Razumich Essay 2

December 14, 2009

Data Warehouse Storage & Management at Virginia Tech

It’s closer than you think it is. Knowledge Management, ironically defined by Wikipedia, is a range of practices used to identify, create, represent, and distribute experiences that comprise knowledge embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice, is occurring everywhere, everyday.

Whether or not people think that knowledge management is a positive action does not matter anymore. As technology improves we are forced to leave behind our old self and reinvent ourselves in order to survive. A prime example of this lies within the different generations and their knowledge of technology, their ability to function in everyday life situations, and their ability to adapt and keep up with the development of this technology. Data warehouse storage and management facilities are supposed to help this situation and make the progression and understanding of technology easier. These types of facilities exist on many college campuses; here at Virginia Tech, there is a fully functional data warehouse storage and management facility.

A data warehouse storage and management facility is a repository of an organization's electronically stored data. Data warehouses are designed to facilitate reporting and analysis systems (Data). The data warehouse storage and management facility here at Virginia Tech is known as the Enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS) center. The free facility stores Virginia Tech’s initiative research project data. The facility’s group was formed in the Fall of 2008 as a means of addressing the need for storage, hosting of GIS data, and for access and training GIS tools and other resources (Group). The facility’s main focus is to provide data hosting service to Virginia Tech academic and administrative departments as well as to provide other services such as:

  • GIS data hosting and storage
  • Google Earth hosting
  • GIS Web Application hosting (ArcGIS Server, Google Maps)
  • GIS Web Application Consultation
  • Enterprise GIS Software training
  • ESRI License payment for all university departments

Knowledge management is very apparent in such facility services as those previously listed.

The Enterprise GIS group members argue that the center dramatically improves the ease with which the departments can share data. However, knowledge management main concerns revolve around the key issues of who has the power over the data, who can access the data, and how can it be used.
This technologically advanced system enables individual owners of data to upload new additional information while maintaining control; also when the department uploads the data, by default it is only visible to the owner. The group members say that the owners control over their own data is “fully preserved to enable sensitive data to be protected and shared with research collaborators or with administrative project participants on a ‘need to know’ basis” (Group). They limit the accessibility of the data to specific departments or group of users that are “authorized” to view the information. Even though current users are allowed to access the database, the data owners are managing the knowledge and accessibility of their data; they are restricting who can and cannot obtain the information. There are certain control mechanisms within the data warehouse, but who gets to determine what mechanisms are included and how they work?

The Enterprise GIS team members have the main control over the data warehouse storage facility. Since they are the creators of this facility, they have the ability to filter the data, and view the information, whether or not the owner of the data marks the information as private. In other words, the team members of Enterprise GIS can still access the private information that a department member might consider as “confidential”. So, is the data really safe? No, there is always the possibility that human nature can take over and Darwin’s survival of the fittest kicks into action. The information could be leaked or stolen; the depart members are relying on the security of the warehouse systems to keep non-accessed members out, but what about the Enterprise GIS team members? Also, what about the copyright concerns for the information and data? It is possible that the information can be taken, if not copyrighted, and sold to other college campuses or even other facilities. People cannot always rely on people to do the right thing; we are, after all, only humans.

Knowledge is a commodity. The data warehouse stores and manages data for possible future access and use, thus turning the information from something intangible into something obtainable. Although this is a positive thing, and it can help advance knowledge it can also create problems.

The positive aspects of a data warehouse storage and management facility is similar those listed in the Enterprise GIS center ‘s vision statement. The Enterprise GIS Research and Development Administration Group will achieve measurable benefits through:

  • Accelerated Research
  • Enrichment of Education
  • Knowledge Transfer
  • Streamlined Processes

Multiple Virginia Tech departments who are granted access will be able to obtain vast amounts of information for future research, access enriched images and visuals versus descriptions of images, and will be able to benefit communities by utilizing the most current geospatial data, tools, and analysis available for public safety and security interests (Group). However, once again, even though this access of data sounds wonderful and easy, it does have its limitations. It is still being controlled and filtered by a few specific people; which can lead into the topic of who are these people and why should we trust their data and what they provide the public to access?

As defined by Wikipedia, an expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. Are the people who put the information into the Enterprise GIS data warehouse experts? How do we know if they are or if they aren’t? On the Enterprise GIS website (http://www.gis.it.vt.edu/users/) they list the steps of becoming a user as:
VT Departments / Faculty/Staff
Contact Enterprise GIS team

  1. Schedule a meeting with the Enterprise GIS team to discuss planned projects and review Service Level Agreement
  2. Designate departmental GIS liaison and obtain approvals for Service Level Agreement
  3. Sign Service Level Agreement Form
  4. Develop project management plans for each initiative using the GIS system
  5. Set up user authentication/authorization

Once again, how do we know that the data is coming from an expert? Are the Enterprise GIS team members the ones who determine that the data contributors are experts? Even though I cannot personally answer these questions, I hope they are taken into consideration when deciding to use the data from this storage facility.

Knowledge Management is a very debatable subject and data warehouse storage and management facilities are just one example of knowledge management occurring in everyday life. With this one type of knowledge management facility there comes numerous positive and negative possibilities. Future questions that need to be considered are those such as where does the data come from, who gets to contribute, who gets to access the data, are these people experts, is the information accurate, and who gets to have the controlling power? We are human beings with human tendencies. Is it actually possible to knowledge management in a way that will be beneficial to humans and be carried out in a positive manner? As technology develops, like that of the data warehouse storage and management facility at Virginia Tech, I believe that it could be possible.

Works Cited

"Data warehouse -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 10 Dec.
2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_warehouse>.

"Group." Virginia Tech - Enterprise GIS Research and Development Administration.
Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <http://www.gis.it.vt.edu/about/>.

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