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Classifying data warehouse vendors

It appears that some 'data warehouse' solutions such as Crystal provide analysis and reporting tools without a central repository for all the data from disparate corporate databases. Have I understood how these solutions work so that I can classify some vendors as 'virtual data warehouse solutions' and others as real warehouse solutions?

That's correct. You need the database(s) to put the data and the means to get the data there as well as tools to facilitate getting the data out and using it.

The best way to classify the vendor offerings is:
  1. ETL -- Data movement (Extraction, Transformation and Loading)
  2. Data Management -- The database management systems
  3. Data Access tools and applications -- what to do with the data
  4. Data Modeling Tools -- Tools to facilitate the development of the data model(s) in the data warehouse environment
  5. Data Repository -- The RDBMS where the "metadata" is stored (I note you used repository to refer to the data warehouse. This is common but repository actually has this other meaning).
Take a look at how SearchCRM has classified the space on their website:
> Customer Data Issues
> Data Management
> Intro to BI
> Enterprise Information Portals
> Knowledge Management
> Decision Support Systems
> Reporting
> CRM Analytics
> Clickstream analytics
> Data quality
> Data mining

There's also a strong trend towards packaging two or more of these components into one offering. You can see some of my comments on this in my last few articles at: www.mcknight-associates.com/articles.

For more information, check out SearchCRM's Best Web Links on Data Warehousing.

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Are there any other products besides Crystal that have this virtual ability?
Also very interested in this topic!
You've provided a lot of good information on this topic.
Thanks for this!
Definitely. Hoping for more coverage on this topic in the future.