CATEGORY: Query & Reporting and OLAP

REVIEWER: Shinji Matsumoto, vice president of marketing for IAF Software, Inc.

BACKGROUND: IAF Software specializes in developing OLAP, analytic applications and data warehousing solutions to help our customers make valuable corporate data more accessible to business users. IAF Software also provides consulting services, such as project management, data design and implementation, to ensure successful deployment of BI solutions.

PLATFORMS: IAF is currently running Oracle9i Enterprise Edition with the Oracle9i OLAP Option on Sun Solaris, Oracle9iAS on Windows 2000 server, and JDeveloper9i with BI Beans on Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: IAF's customers needed the high-end analytic functionality found in standalone multidimensional databases along with the manageability and scalability of a world-class relational database. We also wanted to eliminate the extra costs associated with the management of standalone multidimensional databases. We needed a cost effective, scalable foundation to build and deploy powerful enterprise analytical solutions, faster and more cost effectively. As a relational-multidimensional database, the OLAP option to the Oracle9i Release 2 database satisfies all of these needs. Combining Oracle9i OLAP and our own meta data management technologies, we can now deliver the advanced analytics our customers require on a database platform that is more manageable and more scalable than traditional multidimensional databases.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Oracle9i OLAP addresses the full spectrum of our customers' analytic requirements by providing a substantial inventory of analytic functions such as aggregations, allocations, forecasting and regression, mathematical and statistical, time series and custom dimension members to support complex multidimensional analysis. With Oracle9i OLAP, our customers can now ask complex types of questions of their business such as "For each geographical region, what is the percent change in unit profit for this half year as compared to the prior half year where my top 10 products based on contribution growth for the most recent three months as compared to the corresponding three- month period last year?" Because Oracle9i includes both a multidimensional calculation engine and multidimensional data types, our customers can now execute multidimensional queries directly in the Oracle9i database engine – no specialized analytical server is required. In addition, the multidimensional data types and calculations can be queried via SQL.

STRENGTHS: What differentiates the OLAP option to the Oracle9i database from other OLAP servers on the market is that our customers no longer have to move data into separate multidimensional servers in order to perform complex analysis. When our customers need to perform simple queries against data in relational tables, they use the relational data store of Oracle9i database. When they need to execute more complex queries, they exploit the multidimensional data store (called analytic workspace) in Oracle9i database. With multidimensional data types stored directly in the database, all multidimensional calculations on this data are executed directly inside the Oracle database engine, so our customers now benefit from Oracle9i RDBMs security, scalability and reliability. Because the step of moving data has been eliminated, our customers get faster access to their data and make business decisions more quickly.

WEAKNESSES: Oracle has provided enhancements to Oracle Enterprise Manager which is used to manage Oracle9i OLAP. However, it currently only supports mapping between the OLAP Catalog and a simple star or snowflake schema with level-based dimension tables.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Oracle DBAs can manage Oracle9i OLAP without dedicated training compared to other vendors' traditional standalone OLAP servers. Oracle DBAs only have one server and security model to maintain and can leverage their SQL knowledge. Using JDeveloper BI Beans, developers can quickly deploy powerful, analytic applications or use the standard Java language for development.

DELIVERABLES: Oracle9i OLAP and its development tools provide multidimensional analytical reporting and predictive analysis applications that are required by our customers, in addition to their current standard reports or ad hoc query and reporting.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Oracle support analysts supported IAF via MetaLink, Oracle's Web support service. Analysts escalated the critical issues to the development team quickly as possible.

DOCUMENTATION: Oracle provided adequate documents by PDF file through the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) Web site. The documents are organized and contain useful sample codes.

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