Automatic Processing Of Azure Analysis Services Models

Dustin Ryan shows how to use Azure Functions to refresh Azure Analysis Services models:

Download the latest client libraries for Analysis Services. This needs to be done on your local machine so you can then copy these files to your Azure Function App.

After you’ve downloaded the client libraries, the DLLs can be found in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\SDK\Assemblies. The two files you need are:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\SDK\Assemblies\Microsoft.AnalysisServices.Core.DLL
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\SDK\Assemblies\Microsoft.AnalysisServices.Tabular.DLL

This step is important because the documentation in Azure references the 130 assemblies, which will not work. You need the assemblies in 140 otherwise you’ll get errors.

Dustin walks through the whole process of setting up an Azure Function step by step.

Dimensional Design Tips

Koen Verbeeck provides some helpful hints when designing dimensions in SQL Server Analysis Services Multidimensional models:

Although traditional dimension modeling – as explained by Ralph Kimball – tries to avoid snowflaking, it might help the processing of larger dimensions. For example, suppose you have a large customer dimension with over 10 million members. One attribute is the customer country. Realistically, there should only be a bit over 200 countries, maximum. When SSAS processes the dimension, it sends SELECT DISTINCT commands to SQL Server. Such a query on top of a large dimension might take some time. However, if you would snowflake (aka normalize) the country attribute into another dimension, the SELECT DISTINCT will run much faster. Here, you need to trade-off performance against the simplicity of your design.

There are several good tips here.

Kerberos Constrained Delegation On Power BI Report Server

Regis Baccaro shows how to set up constrained delegation when connecting Power BI Report Server to a SQL Server instance or Analysis Services cube:

In many demo cases, you will have an all-in-one server where you have installed Power BI Report Server, SSAS (tabular or multidimensional) and SQL Server. In those cases you don’t need any form for credentials delegation since the Report Server is on the same box than the data source.

But there are scenarios where you have a distributed environment like the one I have on my VMs demo domain and for jumping around servers and passing credentials around, you need to setup Kerberos Constrained Delegation. Furthermore you will need protocol transition for it to work in Power BI Report Server.

Read on for step-by-step instructions showing how to do this.

SSAS HA

James Serra enumerates high availability options for SQL Server Analysis Services:

If you are looking at providing high availability (HA) for SSAS, here are 3 options:

  1. Install SSAS on a Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC)Here’s a good article. The main issue with this option is that SSAS isn’t cluster-aware, so if windows is “OK” but SSAS (the service) is hung, it won’t failover

Read on for the other options.

Power BI: Calculated Measures + SSAS Tabular

Shabnam Watson notes that the May updates to Power BI Desktop allow you to create new calculated measures on a report which connects live to a tabular model:

Ideally the SSAS database has all the measures you need but now you have the capability to add new ones if you need to.

You can control the folder (table/measure group) under which the new measure shows up by using the “Home Table” option from the Modeling tab. I really like this feature as you can create copies of the same calculation and send them to different folders for ease of use.

If you’re interested in getting this added to Multidimensional as well, there is a request you can vote on.

Dynamic Filtering With Power BI + SSAS

Patrick LeBlanc shows in a video how to implement dynamic filtering with SSAS Tabular & Multidimensional in Power BI:

In this video, Patrick answers your question about how to do this in Analysis Services Tabular and Multidimensional. Also, he adds a little bit of SQL to the mix.

Make sure to watch the previous dynamic filtering videos to understand the basics of how to do this.

To begin, you need to make sure to get the URL for your published report.

I completely agree with Patrick about doing as much as you can in the source, especially if there will be more than one potential consumer aside from Analysis Services.

Ignoring SSAS Dynamic Formatting

Chris Webb shows that tools like Power BI ignore formatting in SCOPE statements:

What’s more (and this is a bit strange) if you look at the DAX queries that are generated by Power BI to get data from the cube, they now request a new column to get the format string for the measure even though that format string isn’t used. Since it increases the amount of data returned by the query much larger, this extra column can have a negative impact on query performance if you’re bringing back large amounts of data.

There is no way of avoiding this problem at the moment, unfortunately. If you need to display formatted values in Power BI you will have to create a calculated measure that returns the value of your original measure, set the format string property on that calculated measure appropriately, and use that calculated measure in your Power BI reports instead:

Click through for more details and a workaround.

OLAP Limitations In Tableau

Tim Cost points out areas of friction when trying to use Tableau to connect to a multi-dimensional Analysis Services cube:

I love Tableau, I do NOT however, love working with Tableau when it is connected to an OLAP cube (like Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services).  I don’t enjoy working with cube data in Tableau because basically all the coolest parts of Tableau won’t work or won’t work in the ways you might expect.  I don’t see this as a failing of Tableau, I lay the blame on the OLAP cube.  The main issue with working against a cube in Tableau is that you talk to a cube with MDX, where we talk to almost every other data source with SQL.  MDX (or Mind Destroying Expressions as I think of them), are just a huge pain to work with.  As hard as it is for ME to write MDX, for Tableau it’s even harder. Here are some things that you should consider before committing to a Tableau project with Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services as a data source

Click through for ten such considerations.

SSRS Mobile Report Drillthrough

Patrick LeBlanc shows how to drill from a mobile SQL Server Reporting Services report to a paginated report (built on Analysis Services):

17. The report appears but does not execute because the parameters are not set. Why not?

Well, after inspecting the URL (http://localhost/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?%2fHigher+Education+Solution%2fReports%2fAnnual+Enrollment+Details&DateSchoolYear=2007&Term=Spring), it passed the values as expected. What is the problem? Remember, the parameters are populated from and SSAS model, so that means we need to send the values formatted as such. This format is:

[TableName].[Attribute].&[Value]

No problem, just build that string as part of the URL. Guess what, that doesn’t work either. What you need to do encode certain characters in the URL. For example, to pass year it needs to look like this [Date].[School Year].&[{{SelectionList.SelectedItem}}].

Click through for a step-by-step guide.

SSAS Extended Events

Eugene Polonichko shows how to use Extended Events with SQL Server Analysis Services:

Cubes require frequent monitoring since their productivity decreases quite often (slowdowns during query building, processing time increment). To find out the reason of decrease, we need to monitor our system. For this, we use SQL Server Profiler. However, Microsoft is planning to exclude this SQL tracing tool in subsequent versions. The main disadvantage of the tool is resource intensity, and it should be run on a production server carefully, since it may cause a critical system productivity loss.

Thus, Extended Events is a general event-handling system for server systems. This system supports the correlation of data from SQL Server which allows getting SQL Server state events.

If you’re already familiar with relational engine XEs, this isn’t much of a stretch.

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