There is a great need for current information in many business applications. In scenarios such as credit card fraud or outbreaks of serious contagious diseases, time is of the essence. However, many data warehouses on which BI solutions are based are loaded overnight, at best. The data you are analyzing is between 8 and 24 hours old. The reasons for this latency are often based on operational efficiencies or the lack of accessibility of the cubes during updates. New features in SQL Server 2005 address many of the issues relating to real-time analysis, and the process of building a real-time solution has been greatly simplified.
In this chapter, real-time design should be thought of as "real-enough" time, not necessarily instantaneous updating. In plenty of situations, latency from a few minutes to hours is more than acceptable, so don't feel your application won't benefit from some real-time features. Even if you just want to do better than the ubiquitous overnight update, this chapter offers you a solution.