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October 24, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

San Francisco-based Stanford Technology Group Inc has opened for business in the UK with the creation of MetaCube Ltd, located in Isleworth, Middlesex. The UK company, headed by Stewart Holness, who has joined from Business Objects SA, will sell the MetaCube suite of decision support tools and data warehousing software that has been available in the US since last year. What the company claims sets it apart from all the other companies offering warehouse query tools is the MetaCube analysis engine, which sits between a relational database and the decision support tools that the end users use. The company claims that it transforms your everyday relational database into a multidimensional one, without having to replicate the data, providing analytical functions that are not intrinsic to relational databases, and turning it, effectively, into an on-line analytical processing server. The engine uses meta data to navigate the warehouse and gives the users the impression that the database is a multidimensional one, but it stores no data itself. The company describes this as dimensional modelling, where data is organised in ‘measures’ and ‘dimensions’; measures are the numerical data being tracked, and dimensions are the natural business parameters that define each transaction. The measures are stored in central fact tables and can include things like sales, expenditure and so on. Dimension tables are things like time, geography and product data, and can be organised into hierachies which can then roll up; so hours can roll up to days, days can roll up to weeks and so on, it says.

Drill down

This hierarchical approach enables users to drill down through layers of data, said the company, which claims that by presenting the data in a multidimensional format it has improved the performance by several orders of magnitude. This is achieved, in part, by MetaCube’s rewriting of any query so that it searches against aggregated data, and not the low-level stuff. The database administrator defines the aggregates either by hand using SQL scripts, and existing tools or by using the MetaCube Aggregator Agent which can build aggreates on the fly, if needed. Then MetaCube’s query optimiser, part of the engine, will use the best aggregate, said the company. MetaCube admitted that the aggregation process is a bit tedious and a bit difficult to do but said users would be eternally grateful to the database administrator who managed this. Other parts of the suite are MetaCube Explorer, the ad hoc decision support tool, but there is also an Open Database Connectivity driver that enables other query tools to be integrated into the system; MetaCube Warehouse Manager is the data warehouse administration tool; and there are two other agents in addition to the aggregator, one that automates warehouse management procedures such as regular queries, and the other is a full process scheduler. And another speed-enhancing piece is QueryBack, software that offloads a personal computer user’s queries to the server so that they runs in the background while the user carries on working. As for costs, expect to spend around ú25,000 for 10 users. Stanford was founded in 1993 and is still a privately-held company; it reckons that its market will be worth $7,000m before the end of the century. Last year it did $3m in sales. It counts Oracle Corp, Sybase Inc and Informix Software Inc as its database partners and Sequent Computer Systems Inc, Pyramid Technology Corp and Tandem Computers Inc as hardware partners.

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