As I write this column, Informatica has just announced PowerCenterRT, claiming it to be the first enterprise data integration software platform for combining real-time data with information stored in a data warehouse. This announcement has already created a reaction from Ascential Software and Acta, both of whom argue they already offer real-time data integration platforms. There is no question that real-time data integration is a hot topic. This column will explore the real-time processing of data, focusing specifically on the near real-time data warehouse/data store.

Until recently, business intelligence (BI) applications and their underlying data warehouses have been used primarily as strategic decision-making tools that are kept separate from the operational applications that manage day-to-day business operations. There is now, however, significant industry momentum toward using BI for driving tactical day-to-day business decisions and operations. Many organizations can no longer run their businesses effectively without business intelligence analytics; and a BI system is now essential to the health and success of the business.

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