Philip Russom, director of research with The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), succinctly frames the issue. “Call it what you will: real-time, near-time, right-time, on-demand, operational Business Intelligence, inline analytics, embedded reporting, real-time data warehousing, active data warehousing or dynamic data warehousing. It’s all about satisfying one bone-crushing business requirement: When time-sensitive information originates or changes in an operational system, how do you synch that with a data warehouse and then push out the information—complete with a performance history, as kept by the warehouse—to business end-users who need to know ASAP?” In any of its flavors, Russom argues, “real-time” has proven to be a surprisingly tricky beast to tame.
“Moore’s law and cheap storage cured the scalability crisis. The cure for high-speed information delivery is far more complicated, because it requires that a long list of integration and Business Intelligence components—many newly enabled for services—be added to the already complex data warehouse technology stack, and sometimes operational technology stacks, too.”
Amy Meyer, director of data quality product marketing with Business Objects, outlines a real-time/right-time problem set that isn’t much different from Russom’s. “Many customers say they want real-time [information access], but they’re also intimidated by some of the technical challenges. In many cases, though, [real-time] really isn’t what they need,” Meyer said in an interview at February’s TDWI World conference.
What they need, she says, is typically a shorter time-to-refresh window. And for many customers, Meyer points out, “right-time” is going from a once-a-week or a bi-weekly refresh cycle down to a nightly one. In other cases, she indicates, perhaps a near-real time approach (such as trickle-feeding data into a warehouse) might be both technically feasible and operationally desirable.
The real-time/right-time challenge is spurring Business Intelligence and PM players to explore non-traditional solutions, too. Meyer points to Business Objects partnership with data warehouse appliance specialist Netezza Inc. to promote a turnkey rapid information access solution for SAP customers.
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