SQL Server Analysis Services Concepts
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by Nidal Arabi
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OLAP Services

The OLAP services in SSAS are advanced in the sense of tools and utilities provided to you to create your own project. SSAS allows you to generate an Analysis services database in a way designed for business analytics and reporting. You can create OLAP cubes (will be more clear to you as we proceed in the series) that are optimized for data aggregation on large amounts of data and provides much more advanced reporting to the end user (much more flexible than producing a fixed page reporting to be paper printed).

Some of the nice features that are available with SSAS are pretty amazing. For example, proactive caching can detect data in your database and update your OLAP cube directly if you have a back end database as MS SQL (as the transaction is happening) removing the need for a temporary database (please note that this feature is only available in the enterprise edition of MS SQL).

Another feature that was introduced with the 2005 version of SSAS is KPI (Key Performance Indicators). We can create, manage and display key business metrics which provide using formulas information about the business trends. An example of KPI would be the Current Year Sales/Previous Year Sales.

SSAS also provides business intelligence wizards that are very helpful in guiding you to create complex tasks such as currency conversion.

Last but not least, SSAS provides the developer with a very powerful tool called MDX scripting to allow the user to create queries against OLAP cubes. The MDX is very similar to SQL except that it has cubes as data sources and dimensions as their selection criteria.

Data Mining is also a service that has been introduced with SQL server with some already built in algorithms which we can extend or create custom algorithms of your own. Also note that it is easy to integrate data mining into the Analysis workflow. Do not worry about this now; it will be extensively explained in future articles.

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