• Is HP really giving up on BI and Analytics?

    So, last week SAP goes into ramp up with HANA 1.0 and now I read …

  • How to Connect Excel to an Oracle Database

    “Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both …

  • SAP HANA now available – supports MDX and SQL

    SAP just announced that their High performance ANalytical Appliance (HANA) is now available.  HANA supports …

  • ODBC 3.8 Applications and Drivers

    Platform support for ODBC 3.8 has been available under Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 …

  • Why run PivotTables against OLAP rather than importing relational/tabular sources?

    We sometimes get asked what is the advantage of using Excel PivotTables for BI against …

  • The future of Microsoft Analysis Services and the MDX query language

    Last week was a very interesting week at the PASS conference in Seattle.  Microsoft made …

  • Avoid Spreadmarts by Hot-Connecting to Data Sources

    At Simba we often hear the term "spreadmart".   This informal term, even defined on Wikipedia, …

  • MDX is MDX…, isn’t it?

    “The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.”   You’d …

  • Teradata Business Intelligence Optimizer

    Matt Zenus and Carlos Bouloy presented on the Teradata Business Intelligence Optimizer (TBIO) last week …

  • Why MDX?

    In my last post, I mentioned “The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” Usually this is meant by the speaker in a pejorative sense, indicating perhaps a perceived unwillingness of some vendors to work within existing standards, and instead wishing to define their own standard for any number of reasons, such as avoiding patent and IP issues, wishing to establish market leadership, locking out competitors, etc.

    One good reason for introducing a new standard is efficiency. Most modern relational databases management systems are transactional databases. SQL is inherently transactional, making it ideal for OLTP databases. So, does that necessarily mean that if you have a database, you should access the data using SQL? Since you have a hammer, does everything look like a nail?

    OLTP databases often need to be able to write lots of data, quickly. But businesses later need to deeply analyze all that transactional data. For that, a copy is extracted from the OLTP database, transformed into a more optimal format, and loaded into a data warehouse or an OLAP database. Yes, you can still use SQL to look inside a data warehouse, but it’s harder to use SQL to find patterns, quickly aggregate across the whole dataset, or do comparisons such as a time series. You can grab a coffee while you wait for it to finish.

    In the mid-1990s, Microsoft introduced a new language for Multi-Dimensional eXpressions against an OLAP database, called MDX. It is a powerful but compact query language that knows and understand multi-dimensional databases/cubes. For example, if you want to know the sales of souvenir mittens at your retail outlet in Vancouver, BC during the month of February when the 2010 Olympics were held, you would write an MDX query that this:

    SELECT
    [Store].[Store Country].[Canada].[Vancouver] ON COLUMNS,
    [Product].[All Products].[Clothing].[Mittens] ON ROWS
    FROM [Sales]
    WHERE ([Measures].[Unit Sales], [Date].[2010].[February])

    However, if you wanted to write this in SQL, you’d need this cumbersome SQL query:

    SELECT SUM(Sales.[Unit Sales])
    FROM (Sales INNER JOIN Stores
    ON Sales.StoreID = Stores.StoreID)
    INNER JOIN Products
    ON Sales.ProductID = Products.ProductID
    WHERE Stores.StoreCity = ‘Vancouver’
    AND Products.ProductName = ‘Mittens’
    AND Sales.SaleDate BETWEEN ’01-02-2010′ AND ’28-02-2010′

    It becomes even more verbose to write an SQL expression that compares Feb 2010 sales to that of the previous month, or the previous year. In contrast, MDX makes it easy to write very short succinct queries that are more direct to read and understand, which in turn reduces errors. And you can write more general expressions like “prior period” comparisons, that at every level of drill-down in time hierarchy (e.g. day, month, quarter, year) show or compare to the prior unit of time at that level.

    I liken it to writing a program in assembler code versus in a high-level language programming language. You could do it, but why would you? This is not a perfect example, since assembler code is often faster than the high level language. However, in the SQL vs. MDX debate, it would be the MDX that is both easier to read and often faster since it expresses more clearly the goal of the query!

    In recent years, many BI client vendors (SAP Business Objects, Microsoft, Cognos, and others) allow connections using MDX. This is a great move as it allows more powerful and general queries, an opportunity for better performance (especially against a cube), and greater interoperability. The latter is particularly valuable in the modern enterprise composed of acquisitions and mergers, thus leading to multi-vendor BI challenges that need to be bridged.

  • Teradata Business Intelligence Optimizer demoed at Teradata Partners Conference

    I am at the Teradata Partners conference this week in San Diego and they are …

  • Build, buy, or something in-between?

    It’s not the sort of question that usually comes up over hors d'œuvres, but given …

  • Inside information on SAP BW and HANA

    I blogged about SAP's High Performance Analytical Appliance (HANA) yesterday and someone followed up and …

  • SAP’s High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) will support both MDX and SQL query languages

    According to an article in PC World: On this article,  SAP's new High Performance Analytic …

  • Hiding things in plain sight…

    It’s a good time to be making the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows because …

  • Analytics with Big Data – a TDWI checklist

    Wayne Eckerson at TDWI wrote a nice overview and checklist about doing analytics on large …

  • An interesting thing I learned about Exadata at Oracle OpenWorld

    Oracle OpenWorld was a zoo again this year as always.  The big announcements were Exadata …

  • Pivot Tables / OLAP are essential for Business Intelligence

    According to CIO.com, "Pivot tables are perhaps one of the most popular methods for analyzing …

  • Standard Hierarchies

    When I was in university, I had a professor who told the class, “The wonderful …

  • A new version of the MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP

    Since last year, Simba has partnered with Oracle to provide connectivity to the Oracle OLAP …

  • Another acquisition in the data warehousing and analytics space – IBM acquiring Netezza

    This space just got more interesting with IBM's intention to acquire Netezza this morning.  Read …

  • Oracle Exadata pipeline exceeds 1.5 billion dollars!

    Oracle announced their fiscal Q1 and according to Larry Ellison, their Exadata pipeline has grown …

  • Oracle Exadata at Openworld

    I am looking forward to OpenWorld next week because I am very curious what Larry …

  • MDX provider for Oracle OLAP at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco

    If you are interested in connecting your Excel Pivot Tables to Oracle database OLAP Option …

  • Teradata’s product strategy

    Simba does a lot of work with Teradata, having recently partnered with Teradata on the …

  • Standards-based BI Connectivity

    One of the challenges in a world of large enterprises, especially those composed of acquisitions, …

  • TBIO – ROLAP on Teradata – smarter, faster, easier

    Teradata recently launched their TBIO (Teradata Business Intelligence Optimizer) product.  Martin Willcox from Teradata has a little …

  • Could Dell buy Aster Data?

    A few days ago, I commented on an article about Oracle's shopping spree and someone …

  • Teradata OLAP Connector – MDX Query Language access to Teradata Database

    A little over a week ago, I wrote about how Teradata is now supporting direct connectivity …

  • Oracle’s shopping spree and who might Oracle buy next…

    I was reading a very interesting opinion on sandhill.com by Steven Janisse entitled "Oracle's Mergers …

  • Teradata supports MDX query language

    Well, it is now official, Teradata has launched their Teradata OLAP Connector product which allows …

  • Minding your bits…

    I note that Window’s transition from 32-bit to 64-bit has been an on-going saga for …

  • The case for a custom ODBC driver

    I was talking to a customer recently and they were telling me they have a very …

  • Windows XP lives on

    Interesting that Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 users can "downgrade" to Windows XP for …

  • EMC buys GreenPlum

    Interesting news yesterday about EMC's acquisition of data warehouse appliance company GreenPlum.  GreenPlum had of …

  • More on SAP’s Sybase Acquisition

    SAP's pending acquisition of Sybase for 6 billion dollars has a lot of people talking.  …

  • Hasso on Hasso – SAP’s Hasso Plattner interviews himself

    I was at Sapphire Orlando last week and there was a lot of interesting things …

  • SAP acquires Sybase – BI Implications

    Boris Evelson had an interesting blog entry about the "BI Implications Of SAP-Sybase Deal".  You …

  • Oracle Data Warehouse Strategic Update

    At the Oracle Collaborate conference last week, I attended a session presented by Ray Roccaforte …

  • Oracle Exadata V2 – Sun Oracle Database Machine

    We have had a number of customers try out our MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP …

  • Kognitio – row vs column?

    I was reading an interesting article by Stephen Swoyer at TDWI where he interviewed the …

  • The Kingdom of Excel

    Whoa!  At the Gartner BI Summit, they suggested we "Wave the white flag on using …

  • In-memory technologies

    In the database warehouse/BI/analytics space, there is a lot of talk about in-memory technology and …

  • How Hardware is Impacting Analytics and Data Warehousing

    I was reading an interesting article by Stephen Swoyer @ TDWI entitled "Studies in Scale: …

  • Interesting analysis about Oracle and Sun with respect to BI and DW

    As I am catching up on my reading after the Olympics, I came across an …

  • Top BI Vendors

    Now that the Winter Olympics in Vancouver are over, I can focus more on work.  …

  • Tutorial on using Excel Pivot Tables with Oracle OLAP Option

    There are a lot of people who currently use the Excel Spreadsheet Add-in for Oracle …

  • Oracle and Sun – the new IBM of the 60’s?

    I was reading an interesting article by Larry Barrett about how Oracle's series of acquisitions …

  • Oracle OLAP Newsletter – January 2010

    I just got the Oracle OLAP Newsletter for January 2010 and we got a nice …

  • Oracle Exadata

    Over the last year, we have been doing a fair bit of work with Oracle 11g …