Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and its closest identifiable alter-ego “Web Services” is another example of hyped-up, much maligned technology buzzword that takes at least 2 or 3 slides in any “bleeding-edge” technology presentation. Having said that, whatever I have investigated on Service Oriented Architectural concepts till now, is enough to warrant its listing as enabler no. 4 for Business Intelligence Utopia.
There are many powerful ways through which SOA can add significant value to the BI environment. The kind of BI, performance management and data integration artifacts that can be developed and published as web services include: Queries, Reports, OLAP slice services (MDX queries), Scoring and predictive models, Alerts, Scorecards, Budgets, Plans, BAM agents, Decisions (i.e., automated decision services), Data integration workflows, Federated queries and much more. You can get more information at the link: http://www.b-eye-network.co.uk/view-articles/4729
But the idea that fascinates me with respect to BI on SOA, is the concept of “Analytical Smorgasbord”. Imagine a scenario where the business user can assemble their own analytical components from a mélange of available ones, resulting in complete customization of information for the user to take his/her decisions. Each of these available analytical components is self-contained and performs a particular piece of BI functionality. These components are ‘Web-Services’ and the SOA in such an enterprise is all about –
a) How are these components created?
b) How do the components interact?
c) How is the information published and consumed, in a secure manner?
The concept of “Analytical Smorgasbord” truly empowers the business users and is a powerful way to enable, what Gartner terms, as “Information Democracy” in the enterprise. It is important to note that the concept of analytical aggregation changes the Data Warehousing paradigm in a profound way – From “Pulling data” to “Seeking data”. In more simplistic terms, the end-user analytics should go and fetch data wherever it is rather than expecting all data to be consolidated into one data repository (typically a data warehouse or data mart). More on this in future posts, under the topic of “Guided Analytics”.
The true intent of this post is to encourage the BI community to start looking at SOA from the end-user analytical standpoint, so that web-services does not remain a mere technology toy but really helps in “Putting the business back in BI” – http://www.tdwi.org/Publications/display.aspx?id=7913
I have intentionally left out the technology details related to SOA. You can find wonderful resources on the web like this one: http://www.dmreview.com/portals/portal.cfm?topicId=1035908 It is becoming increasingly important for BI practitioners to acquire/develop knowledge on Web technologies, XML, SOAP, UDDI, etc. as different domains are converging at a rapid pace..
Enabler 4 in the “Power of Ten” is more precisely defined as – Service Oriented Architecture enabling the creation of BI “Analytical Smorgasbord”.