IBM welds OLAP, data mining

Continuing the trend of packing more business intelligence functionality into the database, IBM Corp. on May 2 announced it has released DB2 OLAP Server 8.1.

The new software pulls together what Armonk N.Y.-based IBM calls “hybrid analysis” and OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) with data mining technology. Hybrid analysis is the combination of relational and multidimensional data, such as OLAP cubes, according to Jeff Jones, senior program manager of IBM data management solutions.

“In the past you’ve had to choose between OLAP and relational data,” Jones said. “Now, customers have control over how to weave together relational storage and multidimensional OLAP data.”

Jones continued that users can more easily find answers to intricate queries, as well as mine for data summaries or broader trends within the data.

The newer model also blends the scalability of the relational data engine with the higher-performing OLAP, Jones added.

Being able to run data mining on both OLAP and relational data boosts the performance of analytics, said Mike Schiff, vice-president of BI (business intelligence) and e-business at Current Analysis Inc., a market research firm based in Sterling, Va.

“Allowing users to combine both relational and multidimensional data will increase the utility of data mining,” Schiff said. “The ability to report from both relational and multidimensional data also makes accessing information easier for users, who could care less where it is stored.”

In addition to Big Blue, its two database archrivals Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. over the past couple of years have been working to increase the strength of their OLAP capabilities. Microsoft started the movement when it pulled OLAP into its SQL Server 7.0.

More recently, Microsoft has been involved with the XML for Analysis Council. The organization was formed to create a protocol that the participating companies hope will become an industry-standard messaging interface for BI. SAS Institute Inc. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. are also behind Microsoft’s efforts, though both companies are supporting JOLAP (Java OLAP) as well. JOLAP, as the name implies, is a Java-based specification for creating and managing data in OLAP servers, and is currently in development within the JCP (Java Community Process). IBM is also behind JOLAP.

Oracle, for its part, integrated OLAP into its 9i database. Previously, it was available as its OLAP tool Express. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company early last month ended Express’ life as a stand-alone product, rechristened it Oracle OLAP, and will make it available as an add-on to Oracle 9i Release 2, due later this month.

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