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Stands for Online Analytical Processing. OLAP allows users to analyze database information from multiple database systems at one time. While relational databases are considered to be two-dimensional, OLAP data is multidimensional, meaning the information can be compared in many different ways. For example, a company might compare their computer sales in June with sales in July, then compare those results with the sales from another location, which might be stored in a different database.
In order to process database information using OLAP, an OLAP server is required to organize and compare the information. Clients can analyze different sets of data using functions built into the OLAP server. Some popular OLAP server software programs include Oracle Express Server and Hyperion Solutions Essbase. Because of its powerful data analysis capabilities, OLAP processing is often used for data mining, which aims to discover new relationships between different sets of data.