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Data warehouse software has grown exponentially in the past several years and is expected to experience above average growth well into the future. A data warehouse is a repository of all the transactional data of an organization or company. The primary purpose of a data warehouse is to analyze transactions and run complex reports.
There are three primary functions to every data warehouse software product: data extracting, creating the database structure, and creating customized queries. In the information technology industry, data warehouse experts are known as business intelligence specialists. They typically have a background in math, statistics, or computer system analysis. Additional training is often required in relational databases, system architecture, and the fundamentals of database programming.
One of the most important functions of any data warehouse software is the ability to correctly extract and structure data from a variety of sources. This is often called an extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool. Data warehouses must be populated with data from the transaction system in a way that maintains the integrity and inter-relationships of the data, while allowing the staff to customize the data being extracted. This is an essential part of the architecture of the system.
It is important to note that most data warehouse software programs are used to create, support, and maintain multiple data sets. In many situations, there are some tables duplicated across all the cubes, while there are other data sets that must remain separate and distinct. For example, a data cube with purchasing data will have many shared data points with a cube of vendor payments. However, there will also be a range of specific information in each cube that only applies to that specific cube.
The data architect is responsible for identifying the shared data, confirming that it is correct, and allowing this information to be available in multiple cubes, without impacting the integrity of each cube. In addition, he or she is responsible for managing the data upload process required to refresh the data cubes. This can be an automated or manual process, depending on the complexity of the cubes and how the data is provided.
All data warehouse software programs come with a range of standard reports and queries. These reports are based on common business needs and tend to be quite general in nature. For example, a report of the top ten clients by sales volume for the current year is a common report request and would be standard in most programs.
However, many firms find they require the creation of custom reports to meet specific needs. For example, the same sales report may need to include the sales representatives' names and sort the data within specific districts or territories. The ability to quickly create a custom report and tailor it to meet existing business needs is essential to the success of this type of software.