MDX in Analysis Services: Introducing DISTINCT COUNT

About the Series …

This is the fourteenth tutorial article of the series, MDX in Analysis Services. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of MDX from the perspective of MS SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services (“MSAS“); our primary focus is the manipulation of multidimensional data sources, using MDX expressions, in a variety of scenarios designed to meet real-world business intelligence needs.

For more information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to prepare for the tutorials we will undertake, please see the first lesson of this series: MDX Concepts and Navigation.

Note: At the time of writing, Service Pack 3 updates are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, and the related Books Online and Samples. The screen shots that appear in this article were taken from a Windows 2003 Server, and may appear somewhat different from coinciding views in other operating systems.

Introduction

In our last tutorial, Named Sets in MDX: An Introduction, we introduced named sets in MDX queries, focusing on their creation through use of the WITH clause, to allow us to gain an understanding of the general capabilities of static and dynamic named sets. We introduced the concepts behind named sets, and then examined the MDX syntax required to create them and to specify them for presentation in our results. Next, we discussed the nature of static and dynamic named sets, and then activated what we had learned through an illustrative practice example for each of the two types. Finally, we discussed the results we obtained in each hands-on example, illustrating the value that named sets can offer us.

In this article, we introduce the concept of distinct counts, discussing why they are useful – indeed, often required – in our organizational analysis efforts. Throughout our session, we will describe some of the challenges that are inherent in distinct counts, and then we will undertake practice exercises to illustrate solutions to meet our business needs. As a part of the practical exercises, built around a hypothetical business need, we will provide an introduction to the approach afforded us by the MSAS user interface, and then to an alternative approach we can take using MDX.

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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