Business intelligence software has evolved to fit an environment dominated by relational databases. This mostly meant overcoming the inherent inefficiencies of executing analytical queries against normalized data models, typically by reorganizing the data into star schemas, cubes, indexes or other specialized structures. Sometimes the restructured data itself resides in a relational database, and sometimes it doesn't.

Because so many enterprises have invested heavily in these BI applications, new database products must be compatible with them. But products built specifically for analytical use (ParAccel, Vertica, Netezza, Sybase IQ, etc.) often don't face the constraints that the BI applications were designed to overcome. If you attach one of those engines to standard BI software, you get better performance but are not taking full advantage of the technology.

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