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Q&A: Tips for making data warehouses manageable

New technologies are allowing companies to gather more and more data at lightning speeds, and that means data warehouses are becoming overburdened and inefficient, according to Craig Mullins, director of technology planning at BMC Software Inc. and a site expert.

Mullins, who has extensive experience in the field of database management, is an author and instructor who's taught about multiple management systems, including DB2, Oracle and SQL Server.

He spoke with recently about how organizations can better manage the massive amounts of information they're collecting.

What are some challenges that will face companies using data warehouses in the future?
There are some problems on the horizon. As disk storage becomes cheaper, companies are storing more data in the warehouse, and that's problematic. Organizations that do a good job with data warehousing will focus on the pieces of information that are the most beneficial to the business. When a company has an increasingly large warehouse, its performance is diminished. With regard to databases, which problem poses the biggest problem for companies?
The biggest problem is addressing the complexity when using a database management system. Today, a DBMS is more than what it used to be. It is a system for managing data, but now it has programs that live inside the database. Now the ETL and OLAP are being built into the DBMS, making them increasingly complex. There is no one in any company that understands all the features and technology in their DBMS. It's so much more complicated then it was a decade ago. How can companies overcome this challenge?
By doing all the hard things that everyone wants to put off. Most companies just try to develop a faster machine by throwing more memory at it. If we analyze what is actually needed and conduct the proper cleansing of the data as well, then the data warehouse becomes more effective. There may be some active-archive type products coming on the market, which allow companies to take [the] most infrequently used data and put it into some inexpensive storage media. What is the first thing a company can do if its data center is becoming unmanageable?
One of things that many organizations fall prey to is ignoring the valuable talent and knowledge of their staff. When an organization has a problem, there are usually people in that organization who can effectively deal with it. However, upper management often fails to rely on people closest to the problem. You've hired these people. Trust what it is they have to say. Should companies consider investing in grid computing as it becomes available?
Every new DBMS release has something associated with grid technology. I think the vendors are going to be moving that way, but I don't think companies want to be doing it just because vendors are doing it. Organizations need to examine the technology and learn about it but see if it will bring better availability to data and reduce costs.


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How will DBAs see their role change in the workplace of the future?
The role of the DBA is changing for a couple of reasons. Historically, DBAs have been involved in a lot of maintenance tasks. The DBAs of the future will be focused more on moving new data into the warehouse, and more on design than administration. These DBAs will be less involved in system performance because the database systems will become more efficient at fixing the system problems.

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