Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services: Manage Distinct Count with a Virtual Cube

About the Series …

This
article is a member of the series Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000
Analysis Services
. 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, 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.

Introduction

In this article, we will continue the exploration of distinct counts we began in our previous article, Distinct
Count Basics: Two Perspectives
. Having discussed why distinct counts are useful,
and often required, within the design of robust analysis and reporting
applications, we described some of the challenges that are inherent in distinct
counts
. We then undertook practice exercises to illustrate general solutions
to meet example business requirements, providing an approach afforded us by the
MSAS user interface, and then an alternative approach we enacted using MDX.
Our stated purpose was to lay the framework for this and subsequent articles,
where we will focus upon specific scenarios that occur commonly in the business
environment, within which the optimal use of distinct counts can become
a very real consideration.

In this article, we will examine one approach to the efficient
use of DISTINCT COUNT within our applications: We will focus upon the
optimization of DISTINCT COUNT through the isolation of the DISTINCT COUNT
attributes into a separate cube, and show how this represents one of the
more efficient approaches to optimizing the related functionality. To
accomplish our objectives, we will undertake the following steps in this
article:

  • Set the stage
    by providing a hypothetical business requirement;

  • Meet the
    requirement with an MDX query that contains DISTINCT COUNT;

  • Comment upon
    performance of the query in general;

  • Create a
    separate cube to house the DISTINCT COUNT attributes of our solution;

  • Combine the new
    DISTINCT COUNT cube with the previously existing cube, through the
    creation of a virtual cube in MSAS;

  • Create a new
    query, targeting the virtual cube as its source, to return a dataset
    identical to that returned by our initial query;

  • Comment upon performance
    gains
    in executing the new query upon the new cube combination.
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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