The representation of time in data warehouses

Todman, Christopher Derek (1999). The representation of time in data warehouses. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis researches the problems concerning the specification and implementation of the temporal requirements in data warehouses. The thesis focuses on two areas, firstly, the methods for identifying and capturing the business information needs and associated temporal requirements at the conceptual level and; secondly, methods for classifying and implementing the requirements at the logical level using the relational model.

At the conceptual level, eight candidate methodologies were investigated to examine their suitability for the creation of data models that are appropriate for a data warehouse. The methods were evaluated to assess their representation of time, their ability to reflect the dimensional nature of data warehouse models and their simplicity of use. The research found that none of the methods under review fully satisfied the criteria.

At the logical level, the research concluded that the methods widely used in current practice result in data structures that are either incapable of answering some very basic questions involving history or that return inaccurate results.

Specific proposals are made in three areas. Firstly, a new conceptual model is described that is designed to capture the information requirements for dimensional models and has full support for time. Secondly, a new approach at the logical level is proposed. It provides the data structures that enable the requirements captured in the conceptual model to be implemented, thus enabling the historical questions to be answered simply and accurately. Thirdly, a set of rules is developed to help minimise the inaccuracy caused by time.

A guide has been produced that provides practitioners with the tools and instructions on how to implement data warehouses using the methods developed in the thesis.

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