The Devil's Pitchfork
If you're an Oracle or IBM OLAP partner, take
heed of Microsoft's three-pronged OLAP strategy.
PRONG 1: Bundle SQL Server 70 with an OLAP server. -A free version of
OLAP from Microsoft Corp. may not be quite as robust as, say, Oracle-Corp.'s
Express OLAP server or Hyperion Solutions Corp.'s Essbase (IBM
Corp. markets a version of Essbase for DB2). According to The OLAP Report
(www.olapreport.com), starting prices
for a 10- Express or Essbase server license and required utilities range from
$25,000 to $100,000. By itself, Microsoft's giveaway strategy will likely wrest
market share away from oracle and IBM.
PRONG 2: Promulgate a standard OLAP API. In an OLAP solution, a back-end
database (where the data was originally stored) interfaces to an OLAP server
(in which that data is optimized)and to front-end clients (which send in queries
and display results).
Until recently every major vendor used a proprietary API to integrate those
pieces. Missing was a multidimensional equivalent to Microsoft's ODBC, which
made mix-'n'-match practical in the relational world. In September 1997 Microsoft
published its OLAP API-OLE DB for OLAP.
Designed to be generic enough to hook together any relational or OLAP server
or client, OLE DB for OLAP allows for representing, expressing, transporting,
and efficiently navigating multidimensional data.
This API has caught on much faster than ODBC, probably because Microsoft was
more open to industry input this time around. All of the major OLAP vendors
client and server-are on the bandwagon. It's not surprising that the exception
is Oracle. (Arbor Software Corp.'s recent merger with Hyperion Software
Corp. leaves the new company, Hyperion Solutions, straddling the fence:
Arbor's Essbase server doesn't support OLE DB for OLAP; the Hyperion Wired client
PRONG 3: Become the dominant client-side OLAP tool vendor Microsoft
didn't build Plato just to give it away. The company is using OLAP as a wedge
into an enterprise-database market ruled by Oracle.
As the king of front-end client applications, Microsoft is striving to give
solutions providers seamless integration between front- apps and BackOffice
and SQL Server. The company is working hard to add OLAP capabilities to Office
2000, slated to ship a few months after SQL Server 7.0.
That means mass-market apps like Excel and Access will be OLAP-enabled. Analysts
agree that Microsoft Excel is sure to become the de facto front-end to Microsoft's
OLAP server. In turn, software integrators that aren't ordinarily involved in
OLAP solutions may find themselves compelled to learn a few tricks of the trade.