Online Analytical Processing


Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a computing approach that enables users to easily extract and view data from different viewpoints. This technology supports complex analytical queries that can involve multiple databases and tables and it is often used for business intelligence reporting. OLAP systems typically use multidimensional database models to process and visualize data efficiently.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Online Analytical Processing” is: On-line An-uh-lit-i-kuhl Pro-ses-ing.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a computing method known for its capability to conduct multidimensional analytical queries swiftly. It is designed to resolve complex and sophisticated queries regarding business data.

  2. OLAP systems are primarily used in data mining and are key in providing Business Intelligence. They’re used to view, understand and interpret data in a multidimensional space, allowing for complex calculations, trend analyses, and sophisticated data modeling.

  3. There are several formats of OLAP, including Relational OLAP (ROLAP), Multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP), and Hybrid OLAP (HOLAP). These different types involve various ways of storing data in more than two dimensions.



Online Analytical Processing, often referred to as OLAP, is a vital technology concept in the field of business intelligence and data analysis. It is important because it enables the manipulation and analysis of data from multiple dimensions interactively and at high speeds, allowing users to perform complex calculations, trend analyses, and data modeling. Its multidimensional view of data helps businesses in strategic planning and decision-making processes by providing comprehensive insights. In addition, OLAP systems improve data accessibility, promote better understanding of data correlations, thereby driving operational efficiency, reducing data redundancy, and facilitating informed decision-making.


Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a computing approach that enables users to easily and selectively extract and view data from different points of view. The primary purpose of OLAP is to provide quick answers to analytical queries that are multidimensional in nature. This technology is often used to complex calculations, trend analyses and sophisticated data modeling. It helps in creating a platform where users can interactively analyze a large amount of data and perform complex calculations. In business terms, it allows decision makers like executives, managers, and analysts to gain a deeper understanding of data for informed decision making.OLAP achieves this by organizing data hierarchically and storing them in a multidimensional format (i.e., a cube). This makes it possible to analyze data across multiple dimensions that are often needed in business reports. For instance, an e-commerce firm may want to analyze sales by products, region, time (e.g., quarterly), etc. In financial services, OLAP can assist in risk analysis, financial reporting, budgeting and planning. Think of OLAP as a way to provide a multidimensional, consolidated view of your enterprise data so decision-makers can analyze data with exceptional speed, even in complex scenarios.


1. **Business Intelligence**: Many companies use Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) as a main component of their business intelligence systems. For example, Microsoft provides a smart client application for business intelligence report viewing and analysis called Power BI. Using OLAP, Power BI can assess large volumes of data across various dimensions, allowing businesses to obtain complex multi-dimensional analysis, trending, and forecasting.2. **Sales Forecasting and Analysis**: Retail companies often use OLAP technology for sales forecasting. For instance, Walmart might use OLAP to analyze sales across different regions, seasons, or individual stores. This analysis can help them predict future sales patterns, manage inventory more effectively, and identify new opportunities for revenue generation.3. **Banking and Finance**: Financial institutions like J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, or Citigroup use OLAP to analyze and manage complex financial data. They may use the technology to compare revenue across different branches, look at customer behavior across various demographics, or study market trends. This can help them to make more informed financial decisions, predict market changes, or manage risks more effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)?A: Online Analytical Processing, or OLAP, is a computer-based method of analyzing data that allows users to easily conduct complex calculations, trend analyses, and data modeling. It’s particularly useful for multidimensional analyses of large data sets.Q: What is the purpose of OLAP?A: The main purpose of OLAP is to provide a sophisticated environment for business analysts to execute complex queries on a substantial amount of data in a relatively short period of time, which aids business decisions.Q: What are the main features of OLAP?A: Some main features of OLAP include multi-dimensional analysis of business data, support for complex calculations, trend analysis, and the ability to conduct time-series and trend analysis. Q: How does OLAP work?A: OLAP works by extracting data from a database and organizing it into cubes. These cubes contain the same data but viewed in multiple dimensions. By manipulating these cubes, users can visualize patterns, trends, and insights which may not be noticeable otherwise.Q: What are OLAP Cubes?A: OLAP Cubes are multi-dimensional data models that allow complex analysis and data modeling in an OLAP system. They facilitate examining data from various viewpoints.Q: What is the difference between OLAP and relational database?A: The main difference is that relational databases are optimized for recording transactions and ensuring data integrity, while OLAP is designed to quickly answer multi-dimensional queries from users.Q: Can OLAP handle Big Data?A: Yes, OLAP is designed to handle large volumes of data and complex queries, making it potentially useful for big data analytics. However, working with big data may require more powerful hardware and other big data technologies in conjunction with OLAP.Q: What industries commonly use OLAP?A: OLAP is widely used across a range of industries, including finance, retail, healthcare, and telecommunications, to support decisions by providing the ability to conduct complex data analyses. Q: What is Drill-Down analysis in OLAP?A: Drill-Down is a feature of OLAP that allows users to navigate from the generalized data to detailed levels of data. It provides a detailed view of data enabling users to focus on specific areas of interest.Q: Are there different types of OLAP? A: Yes, there are mainly three types of OLAP: Multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP), Relational OLAP (ROLAP), and Hybrid OLAP (HOLAP). Each of these has different characteristics and use cases.

Related Tech Terms

  • Data Warehouse
  • Multi-Dimensional Analysis
  • Drill-Down Analysis
  • Data Cube
  • Query Tools

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