MDX in Analysis Services: Measuring Change over Time

About the Series …

This is the fifth 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 ("Analysis Services,");
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 Tutorial 1: MDX Concepts and Navigation.

Note: At the time of writing, Service
Pack 3
are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis
, and the related Books Online and Samples.


In our
last tutorial, we exposed the use of
the MDX LookupCube function within Analysis Services, as a means of retrieving
values from multiple cubes simultaneously.
We discussed how this offers us
the often-useful option of accessing multiple OLAP data sources together
for analysis and reporting, presenting an example real-world scenario where
this option would be valuable. In addition to exploring the retrieval of data
from multiple cubes, we demonstrated how we could compute a per-unit average,
based upon values retrieved from two separate OLAP data sources, while further
exploring and practicing the use of calculated members as part of the process.

In this lesson, we will explore the use of MDX functions that
incorporate the concept of time into the analysis product that we
wish to create, within the context of expression design. We will practice
adding support for time-based analysis, such as the quantification of change in
values over time, with MDX functions that are ideally suited for that
purpose. Moreover, we will perform exercises to reinforce these concepts
within the context of our OLAP data sources.

In this article, we
will examine the roles that MDX can play in helping us to support the time-based
needs of information consumers, as well as increase our general
knowledge of MDX in Analysis Services, by:

  • Building the concept of time
    into our expression designs;

  • Incorporating support for
    time-based analysis with MDX functions;

  • Performing additional practice
    with the "from scratch" creation of calculated members

  • Handling "divide-by-zero"
    scenarios in calculated members;

  • Generating variance
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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