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Should you use tabular or multi-dimensional SSAS mode? Here's the answer!
Part three of a seven-part series of blogs

If you're building a data warehouse, you'll want to know whether you should be creating cubes using the legacy multi-dimensional Analysis Services server mode, or creating data models in the new tabular mode. This blog gives Wise Owl's take on the subject.

  1. Analysis Services - Tabular or Multi-Dimensional Model?
  2. What the two SSAS Server modes have in common
  3. Creating a tabular model (this blog)
  4. Creating and using a multi-dimensional model cube
  5. Comparing tabular model DAX with multi-dimensional MDX
  6. Other differences between multi-dimensional and tabular
  7. Conclusions and a recommendation

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 07 November 2015

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Creating a tabular model

Let's start with how to create a tabular model.  This isn't meant to be a user guide; instead I'm just trying to give an impression of how easy (or otherwise) the software is to use.  You start by importing data:

Data sources

You can import data from almost any relational database, but also from Excel, CSV files and even from the clipboard.

You can then choose which tables you want to import, and give them friendly names:

Friendly table names

Here we've chosen to import 4 tables.

Analysis Services gives a friendly message showing that you've imported (or processed) the tables:

Tables imported

We've successfully loaded data into our model.

You can view your data model in either Grid view:

Grid view

In grid view, you see one table's data at a time.


Or Diagram view:

Diagram view

In diagram view, you can see how tables are related, and even create new relationships.


You then need to create measures (stating which statistics you want to calculate in your pivot table):

Creating a measure

The simplest way to create a measure: this will sum the quantity of sales by product, animal or species.

Finally, you can create a pivot table based on this model:

Creating a pivot table

You can analyse your model in Excel using this menu.


By default you'll get a slightly messy pivot table field list, but it's easy enough to tidy this up:

Basic pivot table fields Tidied pivot table field list
What you get by default After a bit of tidying

What this shows is that SSAS tabular is full of useful wizards and is built to be easy to use, particularly for anyone who has a background in relational databases.

Bearing the hint above in mind, let's now have a look at the equivalent process for creating a cube in multi-dimensional mode for Analysis Services ...


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