Cognos Transformer

Cognos Transformer is part of the OLAP package included with IBM’s business analytics software packages. It based on some of the legacy Cognos software systems.

This product is mostly used for creating PowerCubes to be used by PowerPlay users. These are considered part of the series 7 release, but they did release a version for use in 10.1 so support and development is being continued. Its someone unique in that it will often be installed on workstations for the architects to build them, often in direct conjunction with users. It’s cheap enough in that it can be a departmental or smaller to mid-sized business solution.

This tool is used for creating precalculated datasets based on defined dimensions. This is the OLAP portion of the functionality. There are some limitations with this tool, especially in earlier versions. The cubes themselves are static, and so new attribute elements cannot be added without rebuilding the cube. Normally, though a refresh process would go through daily. Most of the concerns are due to performance and the application architecture. It is a 32 bit tool and this is a constraint with memory usage, limiting both the total cube size and the performance in building. They are also only able to be used with PowerPlay and Cognos BI toolsets, which limits some of the flexibility.

The advantage to using this setup rather than reporting directly against the data warehouse is improved performance with heavy calculations. In most cases it results in pretty good performance on the Powerplay end.

The future of this product will be interesting, to say the least, especially given the TM1 tool that is available in the Cognos product line. TM1 is geared for performance type OLAP work and has a fairly robust engine. However, Transformer has a large user base and the low price and ability to be run on a desktop makes it still viable, at least for smaller datasets, say under 1 billion rows or so.

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