The Screening Room #6: XML for Analysis

In the June episode of The Screening Room I receive an education from Chris Harrington, who runs the Active Interface consultancy, about an emerging standard for online analytical processing (OLAP) called XML for Analysis (XMLA).

To be honest, XMLA wasn't on my radar screen until OpenLink Software's Kingsley Idehen put it there. In our recent podcast interview he announced that in addition to releasing an open source version of the Virtuoso database, there would also be an Open AJAX Toolkit whose data-binding capabilities are abstracted in terms of XMLA, an interface provided by Virtuoso and by SQL Server.

"XMLA?" I asked Kingsley. "Uh oh," he replied. "If you're unaware of it, that means most of the AJAX/blogosphere/Web 2.0 folks are too."

Enter Chris Harrington. His specialties are enterprise information portals and web data visualization. Like Kingsley, he has recently found that the combination of AJAX and XMLA makes a nice platform for what Chris calls enterprise mashups.

In the first two-thirds of the screencast he focuses on a command-line tool based based on the Windows Scripting Host (WSH), which he uses to query XMLA servers and visualize results. Along the way he points out interesting and useful things about WSH and about Office's ChartSpace component.

In the last third of the screencast, Chris demonstrates a really impressive AJAX application he's been developing. Using it, he can interactively choose data sources, compose and edit MDX (multidimensional expressions) queries, and chart results.

Although XMLA was originally a Microsoft/Hyperion initiative, it's attracting wider interest and seems headed toward standardization. At the conclusion of the screencast, Chris points to this proof-of-concept interoperation between his client and Mondrian, an open-source Java-based OLAP server that can turn a number of SQL databases, including MySQL, into XMLA providers.

How will business intelligence meet Web 2.0? Chris Harrington and Kingsley Idehen think AJAX and XMLA will form the bridge.

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