"So we grew together,|
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition"
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Sc. 2
About the Series ...
This is the thirteenth article 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 tutorial progressively adding features designed to meet specific
For more information about the series in general, as well as
the software and systems requirements needed for getting the most out of the
lessons included, please see the first article, MDX at
First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.
Note: Service Pack 3 updates are assumed for MSSQL
Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, and the related Books
Online and Samples.
We Accomplished in our Last Article
last article of the series, Basic
Set Functions: The Order() Function, we explored the versatile, Order()
function, which we find to be useful in many queries - queries that rank from
the simplest to the most advanced. The Order() function provides the
sorting capabilities we need within MDX; its support of the two general types of sort order,
hierarchized and nonhierarchized, make it an important part of our analysis toolsets.
In addition to discussing the purpose of the Order()
function, we examined the syntax surrounding its uses, and illustrated its application
in practice exercises, providing hands-on exposure to both hierarchized and
nonhierarchized order types. Finally, we discussed the results we obtained in
each exercise, remarking on the distinguishing characteristics of each.
this lesson, we will focus our attention on another commonly used MDX tool, the
Union() function. The rather straightforward purpose of the Union() function is to combine two sets
into one, but the direct and indirect uses to which the function can be put are
legion. Suffice it to say that Union() provides important capabilities within
MDX, and is thus another valuable part of our analysis toolsets.
with an introduction to the Union()
function, this lesson will include:
an examination of the primary and alternate syntaxes surrounding
illustrative examples of the uses of the function in practice
a brief discussion of the MDX results we obtain in the practice
The Union() Function
The Union() function, according to the Analysis Services Books
Online, "returns the union of two sets, eliminating duplicates by
default." The function provides, moreover, a means of retaining
duplicates for those scenarios where this might be desirable. As we shall see,
alternative ways of accomplishing unions of sets, both with and without
duplicates, are possible in Analysis Services using its extensions to OLE DB
We will examine the syntax for the
Union() function in general, building to the union of two sets
after creating an individual query for each, to show that the Union() function does, indeed, generate the results we might
expect within the context of an illustrative business need. Next, our practice
example will be modified to introduce the possibility of duplication within a Union() function, so that we can examine the means that MDX
affords us for managing duplication. Finally, we will present alternative
syntax where appropriate, illustrating its use in practice examples that
parallel uses for the primary syntax we present, so as to make the comparisons
This will give us a richer
understanding of the options we have within the Union() function, together with a feel for the similarities, as
well as for the differences, of the results those options afford.
Union() allows us to combine sets. The primary syntax we use to
take advantage of Union() affords us an
optional flag to force the presentation of duplicates that might occur
within the sets we are subjecting to the Union() function. The
default is the elimination of duplicates, through the removal of duplicate
members from the end ("tail") of the unioned set, as we shall see.
Analysis Services also presents a
couple of alternate syntax structures that achieve the effects of Union(), and that carry implicit handling of duplicates within
their definitions. As we mentioned earlier, the alternate syntax structures
comprise extensions to MDX in OLE DB, and are thus relevant specifically to
Analysis Services implementations.
The Union() function acts
as a vehicle to allow us to meet myriad common and uncommon business needs,
including the obvious need to bring together two sets into a single set, for
presentation, computation, and perhaps other purposes. Additional uses I have
seen include forced elimination of duplicates between two sets, in scenarios
where this default behavior can accomplish an elimination where other attempts
fail, or are more costly with regard to operating overhead and so forth.
Let's look at some syntax illustrations
to further clarify the operation of Union().
the sets to be combined in the Union() function are placed
within the parentheses to the right of Union, and separated by a comma. The optional ALL flag
overrides the default behavior of the function with regard to duplicates, and
allows duplicates to remain in the set that is produced. The syntax is shown in
the following string:
Union(<<Set1>>, <<Set2>>[, ALL])
Alternate forms of the function also exist. These are shown in the
Alternate Syntax 1:
Alternate Syntax 2:
<<Set1>> + <<Set 2>>