About the Series ...
article is a member of the series Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis
Services. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of
the fundamentals of MS SQL Server Analysis Services, with each
installment progressively adding features and techniques 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.
Note: Current Service Pack updates are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL
Server 2000 Analysis Services, and the related Books Online
and Samples. Images are from a Windows 2003 Server
environment, upon which I have also implemented MS Office 2003, but the
steps performed in the articles, together with the views that result, will be
quite similar within any environment that supports MSSQL Server 2000 and MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services ("Analysis
Services" or "MSAS"). The same is generally true,
except where differences are specifically noted, when MS Office 2000 and
above are used in the environment, in cases where MS Office components
are presented in the article.
this article, we will examine the design and creation, within Analysis
services, of relative time periods, a popular feature that can be
generated automatically or manually for reporting in the Cognos PowerPlay application,
within its cube design component, Cognos PowerPlay Transformer, as well
as other popular enterprise BI applications. A common request among scores of
e-mails and calls I receive, centering upon the replication, in Analysis
Services, of features found within popular enterprise BI applications, is for
assistance in setting up these time periods, examples of which include current "period,"
(meaning month, quarter, year, or other levels of the Time / Date
dimension), prior period, period to date, and others. In this article, we will
examine the creation such a time grouping in
Analysis Services, which we can later put to use in the reporting component of
the Microsoft integrated BI solution, Reporting Services, much as we
would report from a cube created in Cognos PowerPlay Transformer using Cognos
PowerPlay as the reporting application.
In this, the first half of a two-part discussion surrounding relative
time periods in an Analysis Services cube, we will overview the
capabilities found in Cognos PowerPlay Transformer and other enterprise
cube design applications, and then:
simple approach to meeting the requirement for relative time periods;
differences between our approach and the Cognos PowerPlay Transformer
practice exercise, whereby we add relative time capabilities with this
adequacy of our solution by demonstrating the use of the new capabilities from
the perspective of the Cube Browser in Analysis Manager;
Look forward to
a more sophisticated solution we will propose and build in Part II, to
more closely replicate the functionality in Cognos PowerPlay Transformer
and make the solution even more user friendly for reporting specialists and
About the Mastering Enterprise
BI Articles ...
Having worked with Cognos PowerPlay, together with its
cube design component, Cognos PowerPlay Transformer, for over ten years (along
with numerous other enterprise BI applications), I have come to appreciate the
leadership roles Cognos has played in the evolution of OLAP and enterprise
reporting. As I have stated repeatedly, however, I became convinced, from their
earliest appearance, that the components of the Microsoft integrated BI
solution (including MSSQL Server, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services)
will commoditize business intelligence. It is therefore easy to see why a
natural area of specialization for me has become the conversion of Cognos
enterprise BI to the Microsoft solution.
been impressed from my first exposure to each member of this exciting group of
integrated applications, my certainty in the destiny of the Microsoft BI
solution grows stronger by the day, as I convert formerly dominant enterprise
Business Intelligence systems, such as Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and
others, to the Reporting Services architecture. I receive constant requests to
conduct strategy sessions about these conversions with large organizations in a
diverse range of industries - the interest grows daily as awareness of the
solution becomes pervasive. Indeed, the five-to-six-plus figures that many can
shave from their annual IT budgets represent a compelling sweetener to
examining this incredible toolset.
purpose of the Mastering Enterprise BI subset of my Introduction to
MSSQL Server Analysis Services series is to focus on techniques for implementing features in
Analysis Services that parallel those found in the more "mature"
enterprise OLAP packages. In
many cases, which I try to outline in my articles at appropriate junctures, the
functionality of the OLAP solutions of well-established, but expensive,
packages, such as Cognos PowerPlay Transformer and Cognos PowerPlay,
can be met - often exceeded - in most respects by Analysis Services / Reporting
Services - at a tiny fraction of the cost. To this
end, I welcome input from readers who are performing comparisons between the
two vendors, or are perhaps undertaking or considering evaluations of Analysis
Services / Reporting Services against their Cognos counterparts. I look
forward to opportunities to show, in future articles, ways that the same
capabilities can be accomplished in the Microsoft solution.
vacuum of documentation comparing components of the Microsoft BI solution to their
counterparts among the dominant enterprise BI vendors, to date, represents a
serious "undersell" of both Analysis Services and Reporting Services,
particularly from an OLAP reporting perspective. I hope to contribute to
making this arena more accessible to everyone, and to share my implementation
and conversion experiences as the series evolves. In the meantime, rest
assured that the ease of replicating popular enterprise BI features OLAP in
Analysis Services will be yet another reason that the Microsoft solution "commoditizes"