MDX Essentials: Basic Set Functions: The Order() Function

This is the twelfth article 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 needed for getting the most out of the lessons included, please see the first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.

Note: Service Pack 3 updates are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, and the related Books Online and Samples.

What We Accomplished in our Last Article

In the last article of the series, MDX Time Series Functions, Part III: The LastPeriods() and ParallelPeriod() Functions, we concluded our three-article group of lessons on the time series functions, a specialized family of functions that MDX provides to perform analysis within the context of time. After discussing in general the common business need to analyze data over time, we first overviewed the LastPeriods() and ParallelPeriod() functions. For each function, we then illustrated the syntax that is appropriate for its effective use. Finally, we tested our understanding of how to leverage the function by undertaking a relevant practice exercise, discussing the results we obtained and performing additional proof exercises to confirm their accuracy.

Introduction

In this lesson, we will focus our attention on a basic function that, however humble, finds itself in use in expressions and queries that rank from the simplest, perhaps, to the most advanced. The Order() function provides the sorting capabilities we need within MDX, and is thus an important part of our analysis toolsets.

As simple as mere ordering might appear to be, the support of hierarchies in MDX makes the processes a bit more involved. Two general types of order, hierarchized and nonhierarchized, can be anticipated. Ordering in a hierarchized manner arranges members within a given hierarchy, and then arranges the hierarchical levels. Nonhierarchized ordering, in contrast, ignores hierarchy completely in the arrangement of all members within the affected set.

Along with an introduction to the Order() function, this lesson will include:

• an examination of the syntax surrounding the function;
• illustrative examples of the uses of the function in practice exercises;
• a brief discussion of the MDX results we obtain in the practice examples.
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.