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March 5, 2009 by Deepanshu Mehta

We can divide IT systems into transactional (OLTP) and analytical (OLAP). In general
we can assume that OLTP systems provide source data to data warehouses, whereas
OLAP systems help to analyze it.

OLTP (On-line Transaction Processing) is characterized by a large number of short on-

line transactions (INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE). The main emphasis for OLTP systems
is put on very fast query processing, maintaining data integrity in multi-access
environments and an effectiveness measured by number of transactions per second.

OLAP (On-line Analytical Processing) is characterized by relatively low volume of

transactions. Queries are often very complex and involve aggregations. For OLAP
systems a response time is an effectiveness measure. OLAP applications are widely used
by Data Mining techniques.

The following table summarizes the major differences between OLTP and OLAP system

OLTP System OLAP System

Online Transaction Processing Online Analytical Processing
(Operational System) (Data Warehouse)
Operational data; OLTPs are the Consolidation data; OLAP data comes
Source of data
original source of the data. from the various OLTP Databases
To control and run fundamental To help with planning, problem
Purpose of data
business tasks solving, and decision support
Reveals a snapshot of ongoing Multi-dimensional views of various
What the data
business processes kinds of business activities
Inserts and Short and fast inserts and updates Periodic long-running batch jobs
Updates initiated by end users refresh the data
Relatively standardized and simple
Often complex queries involving
Queries queries Returning relatively few
Depends on the amount of data
involved; batch data refreshes and
Typically very fast complex queries may take many
hours; query speed can be improved
by creating indexes
Larger due to the existence of
Space Can be relatively small if historical aggregation structures and history
Requirements data is archived data; requires more indexes than
Database Highly normalized with many Typically de-normalized with fewer
tables; use of star and/or snowflake
Design tables
Backup religiously; operational
Instead of regular backups, some
data is critical to run the business,
Backup and environments may consider simply
data loss is likely to entail
Recovery reloading the OLTP data as a recovery
significant monetary loss and legal