multidimensional database (MDB)

A multidimensional database (MDB) is a type of database that is optimized for data warehouse and online analytical processing (OLAP) applications. Multidimensional databases are frequently created using input from existing relational databases.

A multidimensional database (MDB) is a type of database that is optimized for data warehouse and online analytical processing (OLAP) applications. Multidimensional databases are frequently created using input from existing relational databases. Whereas a relational database is typically accessed using a Structured Query Language (SQL) query, a multidimensional database allows a user to ask questions like "How many Aptivas have been sold in Nebraska so far this year?" and similar questions related to summarizing business operations and trends. An OLAP application that accesses data from a multidimensional database is known as a MOLAP (multidimensional OLAP) application.

A multidimensional database - or a multidimensional database management system (MDDBMS) - implies the ability to rapidly process the data in the database so that answers can be generated quickly. A number of vendors provide products that use multidimensional databases. Approaches to how data is stored and the user interface vary.

Conceptually, a multidimensional database uses the idea of a data cube to represent the dimensions of data available to a user. For example, "sales" could be viewed in the dimensions of product model, geography, time, or some additional dimension. In this case, "sales" is known as the measure attribute of the data cube and the other dimensions are seen as feature attributes. Additionally, a database creator can define hierarchies and levels within a dimension (for example, state and city levels within a regional hierarchy).

This was first published in September 2005

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