OLAP, MOLAP, ROLAP or HOLAP? OLAP Acronyms Explained

ActiveViam |
August 10, 2011

If you’re looking into OLAP technology, you’ve probably come across a large number of acronyms describing different flavors or types of OLAP. We’ve put together this post to help you make sense of the mess with brief definitions of each acronym.

OLAP – OnLine Analytical Processes

OLAP is a general name for software technology enabling users to analyze data through access to a wide variety of possible views of information transformed from raw data into aggregated multi-dimensional dynamic data. OLAP tools use multi-dimensional database structures known as cubes. The data and calculation formulas are stored in an optimized multidimensional database, while views of the data are created on demand, in a slice and dice action.

Cubes are stored in a data warehouse, and the type of storage determines the storage size, browsing speed, and processing time. The type of OLAP storage is one of the important decisions when designing an OLAP solution.

MOLAP – Multidimensional OnLine Analytical Processes
(not to be confused with Mobile OnLine Analytical Processes)
MOLAP is the more traditional OLAP type. In MOLAP, both the source data and the aggregation calculations are stored in a multidimensional format. This type is the fastest option for data retrieval, but it also requires the most storage space.

MOLAP systems are more optimized for fast query performance and retrieval of summarized data. The limitations in MOLAP are that it is not very scalable and can only handle limited amounts of data since calculations are predefined in the cube.

ROLAP – Relational OnLine Analytical Processes
(not to be confused with Remote OnLine Analytical Processes)
ROLAP stores all data, including aggregations, in the source relational database. This type of storage is good for enterprises that need larger data warehousing. ROLAP uses an SQL reporting tool to query data directly from the data warehouse.

ROLAP’s advantages include better scalability, enabling it to handle huge amounts of data, and the ability to efficiently manage both numeric and textual data.

HOLAP – Hybrid OnLine Analytical Processes (Combination of MOLAP & ROLAP)

HOLAP attempts to combine the best features of MOLAP and ROLAP in a single system. HOLAP systems store larger amounts of data in relational tables, and aggregations are stored in the pre-calculated cubes, offering better scalability, quick data processing and flexibility in accessing data sources.

RTOLAP – Real Time OnLine Analytical Processes

RTOLAP systems store data in-memory, enabling real time analysis of data as required. Real time OLAP systems do not store pre-calculated values, avoiding “data explosion” as less data is stored. Data updates are immediate, queries are preformed on-demand, and results are immediately available as well. Our ActivePivot technology is an example of a production-ready RTOLAP solution. You might want to check our separate post on RTOLAP technology.

WOLAP – Web-based OnLine Analytical Processes

WOLAP is an OLAP application accessible through a web browser. This type of application offers lower investment and enhanced accessibility, as there are lower deployment costs and all a user needs is an Internet connection and web browser, but it is limited in its performance. The ActivePivot solution provides web-access OLAP by allowing users to access their OLAP data using a three-tiered architecture that consists of the user, ActivePivot software, and a database server.

DOLAP – Desktop OnLine Analytical Processes
(also LOLAP – Local OnLine Analytical Processes)
DOLAP is based on the idea that a user can download a data cube and work with it locally. This type of application is easy to deploy and has lower costs, but it is very limited in its performance. With ActivePivot, Excel sheets can be saved to the user’s desktop, for local access to OLAP data.

MOLAP – Mobile OnLine Analytical Processes
(also ROLAP – Remote OnLine Analytical Processes
Mobile OLAP refers to functionalities of OLAP solutions that are accessible through a wireless or mobile device, enabling the user to access OLAP data and functionalities remotely via the user’s mobile device. ActivePivot provides mobile OLAP accesses through its ActiveUI solution, which allows accessing data and certain capabilities through your smartphone, iPad, or any other mobile device.

SOLAP – Spatial OnLine Analytical Processes

SOLAP was created based on the idea to integrate GIS and OLAP capabilities in one system to handle both spatial and non-spatial data.

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