Differences Between Operational Database Systems And Data Warehouses

Introduction: Because most people are familiar with commercial relational database systems, it is easy to understand what a data warehouse is by comparing these two kinds of systems.

The major task of on-line operational database systems is to perform on-line transaction and query processing. These systems are called on-line transaction processing (OLTP) systems. They cover most of the day-to-day operations of an organization, such as purchasing, inventory, manufacturing, banking, payroll, registration, and accounting. Data warehouse systems, on the other hand, serve users or knowledge workers in the role of data analysis and decision making. Such systems can organize and present data in various formats in order to accommodate the diverse needs of the different users. These systems are known as on-line analytical processing (OLAP) systems.

The major distinguishing features between OLTP and OLAP are summarized as follows:

Users and system orientation: An OLTP system is customer-oriented and is used for transaction and query processing by clerks, clients, and information technology professionals. An OLAP system is market-oriented and is used for data analysis by knowledge workers, including managers, executives, and analysts.

Data contents: An OLTP system manages current data that, typically, are too detailed to be easily used for decision making. An OLAP system manages large amounts of historical data, provides facilities for summarization and aggregation, and stores and manages information at different levels of granularity. These features make the data easier to use in informed decision making.

Database design: An OLTP system usually adopts an entity-relationship (ER) data model and an application-oriented database design. An OLAP system typically adopts either a star or snowflake model (to be discussed in Section 3.2.2) and a subject oriented database design.

View: An OLTP system focuses mainly on the current data within an enterprise or department, without referring to historical data or data in different organizations. In contrast, an OLAP system often spans multiple versions of a database schema, due to the evolutionary process of an organization. OLAP systems also deal with information that originates from different organizations, integrating information from many data stores. Because of their huge volume, OLAP data are stored on multiple storage media.

Access patterns: The access patterns of an OLTP system consist mainly of short, atomic transactions. Such a system requires concurrency control and recovery mechanisms. However, accesses to OLAP systems are mostly read-only operations (because most data warehouses store historical rather than up-to-date information), although many could be complex queries.