Mastering Enterprise BI: Working with Measure Groups

About the Series …

This
article is a member of the series Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis Services. The series is designed to provide
hands-on application of the fundamentals of MS SQL Server Analysis Services,
with each installment progressively presenting features and techniques designed
to meet specific real – world needs. For more information on the series,
please see my initial article, Creating Our First
Cube
.

Note: To follow along with the steps we undertake, the following components,
samples and tools are recommended, and should be installed according to the
respective documentation that accompanies MSSQL Server 2005:

  • Microsoft SQL
    Server 2005 Database Engine

  • Microsoft SQL
    Server 2005 Analysis Services

  • Microsoft SQL
    Server 2005 Integration Services

  • Business
    Intelligence Development Studio

  • Microsoft SQL
    Server 2005 sample databases

  • The Analysis Services
    Tutorial sample project and other samples that are available with the
    installation of the above.

To
successfully replicate the steps of the article, you also need to have:

  • Membership
    within one of the following:

    • the Administrators
      local group on the Analysis Services computer

    • the Server
      role in the instance of Analysis Services

  • Read permissions within any SQL
    Server 2005
    sample databases we access within our practice session, as
    appropriate.

Note: Current Service Pack updates are assumed for the operating system, MSSQL
Server 2005
("MSSQL Server"), MSSQL Server 2005 Analysis
Services
("Analysis Services"), MSSQL Server 2005 Reporting
Services
("Reporting 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 2005 and its component applications.

About the Mastering Enterprise
BI
Articles …

Having implemented, and developed within, most of the major
enterprise BI applications for over fourteen years, and having developed an
appreciation for the marriage of ease of use and analytical power
through my background in Accounting and Finance, I have come to appreciate the
leadership roles Cognos and other vendors have played in the evolution of OLAP
and enterprise reporting. As I have stated repeatedly, however, I have become
convinced that the components of the Microsoft integrated business intelligence
solution (including MSSQL Server, Analysis Services, and Reporting
Services
) will commoditize business intelligence. It is therefore easy to
see why a natural area of specialization for me has become the conversion of Cognos
(and other) enterprise business intelligence to the Microsoft solution. In addition to converting formerly
dominant business intelligence systems, such as Cognos, Business Objects / Crystal,
MicroStrategy and others, to the Reporting Services architecture, I
regularly conduct strategy sessions about these conversions with large
organizations in a diverse range of industries – the interest grows daily as
awareness of the solution becomes pervasive. Indeed, the five-to-six-plus
figures that many can shave from their annual IT budgets represent a compelling
sweetener to examining this incredible toolset.

The purpose of the Mastering
Enterprise BI
subset of my Introduction to MSSQL Server Analysis
Services
series is to focus on techniques for
implementing features in Analysis Services that parallel – or outstrip – those
found in the more "mature" enterprise OLAP packages. In many cases, which I try to
outline in my articles at appropriate junctures, the functionality of the OLAP
solutions within well-established, but expensive, packages, such as Cognos
PowerPlay Transformer
and Cognos PowerPlay, can be met – often
exceeded – in most respects by the Analysis Services / Reporting Services
combination – at a tiny fraction of the cost. The vacuum of documentation
comparing components of the Microsoft BI solution to their counterparts among
the dominant enterprise BI vendors, to date, represents a serious "undersell"
of both Analysis Services and Reporting Services, particularly
from an OLAP reporting perspective. I hope to contribute to making this arena
more accessible to everyone, and to share my implementation and conversion
experiences as the series evolves – and, within the context of the Mastering
Enterprise BI
articles, to demonstrate that the ease of replicating popular
enterprise BI features in Analysis Services will be yet another reason
that the Microsoft solution will commoditize business intelligence.

For
more information about the Mastering Enterprise BI articles, see
the section entitled "About the
Mastering
Enterprise BI
Articles" in my article Relative
Time Periods in an Analysis Services Cube, Part I
.

Introduction

The advent of MSSQL
Server Analysis Services 2005
witnessed the introduction of many new
concepts within a dramatically more sophisticated design environment. Measure
Groups
represent one of myriad enhancements that we encounter early in
exploring and implementing Analysis Services 2005 for use within
enterprise Business Intelligence environments. A Measure Group not only
holds the measures from a given fact table, but it also houses the aggregations
of those measures for various dimensional hierarchies that we designate.

When we couple a
dimension with a Measure Group, we associate the measures within the
group with the appropriate levels of the hierarchy within that dimension. This
allows us the flexibility of using the same "grain mapping" between
the level and other measures we might wish to add to the same group. The most
obvious advantage that accrues is the capability to maintain different Measure
Groups
with different meaningful levels, eliminating confusion and delivering
new levels of design friendliness.

Measure Groups are, therefore, logical
collections
of related measures, whose purpose is to make life easier for
solution and application designers. In this article, we will examine Measure
Groups
, and get hands-on exposure to the process of adding them to a basic cube
we construct within the new Business Intelligence Development Studio. We
will overview the creation of Measure Groups, and discuss ways in which
they can offer flexibility in cube and solution / application design and
development. As a part of our examination of the steps, we will:

  • Prepare Analysis
    Services
    , and our environment, by creating an Analysis Services Project
    to house our development steps, and to serve as a platform for the design of a
    quick cube model, within which to perform subsequent procedures in our session;

  • Create a Data
    Source
    containing the information Analysis Services needs to connect
    to a database;

  • Create a Data
    Source View
    containing schema information;

  • Build a cube
    based upon our Data Source and Data Source View, containing data
    from our sample relational tables;

  • Add examples
    of Measure Groups as part of cube design;

  • Assign, via
    the Dimensional Usage tab of the Designer, granularity at measure
    / dimension intersects for representative members of the new Measure Groups;

  • Deploy our Analysis
    Services Solution
    ;

  • Browse the Cube,
    focusing on the new Measure Groups and associated details.
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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