A proposed new XML specification from Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. to allow open access to multidimensional databases likely will streamline development of some analytic applications but will not affect the large number of IT departments that dont use both those companies products.
The new specification, introduced last week and known as XML for Analysis, is promoted by the two companies as a means to ensure the interoperability of analytic applications across different platforms.
XML for Analysis is a set of Extensible Markup Language Message Interfaces that use SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) to define the data access interaction between a client application and an analytical data provider. This will be particularly helpful in situations where data mining applications working over the Internet need to tap into multidimensional OLAP (online analytical processing) databases, said officials from Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., and Hyperion, of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Some 22 developers of analytic applications announced their support for XML for Analysis. Although Microsoft and Hyperion count a significant number of OLAP users between them, the third major OLAP vendor, Oracle Corp., did not say it would back the specification.
Avi Halutz was skeptical about the Microsoft-Hyperion partnership.
"People introduce standards and claim their stuff is open, but in reality the vendors dont have any interest in standards," said Halutz, executive director at Time Consumer Marketing Inc., in New York. "If its not standard, its not open, and people have to keep buying their solutions. They may claim its open, but until it works for a while, people really cant get too excited about it."
Application developers are expected to benefit, gaining the ability to leverage existing skills and to use open- access, XML-based Web services such as Microsofts .Net, eliminating the need to program to multiple APIs and query languages.
But the most immediate beneficiaries will likely be business intelligence software vendors, which will be able to develop their solutions to the same OLAP standard, as Microsoft and Hyperion officials concede.
The fact that Microsoft and Hyperion are working together on the specification is a reversal of course from the companies recent dealings with each other. Microsoft last year loudly refused to participate in the JOLAP (Java-based OLAP) standard that Hyperion led, saying that it preferred to focus on XML and SOAP instead.