Chapter 13

Slice and Dice: Ad Hoc Analytics

The term slice and dice has been a synonym for business intelligence (BI) and probably predates that term. With the advent of online analytical processing (OLAP) tools, business users became able to manipulate large data sets, and apply summaries such as SUM and COUNT across custom groupings in real-time—this capability is what is known as slice and dice. A better term is really ad hoc analytics because slice and dice was originally used purely for tabular data, and later advances mean that more graphical visualizations can also be interrogated in the same manner. In this chapter, you will learn about the different types of ad hoc analysis and explore the value of each of the tools.

OLAP
OLAP stands for online analytic processing to distinguish it from online transaction processing (OLTP) and batch based analysis. The term was first coined by Edgar F. Codd in 1993. Microsoft joined the market in 1998 with Analysis Services and today has the biggest market share in OLAP. Later technologies, such as the column-store database used in PowerPivot and Analysis Services Tabular are not OLAP, but are presented in a very similar way to front-end tools to maintain backward compatibility.

Explanation of Terms

The field of ad hoc analytics is vast and murky, with different vendors perpetuating their own terminology. Microsoft, as always, does the same, and it is important to understand the different way the tools are defined.

First, ad hoc ...

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