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Chapter 29. Programming Combo and List B... > Streamlining Decision Support Front ...

Streamlining Decision Support Front Ends

Decision-support applications deliver information used by management to analyze business trends. Data warehouses and data marts, today's hottest database technology topics, form the back end for decision-support applications in larger organizations. Microsoft Decision Support Services (MSDSS), more commonly known by its code-name Plato, is a component of SQL Server 7.0. MSDSS supports online analytical processing (OLAP), a technique primarily intended for extracting time-based trends and other relationships from massive amounts of data. OLAP is beyond the scope of this book, but the data selection and display techniques you learn in this chapter are applicable to larger-scale OLAP activities.

The source data for the tables that make up a data warehouse or mart is a condensed version (called a roll-up) of the content of production databases used by online transaction processing (OLTP) applications. Roll-ups use SQL aggregate queries to sum values, typically orders and sales. It's also common practice to average gross margins, days-to-ship, and the like. Creating roll-ups of production data for decision support, usually on a server not running OLTP databases, maximizes the performance of both activities. If managers need to analyze the detail data behind the aggregate information provided by the decision-support application, drill-down techniques provide limited access to the underlying OLTP records. The critical feature of decision-support applications is accuracy of data retrieval and presentation; execution speed is the next most important criterion.


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