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Reporting Options for Analysis Services Cubes: MS Excel 2002

April 7, 2003

About the Series ...

This is the tenth article of the series, Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services. As I stated in the first article, Creating Our First Cube, the primary focus of this series is an introduction to the practical creation and manipulation of multidimensional OLAP cubes. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of MS SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services ("Analysis Services"), with each installment progressively adding features designed to meet specific real-world needs. For more information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to prepare for the exercises we will undertake, please see my initial article, Creating Our First Cube.

In addition to MSSQL Server 2000 and MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, of which we have made repeated use in the previous articles of the series, further application considerations apply for this and subsequent tutorials because of their MS Office orientations. For those joining the series at this point because of a desire to work with Analysis Services and its components from the Office perspective, it is assumed that Analysis Services is accessible to / installed on the PC, with the appropriate access rights to the sample cubes (which are provided in a Typical installation of Analysis Services).

Through, and together with, Microsoft Excel 2002, we will use Microsoft Query to create an Excel PivotTable report based upon an OLAP cube as a data source. Microsoft Query provides the capability for establishing connections to our cubes, among other functions. Because it is an optional Microsoft Office component, we will need to ascertain the existence of Microsoft Query on our PCs. If this is the first time Microsoft Query is being accessed on the machine, it may be a good idea to consult the appropriate Office 2002 online documentation for installation instructions.

We will also need the Microsoft OLAP Provider, included in a typical Excel 2002 installation, which consists of the Data Source Driver and the client software needed to access cubes created by Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services.

Introduction

In the first article of the series, we used the Cube Wizard to build an initial cube with the assistance of the Dimension Wizard. We progressed through subsequent articles, creating similar dimensions to those we built with the Wizard, focusing largely in our second article on using the Dimension Editor to illustrate options for building a more customized cube. We continued this examination of dimensions in Article Three, where we recreated the calendar time dimension, this time focusing on the process through which the Dimension Wizard converts existing time / date fields to a time dimension, along with its hierarchy of levels and members. Article Three also exposed ways to customize the predefined, time-related properties that the wizard establishes in building the time dimension, suggesting options for customization of these properties to enhance the cube, from the dual perspectives of user-friendliness and the reporting needs of the organization. We created an example of an alternate time dimension for fiscal time reporting, and then we discussed some of the considerations surrounding the simultaneous housing of both hierarchies in the same OLAP cube structure.

In Article Four, we examined another special type of dimension, the ParentChild dimension, and explored the attributes that make it different from a regular dimension. We discussed the considerations that surround Parent-Child dimensions, such as the recursive nature of their data sources, and various actions that must be handled differently in their creation and maintenance. We created a Parent-Child dimension using the Dimension Wizard, within which we worked with levels and properties. Finally, we enabled values at the Parent level of our newly created Parent-Child dimension. In Article Five, Working with the Cube Editor, we reviewed, summarized and integrated many of the concepts and components that we had previously constructed individually in earlier lessons. We undertook a complete cube build "from scratch," pulling together all that we had learned, to demonstrate the assembly of a cube more sophisticated than the cube we had generated in our first lesson with the Cube Wizard.

In Article Six, Exploring Virtual Cubes, we introduced the concept of virtual cubes, and practiced their creation and use. We discussed the options that virtual cubes provide, from the often-intermingling perspectives of consolidation of multiple data sources, presentation enhancement and control, and other functionality. Through the use of hands-on illustrations, we demonstrated some of the options that virtual cubes offer to extend the functionality and capabilities of individual OLAP cubes

In Articles Seven and Eight, which comprise the two-part tutorial, Custom Cubes: Financial Reporting, we established as our primary objective the construction of a simple cube to meet some illustrative business requirements, revolving around basic Income Statement financial reporting. We expanded upon many of the concepts we have introduced at some level in earlier lessons, involving the integration of cubes, as well as a host of information about cube components and general cube design and creation. We discussed some of the challenges that accompany cube design for financial reporting. In addition, we explored the use of Custom Members as an alternative approach to "merging" cubes, using cubes that we created under the scenario of a realistic business constraint - the absence of a single fact table that contained "all that we needed in one place" to meet the objectives of the cube's design.

We navigated the process of Parent-Child dimension creation to practice the steps, and introduced various new concepts that we had not encountered in the series up to this point, including the use of Custom Members and the handling of rollup and aggregation considerations. Among other concepts we discussed and put into action, we made use of a UNION ALL query to prepare a "virtual" fact table for more effective cube creation, introduced methods of sign and data type control within our presentation, and addressed formatting and other presentation considerations as we created a Financial Reporting cube that focused upon the Income Statement.

In our last lesson, Article Nine, we continued our series within Analysis Services through the now-familiar interface and associated dialogs, and expanded our exploration by grafting in, as an alternative approach, the creation of basic MDX expressions and queries for use with multidimensional data sources. Our focus was the establishment of the drillthrough capability within our cube models, from two distinct approaches, while examining some of the valuable uses of the drillthrough functionality from an information consumer perspective.








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