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Oracle data warehouse development best practices

Don Burleson


The design approach for any new Oracle data warehouse will leverage on the Oracle-supplied productivity packages such as Oracle 10g Discoverer and Oracle Warehouse Builder (OWB).  Rapid development and implementation of basic decision support functionality is a major priority so that the end-users may begin to enjoy the benefits of a new Oracle data warehouse system.

The success of all large Oracle warehouse projects require small, incremental successes and a phased roll-out with basic functionality delivered first.  The main pre-implementation phases an Oracle data warehouse project will include:

  • Initial design or Re-design of an existing data warehouse using Oracle 10g with partitioning.
  • Migration of existing data into the new Oracle data warehouse structure.
  • Modeling the ETL processes from the data sources and developing the appropriate schema transformation rules (star, hybrid or snowflake).
  • Implementing a complete ETL using the Oracle Warehouse Builder (OWB).
  • Creation of primary materialized views and data refresh mechanisms.

Oracle data warehouse projects often suffer from chronic problems and Oracle data warehouse operational issues:

  • Low staffing - The existing DBA is caught-up in operational details and is unable to find the time to perform the advanced Business Intelligence (BI) and data mining activities.
  • Cumbersome Data Loading - The existing ETL process is non-uniform and requires significant manual intervention. 
  • Non-usage of warehouse features - The back-end Oracle data warehouse database does not utilize Oracle warehouse features such as bitmap indexes, partitioning or materialized views.
  • Difficult Interface - Existing data mining tools are often sub-optimal and the use of SAS, SPSS, Clementine, Oracle data mining (ODM) and front-end OLAP tools such as Oracle Discoverer can be greatly improved.
  • Non scalable - Adding additional users and/or data with a loss in performance.  The existing database schema doesn't scale due to improper design, bad indexing, or a combination of factors. By utilizing the latest techniques and features the new data warehouse will be scalable as well as performing at its peak efficiency.
  • Data Consolidation Issues - Sites often need to incorporate data feeds from dozens of external data centers. Methods must be created to transform all of the data into a unified, consistent format and provide a method for seamless growth.
  • Data Transparency Issues - For example: As patients in a hospital system travel between treatment centers with separate databases it can be difficult to track their treatments and progress. In a centralized, consolidated DWH environment this becomes a non-issue.
  • Limited Reporting - The existing warehouse does not easily support ad-hoc or customized queries.


Oracle Data Warehouse Query evolution

An evolutionary approach is critical to the success of this project.  Once the database is back-filled, the end-users will be introduced to basic access.  As the end-users become comfortable with the base functionality we will be able to provide more advanced query support, as follows:

  1. Ad-hoc query
  2. Aggregation and multidimensional display
  3. Correlation analysis
  4. Hypothesis testing
  5. Data Mining

End-user query approach

Once the new data warehouse and ETL has been created, Oracle 10g Discoverer (web version) can be implemented for basic OLAP and DSS functionality. Some of the types of queries required by the new system might include: 

  • Ad-hoc query - The Discoverer 10g end-user layer will be configured to allow for the ad-hoc display of summary and detailed level data.

  • Aggregation and multidimensional display - Develop Oracle warehouse builder structures to summarize, aggregate and rollup salient information for display using the Oracle 10g Discoverer interface.

  • Basic correlations - The front-end should allow the end-user to specify dimensions and request a correlation matrix between the variables with each dimension.  The system will start with one-to-one correlations and evolve to support multivariate chi-square methods.

  • Identify hidden correlations - The end-users need the ability to identify populations (e.g. Eskimo's with alcoholism) and then track this population across various external factors (e.g. treatments and drugs).  These Oracle Decision Support System (DSS) interfaces require the ability for the end-user to refine their decision rules and change the salient parameters of their domain (i.e. the confidence interval for the predictions).

The main tasks in any Oracle data warehouse engagement include mentoring and technical assistance for these major activities:

  • Cost Justification - Data warehouses often have a very fast pay-back period as they can pay for themselves in more effective treatments and reducing costs.
  • Re-Design Architecture - The existing system requires a new structure, and an analysis of existing (and new) data requirements will allow for the design of a Star or Snowflake design.
  • Implement Physical Features - The redesigned database will utilize important Oracle warehouse features designed to provide high performance and maintenance.  These will include data partitioning, read-only tablespaces, bitmap indexes and materialized views.  Data warehouse queries will also be designed to support Oracle Star Transformation queries.
  • Automate Extract, Transformation and Loading - A new ETL system will be implemented to allow for a minimum of human intervention.  A data feed architecture will be designed and intelligent rules will be applied to unify the data and allow for a central repository. There will also be an exception reporting mechanism to allow for minimal human intervention.
  • Improved data mining and BI reporting - The existing Business Intelligence (Oracle Discoverer) will be reviewed and new methods for identify salient correlations will be incorporated into the data model.

While no two Oracle data warehouse project are identical, they share common interfaces and activities.  These compose best-practices and form a foundation for the successful evolution of the Oracle data warehouse.



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