We live in an information-intensive world. For at least 15 years we have heard the complaint, "There's too much information to absorb! What can I do to filter it all?" The glut of data is still growing, even after all these years! A recent, painful example involves the fallout from the terrorist attacks in September 2001 which in part resulted from the apparent inability of the government intelligence industry to foresee an event of such magnitude, despite having huge amounts of information on terrorist activities and potential targets at their disposal. What seems to have been missing was a way to filter all that information. That proved to be a critical error.

There are similar situations within regular business today. The amount of information available to help a business make critical decisions is growing exponentially. Information internal to organizations is being amassed by the terabyte in data warehouses, data marts and operational data stores – not to mention legacy databases. Information external to the organization is growing much more quickly, however. Supply chain partners gather and provide huge data stores with inventory and sales information which grows by the day/week. And the Web grows biologically, akin to cells replicating in an uncontrolled manner.

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