Many vendors are now offering a pre-integrated, all-in-one data warehousing package, called a "turnkey DSS." A turnkey DSS typically provides all the componentry (except hardware) required to design, deploy and manage a data mart. The core of a turnkey DSS is a meta data repository that drives and synchronizes all other components.

Turnkey DSSs typically contain modules that support the following functions:

  • Data cleansing
  • Extraction/mapping/transformation
  • Meta data management
  • Administration, monitoring, security
  • Data storage
  • End-user reporting and analysis

What users like about a turnkey DSS is that once they define a system of record and design a data model, a power user can easily deploy a data mart with minimal product consulting assistance from the vendor. Total costs for a departmental pilot system are often well below $200,000. And within a couple of days, end users can be executing predefined, ad hoc and OLAP-based queries against the system.
Of course, the major asset of a turnkey DSS is also its biggest potential liability. Because departments can deploy these systems without much assistance from central IS, companies risk proliferating turnkey DSSs like wildflowers on a spring day. It is wise to deploy a turnkey DSS within the context of an enterprise-wide DSS architecture; otherwise, you end up creating the legacy systems of tomorrow.

The other disadvantage of a turnkey DSS is scalability. A turnkey DSS is often designed to support data mart implementations of less than 50GB. What happens when your data mart expands exponentially--as many do--and exhausts your turnkey DSS platform? You may have to make an awkward and expensive conversion to a more scalable system or partition your turnkey DSS into multiple virtual marts, or hope and pray that your turnkey DSS vendor extends the scalability of its product fast enough to meet your requirements. In addition, a turnkey DSS doesn't come with a turnkey staff. Just because you've integrated your technology doesn't mean that you've solved the political, cultural and ongoing maintenance issues that can make warehousing challenging, if not entertaining.

Despite these potential shortcomings, turnkey DSSs have become popular solutions sold by many vendors. Today, you can purchase a turnkey DSS from IBM, Information Builders, Sagent Technologies, Broadbase, MineShare and others.

IBM. The most mature turnkey DSS on the market today is IBM's Visual Warehouse, a DB2-centric solution which is in its third major release. IBM sells Visual Warehouse almost exclusively through VARs, of which there are 75 to date. Visual Warehouse is unique because it ships with a database and a basic configuration costs under $40,000. IBM is also integrating Visual Warehouse with a storehouse full of IBM and partner tools, such as high-end cleansing, OLAP, transformation and database gateway tools. (See www.ibm.com.)

Information Builders. Information Builders offers SmartMart, which builds on its successful Enterprise Data Access (EDA) gateway and FOCUS Six suite of decision support products, which include end-user reporting, analysis and EIS tools. SmartMart is unique because EDA enables customers to extract and transform data natively from 65+ legacy data sources. (See www.ibi.com.)

Sagent. Sagent offers Sagent Data Mart 3.0, which consists of an application server that lets users design and populate data marts as well as query and analyze the data therein. All activity is driven from an integrated meta data repository that lets administrators design and manage multiple remote data marts. Sagent also provides integrated OLAP, reporting and statistical analysis modules and access to its data mart via the Web. (See www.sagenttech.com.)

Broadbase. Broadbase provides a Windows NT solution that is easy to set up and use. It uses SQL 92 and Java-based routines to transform and analyze data stored in its specialized database. This database optimizes response times to ad hoc and multidimensional queries through use of aggregates, flexible indices and compression techniques. Broadbase comes with embedded analytical functions, such as rank and tile, and resells an integrated version of Brio for end-user access and analysis. (See www.broadbase.com.)

MineShare. MineShare is the newest entry in the turnkey DSS field. It currently specializes in building data marts for the financial services industry. It provides a lightweight, SQL-based extraction and transformation tool and offers an Excel-based front-end for accessing and manipulating data managed by the MineShare engine. The heart and soul of MineShare is its relational OLAP server, which automatically creates and manages aggregate tables transparently to users and designers, accelerating response times to complex, multidimensional queries. (See www.mineshare.com.)

We suspect other vendors will soon jump on the turnkey DSS bandwagon. And it's easy to see why. A turnkey DSS fulfills the all-important triumvirate of end-user requirements for selecting products: Make it fast, easy and inexpensive.

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