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IBM tools up DB2 with OLAP add-ons

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The need for analytics is so great that, nowadays, even Microsoft bundles its database with a suite of the stuff. IBM previously took the approach of providing such functionality through third parties, but last week it souped up its offering with a new set of tools which, once again, demonstrates why Oracle is so concerned about this weighty competition.

IBM is to incorporate a couple of OLAP tools into DB2, enabling organisations to do data mining and analysis. They should provide a further boost to IBM's database product line as previously, customers had to choose which OLAP tools - usually third party solutions - IBM would bundle along with the database.

This will give IBM a perception boost in the market - everybody seems to think IBM is the last to venture down this OLAP track - but IBM's DB2 hardly needs such a lift.

In historical terms the relational database started out by providing transactional capabilities plus some standard query capabilities. The latter were then expanded into full-scale support for data warehousing, based on a ROLAP (relational OLAP) model.

In this area the next significant step was heralded by Microsoft's announcement that it would include multi-dimensional OLAP capability within its database product as well. This has since grown to the extent that all of the leading vendors now include this facility, and ETL (extract, transform and load) tools, and data mining capabilities within their database product architecture.

IBM typically goes further, providing a range of offerings that taken as the sum of its parts clearly outweigh the competition. It has tight integration with third party solutions, offers a whole range of data extenders - as well as support for most others in the market - and ties in beautifully with MQSeries, handling message queues as tables. And that's only scratching the surface.

While this latest announcement is a handy addition to IBM's portfolio, it won't actually do an awful lot to boost its business intelligence capabilities. Why? Because they have already wiped the floor with the rest. Microsoft offers some good solutions, and Oracle is never a slouch; but looking at the extent of IBM's offering it's clear that it holds the crown. The latest developments reinforce this position.

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