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OLAP (Online Analytical Processing)

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OLAP defines a class of software that analyzes data (usually historical data) to find patterns and trends. A data analyst uses OLAP software to view data in a multidimensional format, rather than the two-dimensional row and column format. In the multidimensional format, the intersection of relevant data becomes much more apparent, so data is easier to group and summarize. The analyst then creates reports that are used for critical business decisions. OLAP is sometimes referred to as data mining.

Data comes from data warehouses and OLTP (online transaction processing) database systems. A data warehouse may contain legacy data, while an OLTP system is the actual day-to-day business system that collects and processes business data. In contrast, OLAP systems are used to read the data warehouse information and make sense of it. The data analyst may spend long periods sifting through data, or may work with summarizations of that data that are more likely to reveal trends and hidden information.

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