How to create a data model in SSAS tabular
Part one of a seven-part series of blogs

The first - and most important - part of using Analysis Services (tabular mode) is to create a data model, incuding only those tables and columns you need. This lengthy blog shows you how to go about creating the perfect data model!

  1. Creating a data model in Analysis Services tabular (this blog)
  2. Creating a connection to your data source
  3. Choosing tables, columns and rows to import
  4. Tidying your data model (grid/diagram view, joins, etc)
  5. Hiding tables and columns from client view
  6. Creating simple measures for our pivot table
  7. Making changes to a model (adding tables and columns)

This blog is part of our online SSAS Tabular tutorial; we also offer lots of other Analysis Services training resources.

Posted by Andy Brown on 16 November 2015

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Creating a data model in Analysis Services tabular

The data model is central to everything in SSAS tabular.  A data model takes information from a cube, a database or any other data source, and uses it as the basis for (usually) a pivot table in Excel:

How SSAS tabular works

A data model feeds off the data in a relational database, and provides the data for a pivot table in Excel.

The model we'll create in this blog will feed off the main tables in the Make-a-Mammal database (which you can view and download here):

Make-a-mammal database

The main tables in the underlying relational database.

This would by default give rise to a pivot table which was almost impossible to use:

Pivot table field list

This pivot table field list includes everything and the kitchen sink, so it's difficult if not impossible to pick out the fields of interest.


What we'll do is:

  • give our tables and fields friendly names;
  • include in our data model only the fields needed; and
  • hide from our pivot table fields which would otherwise clutter it up.

The result will be a model looking more like this:

Simpler data model

This data model is much cleaner and easier to understand.

This gives a pivot table field list which is much easier to use:

Simpler pivot table field list

Pivot tables like this are the holy grail of tabular models; there are 9 tables included from the underlying database, but only 3 tables visible in the pivot table field list.


Later on in this tutorial we'll discover that you can use the RELATED function to combine these fields into (apparently) a single table.

To create a data model, this tutorial shows how to:

  1. Open a connection to a database or other data source;
  2. Import tables, choosing which rows and columns you want; 
  3. Tidy up the resulting data model in grid/diagram view, including renaming tables and columns and creating/editing relationships;
  4. Hide tables and columns from your client, so they don't clutter up your data model;
  5. Create simple measures; and
  6. Make changes to tables that you've included in your model.

We'll begin with creating a connection to your data source.

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