Logical Functions: IsSibling(): Conditional Logic within Filter Expressions

About the Series …

This article is a member of the series, MDX Essentials. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of the Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) language, with each tutorial progressively adding features designed to meet specific real-world needs.

For more information about the series in general, as well as the software and systems requirements for getting the most out of the lessons included, please see my first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials. Current updates are assumed for MSSQL Server, MSSQL Server Analysis Services, and the related Books Online and Samples.


In IsSibling(): Conditional Logic within Calculations, another article within my MDX Essentials series, we introduced the IsSibling() function, from the perspective of its use within a calculation. We discussed the straightforward purpose of this logical function, to return a value indicating whether or not a member we specify is the sibling of another member we specify. (By “sibling,” of course, we mean that the two members share the same parent.) We discussed the manner in which IsSibling() manages to do this, and ways we can leverage the operator to support effective conditional logic to meet various business needs within our own environments.

In this article, we will examine IsSibling(), once again as a conditional logic modifier, but within the context of a filter. Combining IsSibling() with the MDX Filter() function is another way we commonly see it in action in the business environment, and our exposure to the practical aspects of its employment in this way will serve to round out our overall awareness of the potential of IsSibling(). From the perspective of its use in combination with Filter(), this article will include:

  • A review of the general syntax surrounding the function;
  • Illustrative examples of uses of the function in practice exercises;
  • A brief discussion of the MDX results obtained within each of the practice examples.

The IsSibling() Function


As we related in IsSibling(): Conditional Logic within Calculations, the Books Online tell us that the IsSibling() function “returns whether a specified member is a sibling of another specified member.” A Boolean value of “True” is returned if the member expression to which the function is applied is a sibling of the second specified member; otherwise IsSibling() returns “False.” In its capacity, as a logical function, to “test” the nature / status of a member, IsSibling() is often employed in conjunction with the IIF function to conditionally return data, such as a member or members (for example, children of a selected member, if they exist, or the selected member if it has no children), or values based upon the nature / status of members.

We will examine in detail the syntax for the IsSibling() function after our customary overview in the Discussion section that follows. Following that, we will conduct practice examples within a couple of scenarios, constructed to support hypothetical business needs that illustrate uses for the function. This will afford us an opportunity to explore some the basic options that IsSibling() can offer the knowledgeable user. Hands-on practice with IsSibling(), where we will create queries that employ the function, will help us to activate what we have learned in the Discussion and Syntax sections.

NOTE: For more detail surrounding the Filter() function, see Basic Set Functions: The Filter() Function, a member of my Database Journal MDX Essentials series.


To restate our initial description of its operation, IsSibling() returns “True” if a specified member expression represents a sibling of (that is, shares a parent with) another member that we specify within a given use of the function; otherwise, the function returns “False.” We can use IsSibling() to apply conditional logic based upon the location or existence of members. As we have noted to be the case with most MDX functions and operators, pairing the IsSibling() function with other MDX functions and operators can help us to leverage its power even further.

Let’s look at syntax specifics to further clarify the operation of IsSibling().


To review the syntax involved with employing the IsSibling() function, we specify the primary member expression (the member are testing as to “sibling status”) and the secondary member expression (the member against which we are testing the primary member) within parentheses to the immediate right of the function. The function takes the member expressions, which are thus appended to it as its arguments, and returns True if the member denoted by the primary member expression is a sibling of the secondary member (or, in other words, the primary member shares the same parent as the secondary member).

If the member specified by the primary member expression is not a sibling of the secondary member (that is to say, if the primary member has a different parent than the secondary member) a False is returned, as we might expect.

The general syntax is shown in the following string:

IsSibling(Primary_Member_Expression, Secondary_Member_Expression)

We noted the ease with which we can employ IsSibling() in IsSibling(): Conditional Logic within Calculations. We simply place the primary and secondary member expressions, respectively, under consideration in the parentheses to the right of the function. As an example, within a query executed against the sample Adventure Works cube, for the dimension named Geography (with a hierarchy of the same name), the following expression:

ISSIBLING([Geography].[Geography].CURRENTMEMBER,      [Geography].[Geography].[Country].[United States] ) 

returns True if the current member of the Geography dimension / Geography hierarchy is any of the following:

  • Australia
  • France
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

(We note that the primary member appears, as well, having been treated within MDX as its own sibling.)

Depending upon the structure of the query (and specifically upon whether the syntax eliminates nulls), if members of levels subordinate to the Country level, within the Geography hierarchy, were returned in, say, the row axis of the dataset, their values would be null.

NOTE: For information on several of the “relative” functions, of which .CURRENTMEMBER is an example, see my article MDX Member Functions: “Relative” Member Functions, within the Database Journal MDX Essentials series.

We will practice some uses of the IsSibling() function in the section that follows.

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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