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 The Baker's Dozen: 13 Tips for Querying OLAP Databases with MDX

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raj_mmm9



Number of posts : 1850
Age : 55
Registration date : 2008-03-08

PostSubject: The Baker's Dozen: 13 Tips for Querying OLAP Databases with MDX   Fri 4 Apr - 16:45

Well, just like the punch line of the old Hertz car rental commercial, "Not exactly." If your organization uses OLAP databases, you can add great value by knowing how to query OLAP databases using MDX queries. MDX is to OLAP databases as SQL queries are to relational databases. This article will cover common OLAP query requirements and MDX code solutions.

What Is MDX and Why Should I Care?
MDX stands for Multidimensional Expressions. You use it to query OLAP databases. In a nutshell, MDX is to OLAP databases as SQL queries are to relational databases.

So OK—what are OLAP databases? OLAP stands for Online Analytical Processing. OLAP databases primarily consist of OLAP cubes, which store facts (i.e., "measures" such as sales, returns, etc.) and dimensions/dimension hierarchies. An OLAP database is often an aggregation of a relational database; as a result, you can write MDX queries to retrieve key calculations that measure company performance, often with less code than standard SQL.

One of the architects for Microsoft Analysis Services, Mosha Pasumansky, invented the MDX language in the late 1990's. (See the end of this article for recommended references.) Other vendors have since implemented MDX, such as Essbase by Hyperion Solutions (now owned by Oracle). However, Microsoft continues to add MDX extensions to new versions of Analysis Services.

Because of the nature of OLAP databases, "power users" can often write MDX code to retrieve data in far fewer lines of code than would be required using SQL. This is a segue into the role that OLAP databases and MDX play in the world of business intelligence.

Over the last few years, Microsoft has made serious advancements in the areas of business intelligence and OLAP databases. Each year, more and more companies use BI and OLAP tools that support MDX. Here are some examples where MDX comes into play:


Creating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Building SQL Server Reporting Services reports against OLAP databases.
Designing custom dashboard output in PerformancePoint Server (for SharePoint deployment).
If you are a SQL developer who is new to MDX, you may look at MDX syntax and conclude that the syntax is very similar. As it turns out, SQL and MDX are very different. Many tools that use MDX will offer designers that generate basic MDX syntax; however, you may still need to modify or customize the generated syntax to address specific requirements.
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