Logical Versus Physical Design in Data Warehouses - Data Warehousing

Your organization has decided to build a data warehouse.You have defined the business requirements and agreed upon the scope of your application, and created a conceptual design. Now you need to translate your requirements into a system deliverable. To do so, you create the logical and physical design for the data warehouse. You then define:

  • The specific data content
  • Relationships within and between groups of data
  • The system environment supporting your data warehouse
  • The data transformations required
  • The frequency with which data is refreshed

The logical design is more conceptual and abstract than the physical design. In the logical design, you look at the logical relationships among the objects. In the physical design,you look at the most effective way of storing and retrieving the objects as well as handling them from a transportation and backup/recovery perspective.

Orient your design toward the needs of the end users. End users typically want to perform analysis and look at aggregated data, rather than at individual transactions. However, end users might not know what they need until they see it. In addition, a well-planned design allows for growth and changes as the needs of users change and evolve.

By beginning with the logical design, you focus on the information requirements and save the implementation details for later.

Creating a Logical Design

A logical design is conceptual and abstract. You do not deal with the physical implementation details yet.You deal only with defining the types of information that you need.

One echnique you can use to model your organization's logical information requirements is entity-relationship modeling.Entity-relationship modeling involves identifying the things of importance (entities), the properties of these things (attributes), and how they are related to one another (relationships).

The process of logical design involves arranging data into a series of logical relationships called entities and attributes.An entity represents a chunk of information. In relational databases, an entity often maps to a table. An attribute is a component of an entity that helps define the uniqueness of the entity. In relational databases, an attribute maps to a column.

To be sure that your data is consistent, you need to use unique identifiers. A unique identifier is something you add to tables so that you can differentiate between the same item when it appears in different places. In a physical design, this is usually a primary key.

While entity-relationship diagramming has traditionally been associated with highly normalized models such as OLTP applications, the technique is still useful for data warehouse design in the form of dimensional modeling. In dimensional modeling, instead of seeking to discover atomic units of information (such as entities and attributes) and all of the relationships between them, you identify which information belongs to a central fact table and which information belongs to its associated dimension tables. You identify business subjects or fields of data, define relationships between business subjects, and name the attributes for each subject.

Your logical design should result in a set of entities and attributes corresponding to fact tables and dimension tables and a model of operational data from your source into subject-oriented information in your target data warehouse schema. You can create the logical design using a pen and paper, or you can use a design tool such as Oracle Warehouse Builder (specifically designed to support modeling the ETL process) or Oracle Designer (a general purpose modeling tool).


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