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Data Warehousing in Microsoft SQL Server 2008

This chapter from Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2008 explains what data warehousing is and why you should care about it, and then shows how to take advantage of specific Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data warehousing features.

Mark Frawley

This chapter is all about data warehousing. If you’ve been avoiding this topic—dismissing it perhaps as being too advanced, esoteric, or abstract to be applicable—this chapter will help you cast those excuses aside and embrace data warehousing. The practical advice and guidance we give will empower you and your end users to glean more useful information and intelligence from your data. We will begin with an explanation of exactly what data warehousing is and why you should care about it, and then we’ll show how to take advantage of specific Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data warehousing features.

Data Warehousing Defined

You’re in good company if you wonder exactly what is meant by data warehousing—and indeed you might even wonder whether it has any precise meaning at all. The term has existed for almost two decades, and you might have seen a variety of definitions. Here is ours:

Data warehousing is both a vision of and a methodological approach toward organizing and managing enterprise data for the purpose of providing a trustworthy, consistent, integrated, and comprehensive data foundation for an enterprise’s data-driven requirements and applications, both tactical and strategic.

Why does our definition not include any technical references? Well, that’s just the point! While technology is essential to actually realizing the vision, data warehousing is not—or should not be—fundamentally about technology. It is about laying the data foundation needed to run an enterprise. Run as in making informed decisions. And enterprise rather than business because data warehousing is equally relevant whether the work is for-profit, not-for-profit, or in the public sector (a subtle distinction resulting from the unfortunate fact that the word business is embedded in the term business intelligence, or BI)—and, increasingly, whether the entity is small, medium, or large. Compared with what was true in the past, Microsoft’s data warehousing–related offerings under the SQL Server product umbrella have made it particularly feasible for data warehousing goals to be attainable by small and medium-size enterprises. Of course, Microsoft continues to deliver industrial-strength data warehousing performance for the largest enterprises—especially with the 2008 release of SQL Server.