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Is a data mart defined by its size or is it defined by the specific business process it supports?

  • Joe Oates, Larissa Moss, Chuck Kelley, Clay Rehm, Les Barbusinski, Scott Howard
  • October 09 2003, 1:00am EDT


Is a data mart defined by its size or is it defined by the specific business process it supports?


Les Barbusinski’s Answer: A data mart is defined by its function and/or audience. Almost every organization in an enterprise is interested in sales information; however, each organization will want different metrics measured against different dimensions with different levels of aggregation. For example, the sales organization will want to see gross sales revenue by month, agent and office. Marketing, on the other hand, will want to measure lift by month, customer type, product type and campaign. Finance will want to see sales profitability by quarter, office and product type. And so on. In each case, the facts will differ based on the business perspective of the target audience and the function that the data mart was intended to perform.

Scott Howard’s Answer: A commonly accepted data mart definition is: an implementation of a data warehouse with a restricted scope of content and support for analytical processing, serving a single department, part of an organization and/or a particular data analysis problem domain. As such it is a specific data warehouse containing only the data required for a specific problem domain and physically optimized for the analysis and thus tools that it needs to support. It is wrong and unfortunately common when a data mart is referred to as a small warehouse.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: It is defined by the specific business requirement that is its purpose in life. I have seen terabyte data marts and megabyte data warehouses.

Larissa Moss’ Answer: A data mart is different from a data warehouse in that a data mart is always tailored to support the specific pattern of reporting for which it is designed. The supported pattern of reporting could be for a specific business process or a specific department; it could also be across multiple business process and multiple departments if they happen to have similar reporting requirements. In other words, a data mart is defined by its special purpose, not by its size.

Joe Oates’ Answer: A data mart is designed for a specific business function or department rather than the entire enterprise. I have worked on some multiterabyte data marts that stored telephone call detail records (CDRs). However, the data mart dealt only with the CDRs, not other portions of the telephone company.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: Since you asked this question, I assume that you have heard that both are used to define a data mart. In my opinion, a data mart is developed to meet a business need or particularly focus on a business process or area. The word "mart" assumes it is smaller than a warehouse.

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