What Is OLAP?

What’s your view of OLAP, no value or know value?

On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a category of software technology that enables analysts, managers and executives to gain insight into data through fast, consistent, interactive access to a wide variety of possible views of information that has been transformed from raw data to reflect the real dimensionality of the enterprise as understood by the user.

OLAP functionality is characterized by dynamic, multi-dimensional analysis of consolidated enterprise data supporting end user analytical and navigational activities including:

  • calculations and modeling applied across dimensions, through hierarchies and/or across members
  • trend analysis over sequential time periods
  • slicing subsets for on-screen viewing
  • drill-down to deeper levels of consolidation
  • reach-through to underlying detail data
  • rotation to new dimensional comparisons in the viewing area

OLAP is implemented in a multi-user client/server mode and offers consistently rapid response to queries, regardless of database size and complexity. OLAP helps the user synthesize enterprise information through comparative, personalized viewing, as well as through analysis of historical and projected data in various “what-if” data model scenarios. This is achieved through use of an OLAP Server. *

The preferable front end browser tools for this task include Microsoft Excel and web based browsers.

A vast array of business analysis is conducted through the powerful medium of spreadsheets, but most users know that spreadsheets are restricted in that they generally only allow two dimensions of information to be analyzed. OLAP technology allows the same powerful analytical environment to be applied over several different dimensions simultaneously – in essence, it allows data to be analyzed through multi-dimensional and relational databases. A complete structure of management information can be drawn from business information systems quickly and efficiently, providing revolutionary business analysis that was previously unavailable.

OLAP is a unique technology which can provide users with a major competitive advantage by giving them the ability to view and analyze data not only in any way, but more importantly, in real-time.

OLAP empowers managers to make more informed, faster decisions. They can examine and discover critical business issues while they still have time to act upon them and discover relationships that were previously hidden.

The realm of possibilities for this technology is unlimited – it can be adapted to almost any business application: the management accounting process, reporting, marketing, sales analysis, stock control, balanced scorecard applications, matrix management… even to real-time risk management.

Types of OLAP

There are three main types of OLAP, namely MOLAP, ROLAP and HOLAP.

  • MOLAP – Multidimensional OLAP stores the OLAP summary information in efficiently structured data files. MOLAP cubes normally provide the best level of performance. Whether the calculated items are stored within these structures, will depend on the OLAP product being used.
  • ROLAP – Relational OLAP stores all the information within a relational database. This will normally include the calculations as well.
  • HOLAP – Hybrid OLAP stores the summary information in the MOLAP cube format with the more detailed transactional information being available from the relational database.

The quickest response rates are normally achieved using MOLAP. However, some solution functionality may be better accommodated using a combination of approaches.


OLE DB for OLAP is a standard developed by Microsoft for OLAP clients and servers. Most OLAP products in the market are beginning to adopt the OLE DB for OLAP standard within their products. This will enable greater integration between OLAP clients and servers, with OLAP consumers and providers more readily exchanging data. OLAP Services is used to expose the OLE DB for OLAP functionality and interface. OLE DB for OLAP enhances and improves the existing OLAP market capabilities.

OLAP Applications

The market has confirmed the unmatched strengths of OLAP as the foundation for financial decision support applications. Many of the largest and most demanding corporations in the world have eliminated the delays and tedium associated with these critical enterprise financial applications. OLAP Office™’s expertise helps corporations streamline data flows and also reduce the clerical tasks associated with preparing financial information. Often, the key to the success of an overall solution, is the integration between various applications. OLAP Office™ have significant experience in providing complete OLAP reporting solutions.

OLAP’s flexibility caters for most modeling applications, including:

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