SPSS Boosts OLAP Performance with ShowCase Suite 7.0
March 29, 2005 Alex Woodie
SPSS in April will start shipping ShowCase Suite 7.0, a new version of its collection of business intelligence software for the iSeries server. Based on an OS/400 port of the Essbase 7 multidimensional database that SPSS partner Hyperion first delivered over a year ago, the new ShowCase release is expected to deliver scalability and performance improvements, as well as new data viewing and analysis components to help companies get more usable information out of their data.
Running online analytical processing (OLAP) and multidimensional database workloads on iSeries servers has gotten a bit of a bad rap lately. Many customers and their IT vendors favor offloading processor-intensive work to less-expensive Intel-based servers running Windows and SQL Server databases, and believe the iSeries is best used for transaction processing, not analytical, workloads.
While the standards-based computing route may provide more bang for the buck at the low-end, ShowCase has a solid niche at the high-end, where Fortune 100 corporations need 64-bit power to bring disparate databases together into huge data warehouses. The capability with Essbase to build a cube with six, seven, or even up to 10 different dimensions representing various products, geographies, time periods, and other factors can consume a tremendous amount of resources–and provide business insights worth millions of dollars. In some ways, the iSeries, with its advanced storage architecture, ease of management, and vertical scalability is the perfect data warehousing platform, and SPSS, with its Hyperion connection, is in many ways the gold standard for OS/400 OLAP.
With ShowCase Suite 7.0, the multidimensional scalability story just got better. A new feature with this release called Aggregate Storage Option (ASO) will allow ShowCase Essbase users to create applications “that previously were far too large or complex for your [iSeries] systems,” SPSS says. The ASO will also enable users to calculate cubes much more quickly, which will enable users to refresh their data more often, and provide more timely information to users.
The usability story also gets better with the new Hyperion Visual Explorer component. ShowCase says this feature displays multiple dimensions of data in a graphical format, which can help users more quickly absorb the underlying meaning reflected in the data, including trends, exceptions, and interdependencies.
The optional Essbase Integration Services (EIS) component, which integrates data from multiple sources and lets users drill down from the high-level multidimensional level into the underlying relational database level, now supports time-series data created with the ASO feature. This release also brings better support for data mining, SPSS says. More than 250 built-in mathematical functions, as well as various algorithms, help users perform basic data mining tasks against a multidimensional Essbase database.
ShowCase Suite 7.0 also brings support for Multidimensional Expressions (MDX), a data manipulation language similar to SQL that was created by Microsoft. MDX can be used to query the database, to add new information to it through calculations and formulas, and to calculate cubes built with the ASO feature, SPSS says.
Another component of the suite, called ShowCase Analyzer, has been improved with more flexible report design capabilities, SPSS says. Specifically, users can now control the content of individual cells, define the look of columns, borders, and fonts, and control other aspects of formatting and printing reports, SPSS says.
A new “virtual cube” capability for viewing relational data as multidimensional data has also been added with this release. SPSS first started merging relational and multidimensional database technologies with the last ShowCase suite release, version 6.5, 18 months ago (see “SPSS Reaffirms Commitment to ShowCase, OS/400 with New Release”). With ShowCase 7.0, the Analyzer tool’s SQL Grid component lets users access relational data alongside multidimensional data. It also provides access to relational data as if it were multidimensional data using the virtual cubes feature.
The third core component of the ShowCase Suite, called Enterprise Reporting, also sees enhancements in the area of Web-based report building and distribution; new centralized role-based security protections; and a new Report Services component for better rendering of charts and graphics in reports.
For more information on ShowCase, visit www.spss.com/showcase.