Introducing the SQL Server ‘MDX in Analysis Services’ Series

About the Series …

This is the first tutorial of a new series, MDX in Analysis Services, that I hope will help new users get up to speed quickly with multidimensional expressions (MDX). The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of MDX from the perspective of MS SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services (to which I will refer in most cases as simply “Analysis Services” to save time and space). Our primary focus will be the creation of MDX expressions based upon single and multiple values, the objective of which will be to create queries for use with multidimensional data sources. Each installment in the series will progressively add more features, allowing us to create and apply MDX queries in a variety of scenarios designed to meet specific real-world needs.

In the MDX in Analysis Services series, we will focus upon building a practical foundation, based upon a pragmatic approach that “exercises” each newly explored concept in a way that I hope will give it practical meaning; we will move through a discussion of the fundamental components of basic MDX queries, and perform steps to use MDX enough to gain a good understanding of how it allows us to retrieve information from OLAP cubes. Our tutorials will rely heavily upon the samples provided when we installed MSSQL 2000 Analysis Services, allowing us to focus on grasping MDX as our primary objective, without being distracted by the rather vast subject matter surrounding cube design and building, Analysis Services in general, and other equally fascinating (but voluminous) domains that lie outside the scope of our introduction to MDX.

The MDX in Analysis Services series will:

  • Introduce basic MDX concepts, focusing on the calculation of single values with MDX expressions;
  • Progress to more advanced MDX features, demonstrating some of their practical applications;
  • Explore the creation of MDX queries through the use of MDX sets, where we’ll expand our understanding of MDX to include the creation of multiple value expressions;
  • Focus upon the creation of calculated members;
  • Explore the creation and uses of calculated cells;
  • Explore the implementation and uses of drill-through functionality;
  • Introduce performance tuning procedures and other efficiency tips for using MDX;
  • Introduce other MDX features and nuances at appropriate junctures.

In this session, Concepts and Navigation, we will gain a broad understanding of the components and capabilities of an MDX expression. We will:

  • Use MDX to navigate the structure of an OLAP data source (our cube);
  • Obtain information about the dimension hierarchy and its members with MDX expressions;
  • Create a Calculated Member via an MDX expression, focusing our initial efforts on using constant values;
  • Use MDX to perform conditional tests and comparisons within expressions;
  • Query the multidimensional data source (our cube) and return values.

What We Need to Complete the Series

The MDX in Analysis Services series presupposes that you have MSSQL Server 2000 installed on your local PC, which needs to have at least the Workstation Edition of Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 (Service pack 5 or later) or Microsoft Windows 2000, Professional Edition. Other applications will be briefly touched upon, including Microsoft Excel 2000 and other Microsoft Office 2000 components. While many combinations of PCs, networks, and network versions of the foregoing applications will work, the applications and basic PC described are suggested minimums. Obviously, the PC must meet the system requirements for a MSSQL Server 2000 installation. (These requirements are readily available at the Microsoft Web site, along with a library of highly useful information, as most of us are aware.)

For all of the tutorials that we undertake in this series, we will be using the Data Sources and Samples provided in the Typical installation of MSSQL 2000 Analysis Services.

Page 2: Fundamental MDX Concepts

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William E. Pearson, III

William Pearson
William Pearson
Bill has been working with computers since before becoming a "big eight" CPA, after which he carried his growing information systems knowledge into management accounting, internal auditing, and various capacities of controllership. Bill entered the world of databases and financial systems when he became a consultant for CODA-Financials, a U.K. - based software company that hired only CPA's as application consultants to implement and maintain its integrated financial database - one of the most conceptually powerful, even in his current assessment, to have emerged. At CODA Bill deployed financial databases and business intelligence systems for many global clients. Working with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and focusing on MSSQL Server, Bill created Island Technologies Inc. in 1997, and has developed a large and diverse customer base over the years since. Bill's background as a CPA, Internal Auditor and Management Accountant enable him to provide value to clients as a liaison between Accounting / Finance and Information Services. Moreover, as a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) - a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies - Bill offers his clients the CPA's perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology. From this perspective, he helps them to effectively manage information while ensuring the data's reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. Bill has implemented enterprise business intelligence systems over the years for many Fortune 500 companies, focusing his practice (since the advent of MSSQL Server 2000) upon the integrated Microsoft business intelligence solution. He leverages his years of experience with other enterprise OLAP and reporting applications (Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and others) in regular conversions of these once-dominant applications to the Microsoft BI stack. Bill believes it is easier to teach technical skills to people with non-technical training than vice-versa, and he constantly seeks ways to graft new technology into the Accounting and Finance arenas. Bill was awarded Microsoft SQL Server MVP in 2009. Hobbies include advanced literature studies and occasional lectures, with recent concentration upon the works of William Faulkner, Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. Other long-time interests have included the exploration of generative music sourced from database architecture.

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