Introduction to SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services: Exploring Virtual Cubes


About the Series …

This is the sixth 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 (“Analysis Services“), with each installment
progressively adding features 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
.

Introduction

In the first article of the series,
we used the Cube Wizard to build an initial cube with the assistance of
the Dimension Wizard. We progressed through subsequent articles,
creating similar dimensions to those we built with the Wizard, focusing largely
in our second article on using the Dimension Editor to illustrate
options for building a more customized cube. We continued this examination of
dimensions in Article Three, where we recreated the calendar
time dimension, this time focusing on the process through which the Dimension Wizard converts existing time/date fields to a time dimension, along with
its hierarchy of levels and members. Article Three also
exposed ways to customize the predefined, time-related properties that the
wizard establishes in building the time dimension, suggesting options for
customization of these properties to enhance the cube, from the dual
perspectives of user-friendliness and the reporting needs of the organization.
We created an example of an alternate time dimension for fiscal time
reporting, and then we discussed some of the considerations surrounding the
simultaneous housing of both hierarchies in the same OLAP cube structure.

In Article Four, we examined another special type of dimension,
the Parent-Child dimension, and explored the attributes that make it
different from a regular dimension. We discussed the considerations that
surround Parent-Child dimensions, such as the recursive nature of their data
sources, and various actions that must be handled differently in their creation
and maintenance. We created a parent-child dimension using the Dimension
Wizard
, within which we worked with levels and properties. Finally, we
enabled values at the parent level of our newly created parent-child
dimension. In Article
Five
, Working with the Cube
Editor
, we reviewed, summarized and integrated many of the concepts and
components that we had previously constructed individually in earlier lessons.
We undertook a complete cube build “from scratch,” pulling together all that we
had learned, to demonstrate the assembly of a cube more sophisticated than the
cube we generated in our first lesson with the Cube Wizard.

In
this article, Exploring
Virtual Cubes
, we will introduce the concept of
virtual cubes, and practice their creation and use. We will discuss the
options that virtual cubes provide, from the intermingling perspectives of
consolidation of multiple data sources, presentation enhancement and control,
and other functionality.

In this article, we will:

  • Discuss
    potential uses of virtual cubes to offer options that extend the
    functionality and capabilities of individual OLAP cubes;
  • Create
    virtual cubes to practice their development for:
    • Consolidation
      of data within multiple OLAP cubes;
    • Comparison
      of data between individual cubes;
    • Control
      /customization of information presentation.
  • Modify
    the structure of a virtual cube;
  • Add a
    calculated member within a virtual cube;
  • Discuss
    limitations and strengths in the use of virtual cubes where appropriate.


Page 2: Exploring Virtual Cubes

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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