OLAP/BI as a system component

There is a thriving market, of software makers, system integrators, service firms of all kinds, and so on around OLAP and business intelligence. This market got a lot more attention 10 or 20 years ago, when the work was primarily done by specialist firms. But OLAP has not disappeared, rather it is become “table stakes” and most firms of enough size inevitably have ongoing analytical data projects that decision-makers rely on – even if some are rebranded to sound newer.

Oasis Digital is not such an integrator; we don’t resell or service any OLAP tools. We don’t do pure business intelligence off-the-shelf deployment projects. But we do touch these tools in another way.

Rather, at Oasis Digital we see OLAP / BI / ETL tooling is a system component that can be used “behind the scenes” to create software features and systems quickly and effectively. We are perpetually on the lookout for desired custom software feature requests which are best implemented by feeding the data into an OLAP system then querying that system for display in the custom software.

You can read a case study about a recent project we did, where this came into play. Those with BI experience may recognize some of the screenshot snippets as presenting OLAP data in a custom UI.

Although most any OLAP tool can be used for this, more than once we have chosen Mondrian or one of the tools built atop it like Pentaho. This open-source approach can make it possible to add OLAP engine technology behind the scenes even in software which will be redistributed or installed many times, without invoking the per-server costs of a commercial OLAP engine deployed to numerous servers or bundled in a shipping product.