DAX Is Still Important

Reid Havens explains why he teaches DAX in his Power BI courses:

The Check Formula button is an easily overlooked feature. However, before I hit ok and save my DAX Measure I ALWAYS press this button first! But what exactly does this button do? Well it’s checking your DAX syntax and making sure everything is written correctly. Now you COULD simply hit OK after writing your DAX and see if it errors, this is true. However when doing that your data model is actually attempting to calculate the DAX measure in the background as well. Not a big deal with a few thousand rows, but if you’re working with a model that has millions of rows then that could take a long time for it to calculate, and then error!

The smart thing to do is to check your DAX syntax using the Check Formula button BEFORE hitting ok. Checking your DAX syntax doesn’t run your calculation and returns a rewarding No errors in formula output if everything was written correctly. Such a simple thing that can save you SO MUCH TIME! I highly recommend as a best practice to always use this before hitting ok and saving your measures, you’ll thank me later.

It makes for interesting reading.

Calculation And Filtering With DAX

Koen Verbeeck is looking to optimize code which uses CALCULATE and FILTER together:

There have already been many posts/articles/books written about the subject of how CALCULATE and FILTER works, so I’m not going to repeat all that information here. Noteworthy resources (by “the Italians” of course):

In this blog post I’d rather discuss a performance issue I had to tackle at a client. There were quite a lot of measures of the following format:

Click through for a couple iterations of this.

Nested Variables In DAX

Chris Webb shows how to create nested variables inside DAX:

There aren’t any performance benefits to doing this, although of course it helps with code readability and organisation (thanks to Marius for confirming this).

Even so, click through to see an example of how to do this.

Traversing DAX Hierarchies

Meagan Longoria shows how to implement hierarchical slicing and filtering using DAX:

My friend and coworker Melissa Coates (aka @sqlchick) messaged me the other day to see if I could help with a DAX formula. She had a Power BI dashboard in which she needed a very particular interaction to occur. She had slicers for geographic attributes such as Region and Territory, in addition to a chart that showed the percent of the regional total that each product type represented.  The product type was in the fact/data table. Region and territory were in a dimension/lookup table and formed a hierarchy where a region was made up of one or more territories and each territory had only one region.

It’s rare to hear me say “MDX was easier” but in this case, MDX was easier…

Finding Lost Customers

Kevin Feasel



Meagan Longoria has lost customers and is trying to find them:

I was testing some calculations in my tabular model when I noticed that my Lost Customers calculation wasn’t working as expected. This was rather interesting to me since the calculation I was using was from DAXPatterns.com.  After some experimentation, I determined that the difference between my data situation, and the situation that fit the DAX Pattern was that my customer dimension was a Type 2 Slowly Changing Dimension. That meant I couldn’t use the customer key to identify a unique customer, since each customer could have multiple customer keys  (surrogate keys) with the same customer number (business key). Specifically, if a customer made a purchase in December 2015, then changed their name, then made a purchase in January and February, my calculation was counting them as lost because it was not recognizing that the customer with the new name and same customer number was actually the same customer.

She ends up with two solutions, each with different trade-offs.  Knowing as little DAX as I do, looking at two different ways of solving this problem is great because it gives you more insight into language semantics.

Improving DAX Compression

Kevin Feasel



Matt Allington shows how that reducing cardinality helps with reducing data sizes with DAX:

With both of these concepts combined, the file size was reduced from the original 264 MB to 238 MB, a reduction of almost 10%.  You can see where the space savings have come from by comparing the before and after column sizes in the 2 tables below.  The SalesValueExTax column (65MB) was replaced with the Margin column (44MB) and the CostValue column (63MB) was replaced with the CostPerCase column (50MB).

Check it out, as well as the memory tool.

Watch Those DAX Calculations

Kevin Feasel



Chris Webb shows us a case in which Power BI Desktop’s DAX calculation might not be what you expect:

The difference here is that the Month Number and Month Name fields are both present – they have to be since the query has to sort by Month Number. In MDX the order of members on a hierarchy can be set inside the model; in a DAX query you can only sort using an ORDER BY clause and for that to work, the field you’re ordering by must be present in the query.

This kind of feels like an edge case, but if you run into it, it’s good to know that it’s not a bug.

DAX Problem Solving

Kevin Feasel



Matt Allington walks us through solving a problem using DAX:

Average of best 8 scores from last 20 rounds

So the requirement is to find the average of the best 8 scores from the last 20 rounds of golf for each player.  So if you think about that problem, there are quite a few layers to it – perfect for a blog on how to break a problem into pieces so you can solve it in DAX.

Even if you do nothing with DAX, read over the post because the problem-solving technique Allington uses is generally applicable.

DAX Performance

Bill Anton reminds me that I don’t know a thing about DAX:

As you can see, using DAX variables is a much better solution than using the aliases…the performance improvement is about the same, however, variables we can wrapped up in the calculated measures inside the model allowing us to take advantage of the performance gain with all tools (not just those allowing us to hand-craft the DAX queries).

The query used in this post is too simple to highlight the performance benefit (small data dataset, simple calculation)…but it did make it easier to cruise the query plans and SE requests. In reality, a better use case for highlighting the performance benefits of these optimizations is with a query that hammers the Formula Engine (FE).

Interesting stuff, even for someone with no knowledge of DAX.


September 2017
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