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November 13, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 6:52pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Arbor Software Inc has unveiled what it claims is a major new release of its Essbase OLAP online analytical processing software, which will take it into the entire enterprise and open it up to standard relational databases. Arbor says Essbase 5 will answer many of the issues raised in previous versions, in particular, the old chestnut scalability. The company believes the advent of the web as a front end has enabled businesses for the first time to deploy OLAP systems over thousands rather than tens of users, and therefore scalability is more of an issue for them now than ever before. The other major issues it believes it has addressed are performance, ease of deployment, and the breadth of applications covered by Essbase. Essbase 5 claims to have increased performance 100-fold by performing dynamic calculations of the fly, rather than performing the large set of pre-calculations that version 4.0 requires. System designers also have the option to enable users to do calculations on the fly and then have the results stored, so that the next user performing the query gets even faster response times. The software can also be set up to enable combinations of pre-calculation and on the fly calculation, to enable optimal response to queries. Dynamic calculation apparently shrinks the size of the database by an order of magnitude, so that Arbor says it will be able to scale to terabyte databases and beyond. Version 5 also enables application partitioning, so that system designers can divide an OLAP application into physically separate models which can be loaded and calculated in parallel on parallel processors. The partitions are transparent to the user, so can be queried and analyzed as a single application. Arbor says the growth of departmental data marts has led to the creation of lots of individual ‘Information Islands’ where, for example, the marketing department and the sales department have two isolated systems although they may have data in common. Essbase 5 links those common areas, for example customers and products, and enables the user to move seamlessly between applications, so the marketing department could drill down in to sales data and vice versa. The transparent partitions and linked partitions can be distributed over different hardware and operating systems. Essbase 5 will also include integration for relational databases, opening out Essbase away from Arbor’s proprietary multi- dimensional database to initially DB2, under the company’s agreement with IBM Corp (CI No 3,183), and then to Informix, Oracle and Sybase. The company says Essbase 5 will offer identical functionality for data stored in either relational databases or Arbor’s optimized multi-dimensional database. On the front end, the company says the most popular user interface to OLAP systems is still the spreadsheet. However, the company is now positioning its own strengths firmly in the OLAP engine space, and it has partnered with a whole host of companies to integrate a number of user interfaces, including Cognos Inc’s Impromptu and Business Objects SA. It also has its own web-based front end offering. So the company’s message is that now, you can use any relational database, and anything on the front end, but you will need Essbase for large, instant response, complex business queries and calculations. To further aid linking data across the enterprise, a future project, code-named Project Mayflower, will enable enterprise-wide metadata to be stored and managed in a consistent manner, ensuring data definitions are consistent throughout every department in the enterprise. Essbase 5 is currently beta testing. Arbor insists Essbase is now used in mission critical systems and therefore it will not be released until every last bug has been ironed out, which will be some time in the first half of next year.

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