BI, Business

Data Warehousing – A Process Overview

Data warehouse is a very common term that you will come across in the BI field. A data warehouse is simply a data store in its most basic definition. This data store is used for analysis and reporting and not for operational use.

The data warehouse typically has 3 layers: staging, integration and access layers. The staging layer usually contains a raw data dump from an operational database. The integration layer is where the raw data is restructured and links the data in a meaningful manner. The access layer is used for presentation and is usually for business clients.

The data warehouse stores all the business data for a corporation. This can be subdivided and stored into smaller stores known as Data Marts. Data Marts are typically subdivided by business function or logical reporting categories. If a single large Data Warehouse is implemented then this is known as centralised approach. The data is centrally stored and is accessed by all business functions. Implementing multiple data marts is a decentralised approach; as there is no single store with information from all business functions.

It’s beginning to sound like the two approaches are very different but they have a similar purpose. In fact, Ralph Kimball and Bill Inmon are the authors behind the decentralised and centralised approaches respectively. Inmon defined the idea of centralised storage and a top down approach. A top down approach starts with consideration of all the requirements at an enterprise level without breakdown by business function. Kimball defined a bottom up approach leading to decentralised storage with multiple Marts. A bottom up approach starts with individual business functions and their specific requirements. After all the marts are built these are then linked together to deliver an enterprise-wide solution.

Even though these two approaches to building a DW are different both involve 3 common stages: Integration, Analysis and Reporting. Integration and Analysis both involve manipulation of data, whereas Reporting is more about presentation of the data. It is possible to perform further analysis in the reporting layer.

The tools used for development usually support these three layers. One of the industry leading tool sets is provided by Microsoft. The SQL Server with Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) supports the development of the above mentioned layers. The SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) together form the MS BI stack.

SSIS is used to get data from an operational database and transform it into a dimensional or ER data store. SSAS allows building of a multi-dimensional Cube using the new DW model and perform calculations and aggregations. SSRS then allows generating reports from the Cube with some graphics.

In the next post we will take a closer look at the dimensional model (Kimball) for data warehousing and define some basic terms.


Repost: Microsoft makes more from Android than from Windows Phone 7

HTC agreed to pay Ballmer and his cronies $5 per shipped Android set. Citi says that HTC has sold 30 million sets, adding $150 million of fresh greens to Microsoft’s piggy bank.

Now, Microsoft sold two million Windows Phone licenses over the same period, which accounts for $30 million dollars using an estimated license fee of $15 for each Windows Phone shipped.

Source: Gizmodo, Citi


MS Office Mathematics Plug-in

This official free plugin by Microsoft is simply amazing. This is for Word and OneNote 2007 & 2010. Those who use OneNote already know that if u enter a simple arithmetic equation it calculates automatically. such as you type “2+3=” and press the space bar and OneNote will fill in the result “5” at the end. However, this does not work in Word. It is particularly important in Word since a lot of reports are written in Word and may require calculations. You can use the equation editor and just solve the equations using this plug-in.

This plugin goes beyond this. you can enter any equation with any number of variables and it can either solve for all the variables, plot 2D or 3D graphs. you can enter a table of data and plot simple graphs. Calculates complex arithmetic, integration, differentiation, complex integrals, etc.

Very simple to use, enter the equation in Equation editor and right click the equation and select the calculation to perform. for multiple equations, select multiple equations. It recognises subscripts as variables and superscripts as powers. I have found this plug-in very useful for my university work. Really this is for anyone who works with a lot of math.

Hope you find this plugin very useful.


Source: MS Office Maths Plug-in

Business, featured

Microsoft sending Trojan Horse in to Nokia?

Recently at Mobile World Congress, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop was delivering a speech, was asked a very short yet controversial question. “Are you a trojan horse?” Elop quickly defended himself and denied the possibility.

It was common knowledge that Elop had been at Microsoft prior to joining Nokia in September 2010. Four months later he pulls in Microsoft with Windows Phone 7 and scraps most of Nokia’s software efforts. I am not suggesting whether this was an intentional move or not but simply stating what occurred.

Before this journalist questioned Elop, there was little or none discussion on this. But only a day later, Nokia hires Microsoft’s Corporate VP of US Enterprise & Partner Group, Chris Weber (left) to become President of Nokia Inc USA and head of Markets in North America.

Surprising move? A strategy by Microsoft? You decide.

Source: TechCrunch, Gizmodo.

Business, featured


Elop Ballmer

On February 11th, 2011, Nokia announced that it will be entering a strategic partnership with one of the Software industry’s giants, Microsoft. This may have been great news for Microsoft but it certainly was a shock and in some cases disappointment to fans and employees of Nokia.

Lets not forget, early in February Nokia announced that it would undergo some major organisational changes. Nokia’s CEO took a stance by sending an internal memo to all employees saying how and why Nokia is dropping through the ranks of a phone manufacturer.

Its obvious to anyone who is aware of the market that Nokia does not have a single handset in the market that stands out. Well, it may stand out but for all the wrong reasons.

I remember back in 2000 and the early years of the last decade, Nokia’s handsets were the only one anyone wanted. Nokia was a symbol for reliability, standard and cutting edge in mobile phones. I remember my first handset, a Nokia 3310. I used to call it the brick. It was and felt solid and durable. And best of all Snake, the most loved mobile phone game at the time. The screen was black and white LCD although it seemed like dot matrix 84 x 48 pixels. The menu was clean, easy to use and understand, just intuitive. Now of course those phones did not have features like a colour screen, expandable memory or even Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but those Nokia phones were a world class standard.

As technology developed, microchips got more and more powerful, handsets started packing more and more power, displays got denser with huge number of colours. New players entered the market later in the decade. Right about now, Nokia had various handsets with different features video, gaming, cameras, Bluetooth, all the flash. But some how it felt like they couldn’t get the right mix. Symbian evolved to have applications and lots more features.

Players like Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG were jumping on the wagon and producing some great phones. I particularly remember Sony Ericsson K800i, one of the best camera phones of the time. A 3.12MP camera with auto-focus and more importantly a Xenon flash. Delivered great results with speed too. Even now less than handful of phones have Xenon Flashes. But the hardware now a days is similar. They all have similar performances; the only differentiator now is the software.

Software is where Nokia failed, I believe. Symbian was open sourced in hope for better development by the community with all the features that are required. That was shut down soon after. Its venture with Maemo in 2005 up till recently was aimed as a new OS for smartphones and tablets. It was a Linux based OS but didn’t pick up any momentum until Maemo 5 was released on the N900. This was one of the flagship products for Nokia in 2009. You could say at this point in time, Nokia really was experimenting. The development didn’t really go any further. MeeGo was another attempt at a Linux platform for handsets by Nokia, which also unfortunately was unsuccessful. All other Nokias were released with its Symbian S60 OS.

Nokia didn’t really understand the touchscreen experience. Although the OS features were good and features were on par with most of the competitors (minus Apple) the user experience was below par. It was felt that the experience felt clunky, if u can say that for soft keys on a touchscreen. the UI was not optimised for the touchscreen.

Apple and Google then entered the scene. Apple with the iPhone and Google with its Android OS. Both these companies had no previous experience with mobile handsets. I think this made it easier for them to enter the smartphone market. They didn’t have the trouble and complexity of transition from traditional handsets to touchscreen smart handsets.

Microsoft on the other hand, realised that its Windows Mobile OS was not really a mobile OS. With its tiny taskbar and start button, using it felt like using Windows on a extremely tiny screen where everything was cramped together. Although it had great features especially a very mature development environment with hundreds of applications, it was unusual without a stylus and fairy high resolution touchscreen.

Microsoft’s mobile division started from scratch and developed Windows Phone 7 only 2 years ago and released to the public in 2010. Still based on Windows CE, it radically changed its UI and market. It looked great, has a tiled interface and some great apps like the Office app. Unfortunately for Microsoft, only a couple of handset manufacturers adopted it, while Android was still the first choice.

Back to Nokia now. Nokia says 2011 & 2012 are going to be transitional years. I think its better late than never, but Nokia needed to take a radical step early on. Although WP7 is a promising OS, adopting it so late won’t result in a recovery.

In announcing its partnership with Microsoft. it has completely scrapped Symbian and MeeGo upsetting most of its employees. Around 1500 employees walked out in protest for slashing Symbian. Taking Nokia in this new direction is going be a bit of a challenge. In some ways, it is like starting all over again. Although it will have to keep some staff dedicated to Symbian and MeeGo for support purposes of its current ecosystem. Morale will be at an all time low and adopting a completely new OS will be a challenge.

Let’s say Nokia make this transition to Windows Phone 7 by 2013, how are they going to differentiate themselves? Learning the new business will take time in which its output will be low and the market will still be racing ahead, taking on board new technologies. First Nokia need to catch-up with the market and the technology, then it needs to innovate on top to stand out and sell. However, standing out is now even more difficult as Nokia is now dependant on Microsoft for its software and thus potentially its USP. What is under Nokia’s control is the hardware and UI for WP7. Microsoft has said explicitly that Nokia will be able to customise almost anything in WP7 but Nokia’s CEO says it won’t be changing everything.

Two huge players in a strategic alliance should result in a great product. I wait to see the results.

Sources: Engadget, Youtube, Nokia, Microsoft