Saturday, June 12, 2004

The meaning of OLAP? 

An analysis of what the increasingly misused OLAP term is supposed to mean

The Codd rules also turned out to be an unsuitable way of detecting ‘OLAP compliance’, so we were forced to create our own definition. It had to be simple, memorable and product-independent, and the resulting definition is the ‘FASMI’ test. The key thing that all OLAP products have in common is multidimensionality, but that is not the only requirement for an OLAP product.

The FASMI test

We wanted to define the characteristics of an OLAP application in a specific way, without dictating how it should be implemented. As our research has shown, there are many ways of implementing OLAP compliant applications, and no single piece of technology should be officially required, or even recommended. Of course, we have studied the technologies used in commercial OLAP products and this report provides many such details. We have suggested in which circumstances one approach or another might be preferred, and have also identified areas where we feel that all the products currently fall short of what we regard as a technology ideal.

Our definition is designed to be short and easy to remember — 12 rules or 18 features are far too many for most people to carry in their heads; we are pleased that we were able to summarize the OLAP definition in just five key words: Fast Analysis of Shared Multidimensional Information — or, FASMI for short.

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