Warehousing Work Gets Easier

FRAMINGHAM (03/13/2000) - Database vendors are betting that an old programming style will broaden the appeal of data warehouses to less sophisticated users.

But even the vendors wonder whether these naive IT operations should build data warehouses themselves.

The technique, programming automation, has been applied to other areas of data management, such as in the early days of PC-based client/ server and relational databases. These rapid application development tools took over the task of hand-coding applications.

Oracle Corp.'s Warehouse Builder, released last week, is similar to rapid application development tools of yore. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company said the product will simplify and speed the development process. Jagdish Mirani, senior director of marketing for Oracle's data warehousing products, said Warehouse Builder addresses lagging data warehouse adoption cycles among companies without large information technology resources. Companies are feeling pressure to implement warehousing technology so they can make sense of the huge influx of information the Web and other tools are bringing in-house, he said.

Jason Haugland, a consultant at Synergy Consulting Services in Minneapolis, installed Warehouse Builder at a Honeywell International Inc. office in Minneapolis. He said the PL/SQL code generated by Warehouse Builder is "robust," and the product allows developers to add functionality by inserting handwritten code.

Companies such as Microsoft Corp., Sybase Inc. in Emeryville, Calif., and Informix Corp. in Menlo Park, Calif., are also incorporating development tools into the mix with the same target audience in mind, according to analysts.

Sybase this spring will make an announcement regarding "commoditization tools" for data warehousing, said Frank Teklitz, senior group manager at Sybase.

Informix's purchase of automation tool maker Ardent Software Inc. in Westboro, Mass., was finalized this week, and analysts say the company will use Ardent's development tools as a foundation for warehouse automation tools that carry the Informix name.

Time Savings

The automated approach to warehousing "makes a lot of sense," said Lou Agosta, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Chicago. "There is a real time-saving value in automation" when the process is compared with the time and cost of from-scratch development in Cobol or C, he said. "Hand-coding will kill you."

"[Warehousing] tends to be a high-end proposition," Teklitz said, adding that the companies targeted in this warehouse development automation trend may be better served by a warehouse application service provider implementation.

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