What is a data warehouse and how do I extract more business value from it?

Author: Laurence Glen  |  Date published: February, 12, 2024, UK  |  Read est: 8 min read

Focus Group
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Wondering what data warehouse solution would work best for your enterprise? Looking for more info about its advances, such as Microsoft Azure Enterprise data warehouses? Or are you just wondering what a data warehouse is in the first place? This article has you covered.

What is a data warehouse and how do I extract more business value from it?

In the world of enterprise, the growing demand for services such as IT and Telecom support across the world has led the data market to rapidly increase. In fact, approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day, with the entire Big Data market projected to generate over £100 billion in revenue by 2027.

That’s a lot of unstructured data to process, and for enterprises, that data is an essential tool you cannot risk losing. Big data is incredibly valuable, providing detailed insights into your customer’s behaviours and keeping you informed on impactful industry trends and market conditions. Without that data, you’re sailing through the business world with no strategy.

So, as the data sprawl increases, how can you ensure yours is safe, secured and easily accessible? Well, as the digital revolution continues to proliferate, so does the technology.

Data warehouses are harnessing advancements in technology - such as the cloud - to provide enterprises with bespoke and scalable solutions. One of these solutions is Microsoft Azure, a service that provides cloud data warehouse possibilities that scale and definitively fit your business’s workflows.

Shall we dive a little deeper? What is a data warehouse? How can you extract more business from them?

What exactly is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a management system developed to support Business Intelligence (BI) activities.

Through the data sprawl your business attains (application log files and transaction applications, for example), data warehouses will consolidate this unstructured data, allowing it to perform queries and analyses that support crucial business analytics.

Over time, as the amount of data increases, data warehouses build up a historical record, creating a sanctum of validity and truth behind business decisions. Additionally, through artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, data warehouses can analyse this data to find new ways to utilise – and monetise – the data you attain. In a nutshell, it backs up everything you decide to do with your data and can enhance the ways you take advantage of it.

As we continue into the era of digital transformation, we are more reliant on data-driven insights, and enterprises with vast amounts of data rely on data warehouse services to keep ahead of that competitive curve.

Through this centralised storehouse, data warehouses provide businesses with a holistic view of their operations, allowing them to reflect and enhance areas of the business, such as optimising operations and improving customer experiences.

Data warehouses play a crucial role for enterprises that want to leverage unstructured data to catalyse a digital transformation and accelerate their growth in a constantly evolving business landscape.

What is a cloud data warehouse?

As we mentioned previously, technology is rapidly evolving, presenting businesses with bespoke services that cater to their specific needs. Data warehouses are no different.

One of the advancements in data warehouse solutions comes in cloud services and solutions, which have recently grown more popular due to enterprises investing in cloud-based services whilst transitioning and reducing their on-premises data centre footprint, this is also known as a hybrid cloud solution.

And so, the cloud data warehouse was formed. Unlike traditional data warehouses, which are built with on-premises servers, cloud data warehouses do not rely on physical hardware. It's software as a service.

Why is this useful for enterprises? Well, instead of relying on in-house monitoring or a continuous, watchful eye over your data, cloud data warehouse services are managed by a professional team or cloud company. This means you don't need to rush a decision to invest in software or find the time capacity to maintain the data warehouse yourself.

With the cloud ultimately having no space limitation, the benefits of a cloud data warehouse service for your enterprise are elastic, allowing for scalability and continuous support for massive and varying storage requirements. Coupled with a cheaper price point and a streamlined management process, a cloud data warehouse is the perfect solution for a business that continues to boom and expand.

Architecture of a data warehouse

Data warehouses consist of a three-tier architecture:

  • Bottom tier: The bottom tier is the data warehouse server, which collects, evaluates, and transforms data from multiple data sources through the process Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL).
  • Middle tier: The middle tier consists of an online analytical processing server (OLAP), which enables fast query speeds. Depending on the type of database system you utilise in your enterprise, you will use one of three models: ROLAP, MOLAP or HOLAP.
  • Top tier: The top tier is represented by a user interface or reporting tool, which enables users to conduct ad-hoc data analysis.

Additionally, data warehouses are made of separate components, each with a specific task and responsibility:

  • ETL: This is the process used to move data from a data source into your data warehouse. ETL transforms unstructured data into a usable format so it can be analysed and interpreted.
  • Metadata: Metadata is a set of data that defines all the data stored in a system (so much data), ultimately making it searchable. Metadata can vary, be it a location, date, author or file size. The purpose of Metadata allows you to organise your data to make it both searchable and serviceable, such as allowing analysts to create dashboards, reports or company-wide presentations.
  • SQL query processing: Structured Query Language (SQL) is the standard language used in programming specifically designed for managing data in data warehouse solutions. SQL is used by analysts to extrapolate insights from the data stored in your data warehouse. SQL query processing technologies work in tandem with everything else, allowing for greater performance regarding your analytics.
  • Data layer: The data layer's purpose focuses on user access. Depending on who you want accessing your data within the business, the data layer can separate segments of your data to ensure it's seen by the right people only. Data layers can function at an extremely granular level, meaning you have a lot of choices as to who has permission.

Benefits of a data warehouse

We’ve started to cover some of the benefits of what a data warehouse can offer, but we’ve merely scraped the tip of the iceberg:

  • Fast and strategic: Through data integration, data warehouses allow your business to leverage and review data in all your business decisions in one place. Alongside this, cloud data warehouses utilise large-scale BI functions such as data mining and Artificial Intelligence to increase validity when making decisions in all areas of your business. This means you can strategise faster and deliver those strategies with complete confidence.
  • Cost-effective and scalable: In regards to advancements within cloud-based solutions - cloud data warehouses enable you to efficiently develop, manage and scale solutions to what you require. Migration to the cloud will eliminate the cost of setting up - and maintaining - on-premises servers and data centres, so you’re only paying for what your business needs.
  • Secure: Data warehouses provide better data security and disaster recovery, especially when it comes to cloud-based solutions. A Cloud data warehouse has state-of-the-art security measures already set in place, meaning you can quickly recover data in case of a disaster.

How is an enterprise data warehouse different?

An enterprise data warehouse differs from the others; they go one step further than the rest. No matter the source or format, whether it's internal or outsourced, an enterprise data warehouse will bring all of your data together.

Through its ELT and ETL capabilities, you can use pipelines to move data in data-driven workflows. From there, the pipelines store your data in a Data Lake Storage, which can handle the large quantities of data an enterprise will attain.

Naturally, the bigger the enterprise, the more unstructured data there is that needs to be stored, organised and analysed, and an enterprise data warehouse is the best way forward.

But is there a data platform out there that caters to your specific business needs?

Data warehouse solutions

Microsoft’s Azure data warehouse is the revolutionary next step in enterprise data warehouse services and solutions.

The Azure data warehouse services increase and improve time to insight across data warehouses and big data systems. Bringing together state-of-the-art SQL technologies such as Apache Spark and Azure Data Explorer, the Azure data warehouse not only delivers powerful insights across all your data points, it also enhances the apps you use in unison with your workload.

Microsoft Azure is the next game-changing advancement in data warehouse services, allowing for an even swifter and streamlined process for enterprises that want to utilise their data to its absolute full potential.

How can we help?

So, how can Focus Group help make Azure a reality for your enterprise? Wherever you are on your cloud journey, we can help you determine the right technical strategy for your business. Whether you’re looking to modernise your data centre, migrate to the public cloud, or both, our innovative cloud services enable you to sustainably unlock value and agility using public, private, multi or hybrid cloud.

To make better use of your data, you need a platform that allows you to ingest data, process, manipulate and present it in the best possible way, incorporating AI and machine learning to benefit your business even further.

Whether you use the cloud for finance, CRM or software development, Focus Group manages the ever-changing platform, handling integration changes and retiring and maintaining your vital cloud operations.

Focus Group are a leading Azure migration specialist, ready to support and enable your transition to the cloud. By leveraging the power of a seamless Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams experience in the cloud, courtesy of the Azure Virtual Desktop, your team will have all the right tools at their fingertips.

Flexible, secure, collaborative and an outstanding foundation for unified communications – Azure through Focus Group will put you in firm control of your bespoke workflows.

Get in touch

Data warehouses provide an array of benefits for your business. From cost-cutting to qualitative insights into your data, a data warehouse solution is the best possible route for a business looking to enhance decision-making and transform operational efficiency.

If you’d like to see what type of data warehouse would work best for your business, or looking for a professional team to take charge and monitor it for you, get in touch with our specialist team today.

Laurence Glen photo

Laurence Glen
IT Director

Our IT world, together with the ongoing development of this business-critical portfolio of services, is in very capable hands with Laurence at the helm. IBM-trained and with a 22-year track record of proven success in the IT sector ensures Laurence is perfectly placed to lead the overall IT strategy for Focus Group, ensuring we’re at the forefront of product development and service innovations in order to deliver the best possible IT technologies for our customers.

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