Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services: Actions in Virtual Cubes

About the Series …

This
is the twenty-second 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, 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: Service Pack 3 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, 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 ("MSAS").

Introduction

In our
last
article
, we began an exploration of MSAS Actions. Our initial
objective was to gain an understanding of the Types of Actions, and the
options that are available as points of interaction (Targets) by
information consumers. We then activated what we learned, reinforcing the
concepts within a hands-on practice exercise that allowed us to see the
end-to-end process for creating a simple Action for a regular cube.

In this
article, we will extend our examination of Actions to their creation and use
within virtual cubes (see Exploring
Virtual Cubes
in this series for my
introduction to virtual cubes). After considering the differences in the
regular and virtual cube scenarios, we will create an Action in a sample
virtual cube. We will then perform the import of an example Action into
a virtual cube. We will accomplish these steps within illustrative practice
exercises, commenting upon the results obtained to reinforce our understanding
of the concepts involved.

As I remarked
in our last session, Actions are a powerful feature that allows
information consumers to go beyond the robust OLAP perspective offered by MSAS,
and to "step outside" for related information, to generate commands
or to initialize programs, without leaving their current analysis focus. We
also saw how Actions can be structured into the cube by the developer,
to allow users to perform these extended activities from various vantage
points, with a simple right-click of the mouse. The power of Actions
lies in their potential to save the consumers time and focus,
precious considerations within the context of analysis, which often loses much
value when it falls victim to distraction and interruption.

I
mentioned that I find Actions to be remarkably underused jewels within
the MSAS goldmine. Indeed, virtual cubes are also underutilized, and are often
greeted with excitement by clients who, until I explain their potential for
performance enhancement and other efficiencies in design and implementation, "know
them not" in any apparent way. I expect the vacuums that exist for Actions,
virtual cubes, and other innovative structures and capabilities of MSAS to
improve over time, especially, as I continue to point out, if the creative
users out there will contribute their ideas in public forums.

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.

Latest Articles