Skip to main content
All Posts By

Michael Olschimke

About Non-Functional Requirements

By Scalefree Newsletter 2 Comments
In our trainings and consulting practice, we often pitch the idea of “focusing on the business value” to the audience. Business value in enterprise data warehousing is defined as “something of value to the business” (believe it or not, we believe it should be said sometimes).

Typically, the reason by business setups a budget for the enterprise data warehouse is that they want some reports or dashboards with actionable information.

On the other hand, the most important counter-argument is that the enterprise data warehouse is more than just reports and dashboards. There is actually a lot of more technical components (non-functional requirements) to be built, including but not limited to: Read More

Organization of Information Requirements

By Scalefree Newsletter 5 Comments

Just a Recommendation…how we Organize our Information Requirements


Information is required by business users throughout the industry. However, as part of our consulting engagements, we also encounter a lack of proper description as to what the business user actually needs. 

So, we want to use this article to present the way we structure our information requirements internally at Scalefree as well as the way we do so for many of our customers.

What about User Stories?

We all know user stories from Scrum and many business intelligence projects.
Their structure is typically something that looks like:

As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

The following example represents a typical user story we would receive in a project:

As a <marketing user>, I want <to have an overview report with the number of leads from a marketing channel> so that <I can adjust the marketing budget accordingly>.

Now, what should we do with this user story?
Many details are missing, and yes, we all know about product backlog refinement. The problem is that the user story is just not sufficient enough within business intelligence efforts and some structure might be of help.

Information Requirements

Developers in enterprise data warehousing and business intelligence need much more detail than just the user story. On the other hand, the user story is a good starting point for the information requirement. So, it can be treated as a typical introduction. The overall structure looks like this:
Read More

About Information Marts in Data Vault 2.0

By Scalefree Newsletter No Comments
In the Data Vault 2.0 architecture, information marts are used to deliver information to the end-users.

Conceptually, an information mart follows the same definition as a data mart in legacy data warehousing. However, in legacy data warehousing, a data mart is used to deliver useful information, not raw data. This is why the data mart has been renamed in Data Vault 2.0 to better reflect the use case.

But the definition of information marts has more facets. In the book “Building a Scalable Data Warehouse with Data Vault 2.0” we present three types of marts: Read More

Granularities of Business Vault Entities

By Scalefree Newsletter No Comments
The Business Vault is the layer in the Data Vault 2.0 architecture where business logic is implemented to transform, cleanse and modify the data.

The book “Building a Scalable Data Warehouse with Data Vault 2.0” by Scalefree’s founders Dan Linstedt and Michael Olschimke and the Data Vault 2.0 Boot Camp shows how to implement such business logic using various Business Vault entities, such as computed satellites.

However, it is worth to note that this is only half the story, half the knowledge. The book shows computed satellites (and other entities) with a load date in the primary key of the computed satellite. Such satellites are great for capturing the results from business logic that is applied on the incoming deltas. However, there are two different types of granularities for business logic in the Business Vault: Read More

Achieve Data Lineage in Data Vault 2.0

By Scalefree Newsletter No Comments

One common requirement in data warehouse projects is to provide data lineage from end-to-end. However, custom solutions (for example custom Meta Marts for self-developed Data Vault generators) or tools from different vendors often break such end-to-end data lineage.

Unlike business or technical metadata, which is provided by the business or source applications, process execution metadata is generated by the data warehouse team and provides insights into the ETL processing for maintenance. The data is used by the data warehouse team or by end-users to better understand the data warehouse performance and results presented in the information marts. One type of process execution metadata is the control flow metadata which executes one or more data flows among other tasks. Logging the process execution provides a valuable tool for maintaining or debugging the ETL processes of the data warehouse because it provided information about the data lineage of all elements of the data warehouse.  Read More

Visual Data Vault by Example: Modeling in the Accounting Industry

By Modeling No Comments

With the advent of Data Vault 2.0, which adds architecture and process definitions to the Data Vault 1.0 standard, Dan Linstedt standardized the Data Vault symbols used in modeling. Based on these standardized symbols, the Visual Data Vault (VDV) modeling language was developed, which can be used by EDW architects to build Data Vault models. The authors of the book “Building a Scalable Data Warehouse”, who are the founders of Scalefree, required a visual approach to model the concepts of Data Vault in the book. For this purpose, they developed the graphical modeling language, which focuses on the logical aspects of Data Vault. The Microsoft Visio stencils and a detailed white paper are available on as a free download.

Hubs in Visual Data Vault

Business keys play an important role in every business, because they are referenced by business transactions and relationships between business objects. Whenever a business identifies and tracks business objects, business keys are used throughout business processes. This is one of the reasons why Data Vault is based on the business keys. In Data Vault models, business keys are stored in hub entities. The challenge is to identify the business keys which represent a business object uniquely. That can be just one business key, but also a composite key or a smart key. The first image shows a hub with only one business key attribute:

Here, the attribute Invoice Number is sufficient to identify the invoice. No other attribute is required (such as the invoice year). In other cases, it is not as easy Read More

Hash Keys in the Data Vault

By Architecture 6 Comments

One of the most obvious changes in Data Vault 2.0 is the introduction of hash keys in the model. These hash keys are highly recommended because of the many advantages. Hash keys do not only speed up the loading process; they also ensure that the enterprise data warehouse can span across multiple environments: on-premise databases, Hadoop clusters and cloud storage.

Let’s discuss the performance gain first: to increase the loading procedures, dependencies in the loading process have to be minimized or even eliminated. Back in Data Vault 1.0 sequence numbers were used to identify a business entity and that had to include dependencies during the loading process as a consequence. These dependencies have slowed down the load process what is especially an issue in real-time-feeds. Hubs had to be loaded first before the load process of the satellites and links could start. The intention is to break these dependency by using the hash keys instead of sequence numbers as the primary key.

Business Keys vs Hash Keys

In advance, business keys may be a sequence number created by a single source system, e.g. the customer number. But, business keys can also be a composite key to uniquely identify a business entity, e.g. a flight in the aviation industry is identified by the flight number and the date because the flight number will be reused every day.

In general: a business key is the natural key used by the business to identify a business object.

While using the business keys in Data Vault might be an option, it is actually a slow one, using a lot of storage (even more than hash keys). Especially in links and their dependent satellites, many composite business keys are required to identify the relationship or transaction / event in a link – and to describe it in the satellite. This would require a lot of storage and slow down the loading process because not all database engines have the capability to execute efficient joins on variable length business keys. On the other hand we would have too many columns in the link, because every business key must be a part of the link. The issue at this point is that we also have different data types with different lengths in the links. This issue is exaggerated because it is also required to replicate the business keys into their satellites. To guarantee a consistent join performance, the solution is to combine the business keys into a single column value by using hash functions to calculate a unique representation of a business object.

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)

Due to the independence during the load process of hubs, links and satellites, it is possible to do that all in parallel.

The idea is to use the fact that a hash key is derived from a business key or combination of business keys without the need of a lookup in the a parent table. Therefore, instead of looking up the sequence of a business key in a hub before describing the business key in the satellite, we can just calculate the hash key of the business key. The (correct) implementation of the hash function ensures that the same semantic business key leads to exactly the same hash key, regardless of the target entity loaded. Read More

The Value of Non-Historized Links

By Modeling 18 Comments

When Dan Linstedt, co-founder of Scalefree, invented the Data Vault, he had several goals in mind. One of the goals was to load data as fast as possible from the source into a data warehouse model, process it into information and present it to the business analyst in any desired target structure.

For simplicity and automation, the Data Vault model exists only of three basic entity types:

  1. Hubs: a distinct list of business keys
  2. Links: a distinct list of relationships between business keys
  3. Satellites: descriptive data, that describe the parent (business key or relationship) from a specific context, versioned over time.

Now, as we always teach (and sometimes preach): you can model all enterprise data using these three entity types alone. However, a model using only these entity types would have multiple disadvantages. Many complex joins, storage consumption, ingestion performance and missed opportunities for virtualization.

The solution? Adding a little more nuts and bolts to the core entity types of the Data Vault in order to cope with these issues. One of the nuts and bolts is the non-historized link, also known as Transaction Link:

In this example, Sales is a non-historized link that captures sales transactions of a customer, related to a store. The goal of the non-historized link is to ensure high performance on the way into the data warehouse and on the way out. Don’t forget, the ultimate goal of data warehousing is to build a data warehouse not just model it. And building a data warehouse involves much more than just the model: it requires people, processes, and technology. Read More