Hyperion Promises Dramatic Speed Improvements in Essbase 7.1

New Aggregate Storage Option significantly increases performance and handles larger cube sizes

With little fanfare, Hyperion Solutions Corp. last week released version 7.1 of its Essbase OLAP platform.

Despite the ".1" in the version number, Essbase 7.1 is anything but a point release. In fact, it boasts a new feature—the Aggregate Storage Option—that could significantly enhance the capabilities of the Essbase OLAP engine. Hyperion officials claim that Essbase 7.1 is the company’s most important OLAP release since it first shipped the Essbase server in 1994.

At this point, Hyperion hasn’t provided much information about how the Aggregate Storage Option works, but at least one industry watcher believes that it’s similar to technology first developed by start-up vendor HyperRoll Inc. for use with both Essbase and Oracle Corp.’s Express OLAP server (see (http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=4571).

“What HyperRoll does is it does some blackbox thing,” says Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis Inc., who notes that HyperRoll has never provided a satisfactory explanation of how its technology works, either. “One of the issues is something called database scarcity,” he explains. “For example, not every store sells every product in every color everyday, but in an OLAP cube, you have to think about that, which requires extra time and extra processing power. HyperRoll seems to address [scenarios like that] and makes [the OLAP engine] a lot more scalable, and my guess is that’s what [the Aggregate Storage Option] does, too. The idea is that you should be able to both increase performance and handle larger cube sizes.”

Hyperion says that Essbase 7.1’s Aggregate Storage Option—which, in spite of its name, ships as an integral (free) feature, and not as an add-on option --enables improved processing times and better data compression for applications that require analysis of large and sparse data sets.

“Beta testing has validated that customers are experiencing dramatic reductions in batch processing, data loading and calculating times with Aggregate Storage, and can now increase the data volume—as well as the dimensions within that data—that they can analyze,” said Robert Gersten, chief development officer at Hyperion, in a prepared statement.

Because Aggregate Storage is available free with Essbase 7.1, it could spell trouble for HyperRoll, particularly if it addresses most of the same Essbase-related load time and performance issues. HyperRoll isn’t a one-trick pony, however, and also supports Oracle Express, which has a dwindling OLAP market share. At the same time, HyperRoll attempted to expand its expertise into the relational market with the release of HyperRoll 4.0 back in May (http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=7228).

“HyperRoll will stress that its technology works with a variety of data structures and is not limited to Essbase, and will also claim that it served as the catalyst for Hyperion to develop its Aggregate Storage Option,” notes Schiff. “But I don’t think anyone would say HyperRoll is cheap, so why should Essbase customers have to pay this additional fee for something they can get for free?”

Although Microsoft remains the OLAP market leader, thanks to the ubiquity of its SQL Server 2000-based Analysis Services, Hyperion is almost certainly the high-end OLAP market leader, Schiff says. In this respect, he speculates, the new Aggregate Storage Option should help to further enhance Hyperion’s credentials in high-end accounts.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.