The Internet has spawned a whole new language, liberally sprinkled with acronyms and jargon. No other industry has whole seminars based solely on the attribute "jargon-free". Why is this? What can we do about it? Well, here at last is a layperson's guide to some of the new buzzwords that you can use to impress your boss, consultant or dentist. If you want to avoid being a PCMCIA (Person who Can't Memorise Computer Industry Acronyms), ingest the following list.
LDAP: Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. LDAP is a protocol originally designed by the University of Michigan to keep track of 50,000-plus email and network users. The technology has recently been wholeheartedly adopted by Microsoft to solve some of the issues associated with multiple users on a network. LDAP is fast becoming a standard for network directory management.
OLAP: Online Analytical Processing. OLAP allows users to cut and slice data by posing queries with several attributes. OLAP uses an intermediate server to store pre-calculations of multidimensional data. This allows OLAP to deliver very fast results on relatively static data sets that are smaller than ROLAP can handle.
ROLAP: Relational Online Analytical Processing. ROLAP is a data querying tool that generates SQL commands against relational databases. It allows for ad hoc queries and aggregates data at a faster rate than conventional OLAP. Because it does not use an intermediate server, ROLAP can work much faster with timely, constantly changing data. It can also work with much larger data sets.
DOLAP: Database Online Analytical Processing. DOLAP is an OLAP engine that actually sits in the database, potentially providing the fastest querying engine of them all. It is being developed by relational database vendors including Oracle and Sybase.
OLTP: Online Transaction Processing. OLTP is the standard way of accessing data from a database, without all the bells and whistles of the OLAP-type products.
ORB: Object Request Broker. Acts as a middleman, connecting objects that request services or functions with objects that can satisfy the requests. Application programmers do not have to know locations of remote objects.
CORBA: Common Object Request Broker Architecture. A standardised blueprint worked out by the Object Management Group defining how application objects and Object Request Brokers can co-operate to deliver services or perform processes independent of platform, network or location.
ODBC: Open Database Connectivity. ODBC, from Microsoft, is evolving from a basic database access technology to the foundation for fully fledged middleware offerings. The new middleware is typically server-based and eliminates the need for each client to run a different ODBC driver for every database on the network. The ability to run database joins and faster queries, increased security and other capabilities also are features of the new software products.
Of course there are more acronyms, but these few seem to be popping up more and more, especially LDAP and OLAP. Both of these technologies will provide cleaner access to data stored in corporate data repositories and open up the network. So if you can keep track of the acronyms, keeping track of the data will be a piece of cake.
(Phil Parent is a geographer and consultant at Auckland-based Creative Data. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)