MDX Numeric Functions: The .Ordinal 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, as well as
the software and systems requirements for getting the most out of the lessons
included, please see my first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.

Note: Current updates are assumed for MSSQL
, MSSQL Server Analysis Services, and the related Books
and Samples.


this lesson, we will expose another useful function in the MDX toolset, the .Ordinal
function. The general purpose of the .Ordinal
function is to return the ordinal value of a specified dimensional
. The .Ordinal function is particularly useful within scenarios
where we employ it with the IIF() function to determine the position of
a level within a dimensional hierarchy for various reasons, as we shall see in our
practice session.

The .Ordinal
function can be leveraged in activities that range from generating simple lists
to supporting sophisticated conditional calculations and presentations. We
will introduce the function, commenting upon its operation and touching upon
the creative sorts 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

The .Ordinal Function


According to the Analysis Services
Books Online
, the .Ordinal function "returns the zero-based ordinal value associated with a level."
.Ordinal has many applications, and, as is the case with
many MDX functions, pairing it with
other functions allows us to leverage its power. As an illustration, we often
use .Ordinal with the IIF() logical function; we will see an
example of this combination within our practice exercises later.

We will examine the syntax for the .Ordinal
function after a brief discussion in the next section. We will then explore some
of the "conditional logic leverage" it offers the knowledgeable user,
within practice examples constructed to support hypothetical business needs.
This will allow us to activate what we explore in the Discussion
and Syntax sections, where we will get some hands-on exposure in
creating expressions that employ the .Ordinal function.


To restate our initial explanation of its operation, the .Ordinal
function, when acting upon a level expression, returns the zero-based
of the level expression to which it is appended with the
period (".") delimiter. .Ordinal can be used for a great deal
more than the support of simple lists of level indices, as we have intimated.
When coupled with other functions, as we shall see, we can leverage .Ordinal
to deliver a wide range of analysis and reporting utility.

Let’s look at some syntax illustrations to further clarify
the operation of .Ordinal.


Syntactically, in using the .Ordinal
function to return the associated level value, the level upon
which we seek to apply the function is specified to the left of .Ordinal.
The function takes the level expression to which it is appended as its
argument, and returns a zero-based value for the level specified.
The general syntax is shown in the following string:

<<Level_Expression >>.Ordinal

Putting .Ordinal to work is
straightforward. When using the function to return the value of the level
with which it works, we simply append it to the right of the level under
consideration. As an example, within a query executed against the sample Adventure
cube, for a dimension named Sales Territory (with a hierarchy
of the same name), with three levels, named Sales Territory Group, Sales
Territory Country
, and Sales Territory Region, the following pseudo-expression:

[Sales Territory].[Sales Territory].[ Sales Territory Group].[North America].ORDINAL

returns 1, the zero-based
value (or index) of the Sales Territory Group level (the top Sales
level itself – or "All Groups" – is level 0).
As another example, the following:

[Sales Territory].[Sales Territory].[ Sales Territory Region].[Central].ORDINAL

returns 3, the numeric
value of the Sales Territory Region hierarchical level. As is
probably obvious, the .Ordinal function can be best leveraged by
combining it with other functions, particularly "relative" functions,
to generate lists of names, and so forth, as we shall see in short order.

NOTE: For information on several of the "relative"
functions, see my article MDX
Member Functions: "Relative" Member Functions
, within
the Database Journal MDX Essentials series.

We will practice some uses of the .Ordinal function
in the section that follows.

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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