Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dashboards to monitor data warehouse development and execution

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If you have watched any military combat kind of movies movies, you would have noticed that when the military / armed forces reaches the target site, and deploys a radar to monitor the operations and establish communication within the teams as well as with the headquarters. You must be thinking that am I going to share some movie story? The answer is "No", I am just trying to make my point.

In the way described above, whenever the DW incremental load execution life-cycle begins, I see ETL as the primary driver of the process whether DW is in development / production phase.

1) Using SSIS you can drive the entire process right from extracting delta from OLTP till processing of cubes from within SSIS packages. If you follow a methodical and process oriented ETL approach, you should essentially log each task in some table which you might consider as a "Process Control Table".

2) During the ETL execution phase, you would have audit and log tables that would be populated for each cycles. Over the period of time this table would / can grow huge and might need archival. Many ETL designs do involve a staging area which would also contain data depending on whether permanent / temporary staging is considered in the design.

Different stakeholders like power-users/end-clients, project management, team members, client's IT support staff, development team, testing team and others would like to get access/view of the data created as mentioned in points 1 and 2 for their own needs. This creates a dependency on the development team to constantly facilitate them for the same. And here is where Dashboards can be of great help.

If you create a few reports on the top of this data, respective teams can just access these reports and view data on their own without any dependency on the team that owns these data. Also these helps different teams to have a common communication medium to share updates and status of the current activity on the development / production systems. For ex, if Project Management is constantly bugging the development team to send out email updates of the incremental load during a production release, a dashboard fuelled from PCT can make them self-sufficient to check the updates. If testing team constantly bugs you to provide data from the staging area for their test cases, a dashboard / report can make them self sufficient to mine out any data. If IT support staff needs to check for error logs, reports can make them self sufficient.

The only question after this is where and how to create this dashboards. SSRS Reports can easily cater this requirement. SSMS can host SSRS reports, but the ideal place would be deployment over sharepoint so people can collaborate on a single medium. You can even facilitate this reporting using Excel 2010 and use Excel Webapps for collaboration.

Coming back to the idea of military installation, DW development is like a military exercise and the first thing is to set your radars and establish communication within teams (development, testing, QA) and with your head quarters (end-clients, PMO, BAs), so that everyone is aware of the progress especially during the development phase of the project. I hope you like this theme of radar installations by military superimposed on DW development :)

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