Coronado Allows Visual OLAP Exploration

Gone may be the drudgery of divining business trends from the dense tables and two-dimensional graphs served up by traditional OLAP clients. Portola Dimensional Systems ( released an OLAP client for Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 OLAP Services that makes data dance.

Portola’s multidimensional OLAP client, Coronado, sports a graphical interface that allows users to drag a chart format -- pie, line, bar or sphere -- into play. Then users start dropping dimensions from their multidimensional database sources into the chart. Dimensions one and two fall along the x and y axes. Dimension three drops into the z axis, a charting feature that exceeds the capabilities of all but a few OLAP tools.

Coronado breaks new ground by adding dimensions four and five. Here, in a line graph for example, the lines get fat or slim, representing a fourth dimension. On a spherical graph, little balls range from small to large to show the fourth dimension. Drop in time for a fifth dimension, and the graph starts to move, showing the status of each item during different months, years or financial quarters.

"We’re starting from the graphical end rather than the spreadsheet side," says Jeremy Keehn, systems engineer manager for Portola. The company has paid particular attention to presentation. In demonstrations at Comdex Fall in November, when the product was unveiled, the animation was smooth and graphical elements were partially transparent, lending an artistic look to the display. Coronado provides report designers with the option of illustrating the background of the charts with clip art, such as a dollar bill.

Analyst Don MacTavish with the Meta Group ( says Coronado gives value to end users by helping them to quickly comprehend patterns in complex data. "This is unique to Portola, specifically for OLAP, but other vendors have visualization methods using alternate methods for access to the data," MacTavish says. "We expect more vendors of analytic tools to adopt OLAP APIs for treating OLAP stores in the same way they have treated RDBMS data."

Microsoft channels began selling the product in mid-December. Portola Systems began direct sales in January.

The client software uses roughly 8 MB on a PC that must have at least a Pentium 133 processor and 32 MB of RAM. It runs on Windows NT, Windows 95 and Windows 98. Portola recommends a 3-D graphics accelerator card and plans to bundle a card with Coronado at no extra cost to entice corporate customers with computers more than 1.5 years old.