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MDX #25 – Slicer or Sub-Cube?

Slicer, Axes and Calculations Can All Filter Data in MDX

Every developer with SQL background knows how the WHERE clause works. You put some condition in the WHERE clause, such as TheDate = Yesterday (pseudo code), and it will only return data for yesterday.

Not so straightforward in MDX. We should expect more complex behaviors in MDX because of the multi-dimensional nature of the cubes.

But how different it can be.

There are many topics to explore, including why we prefer to call the WHERE clause slicer in MDX, how tuple is constructed, when default member is used, how slicer (WHERE clause if you insist) can be used to limit data, and how axes can be used, how the MDX engine decides when to use slicer, axes, and calculation formula to limit the data, etc..

Sub-Select Can Filter Data Too

In this blog, I’ll explore just one aspect of how we can use both the slicer and a sub-cube to limit the data, and where they are the same, and where they might give you different results.

Both Slicer and Sub-Select Produces the Same Result

Run these two queries (separating by GO), you get the same Internet Sales Amount from both queries, for July 1, 2008.
So our conclusion so far is that slicer and sub-select should give same results.



If you make such statement to some MDX experts, they will tell you that results from using a member in the slicer can be different from using the same member in a sub-select.

So what can be different?

While Sub-Select does not change the query context, the slicer does

Run this query pair. We are using the currentmember function to show what date we are currently at. In MDX’s term, we are checking the current member of the Date hierarchy in the query context (quite mouthful).



It turned out that the “current date” from the two queries is not the same. The first one with slicer says we are currently at just one day, July 1, 2008. The second one with the sub-select says we are actually currently at All Periods (all days in the entire Date dimension; the root member of the Date dimension).

Now we know that the query context (where we currently at) is different, depending on where we are putting our member, in the slicer or in the sub-select. The sub-select does nothing to change the query context, while the slicer changes the context according to the tuple (in the above example we only have one member in the tuple) we put in the slicer.

You might already figure out that we need to be careful now about the context.

When Sub-Select and Slicer Might Give Different Results

Here is an example where your filtered result might not be exactly what you want if you are using the sub-select.




When using the currentmember as a filter, You should expect the sub-select will give you the Internet Sales Amount for the entire date range in your Date dimension, not just from one day, July 1, 2008.

Confusing? Yes, it is. But no complaining?
For my other MDX blogs, visit http://bisherryli.wordpress.com/category/mdx-challenges/

Sherry Li's BI Corner

Always wanting to publish novels, but having the fortune to work in the data warehouse corner of technology, Sherry Li started to write the mysteries of the Microsoft Business Intelligence. She writes everything from T-SQL to MDX, ETL to Expressions to Scripting, Reporting to Cubes. You can find her writings at bisherryli.wordpress.com.


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