Selecting an OLAP Application

Minimizing risks in the product selection process

By Daniel Chen

I have received a number of telephone calls and emails from readers asking which OLAP tool to select from the myriad of vendors available. While selecting an OLAP tool that can fit your organization's need requires a closer inspection of your requirements. This article gives an overview of some of the generic requirements that most organizations will have to consider in their selection process.

Platform Choice

The first step in narrowing the list of vendors is the strength of the OLAP tool on the platform that your organization will be using. Some vendors tend to be only Microsoft centric or have products that are better supported on a particular platform.

Vendor History

There are many new OLAP vendors that have cropped up since the mid-nineties. Some of the newer companies have rewarding and rich OLAP tools that can be cost effective. Investigate how many installs the vendor has made and, if possible, interview some of the vendor's clients.

OLAP Cube Size and Transaction Speed

There are products that are optimized to your organization's needs. Fine tune your vendor list to your operational needs. How large is your cube? What would be a tolerable usage of storage space and transaction speed? How will the OLAP cube be created - i.e. HOLAP, MOLAP, ROLAP?

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Will you prefer a thin client or desktop interface to interact with the OLAP cube? What are the trade-offs? List potential security concerns.

Consulting

How much consulting would be require to install the product? If changes are needed after installation, will this require the need of external consultants?

Integration to Database

How tightly integrated is the OLAP tool to your database? Can you perform SQL queries within the OLAP tool?

Integration to other Analysis Tools

Does your organization have or plan to have other analysis tools such as data mining, reporting and data visualization? How will the OLAP application integrate with the other analysis tools?

Price

It is often challenging to gauge the additional hidden cost from the actual purchase price. Some of the points above can help make a good financial forecast. Discuss with other users in your industry vertical or hire an independent consultant who is familiar with the process.

Sample list of OLAP vendors are Hyperion, Business Objects, Cognos, Oracle, SAS, IBM.

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