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The first 30 years of the Data Warehouse

It was February 1998 when an article was published in the IBM System Journal, Volume 27, Number 1:

“An architecture for a business and information system”

The article was published by B. A. Devlin and P. T. Murphy and had the following abstract:

The transaction-processing environment in which companies maintain their operational databases was the original target for computerization and is now well understood. On the other hand, access to company information on a large scale by an end user for reporting and data analysis is relatively new. Within IBM, the computerization of informational systems is progressing, driven by business needs and by the availability of improved tools for accessing the company data. It is now apparent that an architecture is needed to draw together the various strands of informational system activity within the company. IBM Europe, Middle East, and Africa (E/ME/A) has adopted an architecture called the E/ME/A Business Information System (EBIS) architecture as the strategic direction for informational systems. EBIS proposes an integrated warehouse of company data based firmly in the relational database environment. End-user access to this warehouse is simplified by a consistent set of tools provided by an end-user interface and supported by a business data directory that describes the information available in user terms. This paper describes the background and components of the architecture of EBIS.

Dr. Barry Devlin defined the first data warehouse architecture in 1985 and is among the world’s foremost authorities on BI, big data, and beyond. His 2013 book, Business unIntelligence, offers a new architecture for modern information use and management.

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About the 30th Data Warehouse anniversary, Devlin published a post on TDWI:

Data Warehousing: Thirty Years Old and Still Delivering Value

This year marks the 30th birthday of the data warehouse. It was way back in 1986 when I and colleagues in IBM Europe defined the first architecture for internal use in managing sales and delivery of such exotic machines as System/370 mainframes and System/38 minicomputers. The architecture was subsequently described in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988.

This technology, as well as state-of-the-art PCs running DOS 3.3 on Intel 80286-based machines with disks as large as 20 MB, shows just how much the world has changed in the intervening period. Today’s smartphones are more powerful than the mainframes of that era, yet the data warehouse architecture changed very little. The architecture shown in the figure below, dating from the mid-1990s, is functionally equivalent to that defined 10 years earlier and remains the basis for many data warehouse designs today.

Thirty years ago, Devlin already identified the foundations of today’s data warehousing, like:

Users can now focus on the use of the information rather than on how to obtain it.

After thirty years, have we succeeded in this undertaking? What do you think?

To read the full article from the IMB System Journal, please download it from the following link:

An architecture for a business and information system – Devlin

Here’s the Devlin book on Business Intelligence:


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