MDX Essentials : Set Functions: The DRILLDOWNMEMBER() Function

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, please see my first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.

Note: To
follow along with the steps we undertake within this and prospective articles
of the series, 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 (for the accompanying
    SQL Server Management Studio);

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services;

  • Business Intelligence Development Studio;

  • The Analysis Services AdventureWorks DW sample
    database (fully deployed to Analysis Services from the AdventureWorks
    DW Analysis Services
    project that accompanies Analysis Services 2005).

    The MSSQL
    Server 2005
    and Analysis Services 2005 samples to which I refer
    above are available within a Microsoft Windows Installer package that
    accompanies the respective applications on the installation CDs, or which can
    be downloaded from Microsoft and perhaps elsewhere. The samples are not
    installed by default
    . If you did not install the samples and the AdventureWorks
    sample database during SQL Server 2005 Setup, you can install them
    after Setup finishes. For more information, see the topic "Running
    Setup to Install AdventureWorks Sample Databases and Sample
    s" in the SQL
    Server Books Online
    . Make sure that you read and follow the
    installation instructions in the Readme files that accompany the samples
    that you want to install. For a list of samples, see the topic "Samples"
    in the SQL Server Books Online.

    To successfully replicate
    the steps of the article, you also need to be a member of the appropriate group
    / role in Analysis Services to access the sample cube for our
    exercises. Read permissions are assumed for the samples upon which we
    will base our practice exercises, where we will often be using the AdventureWorks
    cube, which arrives with Analysis Services 2005 within the AdventureWorks
    DW Analysis Services

    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.

Within MSSQL Server Analysis Services 2000, we had
somewhat limited options (namely, the MDX Sample Application) for easily
querying our cube data sources with MDX (at least, that is, options that
were available "out of the box" to anyone who had simply installed Analysis
and its samples). MSSQL Server 2005 offers us numerous
means for querying our OLAP data sources. In the interest of working within the
current environment, in this and the prospective articles of the series, we
will construct and execute our MDX queries, in the most part, from the SQL
Server Management Studio
, but we will occasionally do so from the SQL
Server Business Intelligence Studio
, and perhaps from other vantage points,
to further enrich the learning experience within the subject matter involved.
For more in-depth information on any of these various "points of approach"
themselves, see the relevant sections of the Books Online.

Virtually all of the MDX we constructed in earlier articles
can now be used in the SQL Server Management Studio, SQL Server Business
Intelligence Studio
, and in various other areas within the Microsoft
integrated Business Intelligence solution, and much of what we construct
going forward can be executed in the MDX Sample Application (assuming
connection to an appropriate Analysis Services 2000 OLAP data source). MDX
as a language continues to evolve and expand: we will focus on many new
features in articles to come, while still continuing to focus upon business
uses of MDX in general. The use of MDX to meet the real-world needs of our
business environments will continue to be my primary focus within the MDX Essentials series.


In this
article, we will begin an extended examination of the MDX surrounding drilling
up and down
within our Analysis Services cubes. Comprising an
analytical technique by which an information consumer can maneuver between
summarized ("drilling up") and detailed ("drilling
") levels of data, drilling up or down occurs along the lines of drilling
that are defined within the physical structures of our cubes. Often
specified by the cube’s dimensional hierarchies, these paths can also be based
upon alternative relationships that exist within or between dimensions.

An example might be described as follows, based upon an
engagement within which I have recently been involved: An executive within a
state Department of Education wishes to examine annual Scholastic
Aptitude Test
(SAT) results within a cube constructed primarily to allow
comparison and analysis of those results at various levels. The executive can
examine national averages and numbers of test takers, and then perform a
drilldown operation within a Geography dimension that might then present
the data by states. He could then perform subsequent drilldowns to
display state regions (or perhaps congressional districts), counties
/ school systems, and more. Depending upon the design of the cube, the drilldown
process could ultimately take the consumer to the level of the individual schools
– perhaps even to the individual students themselves.

Underneath the capability of Analysis Services to
meet this common need is the DrillDownMember() function. DrillDownMember() drills down to the members
within a specified set that are present within a second specified set. Working
with two sets, the function thus inserts the children of the members of the primary
into a secondary set for members that are common to both
specified sets, as we shall see. Typically, the primary set is a subset
of the secondary set, but this is not a hard and fast rule.

DrillDownMember() can be used in conjunction with tuples
within the sets. Through the provision of the RECURSIVE keyword, the
function can be enabled to allow repeated comparison passes of the sets. The
idea is to repeat set comparisons, and the resulting drilldowns, until no
members / tuples that exist in both the specified primary and secondary
, remain unexpanded, as we shall see within the discussion and hands-on
practice session to follow.

In a
manner similar to other functions that we have examined in the MDX
series, DrillDownMember() can be useful in a host of
different reporting and analysis applications. DrillDownMember(), along with other "navigational"
functions like it (virtually all of which we examine in other articles of this
series) allows us to exercise a great deal
of presentation sleight of hand, in working with MDX in Analysis Services,
as well as within Reporting Services and various other reporting
applications that can access an Analysis Services cube.

The DrillDownMember() function can be leveraged within
and among the various "layers" of the Microsoft integrated Business
Intelligence solution to supporting sophisticated presentations and features.
We will introduce the function, commenting upon its operation and touching upon
examples of effects that we can employ it to deliver. As a part of our
discussion, we will:

  • Examine the syntax surrounding the function;

  • Undertake illustrative examples of the uses of the function in
    practice exercises;

  • Briefly discuss the results datasets we obtain in the practice
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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