MDX Essentials: Structure of the MDX Data Model

Join Author Bill Pearson in an exploration of the MDX Data Model. In this article, we expose the syntax for the basic building blocks of the MDX query, tuples, sets, and axes, and set the stage for more advanced components and syntax in subsequent articles.

About the Series…

This is the second article of the
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.

For more information about the series in general, as well as
the software and system requirements needed for getting the most out of the
series, please see the first article, MDX at
First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials

What We Accomplished in our Last Article

In the first article of the series,
we introduced the MDX query in its simplest form. We
took a look at some of the basic keywords and then began a discussion of the
element(s) of the MDX language that will carry forward as we progress through
the series. We performed practice activities, as we will do throughout the entire MDX Essentials series, to reinforce
the concepts we introduced.

explored the rudiments of MDX queries from a syntax perspective and introduced
the respective semantics as they arose. We provided a brief introduction to
MDX, and then discussed several basic keywords commonly used within its
syntax. We examined a breakdown of a simple MDX query into its component
parts, comparing and contrasting MDX to SQL where useful. Finally, we created
and executed basic MDX queries that served to both demonstrate and reinforce
our discussions surrounding keywords and components.

Introduction to the Structure of the MDX
Data Model

In this article, we will introduce the MDX data
model, together with numerous of its most basic and most common components.
These components will include tuples, axes, and sets. We
will focus on the composition and uses of, and provide hands-on exposure to,
these syntactical building blocks. Rules of syntax will be emphasized and
will provide a basis for more complex query building as we progress through the
series. Finally, we will work practice exercises to demonstrate tangible
results, and to reinforce our discussions with examples.

This lesson will

  • A brief discussion of tuples and sets, the
    building blocks of MDX queries;
  • An examination of axes and their role in the data
  • A examination of general MDX query results;
  • Illustrations and examples of the concepts presented
    throughout the session.

Let’s begin by discussing the MDX data model and the
components that underpin it, with an eye toward gaining a grasp of how the
respective elements work and interact to provide us with the robust
functionality that is the MDX language.

Page 2: The Building Blocks: Tuples and Sets

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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