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Why your Data Warehouse needs Data Vault

by | Aug 21, 2015

At OptimalBI we are huge fans of modelling the data warehouse using the Data Vault methodology. That’s because Data Vault allows us to provide you with a data warehouse that you can continue to use long after we are gone and continue to add to yourselves. We are often asked whether the “extra” Data Vault layers are necessary or just a pesky overhead in an end-to-end data warehouse architecture. To that we say: not only are the Data Vault layers necessary, they are arguably the most important layers in your data warehouse, and argue that I shall!

Data Warehouse Layers

Yes, your current single source data warehouse, with a staging area and a few star schemas, has been performing quite nicely over recent months; you are getting the metrics you need for your reports, and management seems content with what it is receiving. But what happens when the CEO decides she is sick of getting multiple reports from different areas of the business, all of which are completely unrelatable to each other? Suddenly there is a business need to conform information from across the organisation and turn your humble creation into an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW). Something tells me the CEO won’t be happy to hear an estimate of months or years to deliver value from such a project…

This is where Data Vault comes into it. It is designed to optimise your Enterprise Data Warehouse using a flood of adjectives: agile, adaptable, auditable, flexible, historical, and integratable. Peel back the jargon though, and you find the real value. Whereas previous data warehouse methodologies tended to require a lot of “big design up front”, Data Vault allows for fast, repeatable builds in chunk sizes that you get to choose. What makes this safe to do is Data Vault’s primary concern: getting all of the data, all of the time.

You still have your source systems in their various forms and you still need your data marts, typically in the form of a dimensional model, for your business reporting needs. What you might be missing is the middle bit in between that allows you to continually add new sources to your data warehouse without breaking it, while capturing all of your previous data’s history. That’s right, Data Vault evolves as your organisation evolves! No more silos!

Data Vault is designed to quickly adapt to change within the business and to allow new areas of the business to be easily integrated into the EDW. It turns what can be a very painful process of trying to fit other areas of the business and their entirely different terminology and data into your data warehouse, into a relatively simple one. The beauty of Data Vault is it allows you to bring together your numerous and unrelated sources and conform them into logical groups (hubs and satellites to get technical) that suit the organisation as a whole, removing the tangled spaghetti mess that often arises when combining sources. The advantage of taking this smaller step to logical groups first using Data Vault, before driving all the way to fully conformed dimensions, is adaptability to change.

Data Vault is the real success story behind a truly integrated and agile Enterprise Data Warehouse.

Be sure to check out our other blogs about Data Vault!

Thanks for reading, Nic

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