Not Your Father's ODS

A conventional operational data store (ODS) always hits a wall when the goal is producing actionable information. Here's how a carefully reengineered ODS could solve a wider range of enterprise information requirements.

Advantages and Risks

Organizations face availability and flexibility difficulties throughout their enterprises, not just those within the sphere of BI and data warehousing systems. The growing presence of EIPs and related user interfaces only increases the pressure to provide a shared resource of timely data coming from a wide range of sources and applications. The reengineered ODS approach can provide an information access layer that can serve EIPs, especially when the source operational systems are unavailable for one reason or another.

The repositioned ODS, with the EIP, also helps organizations standardize how they deliver information to users. The combination can also shield users from changes to ERP or other operational systems. In addition, as a centralized database supported by EAI middleware, the new ODS approach will reduce the number of data interfaces between operational systems.

What are the risks? Organizations must always consider each potential point of failure: and the repositioned ODS and EIP do become just that. Thus, failover and performance considerations such as load balancing are important to consider in the context of the high-availability demands the refashioned system is supposed to meet.

The scalability of a messaging approach to moving and integrating data is also a potential risk. Depending on the volume and design, backlogs could form, which will delay enterprise data integration. Significant backlogs or failures could be challenging to resolve; it may be tough to find a point to restart processing with the message broker approach. Mass or bulk changes to operational systems could bring about bandwidth problems and severely degrade the messaging backbone. An example of how this might occur is if your company performed a divisional realignment, merger or acquisition. This would necessitate a major change to the organizational structure of the HR or financial operational application. Thus, it would be critical for data governance rules to set out which applications receive versus distribute specific data objects from the ODS.

Nevertheless, organizations should consider how they might expand the potential of current and future ODS and EIP investments to serve the entire enterprise with greater data availability. Enterprise information is now mission critical; with careful design and deployment, this new approach can help your business flourish in a competitive economy that rewards organizations that share knowledge effectively by leveraging the full value of information assets.

Michael Jennings is VP of Professional Services for EW Solutions. He is co-author (with David Marco) of Universal MetaData Models (Wiley, 2004). Write to him at [email protected].