MDX at First Glance: Introduction to SQL Server MDX Essentials

Unlock data warehouses with the analytical language of OLAP. Join Author Bill Pearson in the first of a new series of tutorials designed to get you up and running with the fundamentals of Multidimensional Expressions (MDX).

About the Series…

This is the first article of my new series, MDX Essentials. The primary focus of this series will be an introduction to the MDX language. 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.

As we progress through the series, we will build upon previous lessons and the concepts we have introduced therein. However, one of my objectives is to make each lesson as “standalone” as possible, meaning that we should not encounter cases where we cannot complete a given lesson without components or objects that we have created in previous lessons. This should make it easier for “casual” visitors to join us with any lesson, and still successfully complete that session, given an existing understanding of concepts and principles that we have accumulated up to that point.

What We Will Need to Complete the Tutorials

To get the most out of the MDX Essentials series, we need to have installed at least the Analysis Services component of MSSQL Server 2000. While the full installation of SQL Server 2000 allows for virtually any exercise we might undertake, the majority of our sessions center on Analysis Services, the PivotTable Service, and their constituent parts. Installation of Analysis Services from the Standard Edition of MSSQL Server 2000 will be adequate for the vast majority of our activities.

For purposes of carrying out limited Microsoft Office — related activities, Microsoft Excel 2000 and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft FrontPage 2000 will come in handy. We will also make use of the Microsoft OLAP Provider, included in a typical Excel 2000 installation, which consists of the data source driver and the client software needed to access cubes created by Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services.

For purposes of the series, it is assumed that MSSQL Server 2000 and, specifically, the MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services components (I will often substitute the term “Analysis Services” going forward, to save time and space) are accessible to/installed on the PC, with the appropriate access rights to the sample cubes provided in a Typical installation of Analysis Services. It is also assumed that the computer(s) involved meet the system requirements, including hardware and operating systems, of the applications we have mentioned.

Page 2: Introduction to MDX: The First Blush

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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