The Myth and the Magic of Enterprise Information Integration - InformationWeek

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The Myth and the Magic of Enterprise Information Integration

Those that know what they're talking about see EII as extending the data warehouse -- not replacing it.

As the relatively new boy in town, enterprise information integration (EII) has attracted some attention. He's powerful and attractive: so quite a few of the young ladies are keen to be seen with him. By the same token, some of the older guys see him as a definite threat.

Among these guys, the more traditional data warehousing experts and vendors have been lining up to take a few pot shots: What about data integrity? Won't this impact operational systems performance? How will it cope with missing data? they ask. Isn't this just the Virtual Data Warehouse come back to haunt us?

Well, clearly these guys are not your typical playground bullies — their questions do point at genuine concerns. Enterprise information integration does indeed allow direct, on demand access to data, wherever it lies. As a result, one could encounter the problems they describe. But let's stand back a moment. There is an urban myth at play here. Those issues would arise only if EII was being used in place of a data warehouse. Now, there may be a few vendors who are promoting EII as a replacement for data warehousing, but those who know what they’re talking about see EII as extending the data warehouse — not replacing it.

So, this is what the young ladies see in EII. If we already have a data warehouse — or some other repository of reconciled, integrated data, such as an operational data store (ODS) — then we can use that store to ensure data integrity, provide the historical view, and then branch out into some interesting and valuable new areas.

Here are a number of ways that EII can extend the data warehouse and bring significant and early business value:

  • Accessing current data in combination with data already in the warehouse environment to get an up-to-the-minute view of the business or understand the last points on the trend curve, and linking directly to modern business process monitoring directions
  • Linking to unstructured data such as a document, photo, or e-mail, that is a valuable and necessary part of the larger decision-making process. Who wants to copy all of their content stores into the warehouse as well?
  • Formally linking Internet data into executive decision support. All executives rely heavily on external information as part of their decision-making process; EII allows us to move from ad hoc retrieval of such external data to making it part of the formal process.
  • Using data from partner, government, and other external systems as part of the decision support process. In many such cases, legal, commercial and other considerations will limit copying such data wholesale into an internal warehouse. EII allows us to go get the relevant data as needed.

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