Tuning up the warehouse
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 26, 2000
As government agencies cram their data warehouses with more information,
federal information technology managers need to ensure those important decision-support
systems don't get bogged down.
A new product from SAS Institute Inc. will help IT managers better understand
what users want from agency data warehouses and how efficient the warehouses
are at providing the correct information. That information can help managers
fine-tune the data warehouse and decide when system upgrades are necessary.
A data warehouse is a repository of information from multiple sources
and is structured for querying and reporting. SAS' Intelligent Data Warehouse
Manager, introduced last month, provides the warehouse administrator with
in-formation on what database tables users are looking for, what information
was retrieved and how long it took to retrieve it, said Frank Lieble, program
manager for IT performance solutions at SAS Public Sector.
"It addresses the performance of the infrastructure itself," Lieble
said. "Data warehouses are growing so fast that the tools needed to manage
them are in great need."
Because of the high cost of managing data warehouses, a tool like the
Intelligent Data Warehouse Manager can help maximize the current investment
and reduce the cost of managing the systems, Lieble said. The average cost
of a data warehouse is $2.5 million, he said.
The tool will help the IT manager decide whether it is necessary to
buy new hardware or balance the data warehouse's request load more evenly,
he said. The software solution supports three Unix platforms: HP UX, IBM
RS/6000 and Sun Solaris. It can be used with data warehouses from Oracle
Corp., Informix Software Inc., Sybase Inc., NCR Corp. and IBM Corp., Lieble
said. About 75 percent of government data stores are Oracle, he added.
Oracle offers its own tools to monitor the performance of its Oracle
Warehouse Builder, said Steve Jones, business intelligence and data warehousing
sales consulting manager for Oracle Service Industries, the firm's government
Oracle Enterprise Manager allows the administrator to schedule an automated
refresh of the data in the Warehouse Builder. Oracle Workflow has more sophisticated
options for maintenance. And Oracle Warehouse Builder's run-time sharing
captures information about the query process to show progress of any activity
within the warehouse builder.
It is important to monitor and audit a data warehouse, but the challenge
is taking the information and using it to fix the problems, Jones said.
"There's a lot of maintenance that goes into warehousing," Jones said.
"A warehouse is never complete. It's nice to have a tool because doing it
by hand can get out of hand."
Government agencies probably won't rush out and buy performance management
tools until their data warehouses have grown beyond a manageable size, said
Ray Ransom, computer specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC is in the early stages of creating a Sexually Transmitted Disease
data warehouse derived from weekly reports from states, aggregate disease
reports, special reports produced at CDC, Census data for calculating rates
of disease and other sources.
By manually maintaining a data warehouse, the manager is aware of the
structure and can reload and repopulate data files as they are updated,
When a data warehouse becomes too big to do that, a tool such as SAS'
would come in handy, Ransom said. In any data warehouse project, the issue
is whether to buy commercial off-the-shelf tools or develop them internally,
"The real power of these tools comes in when the load process is cycling
into the next business day. As [the data warehouse] grows, that administration
has to be maintained electronically," he said.
Many agencies are still in the early phases of data warehouse implementation,
so tools like SAS' are not yet a priority. "To me, it's the icing on the
cake," Ransom said. "It's a tool we'll get when we're up and running full-tilt."