Microsoft offers Olap on a budget

Analysis Services is bundled with SQL Server 2000

Analysis Services is bundled with SQL Server 2000

What is it?

Microsoft has a powerful weapon against best-of-breed products: bundling in the features other suppliers make revenue from.

Among the targets are business intelligence and Olap (online analytical processing). Microsoft is targeting its rivals with Analysis Services as part of SQL Server 2000.

Microsoft's marketing material targets Hyperion's Essbase, also sold as IBM's DB2 Olap Server. Other suppliers such as Brio Software, Cognos, ProClarity, Sagent Technology and Business Objects are being co-opted as partners or Analysis Services solutions. Going by raw market figures, Microsoft has overtaken Hyperion as the Olap market leader with 26.1% of the market.

Where did it originate?

Microsoft entered the Olap business when it acquired Panorama Software Systems, the forerunner to SQL Server 7.0 Olap Services.

What is it for?

Analysis Services is part of the Olap and datawarehousing included in SQL Server 2000. Other elements include data mining and data transformation services.

What makes it special?

Suppliers such as IBM and Oracle sell much of the functionality included with Analysis Services as add-ons. For example, IBM's DB2 Data Miner is a separate product.

Most business intelligence suppliers have moved to browser-based, thin-client user environments. Microsoft supports both client-server and thin-client use of Analysis Services.

Analysis Services sites make less use of external services than other Olap products, which of course is not so special for would-be consultants.

How difficult is it to master?

Microsoft and its partners offer a five-day introduction to designing and implementing Olap with Analysis Services. You will need to be familiar with Windows 2000 and SQL Server or another relational database.

Where is it used?

Analysis Services is generally chosen by smaller firms looking for a low-budget Olap product.

What systems does it run on?

Analysis Services and companion products such as DTS are not confined to Windows/SQL Server, they can also be used with DB2 and Oracle databases running on Unix.

Not many people know that

Like SQL Server 2000, Analysis Services is four years old. The Olap Report said Microsoft is lucky not to be losing ground to more recently updated competitors. It added that Microsoft still has no strong Olap client tools, although third-party business intelligence client tool suppliers fill the gap.

What is coming up?

No major Analysis Services enhancements are expected before the delayed Yukon release of SQL Server.

Training

Classroom, online and CD-Rom training is available from Microsoft, its training partners and independent trainers. Look out for the "Hands-On Lab for Business Intelligence", aimed at Microsoft Solution Partners, which covers Olap and datawarehousing topics using Analysis Services.

Rates of pay

Analysis Services tends to be less well paid than other Olap products, but SQL developers with Olap/datawarehouse experience can look for up to £40,000.

This was last published in June 2004

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