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SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Interview Questions and Answers

This page contains the collection of SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Interview Questions and Answers / Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) under category Database. These questions are collected from various resources like informative websites, forums, blogs, discussion boards including MSDN and Wikipedia. These listed questions can surely help in preparing for SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) interview or job.

What is Analysis Services? List out the features?
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services (SSAS) delivers online analytical processing (OLAP) and data mining functionality for business intelligence applications. Analysis Services supports OLAP by letting we design, create, and manage multidimensional structures that contain data aggregated from other data sources, such as relational databases. For data mining applications, Analysis Services lets we design, create, and visualize data mining models that are constructed from other data sources by using a wide variety of industry-standard
data mining algorithms.
Analysis Services is a middle tier server for analytical processing, OLAP, and Data mining. It manages multidimensional cubes of data and provides access to heaps of information including aggregation of data. One can create data mining models from data sources and use it for Business Intelligence also including reporting features.
Analysis service provides a combined view of the data used in OLAP or Data mining. Services here refer to OLAP, Data mining. Analysis services assists in creating, designing and managing multidimensional structures containing data from varied sources. It provides a wide array of data mining algorithms for specific trends and needs.

Some of the key features are:

  • Ease of use with a lot of wizards and designers.
  • Flexible data model creation and management
  • Scalable architecture to handle OLAP
  • Provides integration of administration tools, data sources, security, caching, and reporting etc.
  • Provides extensive support for custom applications

What is UDM? Its significance in SSAS?
The role of a Unified Dimensional Model (UDM) is to provide a bridge between the user and the data sources. A UDM is constructed over one or more physical data sources, and then the end user issues queries against the UDM using one of a variety of client tools, such as Microsoft Excel. At a minimum, when the UDM is constructed merely as a thin layer over the data source, the advantages to the end user are a simpler, more readily understood model of the data, isolation from heterogeneous backend data sources, and improved performance for summary type queries. In some scenarios a simple UDM like this is constructed totally automatically. With greater investment in the construction of the UDM, additional benefits accrue from the richness of metadata that the model can provide.

The UDM provides the following benefits:
� Allows the user model to be greatly enriched.
� Provides high performance queries supporting interactive analysis, even over huge data volumes.
� Allows business rules to be captured in the model to support richer analysis.

Q: What is the need for SSAS component?

  • Analysis Services is the only component in SQL Server using which we can perform Analysis and Forecast operations.
  • SSAS is very easy to use and interactive.
  • Faster Analysis and Troubleshooting.
  • Ability to create and manage Data warehouses.
  • Apply efficient Security Principles.

Explain the TWO-Tier Architecture of SSAS?

  • SSAS uses both server and client components to supply OLAP and data mining functionality BI Applications.
  • The server component is implemented as a Microsoft Windows service. Each instance of Analysis Services implemented as a separate instance of the Windows service.
  • Clients communicate with Analysis Services using the standard the XMLA (XML For Analysis) , protocol for issuing commands and receiving responses, exposed as a web service.

What are the components of SSAS?

  • An OLAP Engine is used for enabling fast ad hoc  queries by end users. A user can interactively explore data by drilling, slicing or pivoting.
  • Drilling refers to the process of exploring details of the data.
  • Slicing refers to the process of placing data in rows and columns.
  • Pivoting refers to switching categories of data between rows and columns.
  • In OLAP, we will be using what are called as Dimensional Databases.

What is FASMI ?
A database is called a OLAP Database if the database satisfies the FASMI  rules :

  • Fast Analysis� is defined in the OLAP scenario in five seconds or less.
  • Shared � Must support access  to data by many users in  the factors of Sensitivity and Write Backs.
  • Multidimensional � The data inside the OLAP Database must be multidimensional in structure.
  • Information � The OLAP database Must support large volumes of data..

What languages are used in SSAS ?

  • Structured Query Language (SQL)
  • Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) - an industry standard query language orientated towards analysis
  • Data Mining Extensions (DMX) - an industry standard query language oriented toward data mining.
  • Analysis Services Scripting Language (ASSL) - used to manage Analysis Services database objects.

How Cubes are implemented in SSAS ?

  • Cubes are multidimensional models that store data from one or more sources.
  • Cubes can also store aggregations
  • SSAS Cubes are created using the Cube Wizard.
  • We also build Dimensions when creating Cubes.
  • Cubes can see only the DSV( logical View).

What is the difference between a derived measure and a calculated measure?
The difference between a derived measure and a calculated measure is when the calculation is performed. A derived measure is calculated before aggregations are created, and the values of the derived measure are stored in the cube. A calculated measure is calculated after aggregations are created, and the values of a calculated measure aren�t stored in the cube. The primary criterion for choosing between a derived measure and a calculated measure is not efficiency, but accuracy.

What is a partition?
A partition in Analysis Services is the physical location of stored cube data. Every cube has at least one partition by default. Each time we create a measure group, another partition is created. Queries run faster against a partitioned cube because Analysis Services only needs to read data from the partitions that contain the answers to the queries. Queries run even faster when partition also stores aggregations, the pre calculated totals for additive measures. Partitions are a powerful and flexible means of managing cubes, especially large cubes.

While creating a new calculated member in a cube what is the use of property
called non-empty behavior?
Nonempty behavior is important property for ratio calculations. If the denominator Is empty, an MDX expression will return an error just as it would if the denominator Were equal to zero. By selecting one or more measures for the Non-Empty Behavior property, we are establishing a requirement that each selected measure first be evaluated before the calculation expression is evaluated. If each selected measure is empty, then The expression is also treated as empty and no error is returned.

What is a RAGGED hierarchy?
Under normal circumstances, each level in a hierarchy in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services (SSAS) has the same number of members above it as any other member at the same level. In a ragged hierarchy, the logical parent member of at least one member is not in the level immediately above the member. When this occurs, the hierarchy descends to different levels for different drilldown paths. Expanding through every level for every drilldown path is then unnecessarily complicated.

What are the roles of an Analysis Services Information Worker?

The role of an Analysis Services information worker is the traditional "domain expert" role in business intelligence (BI) someone who understands the data employed by a solution and is able to translate the data into business information. The role of an Analysis Services information worker often has one of the following job titles: Business Analyst (Report Consumer), Manager (Report Consumer), Technical Trainer, Help Desk/Operation, or Network Administrator.

What are the different ways of creating Aggregations?   
We can create aggregations for faster MDX statements using Aggregation Wizard or thru UBO � Usage Based Optimizations. Always, prefer UBO method in realtime performance troubleshooting.

What is WriteBack? What are the pre-conditions?
The Enable/Disable Writeback dialog box enables or disables writeback for a measure group in a cube. Enabling writeback on a measure group defines a writeback partition and creates a writeback table for that measure group. Disabling writeback on a measure group removes the writeback partition but does not delete the writeback table, to avoid unanticipated data loss.

What is processing?
Processing is a critical and resource intensive operation in the data warehouse lifecycle and needs to be carefully optimized and executed. Analysis Services 2005 offers a high performance and scalable processing architecture with a comprehensive set of controls for database administrators.
We can process an OLAP database, individual cube, Dimension or a specific Partition in a cube.


Name few Business Analysis Enhancements for SSAS?
The following table lists the business intelligence enhancements that are available in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services (SSAS). The table also shows the cube or dimension to which each business intelligence enhancement applies, and indicates whether an enhancement can be applied to an object that was created without using a data source and for which no schema has been generated.

Enhancement Type Applied to No data source
Time Intelligence Cube Cube No
Account Intelligence Dimension Dimension or cube No
Dimension Intelligence Dimension Dimension or cube Yes
Custom Aggregation Dimension Dimension (unary operator) or cube No
Semiadditive Behavior Cube Cube Yes>
Custom Member Formula Dimension Dimension or cube No
Custom Sorting and Uniqueness Settings Dimension Dimension or cube Yes
Dimension Writeback Dimension Dimension or cube Yes


What MDX functions do you most commonly use?
This is a great question because you only know this answer by experience.  If you ask me this question, the answer practically rushes out of me.  �CrossJoin, Descendants, and NonEmpty, in addition to Sum, Count, and Aggregate.  My personal favorite is CrossJoin because it allows me identify non-contiguous slices of the cube and aggregate even though those cube cells don�t roll up to a natural ancestor.�  Indeed, CrossJoin has easily been my bread and butter.

Where do you put calculated members?
The reflexive answer is �in the Measures dimension� but this is the obvious answer.  So I always follow up with another question.  �If you want to create a calculated member that intersects all measures, where do you put it?�  A high percentage of candidates can�t answer this question, and the answer is �In a dimension other than Measures.�  If they can answer it, I immediately ask them why.  The answer is �Because a member in a dimension cannot intersect its own relatives in that dimension.�

How do I find the bottom 10 customers with the lowest sales in 2003 that were not null?

A: Simply using bottomcount will return customers with null sales. You will have to combine it with NONEMPTY or FILTER.

SELECT { [Measures].[Internet Sales Amount] } ON COLUMNS ,
NONEMPTY(DESCENDANTS( [Customer].[Customer Geography].[All Customers]
, [Customer].[Customer Geography].[Customer] )
, ( [Measures].[Internet Sales Amount] ) )
, 10
, ( [Measures].[Internet Sales Amount] )
FROM [Adventure Works]
WHERE ( [Date].[Calendar].[Calendar Year].&[2003] ) ;

How in MDX query can I get top 3 sales years based on order quantity?

By default Analysis Services returns members in an order specified during attribute design. Attribute properties that define ordering are "OrderBy" and "OrderByAttribute". Lets say we want to see order counts for each year. In Adventure Works MDX query would be:

SELECT {[Measures].[Reseller Order Quantity]} ON 0
, [Date].[Calendar].[Calendar Year].Members ON 1
FROM [Adventure Works];

Same query using TopCount:
{[Measures].[Reseller Order Quantity]} ON 0,
TopCount([Date].[Calendar].[Calendar Year].Members,3, [Measures].[Reseller Order Quantity]) ON 1
FROM [Adventure Works];

How do you extract first tuple from the set?

Use could usefunction Set.Item(0)

SELECT {{[Date].[Calendar].[Calendar Year].Members
ON 0
FROM [Adventure Works]

How can I setup default dimension member in Calculation script?

You can use ALTER CUBE statement. Syntax: