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30 years in business
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Should you use tabular or multi-dimensional SSAS mode? Here's the answer!
Part seven 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
  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)

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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Conclusions and a recommendation

If you already have cubes deployed within your organisation, it's unlikely to be worth re-creating all of their functionality using tabular models, so you're almost certainly best off staying with legacy multi-dimensional models.

For everyone else, you should choose tabular!

It's worth repeating that we have no axe to grind: we train on both SSAS multi-dimensional and SSAS tabular, and have no connection with Microsoft beyond training on their software.

Here are the reasons why:

Reason Notes
Familiarity Tabular models work like relational databases.  If you're used to one-to-many relationships and primary keys, you'll find creating a tabular model intuitive.  The same is definitely not true for creating multi-dimensional models, which involves difficult and unfamiliar concepts.
Ease of use Tabular is easier to use not just because the concepts are easier, but because it was written so much more recently.  The dialog boxes in tabular are, by and large, easy to use; the ones in multi-dimensional give the impression that they were built by geeks who rarely interacted with human beings.
Integration with Excel Tabular models are tightly integrated with Excel and PowerPivot (you can develop a model in PowerPivot and import it into Analysis Services).  For the 99% of users of Analysis Services who want to report on data using pivot tables, this tight integration makes life easier.
Future-proofing This is an informed guess on my part, but when you've trained on and worked with Microsoft software for over 20 years you get a feeling for the way things are going.  Although Microsoft have publicly said they will support both server modes for the foreseeable future, I'm pretty confident that multi-dimensional mode will be frozen, while tabular models will be improved with each new version of SSAS.


I hope this has helped you decide on the way forward for your organisation!

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