Hyperion, IBM Serve Up OLAP for Mainframes

The online analytical processing (OLAP) market space is dominated by two key players: Hyperion Solutions Corp. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Oracle Corp. (Redwood City, Calif.). In early December, IBM notched an agreement with Hyperion--which unlike Oracle does not market a relational database that competes with IBM’s own DB2 platform--to bring OLAP to its System 390 mainframe environment. With S/390 already under its belt, can DB2 OLAP Server for the AS/400 be far behind?

Hyperion’s OLAP implementation on S/390 will ship as part of version 1.1 of IBM’s DB2 OLAP Server, which integrates Hyperion’s Essbase OLAP engine with IBM DB2 Universal Database. Since July 1999, IBM has shipped its DB2 OLAP Server 1.1 for a variety of different platforms, including Windows NT, IBM’s own AIX and HP-UX from Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, Calif.).

Industry analysts have long maintained that greater than 70 percent of mission-critical corporate data still reside on VSAM data stores attached to mainframe and AS/400 systems. According to IBM, S/390 customers will for the first time be able to reap the benefits of OLAP by transforming literally terabytes of data from mainframes, data warehouses, ERP, CRM and disparate e-business systems into actionable business information.

"E-business success requires the ability to make sense of vast amounts of operational data and gain insight and value," says Janet Perna, general manager of IBM’s data management solutions. "The S/390 is a scalable, secure foundation for maximizing this data and our partnership with Hyperion demonstrates a commitment to providing superior business intelligence solutions on the widest range of platforms."

Its partnership with Big Blue is especially important for Hyperion, analysts say, because the company has struggled to right itself in the aftermath of its October 1998 merger with Arbor Software Corp. In particular, Hyperion currently finds itself under a great deal of pressure to get version 6.0 of its Essbase Server--the first significant overhaul of Essbase in the aftermath of the company’s merger with Arbor--out the door.

Hyperion has historically had a problem demonstrating its commitment to Essbase as its OLAP server of choice, says Mike Schiff, director of data warehousing strategies with market research firm and consultancy Current Analysis (Sterling, Va.). At the same time, IBM must continue to demonstrate the importance of its S/390 mainframes and the health of the mainframe market in general. By virtue of the DB2 OLAP Server for S/390, both causes are underscored.

“The agreement between Hyperion and IBM is an important one for both companies,” Schiff maintains. “For Hyperion, it represents the opening of a new market and a closer working arrangement with IBM at a time when Hyperion could use the boost.”

Moreover, Schiff notes, no OLAP vendor has yet taken on mainframe environments, so “Hyperion will establish a new channel for its leading OLAP products in a market where the company will effectively have no competitors, for instance, in terms of the analytic applications that have been absent from the mainframe world.”

By partnering with IBM to promote the interests of Essbase on S/390, analysts say, Hyperion is also extending Essbase’s reach and making it one of the most popular cross-platform OLAP solutions on the market.

And this is precisely the point, says Hyperion chairman and CEO Jeffrey Rodek.

"Today's announcement signals a significant commitment from Hyperion and IBM to expand the Hyperion Essbase OLAP platform while leveraging the market opportunity for business intelligence applications running natively on mainframes,” Rodek avers.

And while neither IBM nor Hyperion would comment on the prospects of bringing Essbase and OLAP to AS/400 platforms, industry sources say that it would be a small matter to adapt DB2 OLAP Server for S/390 for use in conjunction with DB2 on AS/400 platforms. The question, explains Current Analysis’ Schiff, is whether or not the demand for OLAP on the AS/400 is there in the first place.

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