Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)

What is Online Analytical Processing?

Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) is a computing approach that allows rapid execution of complex analytical queries. It is a category of software that allows users to analyze data from multiple database dimensions, thereby providing a platform for complex calculations, trend analysis, and sophisticated data modeling.


The term OLAP was coined by Dr. Edgar F. Codd, the inventor of the relational database model, in his 1993 white paper. Since then, OLAP has evolved with multiple variations like MOLAP, ROLAP, and HOLAP, catering to different analytical requirements.

Functionality and Features

OLAP enables multidimensional analysis of data, complex calculations, and trend discovery. It features drill-down and roll-up operations which allow users to view data at varying degrees of detail. The primary strength of OLAP comes from its high data processing speed in handling complex calculations on substantial quantities of data.


OLAP architecture consists of an OLAP server that can reside on the client's side (client-side OLAP) or on the server-side (server-side OLAP). Client-side OLAP is often memory-based, allowing faster computation, while server-side OLAP uses relational or extended-relational DBMS.

Benefits and Use Cases

Better Data Visualization: OLAP cubes enable multi-dimensional analysis of data, helping businesses understand complex data easily.Improved Decision Making: By providing comprehensive insights and trend analysis, OLAP enhances business decision-making.High Speed: OLAP provides faster query response time even with vast amounts of data and complex calculations.

Challenges and Limitations

Despite its advantages, OLAP also presents some challenges. It can be complex to set up and manage. In addition, as data volume grows, the performance of OLAP can degrade. Furthermore, data in OLAP is pre-aggregated and pre-calculated, thus it may not always be able to provide the most recent information.

Integration with Data Lakehouse

OLAP can certainly find its use within a data lakehouse environment, where it can perform analytical processing on the structured data stored. However, the modern lakehouse architecture, like Dremio's, surpasses traditional OLAP by providing up-to-the-minute insights, easy scalability, and compatibility with various data formats.

Security Aspects

OLAP systems often include security features such as access controls, user authentication, and data encryption to protect the data and the analytical processes.


OLAP is renowned for its high-speed data processing, making it suitable for executing complex queries on large data sets. However, as the volume of data increases, performance can suffer.


  1. What is the primary use of OLAP? OLAP's primary use is to analyze database information from multiple database dimensions quickly and interactively.
  2. What is a dimensional model in OLAP? A dimensional model in OLAP is a structure that is optimized for reporting and data analysis in a data warehouse.
  3. How does OLAP differ from OLTP? While OLTP is designed to handle transactional processing, OLAP is designed to support data analysis and decision-making.
  4. How does OLAP fit into the data lakehouse architecture? Though OLAP can operate on structured data within a lakehouse, modern lakehouse setups often incorporate features that surpass traditional OLAP systems.
  5. How does Dremio's technology contrast with traditional OLAP? Dremio's technology provides real-time insights, offers easy scalability, and is compatible with numerous data formats, making it more flexible and efficient than traditional OLAP.


OLTP: Online Transaction Processing, a system that manages transaction-oriented applications. 

MOLAP: Multidimensional Online Analytical Processing, stores data in a multidimensional cube. 

ROLAP: Relational Online Analytical Processing, uses relational databases to store and manage warehouse data. 

HOLAP: Hybrid Online Analytical Processing, combines ROLAP and MOLAP technology. 

Data Lakehouse: A hybrid data management platform that combines the features of data lakes and data warehouses.

get started

Get Started Free

No time limit - totally free - just the way you like it.

Sign Up Now
demo on demand

See Dremio in Action

Not ready to get started today? See the platform in action.

Watch Demo
talk expert

Talk to an Expert

Not sure where to start? Get your questions answered fast.

Contact Us

Ready to Get Started?

Bring your users closer to the data with organization-wide self-service analytics and lakehouse flexibility, scalability, and performance at a fraction of the cost. Run Dremio anywhere with self-managed software or Dremio Cloud.