Chapter 5. OLAP: Online Analytical Processing

If you ever watched Star Trek, you're probably familiar with the way the characters would interact with the Starship Enterprise computer when they had a problem. Mr. Scott, the ship's chief engineer would say, "Computer, please isolate why the propulsion system is only operating at 40 percent." The computer would respond (in a mellifluous, calming voice), "Fuel leak detected." After several rounds of back-and-forth, the computer might give a full diagnosis: "Broken Fetzer valve in compartment 28b causing dilithium plasma buildup. Calculations indicate a 30% chance of detonation in the next hour unless the valve is repaired, and an 84.3% likelihood that the cause of the broken valve is Klingon sabotage."

You see? The twenty-third century's not so different from today after all! Mr. Scott had what was essentially a business problem: performance in his area of responsibility was lagging and he needed answers. And since starships are ridiculously complex machines, he did what anyone would do in his position: He used computing power to examine operational metrics, find anomalous trends, and identify a solution. Presto!

The great thing about those starship computers and HAL 9000 (from 2001: A Space Odyssey) is their real-time interactive capability. Querying and reporting are clearly powerful tools; they provide priceless services to organizations of all kinds. But what's missing from that process is a true on-the-fly back-and-forth, where an ...

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