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MS does some analysis

Microsoft acquires online analytical processing tools from an Israeli company and plans to include them in its BackOffice server suite.

Microsoft (MSFT) said today that it has acquired multidimensional Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) database technology from Panorama Software of Tel Aviv.

Microsoft plans to incorporate the OLAP tools into its BackOffice server application suite in an unspecified future release. OLAP tools allow users to analyze data in a more flexible way than standard spreadsheets or data analysis tools.

The software giant has also recruited an unspecified number of Panorama's developers, who will be relocated to the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Microsoft plans to integrate the server-based OLAP technology into "appropriate BackOffice applications," including its SQL Server, said Dan Basica, a SQL Server product manager at Microsoft. Microsoft will use the technology to create a metadata layer (the kind and location of data stored in SQL Server), a multidimensional database used with Panorama's technology, or in other relational databases.

The metadata layer will make finding and analyzing data much easier. "We see [the Panorama technology] as an OLAP data cache for SQL Server," said Basica.

The company will build hooks from its Excel spreadsheet and other Office desktop applications to the metadata layer.

Microsoft will also use the technology as part of its previously announced Active Data Warehouse Framework that aims to make building and accessing data warehouses based on SQL Server a more straightforward process. The Panorama metadata layer will form part of a standard application programming interface (API) that Microsoft is defining for access to data warehouses.

The Panorama multidimensional database is not likely to be integrated into the SQL Server relational database. Instead it will remain a separate data store linked to SQL Server through the metadata interface, said Basica.

The acquisition underscores the fact that BackOffice is becoming Microsoft's most important strategic product line. Yesterday the company said it is expanding BackOffice with the addition of five server products that are part of the server bundle known as Normandy. Microsoft will debut a subset of the package, called BackOffice Server 2.5, later this month, along with a BackOffice bundle, called Commercial Internet System, designed for Internet service providers.