Paul Schuliger, Business Intelligence Consultant, Key2 Consulting
By: Paul Schuliger
The rise of NoSQL databases has brought about the ability to quickly and easily receive or retrieve data and store it without a predefined schema. This is great, but I would argue that although the data can be stored without a schema, the data is not necessarily ready for reporting. A well-thought-out model to provide the correct reporting to the data’s end users is still needed.

I’ve been hearing from both colleagues and customers that the new NoSQL database technology may signal the end of dimensional modeling.

Can this be? Is dimensional modeling no longer relevant? Is it losing its value?

Let’s take a quick look.

First, what is Dimensional Modeling?

The Data Warehouse Institute’s (TWDI) 101 Guide to Dimensional Modeling gives a solid overview of dimensional modeling and defines it as follows:

“…Dimensional modeling is one of the methods of data modeling that help us store the data in such a way that it is relatively easy to retrieve the data from the database…”

While there’s certainly more to dimensional modeling, that definition does a good job of explaining its purpose. If you are interested in learning more, be sure to read anything from Ralph Kimball’s organization. And if your knowledge is fairly advanced, I highly recommend reading Kimball’s Dimensional Modeling Techniques.
So, back to our question…is dimensional modeling still relevant?

The Value of Dimensional Modeling Is Actually Increasing

Chris Adamson from TDWI (Transforming Data With Intelligence) wrote an excellent article last year titled, “Dimensional Models in the Big Data Era.” His first statement in the article declares the following:

“Technological advances have enabled a breathtaking expansion in the breadth of our BI and analytics solutions. On the surface, many of these technologies appear to threaten the relevance of models in general and of the dimensional model in particular. However, a deeper look reveals that the value of the dimensional model rises with the adoption of big data technologies.”

In other words, according to Chris, the value of dimensional models is not decreasing. It’s increasing.

Dimensional Modeling is Inevitable

Another TDWI article, written by Steve Swoyer, describes the need for modeling in the world of Big Data and NoSQL databases. Here’s one of the key points from his article:

“There’s an iron law of data management: if you want to do anything with data, you’re eventually going to have to derive, impute, or invent schema. You have to model data.”

In other words, dimensional modeling is an inevitable part of the data management process.

Our Thoughts

We (as a company) believe that dimensional modeling is a very important component of modern data management processes, and we consider it highly relevant to sound data warehousing. In fact, a key part of our analytics/data warehousing framework that we use to serve many of our clients entails dimensional modeling for reporting and analytics. If you’d like to learn more about our framework, feel free to contact us anytime via phone 678-835-8539 or email [email protected].


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Key2 Consulting is a data warehousing and business intelligence company located in Atlanta, Georgia. We create and deliver custom data warehouse solutions, business intelligence solutions, and custom applications.