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What should I do to take up a career in data warehousing?

I am now an Oracle DBA in a small Set-up. What should I do to take up a career in Data Warehousing? Tell me areas I should specialize to become a Data Warehousing Specialist.

The transition from a traditional operational DBA to a data warehouse DBA is an exciting one. I was originally an operational DBA supporting operational systems. I have since transitioned into being focused on data warehousing.

In your case it is important to understand that there is a clear direction that you should take to make this transition. It is important for one to understand that when entering the data warehouse arena that you need to see that the warehouse is built based on a business functions, not on information requirements. This is singularly the biggest change of thinking that you will need to make. To see this I would recommend that you read books on data warehouse design. One such book would be Ralph Kimball's Data Warehouse Lifecycle book. This book guides you through the way to collect requirements and then translate them into information stores. As well you will find that designing data warehouses are a paradigm shift in data base design. I joke that data warehouse designers are "less normal" than OLTP designers. This is a statement that is based in fact, as you will find that you are no longer looking at 3rd Normal Form (3NF) data structures. Instead you may opt of more denormalized or star/dimensional models. This one factor alone makes it difficult to make the transition, but once you get your mind around the change in your information approach you will start to see that data warehouse design is a very intuitive design approach.

From the DBA-side, you should look at the features that your enterprise database will support in a data warehouse environment. Numerous databases today include a significant number of features that directly address data warehousing. If we look at Oracle, we see that it has numerous features that the data warehouse DBA may take advantage of. For example, Oracle supports data and index partitioning, star query processing and it has extended SQL to include a number of analytical functions. While SQL Server has included in it Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL) services within the product set. While DB2 has a number of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) functions within the kernel of the database. So it is important to look at what you have (in your case Oracle) or a product that you may be considering and investigate what features would aid you in your data warehouse implementation.

You have asked a simple question that does not have a simple answer. On one hand you must understand where your data is going to come from, the need within the business for the information, the capabilities to design a database that will support current business needs, while still providing significant flexibility to adapt to changing business needs and a understanding of your database platform so that you can leverage functionality to make your data warehouse run better. These are all issues you need to address when you are making the transition, however based on current research showing us that data warehouses are showing the greatest growth in system development, it is important to make the transition or at least add to your knowledge base to include the data warehousing lifecycle in your DBA toolkit.

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