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Microsoft, Hyperion to Develop Standard OLAP Query API

Two key Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) vendors set aside their differences Monday in order to develop a standard XML-based OLAP query API -- a move industry watchers predict will accelerate the adoption of Internet business intelligence software and grow the market.

At the Hyperion Annual Global Conference, Solutions 2001, Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion said they will jointly publish the XML for Analysis specification, intended to allow open access to multidimensional databases from any platform (including Microsoft's .Net Platform, naturally).

XML for Analysis is a set of XML Message Interfaces that use Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to define data access interaction between a client application and an analytical data provider over the Internet.

"The joint sponsorship of XML for Analysis specification by Hyperion and Microsoft represents a substantial shift in the industry," said Mike Schiff, vice president of E-Business and Business Intelligence at Current Analysis Inc. "A uniting of two leading OLAP vendors, both of which have a significant number of organizations and partners that utilize their respective OLAP engines, will clearly benefit users because client-side, Web-based applications will be able to readily access either vendors' servers, as well as the servers of other vendors that adopt the specification, without having to program for multiple APIs."

The two companies said the joint effort would benefit customers by giving them the ability to protect server and tools investments while still ensuring that new analytical deployments interoperate; developers by giving the ability to leverage existing skills and use open access XML-based Web services and therefore eliminating the need to program to multiple APIs and query languages; and independent software vendors by reducing the complexity and costs of development and maintenance.

XML for Analysis has already amassed significant support. Business intelligence software developers that have signed on include Adaytum, AlphaBlox Corp., ANGOSS Software Corp., Brio Technology Inc., Business Objects Americas, Cizar Software, Cognos Corp., Comshare Inc., Crystal Decisions Inc., digiMine Inc., Harmony Software Inc., Keylime Software Inc., Knosys Inc., Lawson Software, MetaEdge Corp., MicroStrategy Inc., OutlookSoft Corp., Panorama Software Systems, SAP AG, Simba Technologies, SPSS Inc., and Visual Insights.

"It's good news for everyone that two competing major OLAP vendors are finally putting their differences aside to come up with an agreed, XML-based OLAP query API," said Nigel Pendse, lead author of The OLAP Report. "If this initiative succeeds, it will finally be possible to query multiple OLAP servers in a standard way, just as it has been possible to do with all the SQL-based relational databases for many years. This will give users more freedom, encourage the development of good front-end tools and help the growth of the market."