What is OLAP (Online Analytical Processing)?

OLAP is the acronym of Online Analytical Processing. It is a solution used in the field of the so-called business intelligence whose objective is to speed up the consultation of large amounts of data. It uses multidimensional structures (or OLAP cubes) that contain summarized data from large databases or Transactional Systems (OLTP). It is used in business reports of sales, marketing, management reports, data mining and similar areas.


In an OLAP system, data can be accessed from different business dimensions (typically: by time, by product, by customer, by commercial network).

What is OLAP?

It is a way to access your information using a “natural language”.

In the corporate world, analysts access information by filtering their business indicators by regions, by product, by time…

From this basic definition, there are different technologies that implement it (ROLAP, MOLAP, …), but basically all do the same basic actions on information:

  • Segment: As when you ask for sales per product and per quarter
  • Filter: As when you ask for the sales report for Spain in 2011
  • Deepen (Drill down): As when you see the data of quarter 2 and you are interested in the breakdown of April, May, June.
  • Synthesize (Drill up): When you undo the previous breakdown and return to the breakdown by quarter.
  • Rotate (Drill anywhere): When instead of going from a breakdown by quarter to a monthly basis, you are interested in a breakdown by family of product, or by nationality, that is, by a characteristic of a hierarchy other than the one you are currently seeing.

The important point is that the OLAP analysis allows you to easily “navigate” through the information, requesting it with the precise detail and with the appropriate filters, and that you can do it dynamically, easily, ad hoc, on the fly, without need assistance, fast, and using business language.


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