OLAP is not advanced analytics

OLAP searches a set of pre-aggregated data… a cube. If the cube is large enough that you don’t bump into the edges you might think that your search is ad hoc… but that is an illusion. The set is prescribed not ad hoc.

In the 1980’s we sent paper reports out… they were moved on a pallet with a fork-lift. The reports aggregated key metrics to many levels in a hierarchy sliced and diced across many dimensions. Today we take the lines off the reports and store them digitally in a cube and provide tools to let users navigate the cube to build their reports. What they build looks, to a large extent, like the reports from the 80’s.

Data warehousing provides more data and better data… so there are more cubes, more dimensions, more reports… and hopefully more business intelligence. But these reports provide 1980’s quality business intelligence on a screen instead of on paper… bounded by the OLAP cube.

When you hear folks talk about data science and data mining and advanced analytics and optimization… they are talking about advanced mathematical treatment of the data… know that this is going to require technology that is beyond the capabilities of a OLAP engine.

Exalytics is a OLAP engine. Here are some Exalytics use cases from a proponent. They are about OLAP dashboards… good stuff… but hardly advanced analytics. Oracle says that Exalytics is engineered for Extreme Analytics. If we agree that “extreme” analytics is not in any way advanced… then I agree.

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