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When to Federate

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As we have seen by the rapid growth and diversification of the business intelligence (BI) market, our current and future reality is driven by a wide panoply of business-driven solutions focused on solving domain-specific problems. The market research company Survey.com projects that the business intelligence market will be worth $148 billion dollars by 2003. In a market of this size, complexity and impact, a federated architecture is a solution worth considering.

A federated BI architecture accommodates all the components of a contemporary BI system: packaged/ turnkey data warehouses (DWs) and data marts (DMs); packaged/turnkey analytical applications (AAs); custom built DWs and DMs; custom built AAs; data mining; online analytical processing (OLAP) tools; query and reporting (Q&R) tools; production reporting tools; data quality tools; extraction, transformation and load (ETL) tools; system management tools; information delivery tools; enterprise information portals; reporting systems; knowledge management systems; and database systems. The federated BI architecture is the "big tent" that provides the foundation and environment to facilitate and enable business information flow, analysis and decision making in the typical organization's heterogeneous environment.

Sites that are just embarking on the design and implementation of a BI system will most likely choose a federated architecture by default, as their system will be composed of a mixture of packaged and custom solutions.

You should design and develop a federated BI architecture when you are faced with the following scenarios:

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): The wave of M&A activity across all industry segments has presented the BI professional with a very challenging scenario. Often, teams that are happily humming along building their custom, hub-and-spoke system awake one day to learn that they are the proud owners of a new company or two, along with their accompanying BI systems. It very rarely makes sense to abandon a fully functioning data warehouse infrastructure, so these teams are forced to adopt a federated BI architecture.

Turnkey ERP DWs and Custom DWs: Today's market is quickly moving from the "build" stage of evolution to a "buy" mode. Just as we all formerly developed general ledger and order entry systems but would never even consider it today, BI is moving from hand-built, custom systems to packaged offerings. Teams that have a partially completed data warehouse system are often presented with a packaged data warehouse as an extension to the ERP or OLTP system in which the business has just invested $20 to $40 million. In this case, it is not conducive to career development to reject this turnkey system. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth as it were; at a minimum, consider it a wonderful way to extract data from the innards of the ERP package.

Multiple DW/DM Systems: Organizations of any size, especially those that have been involved with data warehousing for more than a year or two, may have multiple DW/DM systems. A typical large- scale site may have multiple data warehouse systems and scores of data mart systems of varying degrees of architecture. These sites may benefit from a federated BI architecture which would enable them to achieve data integration across the multiple systems.

Turnkey Analytical Applications: Turnkey analytical applications at extremely low price points ($5,000 ­ $50,000) are sweeping the marketplace. These systems are sold directly to the business users and are usually dumped on the doorstep of IT as soon as the purchaser is promoted or moves on to greener pastures. Most of these systems are non- architected, and many are only marginally capable of being integrated at all. This scenario requires a federated BI architecture to accommodate these high- power, high-impact, politically sensitive solutions.

Speed-to-Market- Driven Solutions: There is nothing more important in today's business world than speed to market. It will trump architecture every time. In order to be part of the solution, and to facilitate speed to market, you must accommodate the time requirements of the business in your federated BI architecture.

Be ready for these inevitable scenarios and be ready to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem by laying the foundation of a federated BI architecture today.

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