Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part V - Page 4

July 7, 2008

13.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the NameColumn label, to expose the three basic options for selection, as shown in Illustration 15.


Illustration 15: NameColumn Property Value Selection Options

The three selection options that are available are “None,” and “New,” and a preselected column, such as the one we see in our example attribute, “DimGeography.GeographyKey” (simply a notation of the Table / Column).

14.  Select the “New” option within the selector.

The Object Binding dialog appears, once again. As we mentioned earlier, we use the Object Binding dialog box in Business Intelligence Development Studio to define bindings between the property of an Analysis Services object and a table or column in a data source view. As we have seen, selecting (new) from the drop-down list for this and several other property values (such as the CustomRollupColumn, CustomRollupPropertiesColumn and UnaryOperatorColumn, as we saw within an earlier segment of this multi-part article) calls the Object Binding dialog box.

As we have noted, we can use the Object Binding dialog to select Binding type, Source table and Source column as appropriate to our needs, and then save our changes. Because we will not be making changes to these property settings in our practice example, we will simply dismiss the dialog via the Cancel button, as we have done earlier.

15.  Click the Cancel button at the bottom of the Object Binding dialog box to dismiss the dialog.

We are returned to the Properties pane, where we will examine the settings that we can see within the expanded NameColumn property.

Source Property: NameColumn – Source

The value we select for the Source property specifies, in a manner similar to the KeyColumns property we examined in Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part IV, a column or columns within the underlying data source. The KeyColumns property specifies the column(s) containing the member key(s).

16.  Click the ellipses (“ ... “) button that appears to the immediate right of the Source property label, as depicted in Illustration 16.


Illustration 16: Click the Ellipses ( “... “) Button to the Right of the Source Property

The Object Binding dialog again appears, where we can, as we are now probably well aware, select Binding type, Source table and Source column as appropriate to our needs, and then save our changes. Because we will not be making changes to these property settings in our practice example, we will simply dismiss the dialog via the Cancel button, once again.

17.  Click the Cancel button at the bottom of the Object Binding dialog box to dismiss the dialog, as we have done earlier.

Source Property: NameColumn - DataType

We use the DataType property to specify the data type used by Analysis Services.

18.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the DataType label, to expose many options for selection, as partially shown in Illustration 17.


Illustration 17: DataType Property Value Selection Options (Partial View)

The fifteen standard selection options that are available (as of this writing) include the following:

  • BigInt
  • Binary
  • Boolean
  • Currency
  • Date
  • Double
  • Integer
  • Single
  • SmallInt
  • TinyInt
  • UnsignedBigInt
  • UnsignedInt
  • UnsignedSmallInt
  • UnsignedTinyInt
  • WChar (the value assigned our example selection)

Having the DataType property setting available at the Analysis Services level affords us the advantage of being able to specify a data type here that can differ from the data type of the corresponding column in the underlying data source.

Source Property: NameColumn – DataSize

The value we select for the DataSize property specifies the data size used by Analysis Services. Having the DataSize property setting available at the Analysis Services level affords us the advantage of being able to specify a data size here that can differ from the data size of the corresponding column in the underlying data source.

Source Property: NameColumn – NullProcessing

The NullProcessing property dictates the processing of null values.

19.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the NullProcessing label, to expose our options for selection, as depicted in Illustration 18.


Illustration 18: NullProcessing Property Value Selection Options

The five selection options, each of which dictates what action the Analysis Server should take when it encounters a NULL value, include the following:

  • Preserve: Server preserves the NULL value. The server has the ability to store NULL just like any other value.
  • Error: Server generates a data integrity error and discards the record; a NULL value is illegal in a data item with this setting.
  • UnknownMember: Server interprets the NULL value as the unknown member. Server will also generate a data integrity error. This option is applicable only for attribute key columns (such as the selection for our practice example, Geography Key).
  • ZeroOrBlank: Server converts the NULL value to a zero (for numeric data items) or a blank string (for string data items). (This was how NULLS were managed in Analysis Services 2000).
  • Automatic: (Conditional Default) Implies assignment of ZeroOrBlank value for dimensions and cubes, and UnknownMember value for mining structures and models.

NOTE: For more information about handling Unknown Members in Analysis Services, see my articles Manage Unknown Members in Analysis Services 2005, Part I and Manage Unknown Members in Analysis Services 2005, Part II. Both articles are members of my Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis Services series at Database Journal.

Source Property: NameColumn – Collation

We use the Collation property to specify the collation applied by Analysis Services. The Collation string consists of the locale identifier (LCID) and the comparison flag, separated by an underscore character. (For example, Latin1_General_CI_AS is an acceptable string for the Collation property value).

The value that we provide sets the character set and case sensitivity for the column under consideration.  When collation is not set at the column level it inherits the setting from the parent object, usually all the way up to the default settings specified at the Analysis Server level (typically first done when Analysis Services is installed).

Source Property: NameColumn - Format

The Format property affords us a means of specifying the format string applied by Analysis Services.

Source Property: NameColumn – InvalidXmlCharacters

The InvalidXmlCharacters property specifies the treatment of any characters that exist in the data that are invalid in XML.

20.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the InvalidXmlCharacters property label, to expose the options for selection, as shown in Illustration 19.


Illustration 19: InvalidXMLCharacters Property Value Selection Options

The three selection options, each of which dictates what action the Analysis Server should take when it encounters an invalid XML character(s), include the following:

  • Preserve: (Default) Server preserves invalid XML characters.
  • Remove: Server removes invalid XML characters.
  • Replace: Server replaces invalid XML characters with a question mark (“?”) character.

To enhance performance in general, Analysis Services does not check for invalid XML characters unless we set the InvalidXmlCharacters property. For this reason, if such characters exist, the response the Analysis Server sends to the client may contain invalid XML.

Source Property: NameColumn – MimeType

The MimeType property value reflects the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) type, if applicable, of the data represented by the parent DataItem element. The default value is None (blank), and the value data type is a string.

Source Property: NameColumn – Trimming

The value that we supply for Trimming specifies how data from the data source is trimmed.

21.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the Trimming property label, to expose the options for selection, as depicted in Illustration 20.


Illustration 20: Trimming Property Value Selection Options

The four selection options, each of which dictates what action the Analysis Server should take when specifying the details for the trimming of strings, include the following:

  • Left: Data is trimmed on the left.
  • Right: (Default) Data is trimmed on the right.
  • LeftRight: Data is trimmed on the left and the right.
  • None: Data is not trimmed.

Having examined the settings that we can see within the expanded NameColumn property, we are ready to overview the last member of the Source property group, ValueColumn.

Source Property: ValueColumn

The ValueColumn property allows us to specify the column within the underlying data source from which Analysis Services derives the value of the attribute. ValueColumn is similar to the NameColumn property we discussed earlier, in that it offers a downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the property label. We can use this selector to choose either the None or the New option (a third option representing a preselected column will exist if a column has already been selected – not the case in our current example, but possibly different elsewhere).

If we select the New option within the selector, the Object Binding dialog appears, just as it does in our examination of the NameColumn property above. We can use this dialog to define bindings between the property of an Analysis Services object and a table or column in a data source view, via the same Binding type, Source table and Source column settings that we used for NameColumn and other attribute properties.

If we specified a value in the NameColumn property, then the same value is used as the default in ValueColumn. If we did not specify a value in the NameColumn property, and the KeyColumns collection of the attribute contains a single KeyColumn element representing a key column with a string data type, the same values are used as default values for the ValueColumn element.

This article concludes our examination of the dimension attributes properties groups, which we began in Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part I.

NOTE: Please consider saving the project we have created to this point for use in subsequent related articles of this subseries, so as to avoid the need to repeat the preparation process we have undertaken, initially, to provide a practice environment.

1.  Select File -> Save All to save our work, up to this point, within the originally chosen location, where it can be easily accessed for our activities within subsequent articles of this subseries.

2.  Select File -> Exit to leave the design environment, when ready, and to close the Business Intelligence Development Studio.

Conclusion

In this, the final part of a multi-part article introducing dimension attributes, we continued our current subseries focusing upon dimensional model components, with an objective of discussing the associated concepts, and of providing hands-on exposure to the properties supporting each. We reviewed our initial introduction to the dimensional model and summarized its role in meeting the primary objectives of business intelligence. Next, we provided a brief review of dimension attributes in general.

We overviewed many of the general characteristics and purposes of attributes, including their names, and the names of the groups within which each is classified. We then continued our focus upon the properties underlying them, based upon the examination of a representative attribute within our sample cube. In this article, we extended our discussion beyond the Advanced, Basic, Misc, and Parent-Child attribute properties, which we covered in Part II, Part III, and Part IV, and examined the attribute properties belonging to the Source group, including what they define and support, and how we can manage them.

» See All Articles by Columnist William E. Pearson, III

Discuss this article in the MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services and MDX Topics Forum.

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