Java-based OLAP Opens Up to Excel

An open-source Java project has opened up to Excel. Now developers using the Mondrian OLAP can apply the Microsoft app and receive support options under the project’s new spreadsheet services.

In collaboration with Simba Technologies, the Orlando, Fla.-based Pentaho Corp. released its Spreadsheet Services last week. The new Excel offering includes recent features like its PivotTable tool, which lets users analyze data and unearth trends. Excel on OLAP means users of the open-source software can compare info on a quarterly basis, compare product info or view business performance from a regional perspective.

OLAP, or on line analytical processing, is a process that provides quick responses to queries for BI apps─apps that typically include sales reporting, marketing, management reporting, biz performance management, budgeting, forecasting and financial reporting. According to 2005 figures from the OLAP Report, Microsoft owns 28 percent of the market and users have demonstrated an increasing demand for Excel on OLAP servers.

“It changes the ways in which app developers can take advantage of embedded OLAP,” says Lance Walter, vice-president of marketing, Pentaho.

Mondrian (free under the Common Public License) is a completely Java-based OLAP library that, unlike most OLAP technologies, was designed as an entirely embeddable library rather than built to be its own server or apps. The Excel-inclusive Mondrian─one of three open source OLAP projects available today─allows developers to add analysis features to their apps.

“One of the challenges app developers have historically run into─when using open source─is that sometimes open-source technologies look a little ‘raw’ in some areas,” Walter said. “Some projects might not have all the polish on the front-end that mature, propriety products would have.”

But Walter says that is not the case with Mondrian, which implements the MDX language and XML for analysis and JOLAP specifications. And it’s compatible with SQL, among other data sources, storing info in a memory cache.

“The OLAP surveys have shown that Excel is consistently the most popular front-end for most major OLAP servers,” says Nigel Pendse, author of the OLAP Report.

Spreadsheet Services works with the professional and open-source versions of Pentaho’s BI Suite. But it also supports standalone deployment with OLAP, enabling existing Mondrian users to provide Excel for its end users without altering any of their existing Mondrian apps.

According to SourceForge, more than 52,000 users have downloaded the open source project and that figure is expected to rise with its Excel availability. Pentaho’s Spreadsheet Services is available now starting at $90 for an annual subscription.

About the Author

Jason Turcotte is an assistant editor at Application Development Trends. He can be reached at [email protected].