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Data Integration and Data Warehousing Defined

To help you make your way through the many powerful case studies and "lessons from the experts" articles in What Works in Data Integration, we have arranged them into specific categories: data governance, data integration, data quality, master data management, and data warehousing. What do these terms mean, and how do they apply to your organization?

Data Governance

Data governance is usually manifested as an executive-level data governance board, committee, or other organizational structure that creates and enforces policies and procedures for the business use and technical management of data across the organization. Common goals of data governance are to improve data’s quality; remediate its inconsistencies; share it broadly; leverage its aggregate for competitive advantage; manage change relative to data usage; and comply with internal and external regulations and standards for data usage. In a nutshell, data governance is an organizational structure that oversees the broad use and usability of data as an enterprise asset.

Data Integration

Data integration (DI) is a family of techniques and best practices that repurpose data by transforming it as it’s moved. ETL (extract, transform, and load) is the most common form of DI found in data warehousing. There are other techniques, including data federation, database replication, data synchronization, and so on. Solutions based on these techniques may be hand coded, based on a vendor’s tool, or a mix of both. DI breaks into two broad practice areas. Analytic DI supports business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW), and operational DI is applied outside BI/DW to the migration, consolidation, and synchronization of operational databases, as well as in exchanging data in a business-to-business context.

Data Quality

Data quality is a complex concept that encompasses many data management techniques and business quality practices, applied repeatedly over time as the state of quality evolves, to achieve levels of quality that vary per data type and seldom aspire to perfection. The most common technique is name-and-address cleansing, whereas the least common is the internationalization of data for quality purposes. Between these two extremes are numerous data quality techniques, including data standardization, verification, profiling, monitoring, matching, merging, householding, geocoding, postal standards, enrichment, and so on.

Master Data Management

Master data management is the practice of defining and maintaining consistent definitions of business entities, then sharing them via integration techniques across multiple IT systems within an enterprise and sometimes beyond to partnering companies or customers. Many technical users consider MDM to be an integration practice, enabled by integration tools and techniques for ETL, EAI, EII, and replication. When the system of record is a hub that connects many diverse systems, multiple integration technologies may be required, including newer ones like Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA). More simply put: MDM is the practice of acquiring, improving, and sharing master data.

Data Warehousing

At the highest level, designing a data warehouse involves creating, manipulating, and mapping models. These models are conceptual, logical, and physical (data) representations of the business and end-user information needs. Some models already exist in source systems and must be reverse engineered. Other models, such as those defining the data warehouse, are created from scratch. Creating a data warehouse requires designers to map data between source and target models, capturing the details of the transformation in a metadata repository. Tools that support these various modeling, mapping, and documentation activities are known as data warehouse design tools.

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