Posted by: Charles Maitland | Wednesday 2 September, 2009

Could Gemini and the Cloud kill the relational data model

A couple of weeks ago I posted the 40th birthday of the Relational Model.

Then yesterday I posted about Microsoft’s Gemini Excel add-in and how I was scared by letting users loose on a Line of Business application.

My fear is driven by the massively complex and changing data models that underpin these applications. Anyone who has had to dig under the hood of applications such as Dynamics GP or NAV will know that even within the basic product the data model is very complex. This complexity is driven by and made worse by the requirement that these applications are configurable and extensible so as to be all things to all people.

wooden toy gun by woodleywonderworks.

Some of this complexity in some applications can be hidden through clever APIs and views. Microsoft CRM does this by creating views that users are supposed to point to but even these can be very confusing and overly complex for all but the most data savvy.

So my first conclusion was that users must be protected from the big nasty beast that is the application data model and be pointed instead to the nice soft data warehouse/cube where clever consultants have wrapped the complexity in candy floss.

However, on reviewing some other notes I have made on Gemini I have come up  with an off the cuff new idea.

Gemini seems to me to be very well suited to a star type schema. In addition to this from the VERY little I know about the world of cloud databases and massively parallel data processing they are also very effective at processing denormalised data.

Conclusion

So as a conclusion to this ramble I can envisage that the existence of Gemini will drive users to expect their business applications to present their data in a nice simple fashion and the existence of cloud data processing will force, through the nature of economics, business applications to flatten their data models and these 2 combined will force a sea change in the way Applications are written.

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Responses

  1. Can you expand more on your fears in future posts? I’m really curious to see what really will happen to intelligent people if they are allowed to muck with data models.

    See also some of my pre-vacation thoughts:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/petereb/archive/2009/08/26/gemini-cures-cancer-not.aspx
    and
    http://blogs.msdn.com/petereb/archive/2009/08/29/gemini-destroys-the-world-not.aspx

    At some level I just don’t understand this gut reaction that business users are going to screw everything up. Don’t you expect people to ask questions like why don’t your figures align with the report I get from IT in my inbox? Or is the assumption that nobody will use the expensive solutions anymore?

    My real fear is that your fears are warranted but I have a completely different foundation: that decision makers don’t understand data. Not that they don’t understand the data model — which is probably the case if it is LOB systems since I don’t. My fear is that they don’t know how to compare two data points; that they fundamentally lack critical thinking skills. But that problem goes far far beyond what Gemini is addressing. My hope is that you hire strong critical thinkers and they can achieve results using Gemini that are simply too expensive to send back to IT/consultants. Or that provide a great mechanism to show IT/consultants what the finance folks need in an example fashion.

    Again, though like my posts say, while not on the Gemini team, I clearly suffer from the inside the borg viewpoint….


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