Oracle and Microsoft this week both announced victories in the world of online analytical processing (OLAP), one boasting the results of benchmark tests and the other heralding the results of an annual market share report.
The most recent version of the OLAP Report, an independent industry analysis begun in 1994 by author Nigel Pendse and often cited by vendors and analysts, states that Microsoft had bested Hyperion Solutions Corp., taking the top position in the $3 billion OLAP market in 2002.
That report also states that Oracle has slipped out of the category of top five OLAP vendors.
Preliminary figures show that Microsoft grabbed 24.4% of the market last year, with Hyperion Solutions settling for 22.9% of the market.
Meanwhile, Oracle this week released what officials there called a world record benchmark result, an APB-1 OLAP performance that showed Oracle running 75 times faster than Hyperion's best result on IBM hardware.
Oracle's benchmark was performed by DSS Labs, which has a strong reputation as an independent auditor of such tests, according to several OLAP specialists and analysts.
However, the OLAP Report examined that benchmark and had mixed reviews for it. The fact that no other vendor has published similar benchmark results "may indicate that they are having trouble beating Oracle's benchmark figures," the report states. Then again, the report says, "Hyperion may have just lost interest in that benchmark standard, "as have all other vendors."
For OLAP consumers, the varying measurement standards are confusing, said Richard Winter, CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Winter Corporation.
"I don't know of any directly comparable figures to Oracle's OLAP numbers," Winter said. "Probably the reason for that is that that architecture is quite different."
Winter -- who was recommended by Oracle as an analyst who could comment on the company's benchmark results -- said he couldn't say, given the available data, which vendor actually has a better OLAP product.
"Oracle has taken the next step of integrating the OLAP capabilities directly into the database," Winter said. "Microsoft says their OLAP engine is optimized for OLAP, and only OLAP, and that made it more efficient for OLAP. I think the benefits of Oracle's integrated approach are very significant. If, in fact, it can achieve the highest levels of OLAP performance, then it would be a very desirable architecture."
Microsoft SQL Server product manager Brian Biglin, expressing skepticism about the validity of Oracle's OLAP benchmark results, acknowledged, "The real problem is that there is no benchmark for OLAP in the industry. There is no TCP benchmark for OLAP providers because you aren't measuring transactions per second. The bottom line is that we built and showed sub-second queries."
Veronique Anxolabehere, director of Oracle 9i product marketing, did not dispute the OLAP Report market share analysis, and she said Oracle's architecture is its winning feature. "The neat thing about having the OLAP engine in the database is that, in essence, you have the same environment for your transactional applications and your decision support applications," she said.
"You do not have to take the data out of the database and put it in an analytical server," she added. "You don't have to risk data latency and degradation of data."
Microsoft, though, is selling its Analysis Services package to Oracle and DB2 shops that want to build business intelligence (BI) programs on top of their existing databases. Sales of Analysis Services, its OLAP package, grew faster than sales of SQL Server, according to the report.
"With Analysis Services, we are trying to package together a bunch of BI services," Biglin said. "The main thing is the OLAP server. That's what customers are buying."
A number of other companies known as leading OLAP vendors are Microsoft partners, Biglin said: "So Cognos uses our server, and Business Objects, and SAP with its BW; they are all using our server."
Microsoft didn't escape the OLAP Report unscathed, though. Pendse wrote: "'Microsoft has no major OLAP product releases expected till well into 2004, so it will be selling a 3-year old product in 2003, and it is lucky not to be losing ground to more recently updated competitors."
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