SQL server Analysis Services: How to import cube meta data to SQL server Data Tools?

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Problem:

Someone on your team deployed a cube and gave you access to it. Now, as an IT developer on the team you want to know the calculation that was used for some of the measures. How do get it? You can email the contact person, right? Sure, but let me show you how you can decrease email back and forth using the following steps.

Note: it’s applicable to both multidimensional model as well as tabular model.

Solution:

1. Open SSDT

2. File > Project > New

3. Installed Templates > Business Intelligence > Analysis services > Import from Server

SQL Server Analysis Services Business Intelligence Import

4. You’ll get a dialog box, enter server name and the cube/model metadata that you want to import

Import Microsoft Business Intelligence analysis cube

5. In the solution explorer, you should be able to see the cube meta data! Now, you can go look at the measure calculation that you wanted to see, or may be the KPI rule? or something else in the cube that you needed to know.

Conclusion:

In this post, I described how you can import SQL server analysis services cube/model from the server.

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Questions Power Users Ask about Excel: #2 of N

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In this series, I intend to document common questions asked by Power users about Excel connected to SSAS cubes (or data warehouse) after they go beyond the basic stage of understanding & using Row labels, column labels, report filter & values in Pivot Tables. This post is #2 of N:

How to add calculated measures (Excel 2010)?

Situation:

Power users in your organization/company are developing Excel 2010 reports against OLAP Cubes. They want to add their own calculations for analysis.

BUT Excel 2010 does not allow end-users to add their own private MDX calculations.

Solution:

A Free Community Excel add-in helps in this case. It’s called “OLAP Pivot Table Extensions”. Here are the steps to download, Install and use it:

1) Check Excel Version (32-bit/64-Bit)

Open Excel > File > Help> About Microsoft Excel

excel version 32 bit or 64 bit

2) Download OLAP Pivot Table Extensions and Install it

Download URL: http://olappivottableextend.codeplex.com/ > Navigate to Downloads Tab & install the right version based on your local excel version.

In my case, I had 64-bit excel so I’ll download the 64-bit version of OLAP Pivot Table extensions.

Excel Pivot Table Extensions

Close Excel and Install add-in

3) Add simple measure

Open Excel.

Connect to Cube.

Let’s add a simple measure that calculates the difference between two measures.

So I created a simple Pivot Table that looks like:

Excel Simple Pivot Table OLAP

Now let’s add a calculated measure:

Select the Pivot Table > Right Click > OLAP Pivot Table Extensions

OLAP PIVOT TABLE EXCEL EXTENTSIONS

On the next screen, please enter the name Difference. and the simple formula:

[Measures].[Meausre1]-[Measures].[Measure2]

(please replace measure1 & measure2 with the measure names from your cube)

And click on Add to Pivot Table

Simple Formula OLAP excel calculated member

You can now see that the calculated measure Difference got added to the Pivot Table!

 

Excel olap pivot table with calculated member

Note

1) OLAP Pivot Table extensions is not supported by Microsoft. It’s a community software.

2) To maintain the single version of truth (after all that’s why you create cubes/Data-warehouse’s!), it’s recommended that calculated measures that end users want in the cube.

Conclusion

In this post we saw a very common question “How to add calculated columns” asked by Power users about excel while they analyze data from SSAS cube.

Previous Article: http://parasdoshi.com/2013/12/10/questions-power-users-ask-about-excel-1-of-n/

How to add calculated measures to Pivot Tables using OLAP Pivot Table Extensions add-in?

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Situation:

Power users in your organization/company are developing Excel 2010 reports against OLAP Cubes. They want to add their own calculations for analysis.

BUT

Excel 2010 does not allow end-users to add their own private MDX calculations.

Solution:

A Free Community Excel add-in helps in this case. It’s called “OLAP Pivot Table Extensions”. Here are the steps to download, Install and use it:

1) Check Excel Version (32-bit/64-Bit)

Open Excel > File > Help> About Microsoft Excel

excel version 32 bit or 64 bit

2) Download OLAP Pivot Table Extensions and Install it

Download URL: http://olappivottableextend.codeplex.com/ > Navigate to Downloads Tab & install the right version based on your local excel version.

In my case, I had 64-bit excel so I’ll download the 64-bit version of OLAP Pivot Table extensions.

Excel Pivot Table Extensions

Close Excel and Install add-in

3) Add simple measure

Open Excel.

Connect to Cube.

Let’s add a simple measure that calculates the difference between two measures.

So I created a simple Pivot Table that looks like:

Excel Simple Pivot Table OLAPNow let’s add a calculated measure:

Select the Pivot Table > Right Click > OLAP Pivot Table Extensions

OLAP PIVOT TABLE EXCEL EXTENTSIONS

On the next screen, please enter the name Difference. and the simple formula:

[Measures].[Meausre1]-[Measures].[Measure2]

(please replace measure1 & measure2 with the measure names from your cube)

And click on Add to Pivot Table

Simple Formula OLAP excel calculated memberYou can now see that the calculated measure Difference got added to the Pivot Table!

Excel olap pivot table with calculated memberNote

1) OLAP Pivot Table extensions is not supported by Microsoft. It’s a community software.

2) To maintain the single version of truth (after all that’s why you create cubes/Data-warehouse’s!), it’s recommended that calculated measures that end users want in the cube.

That’s about it for this post! Your feedback is most welcome!

 

Back to basics: Why do you need OLAP cubes/ Data-Warehouses for enterprise business reporting systems?

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Once in a while I write about back to basics topics to revisit some of the fundamental technology concepts that I’ve learned over past few years. Today, we’ll revisit why do we use OLAP and Data Warehouses for business reporting systems. Let me share some of the most common reasons and then I’ll point to resources that offer other reasons.

Let’s see some of the most common reason:

#1: Business Reports should not take lot of time to load.

From a Business User Perspective: They don’t want to wait for their report to populate data. Reports should be fast!

business reporting analysis

But if business users have to wait for data to show up on their report because of slow query response, then that would be bad for everyone involved. Business Intelligence solutions cannot permeate in an organization if the reports take a lot of time to load:

Business reporting analysis querying

So from a Technology standpoint: What can you do? And also why did the problem arise in the first place?

Let’s first see why the problem occurred in the first place?

So we have a bunch of database tables. To create a report, we’ll have to summarize (aggregate) values in lots of rows (think millions) and join few tables – turns out that if you query a transactional system (Database / OLTP), then you’ll get a slow response. In some cases, if the data model + data size + queries are not complex, then you could just run a query to create operational business reports and you won’t see any performance issues. But that’s not the case always! So if data model + data size + query requirements for reporting are not simple for OLTP/databases to handle and you see a poor performance – in other words, database/OLTP system takes up a lot of time returning data that the business reports require and the business users would see bad performance. The issue goes beyond complex data model + data size + query. You see, transactional systems may be running other tasks in parallel to returning data to business reports. So there’s the issue of resource contention on the OLTP database.

so that’s no good, right? Not only is the OLTP system bad at running queries needed for business reports but it also does not dedicate it’s resource for us!

So let’s create a copy of databases and have them dedicated to answer questions to business reports. so there’s not an issue of resource contention as we have dedicated resources to handle that. And while, we are at it – why don’t change the data model so that it best suits the queries that are needed for business reporting and analysis?

Well, that’s exactly what OLAP database is. It’s a database that’s created for business reporting and analysis. It’s does some neat things like pre-aggregating some values PLUS the data model in OLAP  is also best suited for reporting purposes. (Read more about Star schemas/ data mart / data warehouse / ETL if you’re curious to learn more).

OK – so that’s one reason: To improve performance! Now let’s see another one.

#2: Creating Business Reports over Transactional systems (OLTP) data is NOT developer-friendly:

Ok, so we already covered in the previous section that creating business reports over OLTP can cause performance issues. But there’s more to it then just performance. You see – the requirements of creating business reports is different then the requirements of transactions systems. So? well, that means that the data model used for OLTP is best suited for transactional systems and it is not an optimal data model for analysis and reporting purpose. for example: creating hierarchies, drill-down reports, year-over-year growth among other things are much more efficiently handles by OLAP systems. But if we were to use OLTP database, then it would take a lot of developer hours to write efficient (and correct!) SQL commands (mostly stored procedures) to get OLTP to give data that the business reports need. Also, some of the common business metrics that are used in reporting can be stored in a cube. so that each time a report get’s created, you can re-use the business metric stored in the OLAP cubes.

OK – so OLAP cube saves time (to create reports).

Not only, OLAP cubes perform better at returning data they also help us speed the process of creating reports.

That’s great! let’s see one more reason:

#3: Ad-hoc reporting over OLTP systems creates confusion!

This reason is more about why we should have a data-mart and data-warehouse.. So why do ad-hoc reporting over OLTP systems creates confusion among business users?

Imagine creating reports over a LIVE system that’s getting updated every seconds. If there are ad-hoc (as-needed basis) reports being created by different users – then everyone would see different results. so it’s important to have a common version for everyone. Also imagine, everyone combining data from different data sources. If they’re doing it differently then they would see different data. And not only that, if they’re creating derived (or calculated) columns and their formula’s are different then they would see different data. you see a common pattern here? There’s no conformity in data & formulas in the reports that gets created. What does it cause? Confusion! So what’s needed is what they call in the data-warehouse “single version of truth”. OLAP cubes (which gets data from data-warehouse) provide that common single data source for everyone and thus the conformity in data is maintained while creating business reports.

Also while we are at this, one more consideration that typically reports require historical data at aggregated level. So we don’t want to store each transaction over the last 10 years in an OLTP database, do we? NO! right? In such cases, the historical data is aggregated based on requirements and stored in datamarts (/data-warehouse) which is later consumed by the OLAP cubes and that way OLTP databases do not have to store lot of historical data.

Ok – that’s one more reason OLTP are bad w/ business reporting and analysis and that’s why we need data-marts (data warehouse) and OLAP Cubes.

That’s about it. for this post. Let me point you to Related Resources:

  1.  Just what are cubes Anyway (MSDN)
  2. Why do I need a Cube
  3. Why use a SSAS cube?

And as always, your feedback is most welcome! if I have missed some point and if you want to highlight it – please leave a comment!