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The definition of an Operational Data Store (ODS) is a subject-oriented, integrated, volatile collection of current data designed to support the tactical decision-making of an organization. An ODS can also be used as a data hub, used to synchronize data between disparate and unconnected applications within the enterprise.

Let’s breakdown the definition so we can fully understand the ODS. First, we state that an ODS is subject oriented therefore it should be centered around a single business concept, such as a customer or product. Next, we state that an ODS is integrated. Here we are stating that we can pull detailed information from many different transactional systems to create a complete picture of the business concept. This data can come from external sources as well as those from within the organization. The next part of the definition is that an ODS is volatile. This means that the data in the ODS can be updated at any time and there is no history of the changes stored in the ODS. Therefore, unlike a data warehouse, the growth rate of the ODS is linear. Finally, the data is current. Because we update and keep no history, we are assured that whatever we see in the ODS is up-to-date as of the last successful update. Finally, because the ODS contains the current “golden record” for the business concept stored in the ODS we can use this data to synchronize this data to external applications both inside and outside the organization, including as an input to the enterprise data warehouse.

Let’s discuss what an ODS is not. An ODS is not used for strategic analysis, the staging area for a data warehouse or the current, lowest level of detail of the data warehouse. You should not use an ODS for these tasks because, although an ODS is subject-oriented and integrated, an ODS is volatile and current. These two items are in direct contrast with a data warehouse being non-volatile and time-variant. In other words, an ODS only can tell you what you have right now, not what you had yesterday, last week, last month or last year, etc.

In summary, an ODS is a useful, powerful, underutilized tool for the enterprise. In the coming weeks I will dive into the ODS and show you how to design, implement and use this tool to enhance tactical and operational decision-making.

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