What is an Operational Data Store?

M. McGee

An operational data store is a way of cataloging dynamic data for further processing. This data is often generated at random time intervals and by sources outside of the typical business methods. For instance, the sales data, generated by an automated sales webpage whenever a customer orders something, is operational rather than long-term. The information in an operational data store is often jumbled and poorly referenced. As a result, the data is usually heavily worked before it moves on to a long-term storage method.

An operational data store is a way of cataloging dynamic data for further processing.
An operational data store is a way of cataloging dynamic data for further processing.

There are two main ways to generate data for a system—via a person or a computer. When the data is generated directly by people, the information is entered into a database and is almost immediately ready for storage. When a computer generates the data, even a computer directed by a person, the data is generally less organized.

The main difference between an operational data store and standard data storage is the viewpoint of the people using it. When data is stored for long periods, regardless of the state or origin of the data, it is in a non-operational system. These databases make up the majority of data storage systems. It is only when the data is actually being worked on that its system is considered operational.

Typically, the data in an operational data store is a jumbled pile of linked information. Most operational data is generated by people that don’t directly work with the data systems. When a typical operator uses the database, he makes sure to correctly fill in all of the necessary fields. Other users, such as those that access the database through a web portal, typically just look at an interface. Small errors in their entries or problems in the interface can cause the data to propagate in the database incorrectly.

As a result, the majority of the work performed on operational data involves cleaning it up. Common tasks include moving information into the correct fields, correcting spelling mistakes, filling in missing entries and cross-referencing the data with internal databases. Once the cleanup is complete, most operational data moves into long-term storage.

In most cases, an operational data store has a specialized interface. Since most information in a standard database requires little updating once it is finalized, it often uses an interface that is streamlined for presentation rather than editing. An operational data storage usually works the other way. The interface allows operators to easily move, copy or alter the data in ways the standard interfaces wouldn’t allow.

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