Friday Nov 20, 2015

Review of Data Warehousing and Big Data at #oow15

DW BigData Review Of OOW15

This year OpenWorld was bigger, more exciting and packed with sessions about the very latest technology and product features. Most importantly, both data warehousing and Big Data were at the heart of this year’s conference across a number of keynotes and a huge number of general sessions. Our hands-on labs were all completely full as people got valuable hands-on time with our most important new features. The key focus areas at this year’s conference were:
  • Database 12c for Data Warehousing
  • Big Data and the Internet of Things 
  • Cloud from on-premise to on the Cloud to running hybrid Cloud systems
  • Analytics and SQL continues to evolve to enable more and more complex analysis. 
All these topics appeared across the main keynote sessions including live on-stage demonstrations of how many of our news features can be used to increase the performance and analytical capability of your data warehouse and big data management system - checkout the on-demand videos for the keynotes and executive interviews....
[Read More]

Tuesday Mar 03, 2015

Are you leveraging Oracle's database innovations for Cloud and Big data?

If you are interested in big data, Hadoop, SQL and data warehousing then mark your calendars because on March 18th at 10:00AM PST/1:00PM EST, you will be able to hear Tom Kyte (Oracle Database Architect) talk about how you can use Oracle Big Data SQL to seamlessly integrate all your Hadoop big data datasets with your relational schemas stored in Oracle Database 12c. As part of this discussion Tom will outline how you can build the perfect foundation for your enterprise big data management system using Oracle's innovative technology.

If you are working on a data warehousing project and/or a big data project then this is one webcast you will not want to miss so register today (click here) to hear the latest about Oracle Database innovations and best practices. The full list of speakers is:

Tom Kyte
Oracle Database Architect
Keith Wilcox
VP, Database Administration
Bill Callahan
Director, Principal Engineer,
CCC Information Services, Inc.

Tuesday Nov 11, 2014

Optimizing Table Scans with Zone Maps

Most of you will be familiar with partition pruning, where the Oracle Database will avoid the need to scan table and index partitions based on query predicates. This optimization is transparent to your application, but for it to work, the database has to find a way of mapping a query filter predicate to the partitioning key column (or columns). Partition pruning can only occur if the query has predicates that match the predetermined shape of a partitioned object. For example, a query on a SALES table partitioned by ORDER_DATE will need to include ORDER_DATE in a join or WHERE clause for it to be optimized by partition pruning.

What if you could do better than this? What if you could prune partitions using a variety of column predicates and dimension hierarchies, irrespective of their appearance in the partitioning key? How about pruning at a much finer level of granularity than a partition? Perhaps we want to optimize queries that filter SALES by SHIP_DATE, STATE and COUNTY, as well as ORDER_DATE. The new Oracle zone map feature is designed to achieve this, and just like partitioning, zone maps are transparent to your queries; you don’t have to change your applications to make use of them.

Zone maps are available in Oracle Database 12c for Oracle Engineered Systems. Conceptually, they divide a table up into contiguous regions of blocks called zones (the default zone size being 1024 blocks). For each zone, the Oracle database records the minimum and maximum values for specified columns using a new database object called a zone map. Queries that filter on zone map columns have the potential to be optimized; it’s possible to prune zones that contain ranges of column values outside the match specified in the query predicate.

Consider a query that filters a sales table by (North American) state; in this case “CA”. A zone map on the STATE column will record the minimum and maximum values for this column for each zone in the table. This makes it possible to skip the zones that we can be certain won’t contain rows for “CA”.

Zone Map Representation

You are probably aware that Exadata storage cells and the Oracle database In-Memory Column Store uses similar storage index techniques, so what benefits do zone maps add? Besides the fact that you can control zone maps explicitly, the most significant difference between zone maps and storage indexes is that zone maps can be used to prune zones using column predicates from multiple (joined) tables. Consider a more realistic scenario, in which the SALES table doesn’t have a STATE column, but instead has a LOCATION_ID referencing a dimension table called LOCATIONS. This is our query for summing the sales figures in California:

SELECT SUM(amount)
FROM   sales     s,
       locations l
WHERE  s.location_id = l.location_id
AND    l.state = 'CA';

It would be great if we could avoid scanning zones in SALES that don’t contain rows associated with “CA”. Before we look at how we can do this, we’ll make the scenario even more realistic by assuming that LOCATIONS is a dimensional hierarchy of State and County, like this:

Zone Map Locations Table Example

 Each State is made up of multiple Counties, so “CA” will be associated with multiple LOCATION_ID values. If we want the “CA” rows in SALES, we’ll need to match the ones marked below in bold/red:

Zone Map Sales Table Example

If we want to optimize a scan for “CA” rows, we will have to address a few issues:

  • The SALES table does not have a STATE column, so no storage index structure on SALESs data will allow us to directly prune disk regions based on “CA”.
  • Table rows associated with “CA” are likely to be physically scattered throughout the SALES table, so it’s unlikely that these rows will be confined to a relatively small number of zones or disk regions. We might not be able to make efficient use of an Exadata storage index on SALES.LOCATION_ID, if any (note that I am consciously ignoring the push down of BLOOM FILTERs to Exadata here, which still suffers from the physical scattering).
  • A SALES storage index based on min/max Location ID is likely to be less efficient than using zones based on min/max State values, simply because each State is made up of multiple Location IDs. This inefficiency is more pronounced if Location IDs for “CA” are not numerically close to one another - it will reduce the chances that the Location IDs we’re searching for will be found within the same min/max Location ID regions.

Of course, zone maps are designed to address these issues - with a little bit of help from another Oracle Database 12c feature called attribute clustering.  I introduced attribute clustering in an earlier post, but don’t worry if you haven’t read that yet; I’ll cover the basics here anyway. You’ve probably deduced that we can reduce the number of zones that contain “CA” rows if we cluster or sort the rows in SALES, keeping these rows close to one another, like this:

Table with Zone Map

Attribute clustering is the feature that’s used to cluster the rows together. Zone maps are used to record the min/max values for specified columns for each zone (and this can include column values derived from joins; LOCATIONS.STATE and LOCATIONS.COUNTY in our case).

The following DDL will create a zone map on our SALES fact table using the dimension table columns LOCATIONS.STATE and LOCATIONS.COUNTY. It will also enable attribute clustering, using the same columns to cluster the table’s rows:

JOIN locations ON (sales_ac.location_id = locations.location_id) 
BY LINEAR ORDER (locations.state, locations.county)

The LINEAR ORDER clause specifies a linear clustering algorithm, which is ideal for this example. Another algorithm is available; it is specified with "INTERLEAVED" and is optimized for more complex combinations of query predicates and dimension tables. Note that the definition of attribute clustering by itself does not change any data stored on disk; instead, it provides a directive for direct path operations; INSERT APPEND and MOVE that will physically perform the clustering operation for us. If there are pre-existing rows in SALES, we can MOVE the table (or its partitions) to re-order them.

Joins between SALES and the dimension table are now candidates for optimization when the query includes predicates on the dimension hierarchy “state” and “state, county”. For example:

SELECT SUM(amount)
FROM   sales
JOIN   locations  ON (sales.location_id = locations.location_id) 
WHERE  locations.state  = 'NM';
SELECT SUM(amount)
FROM   sales
JOIN   locations  ON (sales.location_id = locations.location_id) 
WHERE  locations.state  = 'CA'
AND    locations.county = 'Kern';

By clustering the rows and recording appropriate min/max column values for our zones, we have addressed all of the issues I identified above. What’s more, we can still get benefit from Exadata storage indexes because zone maps and storage indexes complement one another, and they work together transparently.

Zone maps are explicitly created and controlled by the database administrator on a table-by-table basis. They are an inherent part of the physical database design and can be thought of as a coarse anti-index structure (unlike an index, a zone map tells you what zones not to access). Zone maps are very compact, and in some cases it is possible to use them where you would otherwise use an index. This is most relevant in data warehousing environments where scanning is often more appropriate than indexed row retrieval, and where indexes can use a considerable amount of storage space. Zone maps must be refreshed to be synchronized with the underlying table data, so you will need to give some consideration to how you want them to be kept up-to-date if you decide to use them as an alternative to indexes.

In summary, take a look at zone maps if you want to:

  • Optimize scanning queries, particular when joining with one or more tables.
  • Reduce your dependency on indexes, particularly in data warehousing environments.
  • Improve performance in your data warehouse; particularly for star or snowflake schemas.

Here’s an example of using zone maps to optimize a table scan. To compare before and after, start by creating a table that has no zone map or attribute clustering:

CREATE TABLE sales_zm (sale_id NUMBER(10), customer_id NUMBER(10));

Insert 8 million rows with the following PL/SQL code. Why that many? With our example, we'll read one or two zones rather than the entire table, so I'm aiming to make the difference pretty obvious when you look at the block read statistics:

  i NUMBER(10);
  FOR i IN 1..80
    INSERT INTO sales_zm
    FROM   dual
    CONNECT BY LEVEL <= 100000;
EXEC dbms_stats.gather_table_stats(ownname=>NULL, tabname=>'SALES_ZM');

Run the following query a few times to see what value “consistent gets” settles at:

FROM   sales_zm
WHERE  customer_id = 50;

On my machine, I read 7,545 blocks from the buffer cache, but since the value depends on some storage defaults don’t be surprised if your value is different:

Before Zone Map

The following DDL will create a zone map, but since attribute clustering is a property of the table (like compression), any existing rows will not be re-ordered:


The zone map will not be efficient until we cluster the rows together, so we’ll MOVE the table to achieve this. This will refresh the zone map too:


Run the same query a few times to see what value “consistent gets” settles at:

FROM   sales_zm
WHERE  customer_id = 50;

On my database, I read around 1,051 database blocks instead of 7,545: a considerable improvement:

After Zone Map

You'll find more examples covering zone maps and attribute clustering in the Oracle Learning Library and inside the Oracle Github repository. Full details on zone maps and attribute clustering can be found in the Oracle documentation library; particularly the Oracle 12c Database Data Warehousing Guide.

There's an earlier post on attribute clustering if you haven't read it already.

If there's anything to need to ask, or if you can't find what you need regarding zone maps or attribute clustering, please let me know by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

Friday Jan 17, 2014

StubHub's Data Scientists reap benefits of integrated approach….

We have released yet another great video customer video, this time with Stubhub.

Many customers are still pulling data out of their data warehouse and shipping it to specialised processing engines so they can mine their data, run spatial analytics and/or built multi-dimensional cubes. The problem with this approach, as the team at Stubhub points out, is that typically when you move the data to these specialised engines you have to work with a subset of the data that is sitting in your data warehouse. When you work with a subset of data you immediately start to impose compromises on your analytical workflows. If you can't work with all your data then you can't be sure that your analytical model is as good as it could be and that could mean losing customers or missing out on additional revenue.

The other problem comes from everyone using their own favourite tool to do their analysis: how do you share your discoveries, how do you develop a high level of corporate-wide analytical skills?

Stubhub asked Oracle to help them resolve these two key problems...

[Read More]

Friday Dec 20, 2013

BAE Systems Choose Big Data Appliance for Critical Projects

Here's another great story about how to use data warehousing and big data technologies to solve real world problems using diverse sets of data using Oracle technology. BAE Systems is taking unstructured, semi-structured, operational and social media data and using it to solve complex problems such as financial crime, cyber security and digital transformation. The volumes of data that BAE deals with are very large and this creates its own set of challenges and problems in terms of optimising hardware and software to work efficiently and effectively together. Although BAE had their own in-house Hadoop experts they chose Oracle Big Data Appliance for their Hadoop cluster because it’s easier, cheaper, and faster to operate.

BAE is working with many telco customers to explore the new areas that are being opened up by the use of big data to manage browsing data and call record data. These data sources are being transformed to provide additional insight for the network operations teams, analysis of customer quality and to drive marketing campaigns.




Click on the image to watch the video, or click here:

Wednesday Dec 11, 2013

dunnhumby increases customer loyalty with Oracle Big Data

dunnhumby presented at this year's OpenWorld where they outlined the how and why of data warehousing on Exadata.  Our engineered system delivered a performance improvement of more than 24x. dunnhumby pushes its data warehouse platform really hard with more than 280 billion fact rows and 250 million dimension rows for one large retailer client alone, dunnhumby’s massive data requires the best performance the industry has to offer.

In Oracle Exadata, dunnhumby has found that solution. Using Oracle Exadata’s advanced Smart Scan technology and robust Oracle Database features. This new environment has empowered its analysts to perform complex ad hoc queries across billions of fact rows and hundreds of millions of dimension rows in minutes or seconds, compared to hours or even days on other platforms. 

You can download the presentation by Philip Moore - Exadata Datawarehouse Architect, Dunnhumby USA LLC -  from the OpenWorld site, see here:

If you missed Philip's session at OpenWorld then we have just released a new video interview with Chris Wones, Director of Data Solutions at dunnhumby. During the interview Chris outlines some of the challenges his team faced when trying to do joined up analytics across disparate and disconnected data sets and how Exadata allowed them to bring everything together so that they could run advanced analytical queries that were just not possible before and that meant being able to bid on completely new types of contracts. The combination of Exadata and Oracle Advanced Analytics are delivering real business benefit to dunnhumby and its customers.

For more information about Oracle's Advanced Analytics option checkout Charlie Berger's advanced analytics blog: and Charlie's twitter feed:

To watch the video click on the image: 


If the video does not start follow this link:

Tuesday Dec 03, 2013

Big Data - Real and Practical Use Cases: Expand the Data Warehouse

As a follow-on to the previous post (here) on use cases, follow the link below to a recording that explains how to go about expanding the data warehouse into a big data platform.

The idea behind it all is to cover a best practice on adding to the existing data warehouse and expanding the system (shown in the figure below) to deal with:

  • Real-Time ingest and reporting on large volumes of data
  • A cost effective strategy to analyze all data across types and at large volumes
  • Deliver SQL access and analytics to all data 
  • Deliver the best query performance to match the business requirements

Roles of the Components

To access the webcast:

  • Register on this page
  • Scroll down and find the session labeled "Best practices for expanding the data warehouse with new big data streams"
  • Have fun
you want the slides, go to slideshare.

Wednesday Nov 27, 2013

Big Data - Real and Practical Use Cases

The goal of this post is to explain in a few succinct patterns how organizations can start to work with big data and identify credible and doable big data projects. This goal is achieved by describing a set of general patterns that can be seen in the market today.
Big Data Usage Patterns
The following usage patterns are derived from actual customer projects across a large number of industries and cross boundaries between commercial enterprises and public sector. These patterns are also geographically applicable and technically feasible with today’s technologies.
This paper will address the following four usage patterns:
  • Data Factory – a pattern that enable an organization to integrate and transform – in a batch method – large diverse data sets before moving this data into an upstream system like an RDBMS or a NoSQL system. Data in the data factory is possibly transient and the focus is on data processing.
  • Data Warehouse Expansion with a Data Reservoir – a pattern that expands the data warehouse with a large scale Hadoop system to capture data at lower grain and higher diversity, which is then fed into upstream systems. Data in the data reservoir is persistent and the focus is on data processing as well as data storage as well as the reuse of data.
  • Information Discovery with a Data Reservoir – a pattern that creates a data reservoir for discovery data marts or discovery systems like Oracle Endeca to tap into a wide range of data elements. The goal is to simplify data acquisition into discovery tools and to initiate discovery on raw data.
  • Closed Loop Recommendation and Analytics system – a pattern that is often considered the holy grail of data systems. This pattern combines both analytics on historical data, event processing or real time actions on current events and closes the loop between the two to continuously improve real time actions based on current and historical event correlation.

Pattern 1: Data Factory

The core business reason to build a Data Factory as it is presented here is to implement a cost savings strategy by placing long-running batch jobs on a cheaper system. The project is often funded by not spending money on the more expensive system – for example by switching Mainframe MIPS off  - and instead leveraging that cost savings to fund the Data Factory. The first figure shows a simplified implementation of the Data Factory.
As the image below shows, the data factory must be scalable, flexible and (more) cost effective for processing the data. The typical system used to build a data factory is Apache Hadoop or in the case of Oracle’s Big Data Appliance – Cloudera’s Distribution including Apache Hadoop (CDH).

data factory

Hadoop (and therefore Big Data Appliance and CDH) offers an extremely scalable environment to process large data volumes (or a large number of small data sets) and jobs. Most typical is the offload of large batch updates, matching and de-duplication jobs etc. Hadoop also offers a very flexible model, where data is interpreted on read, rather than on write. This idea enables a data factory to quickly accommodate all types of data, which can then be processed in programs written in Hive, Pig or MapReduce.
As shown in above the data factory is an integration platform, much like an ETL tool. Data sets land in the data factory, batch jobs process data and this processed data moves into the upstream systems. These upstream systems include RDBMS’s which are then used for various information needs. In the case of a Data Warehouse, this is very close to pattern 2 described below, with the difference that in the data factory data is often transient and removed after the processing is done.
This transient nature of data is not a required feature, but it is often implemented to keep the Hadoop cluster relatively small. The aim is generally to just transform data in a more cost effective manner.
In the case of an upstream system in NoSQL systems, data is often prepared in a specific key-value format to be served up to end applications like a website. NoSQL databases work really well for that purpose, but the batch processing is better left to Hadoop cluster.
It is very common for data to flow in the reverse order or for data from RDBMS or NoSQL databases to flow into the data factory. In most cases this is reference data, like customer master data. In order to process new customer data, this master data is required in the Data Factory.
Because of its low risk profile – the logic of these batch processes is well known and understood – and funding from savings in other systems, the Data Factory is typically an IT department’s first attempt at a big data project. The down side of a Data Factory project is that business users see very little benefits in that they do not get new insights out of big data.

Pattern 2: Data Warehouse Expansion

The common way to drive new insights out of big data is pattern two. Expanding the data warehouse with a data reservoir enables an organization to expand the raw data captured in a system that is able to add agility to the organization. The graphical pattern is shown in below.

DW Expansion

A Data Reservoir – like the Data Factory from Pattern 1 – is based on Hadoop and Oracle Big Data Appliance, but rather then have transient data and just process data and then hand the data off, a Data Reservoir aims to store data at a lower than previously stored grain for a period much longer than previous periods.
The Data Reservoir is initially used to capture data, aggregate new metrics and augment (not replace) the data warehouse with new and expansive KPIs or context information. A very typical addition is the sentiment of a customer towards a product or brand which is added to a customer table in the data warehouse.
The addition of new KPIs or new context information is a continuous process. That is, new analytics on raw and correlated data should find their way into the upstream Data Warehouse on a very, very regular basis.
As the Data Reservoir grows and starts to become known to exist because of the new KPIs or context, users should start to look at the Data Reservoir as an environment to “experiment” and “play” with data. With some rudimentary programming skills power users can start to combine various data elements in the Data Reservoir, using for example Hive. This enables the users to verify a hypotheses without the need to build a new data mart. Hadoop and the Data Reservoir now becomes an economically viable sandbox for power users driving innovation, agility and possibly revenue from hitherto unused data.

Pattern 3: Information Discovery

Agility for power users and expert programmers is one thing, but eventually the goal is to enable business users to discover new and exciting things in the data. Pattern 3 combines the data reservoir with a special information discovery system to provide a Graphical User Interface specifically for data discovery. This GUI emulates in many ways how an end user today searches for information on the internet.
To empower a set of business users to truly discover information, they first and foremost require a Discovery tool. A project should therefore always start with that asset.

Once the Discovery tool (like Oracle Endeca) is in place, it pays to start to leverage the Data Reservoir to feed the Discovery tool. As is shown above, the Data Reservoir is continuously fed with new data. The Discovery tool is a business user’s tool to create ad-hoc data marts in the discovery tool. Having the Data Reservoir simplifies the acquisition by end users because they only need to look in one place for data.
In essence, the Data Reservoir now is used to drive two different systems; the Data Warehouse and the Information Discovery environment and in practice users will very quickly gravitate to the appropriate system. But no matter which system they use, they now have the ability to drive value from data into the organization.

Pattern 4: Closed Loop Recommendation and Analytics System

So far, most of what was discussed was analytics and batch based. But a lot of organizations want to come to some real time interaction model with their end customers (or in the world of the Internet of Things – with other machines and sensors).

Closed Loop System

Hadoop is very good at providing the Data Factory and the Data Reservoir, at providing a sandbox, at providing massive storage and processing capabilities, but it is less good at doing things in real time. Therefore, to build a closed loop recommendation system – which should react in real time – Hadoop is only one of the components .
Typically the bottom half of the last figure is akin to pattern 2 and is used to catch all data, analyze the correlations between recorded events (detected fraud for example) and generate a set of predictive models describing something like “if a, b and c during a transaction – mark as suspect and hand off to an agent”. This model would for example block a credit card transaction.
To make such a system work it is important to use the right technology at both levels. Real time technologies like Oracle NoSQL Database, Oracle Real Time Decisions and Oracle Event Processing work on the data stream in flight. Oracle Big Data Appliance, Oracle Exadata/Database and Oracle Advanced Analytics provide the infrastructure to create, refine and expose the models.


Today’s big data technologies offer a wide variety of capabilities. Leveraging these capabilities with the existing environment and skills already in place according to the four patterns described does enable an organization to benefit from big data today. It is a matter of identifying the applicable pattern for your organization and then to start on the implementation.

The technology is ready. Are you?

Wednesday Nov 06, 2013

Swiss Re increases data warehouse performance and deploys in record time

Great information on yet another data warehouse deployment on Exadata.

A little background on Swiss Re:

In 2002, Swiss Re established a data warehouse for its client markets and products to gather reinsurance information across all organizational units into an integrated structure. The data warehouse provided the basis for reporting at the group level with drill-down capability to individual contracts, while facilitating application integration and data exchange by using common data standards. Initially focusing on property and casualty reinsurance information only, it now includes life and health reinsurance, insurance, and nonlife insurance information.

Key highlights of the benefits that Swiss Re achieved by using Exadata:

  • Reduced the time to feed the data warehouse and generate data marts by 58%
  • Reduced average runtime by 24% for standard reports
  • comfortably loading two data warehouse refreshes per day with incremental feeds
  • Freed up technical experts by significantly minimizing time spent on tuning activities

Most importantly this was one of the fastest project deployments in Swiss Re's history. They went from installation to production in just four months! What is truly surprising is the that it only took two weeks between power-on to testing the machine with full data volumes! Business teams at Swiss Re are now able to fully exploit up-to-date analytics across property, casualty, life, health insurance, and reinsurance lines to identify successful products.

These points are highlighted in the following quotes from Dr. Stephan Gutzwiller, Head of Data Warehouse Services at Swiss Re: 

"We were operating a complete Oracle stack, including servers, storage area network, operating systems, and databases that was well optimized and delivered very good performance over an extended period of time. When a hardware replacement was scheduled for 2012, Oracle Exadata was a natural choice—and the performance increase was impressive. It enabled us to deliver analytics to our internal customers faster, without hiring more IT staff"

“The high quality data that is readily available with Oracle Exadata gives us the insight and agility we need to cater to client needs. We also can continue re-engineering to keep up with the increasing demand without having to grow the organization. This combination creates excellent business value.”

Our full press release is available here: If you want more information about how Exadata can increase the performance of your data warehouse visit our home page:


The data warehouse insider is written by the Oracle product management team and sheds lights on all thing data warehousing and big data.


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