The Little Data Warehouse That Could

By Dennis Duckworth,

What goes through your head when you hear the word “warehouse”? No, not a data warehouse (not yet, anyway), the physical building. The term “warehouse” can conjure up some negative feelings — I myself picture some huge structure that is dark, old, dusty, maybe a bit run down and overall just creepy (maybe I watched too much Scooby Doo as a kid). And certainly not the most effective/efficient of storage places. Do you remember the closing scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the Ark of the Covenant is unceremoniously crated up and pushed down the aisle of a huge government warehouse? (If not, you can watch it here: As the camera pans out and we see how immense the warehouse really is and how many other crates there are, does anyone think “Wow, they’ll be able to derive great value from it in there”? Nope, we think “Lost forever.”

So now think of a “data warehouse”. For some people, some of the same images come to mind – an old rigid (inflexible) place where data gets stored but is difficult if not impossible to get to or to use. But that has been changing as business users insist on better for their valuable data.

The launch of IBM’s Point of View (POV) on Data Warehousing (announced here by Wendy Lucas: IBM Data Warehousing – a Point of View on Modernizing your Data Warehouse Environment) gave us the idea of creating an infographic to capture graphically some of our thinking in this area.

The process was, well, entertaining. One of the first graphical representations presented by our creative team was – a warehouse. Really – that’s cogitating completely within the confines of the parallelepiped.

But that turned out to be a critical piece in our new vision of data warehousing.

The modern data warehouse has become a much more flexible and “active” place with new kinds of data being stored and lots of cool and useful stuff going on inside of them, like in-database analytics. These are modernized data warehouses, not the traditional rigid, inflexible data warehouse of yesteryear. As a metaphor in the physical world, we didn’t think of a dark old government warehouse, but rather something more like a state-of-the-art Amazon warehouse with all of those cute little Kiva robots rolling around (

The modern data warehouse is a place of activity and action that can directly generate business value.

Ultimately we landed on the concept of an engine. If data is a new natural resource, like oil, then the modernized data warehouse has become more of an engine, running on data.  The work that the data warehouse is doing is sometimes refining the data (maybe doing ELT) or making the data even more refined (in-database analytics), turning that data into information and insight. That information can be used by organizations to improve themselves in some way, whether that is a retailer targeting its market spend more accurately or a manufacturer improving equipment operational efficiencies or a healthcare provider diagnosing disease more quickly or a financial institution discovering and countering fraud in near real-time.

We also came away with a tagline that represents to us the benefit of the modern data warehouse and represents the direction we think data warehousing is heading: “IBM Data Warehousing – the engine for making data smarter, faster.” No longer are data warehouses stagnant places where data goes to die but a place where it is acted upon and used.

You can see the results of our work, the full infographic here.

If you are thinking about renovating your stagnant dreary (perhaps even haunted) data warehouse, be sure to consult IBM’s data warehouse POV and read about our data warehousing products to see how we are helping customers make their data warehouses into engines that can help make data smarter, faster.

About Dennis Duckworth

Dennis Duckworth, Program Director of Product Marketing for Data Management & Data Warehousing has been in the data game for quite a while, doing everything from Lisp programming in artificial intelligence to managing a sales territory for a database company. He has a passion for helping companies and people get real value out of cool technology. Dennis came to IBM through its acquisition of Netezza, where he was Director of Competitive and Market Intelligence. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University but has spent most of his life on the East Coast. When not working, Dennis enjoys sailing off his backyard on Buzzards Bay and he is relentless in his pursuit of wine enlightenment. View all posts by Dennis Duckworth. You can follow Dennis on Twiiter 


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