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In this new era of BI, you've surely heard the term "data visualization" thrown around. When you ask someone what it means, they'll tell you it's a way to visualize data. Wow, that's telling you a lot The truth is that data visualization can mean a lot of things from basic charts and graphs to scatter plots and statistical features to advanced 3-D spheres and charts. First and foremost, if someone is trying to sell you a data visualization tool that only does basic charts and graphs, it's called OLAP (Online Analytical Processing). You're not getting any advanced data mining capabilities or any special visualization from the tool, but only that which most traditional OLAP tools offer. What you really want in data visualization tools is advanced features that give you more than standard 2-D graphs and charts.

A good place to start your search for data visualization tools is in advanced statistical products like MathSoft and SAS. These tools have traditionally allowed statisticians to feed data sets into them and prepare scatter plots, pareto charts and other 3-D graphs. What is new and improved about these visualization tools is that they allow you to connect directly to a relational database such as Oracle and create these statistical views directly from relational data. The size and processing speed limitations of data sets have been replaced by massively parallel…

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