS technology is a one size fits all, all things to all people technology. And sure enough, people bought it. As long as there was not too much of a conflict with transaction and analytic processing, the DBMS did okay. But in the face of large amounts of data, large amounts of transactions, and a massive workload, the one-size-fits-all DBMS started to cost a lot of money and began to be very difficult to tune and manage. In fact, the "all things to all people" DBMS is so complex to tune that it was said that only five people in the entire world actually know how to tune one of these beasts. 

Any evolutionist could have told these vendors that the evolutionary path was not to create a one-size-fits-all product, but to create smaller, more efficient, simpler, more specialized products. Every path to long term evolution points in that direction. 

You can’t blame the DBMS vendors for wanting to sell more of their product. But you can blame them for trying to flow against the tide of evolution. Now they are suffering the consequences of trying to do so. 

There is another strong evolutionary current that is flowing today. The vendors of classical data warehouse infrastructure continue to make their technology larger and more expensive. What was once was reserved for smaller amounts of data now operates on much larger amounts of data. And the increase in the volume of data has no foreseeable end. It is into this scenario that the data warehouse appliance vendors have arrived. The problem for the traditional vendors is that the data warehouse appliance vendors are offering the EXACT SAME capability at a significantly lower price. In addition, the data warehouse appliance vendors offer a much simpler to operate and use scenario. 

Becoming more specialized, simpler and more streamlined is the way of evolution. The classical data warehouse infrastructure vendors have had it their way for a long time now. The problem is that they are – overnight – dinosaurs.

SOURCE: Evolution and Technology: Data Warehouse Infrastructure

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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