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Posted Apr 18, 2008

Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part II - Page 2

By William Pearson

Overview of the Attribute Properties

As we noted in previous articles of this subseries, Analysis Services exposes many properties that determine how dimensions and dimension attributes function. We will continue what we began in Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part I, and further examine the properties for our selected attribute, Geography Key, within our sample UDM, by taking the following steps.

1.  Within the Attributes pane of the Dimension Structure tab, right-click the Geography Key attribute.

2.  Click Properties on the context menu that appears, as depicted in Illustration 5.

Illustration 5: Select Properties from the Context Menu ...

The Properties pane appears for the Geography Key attribute. (The Properties pane likely appeared when we selected the Product dimension within the Dimensions pane, by default, below the Solution Explorer. The design environment can, of course, be customized in many ways to accommodate your local environment and development needs.)

We can, at this stage, see the thirty DimensionAttribute properties for the Geography Key attribute within the Properties pane. We examined the first eleven properties, the members of the Advanced properties group, in Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part I. We noted that these properties include the following:

  • AttributeHierarchyDisplayFolder
  • AttributeHierarchyEnabled
  • AttributeHierarchyOptimizedState
  • AttributeHierarchyVisible
  • DefaultMember
  • DiscretizationBucketCount
  • DiscretizationMethod
  • EstimatedCount
  • IsAggregatable
  • OrderBy
  • OrderByAttribute

The five Basic properties, appearing underneath the Advanced properties group, include the following:

  • Description
  • ID
  • Name
  • Type
  • Usage

The Misc group comes next, and includes the following four properties:

  • AttributeHierarchyOrdered
  • GroupingBehavior
  • InstanceSelection
  • MemberNamesUnique

Beneath the Misc group in the Properties pane lies the Parent-Child group, which includes the following five properties:

  • MembersWithData
  • MembersWithDataCaption
  • NamingTemplate
  • RootMemberIf
  • UnaryOperatorColumn

Finally, the five Source properties, appearing underneath the Parent-Child properties group, include the following:

  • CustomRollupColumn
  • CustomRollupPropertiesColumn
  • KeyColumns
  • NameColumn
  • ValueColumn

The Properties pane for the Geography Key attribute, with the Basic properties group (which we will examine in the practice session that follows) expanded, appears as shown in Illustration 6.

Illustration 6: The Properties Pane for the Geography Key Attribute (Basic Properties Expanded)

Let's take a look at each of the individual attribute properties in the sections that follow.

Examine Attribute Properties: Basic Properties

We will continue the examination of attribute properties that we began in Dimension Attributes: Introduction and Overview, Part I, with the Basic properties group. As we did with the members of the Advanced properties group in the previous article, we will discuss the purpose of each property, and examine or discuss, in most cases, possible settings with which we can come into contact within the context of the property.

Basic Property: Description

The Description property affords us a place to place a free-text description of the attribute.

Basic Property: ID

The ID property specifies the unique identifier of the dimension.

Basic Property: Name

The Name property contains the user-friendly name of the attribute.

Basic Property: Type

The value of the Type property for an attribute determines the attribute type – and specifies the type of information contained by - that attribute. Within Analysis Services 2005, attribute types help to classify an attribute based upon its business utility or functionality. Analysis Services offers many attribute types within the property’s dropdown selector, a portion of which (including the default selection, Regular) are depicted in Illustration 7.

Illustration 7: Partial View of the Attribute Types Available for Selection ...

Many of the available options represent types which are used by client applications to display or support an attribute. However, some attribute types also have specific meaning to Analysis Services. As in illustration, some attribute types identify attributes that represent time periods in various calendars for time dimensions.

Many attribute types for dimensions or attributes are set via the associated wizard that we use when defining these objects. Attribute types can also be set when we employ wizards, such as the Business Intelligence Wizard, to add functionality to dimensions within Analysis Services. A good example is the application of various attribute types to attributes in a dimension when we use the Business Intelligence Wizard to add Account Intelligence to a given dimension: the wizard applies several attribute types to attributes in the affected dimension, for example, to identify attributes that contain the names, codes, numbers, and structure of accounts within the dimension.

Attribute types in Analysis Services fall in into five categorized groups. These attribute type groups include:

  • General: These values are available to all attributes, and exist only to enable classification of attributes for client application purposes.
  • Account Dimension: These values identify an attribute that belongs to an account dimension.
  • Currency Dimension: These values identify an attribute that belongs to a currency dimension.
  • Slowly Changing: These values identify an attribute that belongs to a slowly changing dimension.
  • ·        Time Dimension: These values identify an attribute that belongs to a time dimension.

Associated with each of the attribute type category groups listed above are multiple possible attribute type values. (These are the values partially represented in Illustration 7 above). We will examine many of these values within other articles of my Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis Services series, where they will arise within an examination of respective objects and related subject matter in general.

Basic Property: Usage

Usage allows us to specify how an attribute is used. Among selection options are the default value of Regular, as well as the values Key and Parent. (The setting for the attribute we have chosen for our practice example, Geography Key, is Key.)

1.  Click the downward arrow selector button that appears to the immediate right of the Usage property label, to expose the three options for selection, as shown in Illustration 8.

Illustration 8: Usage Property Value Selection Options

Having completed our review of the Basic attribute properties, we will conclude this part of our examination of attribute properties. We will extend our introductory examination of dimension attributes, specifically continuing our discussion with the Misc, Parent-Child and Source groups of properties, within subsequent parts of this article.

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.

2.  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.

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


In this, the second 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 overview 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 group of properties, which we began in Part I, and examined the attribute properties belonging to the Basic group, including what they define and support, and how we can manage them. We will continue our examination of attribute properties, this time for those that constitute the membership of the Misc properties group, in the next part of this article.

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

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