Key differences between an OLTP system and a data warehouse.

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One major difference between the types of system is that data warehouses are not usually in third normal form (3NF), a type of data normalization common in OLTP environments.

Data warehouses and OLTP systems have very different requirements. Here are some examples of differences between typical data warehouses and OLTP systems

Workload

Data warehouses are designed to accommodate ad hoc queries and data analysis. You might not know the workload of your data warehouse in advance, so a data warehouse should be optimized to perform well for a wide variety of possible query and analytical operations.

OLTP systems support only predefined operations. Your applications might be specifically tuned or designed to support only these operations.

Data modifications

A data warehouse is updated on a regular basis by the ETL process (run nightly or weekly) using bulk data modification techniques. The end users of a data warehouse do not directly update the data warehouse except when using analytical tools, such as data mining, to make predictions with associated probabilities, assign customers to market segments, and develop customer profiles.

In OLTP systems, end users routinely issue individual data modification statements to the database. The OLTP database is always up to date, and reflects the current state of each business transaction.

Schema design

Data warehouses often use denormalized or partially denormalized schemas (such as a star schema) to optimize query and analytical performance.

OLTP systems often use fully normalized schemas to optimize update/insert/delete performance, and to guarantee data consistency.

Typical operations

A typical data warehouse query scans thousands or millions of rows. For example, “Find the total sales for all customers last month.”

A typical OLTP operation accesses only a handful of records. For example, “Retrieve the current order for this customer.”

Historical data

Data warehouses usually store many months or years of data. This is to support historical analysis and reporting.

OLTP systems usually store data from only a few weeks or months. The OLTP system stores only historical data as needed to successfully meet the requirements of the current transaction.