Q:

Question: I have been asked to do a study of DW features of SQL 2K and Oracle 9i. How do I proceed with such an exhaustive study?

A:

Sid Adelman’s Answer: Be sure you know why you have been asked to do the study. You need to know the answers to the following questions before you can begin your research:

  • What platform are you on and how will that affect the choice of an RDBMS?
  • Is your organization trying to establish an RDBMS standard?
  • What are the criteria for evaluation?
    • Is it cost?
    • Is it robustness of the product (giving you higher availability and greater manageability)?
    • How important is scalability?
  • How large do you anticipate your database will be?
  • How many users will you have?
  • How complex will the queries and reports be?
  • What skills do you have in place today?
  • What level of support will you need?

Doug Hackney’s Answer: I would suggest the following steps:

  1. Gather the DW specific information from their Web sites.
  2. Gather relevant research reports from the tech analyst firms (IDC, Gartner, META, etc.).
  3. Gather relevant white papers, articles reviews, etc. from industry sites (dataWarehouse.com, TDWI, etc.)
  4. Hire an experienced, non-vendor aligned consultant to facilitate the vendor review.
  5. Construct a properly weighted evaluation matrix.
  6. Invite the vendors for demos of DW features and capabilities.
  7. Conduct a proof of concept with each vendor’s tool set(s).
  8. Select the vendor who has the largest score in the matrix.

Scott Howard’s Answer: The right way to conduct this study is to determine your users’ DW requirements, establish your own personal criteria that supports those requirements and finally assess how the products address those and only those established needs. Too often we fall prey to checklists of features, impressed with an apparent broader array of support only to later discover that the features important to us are not available or just don’t work as advertised. Is it really important that a RDBMS has 500 esoteric features, 490 of which don’t apply to the application needs?

Also don’t rely on the vendor input regardless of sincerity. Ask for references and talk to them. Be careful to ascertain whether the reference’s implementation truly mirrors your needs. Again, as in the past, I must ask why are you limiting your comparison? Two of the most feature-rich, scalable and best-performing RDBMSs are not in your short list.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: First I would find out what the purpose of the study is.  Is it feature of the DBMS or the tools surrounding.  For example SQL 2000 has DTS as part of its transformation services where Oracle has Warehouse Builder.  Are these products to be included in the study?  If it is just the database, then you would need to understand what features you would expect the DBMS to have to support your requirements of a data warehouse.  Things such as table partitioning by data value, parallel loading of table, parallel index queries, bitmap indexes, etc.  How important is performance in multidimensional model vs. a relational model database?  So you need to come up with the purpose of the study and what features are important to your data warehouse before starting the study.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: The first step is to gather as much information from the Microsoft and Oracle Web sites.  While you are there, download or request evaluation copies of the software. Other great (but somewhat biased) sources include the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) and the Oracle users group.  However, the best evaluation is the one you perform based on the requirements of your project and/or organization.  Consider hiring a consultant only after you have done your homework (the steps above).

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