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IntelligentEnterprise: "The SQL Of OLAP"
October 12, 2004
Mark Rittman

The SQL Of OLAP: "When considering online analytic processing (OLAP), architects often focus on issues such as which dimensions to include, what facts are relevant, how often to refresh the data contents, and so on. Among these issues, the OLAP language is often overlooked. And of all the OLAP-centric languages, the most often ignored is SQL itself. To overlook the language of your OLAP technology solution is to ignore its real strength, or weakness, because this language dictates your applications' flexibility and complexity.

Many aspects of OLAP are already integrated with the relational database engine. This blending of technology blurs the distinction between an RDBMS and OLAP data management technology, effectively challenging the passive role often relegated to relational databases with regard to dimensional data. The more your RDBMS can address the needs of both normalized (traditional relational data and related techniques and technology) and denormalized (dimensional/OLAP-centric techniques and technology above and beyond star schemas) data, then the more you can realize the genuine value-add for OLAP-only technology: providing an environment to perform end-user interrogation of a data set instead of the heavy lifting associated with OLAP data management. Leveraging your investment in RDBMS technology, skills, and resources to fill dual roles not only makes for more efficient administration, but also minimizes the needed investment in OLAP-only technology."

What they're talking about here is relational OLAP (ROLAP) extensions to SQL, the kind that were introduced as 'analytic' extensions to SQL with Oracle 8i Enterprise Edition. Of course, with Oracle 9i and 10g this has been extended to provide SQL access to multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP) data, the definitive paper on this being Bud Endress' SQL Access to Multidimensional Data Types in Oracle9i Database Release2 available on OTN.



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