Defined terms

On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a category of software technology that enables analysts, managers and executives to gain insight into data through fast, consistent, interactive access to a wide variety of possible views of information that has been transformed from raw data to reflect the real dimensionality of the enterprise as understood by the user.

OLAP functionality is characterized by dynamic multi-dimensional analysis of consolidated enterprise data supporting end user analytical and navigational activities including:

OLAP is implemented in a multi-user client/server mode and offers consistently rapid response to queries, regardless of database size and complexity. OLAP helps the user synthesize enterprise information through comparative, personalized viewing, as well as through analysis of historical and projected data in various "what-if" data model scenarios. This is achieved through use of an OLAP Server.


An OLAP server is a high-capacity, multi-user data manipulation engine specifically designed to support and operate on multi-dimensional data structures. A multi-dimensional structure is arranged so that every data item is located and accessed based on the intersection of the dimension members which define that item. The design of the server and the structure of the data are optimized for rapid ad-hoc information retrieval in any orientation, as well as for fast, flexible calculation and transformation of raw data based on formulaic relationships. The OLAP Server may either physically stage the processed multi-dimensional information to deliver consistent and rapid response times to end users, or it may populate its data structures in real-time from relational or other databases, or offer a choice of both. Given the current state of technology and the end user requirement for consistent and rapid response times, staging the multi-dimensional data in the OLAP Server is often the preferred method.


Defined terms:



See: Consolidate


The objective of multi-dimensional analysis is for end users to gain insight into the meaning contained in databases. The multi-dimensional approach to analysis aligns the data content with the analyst's mental model, hence reducing confusion and lowering the incidence of erroneous interpretations. It also eases navigating the database, screening for a particular subset of data, asking for the data in a particular orientation and defining analytical calculations. Furthermore, because the data is physically stored in a multi-dimensional structure, the speed of these operations is many times faster and more consistent than is possible in other database structures. This combination of simplicity and speed is one of the key benefits of multi-dimensional analysis.


A group of data cells arranged by the dimensions of the data. For example, a spreadsheet exemplifies a two-dimensional array with the data cells arranged in rows and columns, each being a dimension. A three-dimensional array can be visualized as a cube with each dimension forming a side of the cube, including any slice parallel with that side. Higher dimensional arrays have no physical metaphor, but they organize the data in the way users think of their enterprise. Typical enterprise dimensions are time, measures, products, geographical regions, sales channels, etc.
Synonyms: Multi-dimensional Structure, Cube, Hypercube


A calculated member is a member of a dimension whose value is determined from other members' values (e.g., by application of a mathematical or logical operation). Calculated members may be part of the OLAP server database or may have been specified by the user during an interactive session. A calculated member is any member that is not an input member.


A single datapoint that occurs at the intersection defined by selecting one member from each dimension in a multi-dimensional array. For example, if the dimensions are measures, time, product and geography, then the dimension members: Sales, Janu