Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let's build a Data Warehouse

Our reporting needs have outgrown our existing tools. Actually, that's not true. We have all the right tools but are not using them as well as we could be. It all starts with our data. Right now it all sits in our vendors schema. That works well for the transaction nature of the application, but not so much for reporting.

We have done a lot with what we have. Every night, we take the most recent database backup and load it onto a second server that is used for reporting. I take about a dozen of our core queries and dump them to tables for use the next day. We do the basics like indexes and primary keys. Or issues is that these are designed for specific reports. As the demands and needs of the reports change, we put in a good deal of time reworking the queries.

We started building our reports with Reporting Services and have not expanded our use of the tools that SQL has to offer yet. In the mean time, I have gotten more involved in the SQL community. Attending user groups, SQL Saturdays, and other Microsoft Tech Events. I have been introduced to a lot of features and ideas that I was previously unaware of. I think it's time we built a data warehouse.

I don't think our dataset is large enough for me to truly call what I am going to make a data warehouse. My database sits at 30 some gig in size. I also have a huge maintenance window. The core activity of our business ends by 5:00 pm so I have all night to process whatever I want. So my ETL process can process my entire dataset every time. In the beginning anyway. I'll deal with slowly changing dimensions later.

I want to build a star schema for my data and take advantage of Analysis Services. I want to be able to expose my data to PowerPivot and PowerView. I see a lot of power in these tools and there is no better way to learn than to jump into it. Even if I can't get my user base to use these tools, it will help me parse our data and they will still benefit.

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