MSSQL Server Reporting Services : Mastering OLAP Reporting: Drilling Through Using MDX

About the Series …

article is a member of the series MSSQL Server Reporting Services.
The series is designed to introduce MSSQL Server Reporting Services ("Reporting
Services"), with the objective of presenting an overview of its features,
together with many tips and techniques for real-world use. For more
information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements
to prepare for the exercises
we will undertake, please see my initial Database Journal article, A New
Paradigm for Enterprise Reporting

As I
have stated since the charter article of the series, published about the time
Reporting Services was first publicly released, my conviction is that Reporting
will commoditize business intelligence, particularly in its role
as a presentation component within an integrated Microsoft BI solution. Having
been impressed from my first exposure to this exciting application, when it was
in early beta, my certainty in its destiny grows stronger by the day, as I
convert formerly dominant enterprise business intelligence systems, such as Cognos,
Business Objects, Crystal, and others, to the Reporting Services architecture. I
receive constant requests to conduct strategy sessions about these conversions
with large organizations in a diverse range of industries – the interest grows
daily as awareness of the solution becomes pervasive. Indeed, the five- to six-plus
figures that many can shave from their annual IT budgets represent a compelling
sweetener to examining this incredible toolset.

assumptions underlying the series are that you have correctly installed Reporting Services, including current service
packs, along with the applications upon which Reporting Services relies, and that you have
access and the other rights / privileges required to complete the steps we
undertake in my articles. For details on the specifics of the adjustments
necessary to quickly allow full freedom to complete the exercises in this and
subsequent articles, as well as important assumptions regarding rights and
privileges in general, please see earlier articles in the series, as well as
the Reporting

Books Online.

About the Mastering OLAP Reporting Articles

One of
the first things that become clear to "early adopters" of Reporting
is that the "knowledgebase" for OLAP reporting with this
tool is, to say the least, sparse. As I stated in my article, Mastering
OLAP Reporting: Cascading Prompts
, the purpose of the Mastering OLAP Reporting
subset of my Reporting Services series is to focus on techniques for using Reporting
for OLAP reporting. In many cases, which I try to outline in my articles at
appropriate junctures, the functionality of the reporting solutions of
well-established, but expensive, solutions, such as Cognos PowerPlay,
can be met in most respects by Reporting Services – at a tiny fraction
of the cost. The vacuum of documentation in this arena, to date, represents a serious
"undersell" of Reporting Services from an OLAP reporting
perspective. I hope to contribute to making this arena more accessible to
everyone, and to share my implementation and conversion experiences as the
series evolves. In the meantime, rest assured that the OLAP potential in Reporting
will be yet another reason that the application "commoditizes"
Business Intelligence.

more information about the Mastering
OLAP Reporting
see the section entitled "About the Mastering OLAP Reporting
in my
article Ad Hoc
TopCount and BottomCount Parameters


In my MDX Essentials series at Database Journal,
I recently published an article entitled Drilling
Through with MDX: The DRILLTHROUGH Statement
, where I introduced drillthrough
concepts, and then focused on the use of the DRILLTHROUGH statement
within MDX. Nowhere is the concept of drillthrough more practical than
within a reporting application, and Reporting Services naturally leads the
report writer universe in enabling us to fully leverage MDX in reporting from Analysis
data sources.

As I mentioned in Drilling Through with
, practically anyone involved in business intelligence is
aware that multidimensional databases contain aggregated information to support
rapid query processing. The beauty of OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) is
that it stores high-level summaries for virtually instant delivery to our
reports and other applications – summaries that can, indeed, be assembled
directly from an OLTP (Online Transactional Processing) system, but only after
it goes through the work of summing what might be millions (or more) transactions
to get the same results.

The downside to the
otherwise superior reporting scenario of OLAP lies within its very advantage: aggregation.
An important consideration within the realm of business intelligence is the
provision of the capability of selective focus. More specifically,
within the context of this article, the enterprise often needs to be able to
see the underlying transactions once he or she identifies a summary that raises
questions. An example might exist in the case of a real estate portfolio manager
who notes, while looking at monthly performance metrics for a group of
properties, that profit margins for a given property within the group seem
consistently lower than the rest, or perhaps that, over a three-year period, a
property’s monthly profit has gradually trended lower, while others remain
stable. Because transactional data is not contained within the OLAP cube, the
manager needs a mechanism to present the underlying transactions (in this case,
the revenues and expense transactions) that make up the margins under
examination. This mechanism, to which the business intelligence community
refers as drillthrough, allows the property manager to see the
transactions that make up the margins, exposing, for example, the tenants,
vendors, services, and other entities involved within each, so that focused action
can be taken to ultimately control results.

The natively supported drillthrough
of MSSQL Server Analysis Services is manifested in the retrieval and
return of the underlying source’s individual records –the "details"
that combine to make up the value of the cell upon which drillthrough is
performed. As we saw in Drilling Through with MDX: The DRILLTHROUGH Statement, drillthrough from a client application can
be accomplished, in the most straightforward approach, through the passage of
the MDX DRILLTHROUGH statement to Analysis Services. Drillthrough
can mean different things in Reporting Services. The term "drillthrough"
can be used to describe two approaches to "drilling through":

  • The
    establishment of a target report to which we "point" a primary
    (the point from which we wish to drill through), passing
    parameters in a way to allow for selection of the underlying data. The
    mechanism under the drillthrough effect is, therefore, a jump from the
    primary report to another report. This is done via the Jump to report
    designation within the Navigation tab underlying the report object
    (often a value), from which we wish to trigger the drillthrough action.

  • Putting a
    report in place as a target of a Jump to action, similar to the above,
    but with a significant difference: the Dataset query of the target
    report will be identical, in the relevant aspects, to that of the primary
    report, but with the MDX DRILLTHROUGH statement preceding the SELECT statement
    of the primary query.

In this article, we
will explore using the latter of the two approaches, and leverage the DRILLTHROUGH
statement that we introduced in Drilling Through with MDX: The DRILLTHROUGH Statement. As a part of our discussion, we will:

  • Present a
    business requirement based upon the needs of a hypothetical client, which we
    will address with a drillthrough capability in Reporting Services;

  • Prepare for
    our practice session by creating a project within Reporting Services,
    and by creating a "clone" report (based upon an existing sample OLAP
    report to save time), within which we will perform our exercises;

  • Enable Drillthrough
    for a sample cube, upon which our hypothetical client’s reports are based,
    within Analysis Services;

  • Examine
    configuration of Drillthrough to present the appropriate transactional
    details to its intended users;

  • Briefly
    examine the syntax surrounding the DRILLTHROUGH statement;

  • Create a "target"
    report that leverages DRILLTHROUGH;

  • Link the primary
    (our "clone" of the sample report) to the new target

  • Execute the drillthrough
    action in the working example pair;

  • Briefly
    discuss concepts along the way, as well as the results we obtain within various
    actions we take in our practice session.
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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