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Microsoft OLAP Server Performs Well in Survey

Microsoft's OLAP product, bundled free in SQL Server, outperformed its more expensive competitors in some categories of a recent user survey done jointly by a longtime OLAP industry analyst and a business intelligence research firm.

"Microsoft Analysis Services did score remarkably well in the survey, beating many much more expensive and much longer-established products," says Nigel Pendse, analyst with the OLAP Report. Pendse was lead author of the report released by the OLAP Report and Survey.com.

"On the whole, people seemed to have selected [Microsoft Analysis Services] because it was cheap, rather than because they had high expectations, but then were genuinely impressed with it," Pendse says.

The 650-respondent survey was released this summer, and Microsoft publicly promoted its performance in select categories this week.

Microsoft pointed to wins in several categories such as customers reporting the fewest technical problems of any of 11 competitors evaluated and customers having the best perception of product quality.

Microsoft also pointed to several other victories in terms of seat deployments and selection that are somewhat skewed by the fact that Microsoft's Analysis Services are free with SQL Server when many other OLAP products evaluated cost $20,000 or more.

Customers also reported the same non-technical problems with SQL Server Analysis Services that they ran into with other OLAP servers -- a serious shelfware problem. And SQL Server was very much in the middle of the pack on the key metric of achievement of business goals.

"Microsoft's [shelfware] rate -- 51 percent -- was significantly worse than the average -- 39 percent . [It was] not nearly as bad as Cognos PowerPlay -- 62 percent," Pendse notes.

"Regarding achievement of business goals, Microsoft Analysis Services was close to average, significantly better than Cognos PowerPlay, SAP B, Seagate Info and Oracle Discoverer, but significantly worse than MicroStrategy, Brio, Applix iTM1 and Oracle Express," Pendse says.

Microsoft's first OLAP server shipped in 1998 with every copy of SQL Server 7.0. In 2000, Microsoft released what was effectively a version 2.0 of its OLAP server with SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, which also bundled data mining capabilities at no cost.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.