What are data warehouses and why do they matter?

By the end of 2021, more than half of all enterprise data will be hosted on the cloud. For SMBs, more than two-thirds of all business data will be stored in public clouds. And the pandemic has only accelerated that transformation: nine out of 10 organizations say their use of cloud-based data and workflow management has increased during the COVID-19 crisis. 

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But despite this trend, most enterprise analytics — with the notable exception of CRM functions — have historically been handled on-premises, not in the cloud. As recently as 2016, less than 7% of data analytics was handled in the cloud; last year, the number was around 30% — better, but still a long way from realizing the full potential of cloud-based analytics.

But things are changing. According to Gartner, two-thirds of data analytics will take place in the cloud by 2024. With better technologies, new market pressures, easier implementation, and clearer benefits from cloud-based solutions, a growing number of businesses — from cloud-savvy SMBs to forward-thinking enterprise players — are looking to migrate not just their data but also their core analytics into the cloud.

Part of the reason that these technologies have matured so rapidly is that data warehouses are delivering unprecedented technological advantages to enable the shift to the cloud. Using big data to drive decision-making isn’t easy — but data warehousing now allows organizations to use SQL with zero data movement required, making it far easier to access and analyze data in the cloud

Understanding data warehousing

What is a data warehouse, and why is efficient warehousing a game-changer for enterprises? Well, imagine your data is just sitting in an undifferentiated pile. Hard to get much intelligence out of that, right? But now imagine that it’s neatly organized by subject or by data type, and that you’ve got a helpful warehouse worker who’ll instantly pull the specific bits of data you need whenever you need them. That’s really the promise of data warehousing: instant access to the data you need, with no fuss and no hassle.

At its core, then, a data warehouse is simply a way of organizing data, usually in hierarchical files and folders, to support its use in business intelligence and analytics applications. A well-organized warehouse lets you search for data by subject or functional area; integrate data from many different sources in useful ways; and explore the way data changes over time to identify trends or make predictions. Crucially, data warehouses are also stable environments: once your data’s in a warehouse, it doesn’t change or degrade.

Why are most enterprises finally embracing cloud analytics? Read the ebook

Data warehouses are modern BI tools

The modern cloud-based BI stack is lighter, cheaper, more agile and doesn’t require highly skilled technicians to maintain and use. Many areas of a cloud-based system are handled invisibly by your cloud provider, meaning that your engineers can stop fretting about keeping near-obsolete legacy infrastructure operational, or keeping insecure network systems properly patched, and focus on tasks that deliver real value for your organization. That often makes cloud tools not just cheaper to set up, but also more affordable over the long haul.

Data warehouses also offer “elasticity” that legacy and on-premise deployments simply can’t match. The more your data needs grow, the more you’ll appreciate having a cloud solution that comes with built-in, pay-for-what-you-use scalability. If your needs change, you won’t have built out fixed assets that will need to be scrapped or laboriously overhauled; a few clicks of a button, and you’ll be where you need to be. 

Finally, because cloud-based data — and the services that leverage it, such as cloud analytics — are typically delivered using SaaS models, you’ll be free to switch providers if your current vendor doesn’t consistently deliver the goods. That means you can typically count on getting far more customer support than you’d get with on-premises services and hardware, including far more hands-on troubleshooting and the ability to request new features to support your growing business.

Why warehousing matters

Cloud-based data warehousing offers certain key advantages over conventional on-site warehousing infrastructure. For one thing, cloud-based warehouses are inherently scalable: no matter how much data you gather, or how rapidly it arrives, or how many disparate sources you need to collect data from, your warehouse will always be there for you. Cloud-based systems are also easy to access, regardless of where you’re working from, and can be managed and maintained easily and cost-effectively.

The maturity of cloud-based data warehousing is making it possible to access and use data with agility and scale, compiling vast amounts of data into properly formatted and easy to search or manipulate archives. Companies can now draw on popular tools including Amazon Redshift, Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Snowflake, Google BigQuery, and more. These solutions reduce the cost and complexity of data warehousing, opening the door to cloud analytics for companies of all sizes.

Cloud-based data warehousing combined with effective cloud analytics allow businesses to use affordable and flexible SaaS tools to build out sophisticated data infrastructure that would previously have required expensive hardware and software investments and maintenance. 

Are you ready to make the jump?

Here at Toucan, we think bringing data analytics to the cloud is the right move for most enterprises. But we know how daunting structural changes of this scale can be. This is why we’ve written an ebook to help you determine if it’s the right time for you too. You can read it for free over here.

 

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