A data mart is a repository of data gathered from operational data and other sources that is designed to serve a particular community of knowledge workers. In scope, the data may derive from an enterprise-wide database or data warehouse or be more specialized. The emphasis of a data mart is on meeting the specific demands of a particular group of knowledge users in terms of analysis, content, presentation, and ease-of-use. Users of a data mart can expect to have data presented in terms that are familiar.
In practice, the terms data mart and data warehouse each tend to imply the presence of the other in some form. However, most writers using the term seem to agree that the design of a data mart tends to start from an analysis of user needs and that a data warehouse tends to start from an analysis of what data already exists and how it can be collected in such a way that the data can later be used. A data warehouse is a central aggregation of data (which can be distributed physically); a data mart is a data repository that may derive from a data warehouse or not and that emphasizes ease of access and usability for a particular designed purpose. In general, a data warehouse tends to be a strategic but somewhat unfinished concept; a data mart tends to be tactical and aimed at meeting an immediate need.
One writer, Marc Demerest, suggests combining the ideas into a Universal Data Architecture (UDA). In practice, many products and companies offering data warehouse services also tend to offer data mart capabilities or services.