About the Series ...
This article is a member of the series, MDX Essentials.
The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of
the Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) language, with each session
progressively adding features and capabilities designed to meet specific
Virtually all of the MDX we have constructed in earlier
articles can now be used in the SQL Server Management Studio, SQL
Server Business Intelligence Studio, and various other areas within
the Microsoft integrated Business Intelligence solution, and much of
what we construct going forward can be executed in the Analysis Services
2000 MDX Sample Application (assuming connection to an appropriate Analysis
Services data source). MDX as a language continues to evolve and expand:
we will focus on many new features in articles to come, while still continuing
to examine business uses of MDX in general. The use of MDX to meet the
real-world needs of our business environments will continue to be my primary
concentration within the MDX Essentials series.
For more information about the series in general, as well as
the software and systems requirements for getting the most out of its member
lessons, please see Set Functions: The DrillDownMember() Function, where
important information is detailed regarding the applications, samples and other
components required to complete our practice exercises.
("Analysis Services"), as most of us know, leads the
enterprise business intelligence arena with its rich set of analytical and
reporting tools. Within the sphere of analysis and reporting with OLAP data
sources, most of these tools rely upon functions based in the MDX query
language. MDX is integrated not only within Analysis Services, but also
throughout the entire Microsoft integrated Business Intelligence solution, in
applications that include MSSQL Server, Analysis Services and Reporting Services, and that extend
throughout Microsoft Office and other applications. This integration provides
a distinct advantage for users of the platform over those who are limited to the
offerings of the expensive, once-dominant enterprise BI solutions (few of which
even accommodate direct editing of MDX within their "drag and drop"
interfaces), and, particularly in the case of numerical and set functions,
allows for easy, consistent application of built-in logic.
In this article, we will extend our examination of MDX
functions to concentrate upon the basic, but useful, Distinct()
function. We will discuss the straightforward purpose of the function, to return
a set without duplicates from a set we specify within the function, as well
as the manner in which the function manages to do this.
with an introduction to the Distinct() function, this lesson will
an examination of the syntax comprising the function;
illustrative examples of uses of the function in practice
a brief discussion of the MDX results obtained within each of the
The Distinct() Function
According to the Books Online, the Distinct()
function "returns a set, removing duplicate tuples from a specified
set." Moreover, the Books Online state that, in cases where
the Distinct() function finds duplicate tuples within the specified Set
Expression, only the first instance of the duplicate tuple is retained
within the returned results dataset.
Although Distinct() eliminates
duplicate tuples within the specified Set Expression, the function leaves
the order of the original set intact. Distinct() is useful in
many applications, and, as is the case with most MDX functions, pairing it with
other MDX functions can help us to leverage its power even further.
We will examine in detail the
syntax for the Distinct() function after our customary
overview in the Discussion section that follows. Following that,
we will conduct practice examples within a couple of scenarios, constructed to
support hypothetical business needs that illustrate uses for the function.
This will afford us an opportunity to explore some of the delivery options that
Distinct() can offer the knowledgeable user. Hands-on practice
with Distinct(), where we will create queries that employ the function,
will help us to activate what we have learned in the Discussion
and Syntax sections.
To restate our initial explanation of its operation, the Distinct()
function removes duplicates that occur within a specified Set. If
the specified Set contains duplicates, all except the first instance of
the duplicated tuples are discarded that is, duplicates are removed from the tail
of the Set. The first instance (or only instance, if there are no
duplicates) is returned within a Set that is ordered just as the Set
specified within the function. (As we might expect, specification of an empty Set
within the Distinct() function results in the return of an empty
Let's look at syntax specifics to further clarify the
operation of Distinct().
Syntactically, anytime we
employ the Distinct() function to return the distinct tuples of a
specified set, we specify the Set Expression within the
parentheses to the right of the Distinct keyword. The general syntax is
shown in the following string:
Let's take a look at an
illustration. The following snippet employs the Distinct() function:
This rows-axis specification,
within a query executed against the Adventure Works sample cube that,
say, specified the Reseller Sales Amount measure on the columns ( Axis(0)
), and which contained a Calendar Year 2004 slicer, would produce a
results dataset similar to that partially depicted in Illustration 1.
Illustration 1: Results Dataset Distinct() Function with
Specified Set Containing Duplicates
In the example dataset, we see
that the Cities of the State of Georgia appear in the
order in which they would have appeared had we simply defined the row axis as [Geography].[Geography].[State-Province].[Georgia].CHILDREN. We have intentionally specified duplicates
(the Cities of Atlanta and McDonough) within our
query to illustrate the fact that the first instance of the duplicated Cities
is retained, and the second instance discarded. This illustrates the manner in
which duplicates are removed from the tail of the set within the