SSRS cascading report parameters using MDX queries

SSRS report parameters cascading is a regular usability requirement. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to proceed using MDX queries. The background to this is, that the default queries generated by the SSRS wizards are far below the standard we wish to deliver. Let’s dive in using the famous Multidimensional AdventureWorks DW OLAP Project.

Lets start by creating a Dataset for the first parameter in the cascade. Start in the Dataset Query designer as shown below.


The MDX query I used is like this:

MEMBER [Measures].[ParCaption] AS [Product].[Category].CURRENTMEMBER.MEMBER_CAPTION
MEMBER [Measures].[ParValue] AS [Product].[Category].CURRENTMEMBER.UNIQUENAME

{[Measures].[ParCaption], [Measures].[ParValue]} ON COLUMNS,
[Product].[Category].ALLMEMBERS ON ROWS
FROM [Adventure Works]

Next step is actually creating these report parameters, the first Parameter P_ProductCategory should be set like this:



The second parameter needs to be created exactly the same way once you prepare its Dataset as described in the next step.

Continue by creating another SSRS Dataset used for the second parameter P_ProductSubcategory in the cascade. This parameter value gets calculated on the fly as you pick the first parameter value.

MEMBER [Measures].[ParCaption] AS [Product].[Subcategory].CURRENTMEMBER.NAME
MEMBER [Measures].[ParValue] AS [Product].[Subcategory].CURRENTMEMBER.UNIQUENAME

{[Measures].[ParCaption], [Measures].[ParValue]} ON COLUMNS,
[Product].[Subcategory].[Subcategory] ON ROWS
FROM [Adventure Works]
WHERE STRTOSET(@P_ProductCategory)

Notice the STRTOSET function. In case we would look for a boolean value, we could use STRTOMEMBER instead. In case we would look for multiple parameters, you would write WHERE ( STRTOSET(@P_ProductCategory), STRTOMEMBER(@ProductBooleanParameter) )

To make this work, we need to set the parameters of the second Dataset like this:


Notice you might run into an error (actually a VS bug) when writing the MDX query related to the Dataset in the query editor saying  “The query contains the XXXXXName parameter, which is not declared.” In that case, review the forum here but the solution is rather quick. Spoiler: Look for the Query Parameters icon in the top menu ( highlighted in orange box in the Query designer printscreen in the first screenshot from above) and set your parameters for the first time manually with some default value as well, that should make things work here.

Next step is creating the result dataset for the SSRS Report matrix. The query I used is trivial and is set like this:

[Product].[Product].[Product]) ON ROWS,
[Measures].[Order Count] ON COLUMNS
SELECT (STRTOSET(@P_Product_Category), STRTOSET(@P_Product_Subcategory)) ON COLUMNS
FROM [Adventure Works]

Notice here, that in MDX you cannot use the same dimension hierarchy more then once, so you cannot use it in the SELECT and WHERE at the same time. This is the reason I decided to go for a Sub-Select, but there are many other options you can easily find on the internet. And here you go, after choosing Bikes and Clothing in the Product Category Parameter, you get only the relevant Product Subcategories, below are few screenshots of the simple SSRS Report:



TSQL histogram

Sometimes I like to fiddle around with TSQL. Not sure how useful this trick might be, but here is a code I came up with, that delivers histograms based on your data and a few variables you define. So as you can see, the dataset for this script is quite known Adventure Works DW dbo.factInternetSales . You can define the bucket count and the Bar chart width variables to fine tune your output. This histogram splits the dataset into the declared buckets based on the ProductKey FK column values.


USE AdventureWorksDW2014;

DECLARE @BucketCount DECIMAL(8,3) = 10;
DECLARE @BarChartWidth INT = 100;
DECLARE @iKeyCount DECIMAL(8,3) = (SELECT COUNT(DISTINCT ProductKey) FROM FactInternetSales);
DECLARE @iBucketSize DECIMAL(8,3) = @iKeyCount / @BucketCount;

REPLICATE('=', @BarChartWidth * i.SumSalesAmount / (SELECT SUM(SalesAmount) FROM factInternetSales)) AS [BarChart]
     MIN(ii.ProductKey) Bucket_Range_From,
     MAX(ii.ProductKey) Bucket_Range_To,
     COUNT(ii.Bucket_ProductKeys_Count) Bucket_ProductKeys_Count,
     SUM(ii.SumSalesAmount) SumSalesAmount
     FROM (
          CEILING(CAST((ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY ProductKey) )/@iBucketSize AS DECIMAL(8,3))) iBucket_ID,
          COUNT(*) Bucket_ProductKeys_Count,
          SUM(SalesAmount) SumSalesAmount
          FROM FactInternetSales
          GROUP BY ProductKey
          ) ii
      GROUP BY ii.iBucket_ID
      ) i;

And the result may look like this:


But I would also like to see more accurate solution. So digging deeper, I came up with a code, that splits the dataset into the declared buckets based on the composite PK SalesOrderNumber, SalesOrderLineNumber. ( I also added precision to the decimal Datatype ) This code still feels quite straightforward to me, but gets a little bit more complex.


USE AdventureWorksDW2014;

DECLARE @BarChartWidth INT = 100;
DECLARE @BucketCount DECIMAL(38,18) = 10;
DECLARE @iCount DECIMAL(38,18) = (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM FactInternetSales);
DECLARE @iBucketSize DECIMAL(38,18) = @iCount / @BucketCount;

     FROM (
          TOP 100 PERCENT
          CAST([SalesOrderNumber] AS VARCHAR) + '-' + CAST([SalesOrderLineNumber] AS VARCHAR) iKey,
          CEILING(CAST((ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY (SELECT NULL)) ) / @iBucketSize AS DECIMAL(38,18))) iBucket_ID,
          SUM(SalesAmount) SumSalesAmount
          FROM FactInternetSales
          GROUP BY [SalesOrderNumber],[SalesOrderLineNumber]
          ORDER BY CAST(REPLACE([SalesOrderNumber],'SO','') AS INT),[SalesOrderLineNumber]
          ) i

(SELECT Cfrom.iKey FROM CTE Cfrom WHERE Cfrom.iID = i.Bucket_Range_From) Bucket_Range_SalesOrderKey_From,
(SELECT Cto.iKey FROM CTE Cto WHERE Cto.iID = i.Bucket_Range_To) Bucket_Range_SalesOrderKey_To,
REPLICATE('=', @BarChartWidth * i.Bucket_Sales_Amount / (SELECT SUM(SalesAmount) FROM factInternetSales)) AS [BarChart]
     TOP 100 PERCENT
     MIN(ii.iID) Bucket_Range_From,
     MAX(ii.iID) Bucket_Range_To,
     COUNT(ii.iID) Bucket_Row_Count,
     SUM(ii.SumSalesAmount) Bucket_Sales_Amount
     CTE ii
     GROUP BY ii.iBucket_ID
     ORDER BY ii.iBucket_ID
     ) i
ORDER BY iBucket_ID;

The final result is as expected ( check the Bucket_Row_Count column ) and can look like this:



Compare multiple DB schemas

Sometimes you may need to do a quick examination on how are the DBs, that are supposed to have the same schema, different. This quick query allows you to seek for the outlying and the intersecting columns across multiple databases. If you are looking only for the outlying columns and in which DBs they are, the code below is to be used. If you are looking for the intersection of multiple DBs, just switch from HAVING COUNT(0) <> to HAVING COUNT(0) = and remove the list of databases that the columns are in..

In my example, I created 3 DBs Test 1-3 with some differences between the schemas. The key determining a unique column is defined in the Compound_key column.


IF OBJECT_ID('tempdb..#DB_Schema_Compare') IS NOT NULL
DROP TABLE #DB_Schema_Compare;
CREATE TABLE #DB_Schema_Compare
( [DB_Name] NVARCHAR(100),
[Compound_Key] NVARCHAR(Max)

USE Test3;

INSERT INTO #DB_Schema_Compare
'Test3', SchemaName, TableName, ColumnName,
--c.is_computed ColumnIsComputed,
--c.is_identity ColumnIsIdentity,
--c.is_nullable ColumnIsNullable,
--c.collation_name ColumnCollationName,
--c.max_length ColumnMaxLength,
CAST( AS VARCHAR(200)) + '^' +
CAST( AS VARCHAR(200)) + '^' +
CAST( AS VARCHAR(200)) + '^' +
CAST(c.is_computed AS VARCHAR(1)) + '^' +
CAST(c.is_identity AS VARCHAR(1)) + '^' +
CAST(c.is_nullable AS VARCHAR(1)) + '^' +
ISNULL(CAST(c.collation_name AS VARCHAR(200)) + '^','^') +
CAST(c.max_length AS VARCHAR(10)) + '^' +
AS VARCHAR(MAX)) CompoundKey
FROM sys.columns c
inner join sys.tables t on c.object_id = t.object_id
inner join sys.schemas s on s.schema_id = t.schema_id
inner join sys.types ty on ty.system_type_id = c.system_type_id;

STUFF(( SELECT ',' + SUB.[DB_Name] AS [text()]
#DB_Schema_Compare SUB
SUB.Compound_Key = i.Compound_Key
), 1, 1, '' )
AS [DBs_we_HAVE_this_compound_key_in]
     COUNT(0) CNT,
     GROUP BY [Compound_Key]
     HAVING COUNT(0) <> (SELECT COUNT(DISTINCT [DB_Name]) FROM #DB_Schema_Compare)
) i;

Waterfall chart in Excel 2013 and older

Excel 2016 delivers a waterfall chart type, but what about older versions? This is a neat and nice workaround I actually learned from the business folks. The yellow values are coming from a data model or any other data source except for the Measure Bridge End, which is a SUM of the cell C11 and the range D12:D16 . The rest of the values is calculated as shown in the comments. Hopefully all the steps taken are understandable from the full-size image located here.


TSQL Large data loads split by a declared batch size

A couple of days back, I was asked how would I use SQL grouping functions to split huge data load into separate batches. Below is the code I came up with. The next logical step would be to load the statements into a temp table, iterate through it and execute the statements with sp_executesql. It is needed to be said, that if you have big gaps of missing IDs in the PK you are scanning, this might not be the best and most accurate solution.

USE [AdventureWorks2012];


SELECT MIN(SalesOrderID) MinID,MAX(SalesOrderID) MaxID FROM [Sales].[SalesOrderHeader];

--MIN(i.SalesOrderID) MinID,
--MAX(i.SalesOrderID) MaxID,
CAST(MIN(i.SalesOrderID) AS VARCHAR(10)) + ' AND ' +
CAST(MAX(i.SalesOrderID) AS VARCHAR(10)) + '; '
	SalesOrderID / @BATCHSIZE PartitionID
	FROM [Sales].[SalesOrderHeader] WITH (NOLOCK)
) i
GROUP BY i.PartitionID
--ORDER BY i.PartitionID;

Safe and predictable MDX queries for PowerPivot data loads

I have spent most of the last month digging deep and developing in PowerQuery and PowerPivot. I must say that I am impressed and there is still a lot more for me to learn. However I am not that much impressed about the documentation available online as there have been some issues I could not find an useful answer to.

Today I would like to share one quick tip related to querying OLAP database from PowerQuery or directly from PowerPivot. Imagine that you would place in the data loader section of a PowerQuery or PowerPivot a really basic MDX query looking like this:

Query 1:

[Measures].[Internet Order Count] ON 0,
NONEMPTY([Customer].[Customer].[Customer],[Measures].[Customer Count]) ON 1
[Sales Territory].[Sales Territory].[Group].&[Europe] ON 0
(SELECT [Reseller].[Business Type].&[Specialty Bike Shop] ON 0
[Adventure Works])
WHERE [Product].[Category].&[40]

The results are:


It could easily happen, that if you choose WHERE condition returning no rows, in this case determined by the non-existing Product Category, (or if your user would not have sufficient security rights under the OLAP role ), that the PowerPivot model could become corrupted and loose a relationship related to one of the (not)returned columns. You can rewrite the mentioned Query 1 in a much better way to ensure, that you always get the needed columns no matter how many rows are retrieved.

Query 2:

MEMBER [iCustomerName] AS [Customer].[Customer].CURRENTMEMBER.NAME
MEMBER [iCustomerKey] AS [Customer].[Customer].CURRENTMEMBER.Properties( "Key(0)" )

{[iCustomerKey],[iCustomerName],[Measures].[Internet Order Count]} ON 0,
NONEMPTY([Customer].[Customer].[Customer],[Measures].[Customer Count]) ON 1
[Sales Territory].[Sales Territory].[Group].&[Europe] ON 0
(SELECT [Reseller].[Business Type].&[Specialty Bike Shop] ON 0
[Adventure Works])
WHERE [Product].[Category].&[40]
The results are:
As you can see from the next picture, for Query 1 we have no Customer Name column in the model, for Query 2 we are just fine. I must admit that Customer Name is not a great example since we have the Customer Key returned anyway, but I guess you can see the point where I’m heading here. To stay on the safe side, write bullet-proof MDX queries!

Some thoughts on running PowerQuery in 32bit Excel 2013/2016 while connecting to XLS files

I really do like PowerQuery for the ease of use, its powerfulness and the self-explanatory ETL code in M. However I must say, that although Microsoft claims its a Self Service BI tool, things can get quite complex, especially if your clients have 32 bit Excel installed on their machines. So quite often the issues come up, when the clients try to connect via PowerQuery to huge local Excel data source files and at some point hit the out of memory error message. Now in 32bit Excel, you need to watch the virtual allocated memory in Process Explorer application. This useful application can be downloaded from here. You need to catch the Excel process and in the properties, you can easily find this value. No sense watching Excel memory claims from the Windows built-in Task Manager app. Quite often you can see, that Excel committed memory charge is around 500 MB, however you are receiving the out of memory message, because virtual memory allocated at this point can be around 1.95 GB, which I consider the point, where you can be certain that Excel will crash ( The point of no return ). You might be lucky and the virtual memory allocation might rise up to around 2,1 GB, but you are really surfing the threshold here. Very likely you will not be able to save the file at this point as well. So the recommendations based upon my personal experience are:

  • Whenever possible, try to load data from .csv instead of .xls files in case you need to load local data
  • Load only the columns you are sure you will need in your data model, no sense loading for example DWH system columns like GUIDs, PKs, System Dates etc..
  • Set the PowerQuery current workbook settings in a lightweight manner so that it does not automatically detect column data types, does not automatically create relationships between tables, does not update relationships when refreshing queries loaded to the data model, when possible, ignore the privacy levels
  • Track the virtual allocated memory in the Process Explorer application while adding each query. You might find a query loading just a few rows that causes high virtual memory allocation for no obvious reason, and that’s the perfect time to start tuning the query steps one after another. ( Unfortunately I have not found so far a way, how to do some more accurate query performance tracking when the queries are loading data from local Excel file source, however when loading data from different data sources, you have a pretty decent option setting the PowerQuery tracking ON and then you can load the log text file in another PowerQuery and set some basic transformations on the file to get the specific query duration etc. ).
  • When not needed, disable loading query results to a Worksheet
  • Try avoiding chaotic and memory consuming steps like adding columns, changing their datatypes and then removing them at the end of the query flow
  • Disable COM Excel add-ins because of their memory consumption
  • When nothing else seems to work, you can try downloading and installing Large Address Aware capability change for Excel from here , this KB released in May 2016 raises the 32 bit Excel memory limit from 2 to 3 GB

And that’s all I can think of at the moment. Don’t forget , that you should reserve at least 500 MB for PowerPivot if you plan to load the data into the data model. If I come across any more recommendations, I will share them here, however combining these steps served me pretty well.

sp_testlinkedserver in a try…catch block

Sometimes you definitely need to go with quick workarounds. I am pretty much sure I am not the only BI developer working from time to time with legacy and somehow wacky old code used for production purposes. This time I came across a legacy scheduled stored procedure filling a dataset for SSRS reporting purposes calling openrowset to run MDX query against an OLAP cube but the linked server was failing from time to time because of the weak connections. Whenever the linked server call would fail, there would be simply no reporting as the MDX results were later used in an INNER JOIN 🙂 . I kind of wonder what did the people writing this code thought back then. Anyway I needed this SP to stop failing and to have results even if the linked server connection would fail and to be informed that the linked server call failed so I could react and persist the results from the last successful run.

The solution is quite easy and so far seems bullet proof. Lets use this sample MDX code enveloped in an openrowset for example:

FROM OpenRowset( 'MSOLAP','DATASOURCE=myOlapServer; Initial Catalog=FoodMart;',
'SELECT Measures.members ON ROWS,
[Product Category].members ON COLUMNS
FROM [Sales]')
as a

So the trick is to add this chunk of code after sp_testlinkedserver which tests if we are able to connect to the specified linked server and we need to run this together in the try block. Also we might want to set the variable @err to know that an error happened. The code could look something like this:

DECLARE @err BIT = 0;

EXEC sp_testlinkedserver N'MSOLAP';

INTO #results
FROM OpenRowset( 'MSOLAP','DATASOURCE=myOlapServer; Initial Catalog=FoodMart;',
'SELECT Measures.members ON ROWS,
[Product Category].members ON COLUMNS
FROM [Sales]' )
as a;


SET @err = 1;

IF @err = 1

Disclaimer: This is just a quick fix tutorial, I definitely agree this is not the best example of using
the try…catch block. Details on sp_testlinkedserver can be easily found here.

Build your own Data quality framework part 3/3

And here we are , at the final part of this tutorial. This third part is going to be mainly about the Data quality issue fixing and possible reporting layers. I have been working with this framework in an environment, where we’ve had SSRS reports embedded in a .NET web application. The links in the SSRS subreports for each Data quality rule would navigate you onto the specific business objects in the application and there you would fix the errors. That’s the part where I find this solution really straightforward and powerful. If you’re in a completely different setup environment, you can possibly write your own simple web page for the error fixing module or you can come up with any other possible UI you can think of. The same with the reporting module. I have used a simple SSAS Tabular model with Excel sheets pushed onto the internal Sharepoint site, but you can really go in any possible direction you can think of.

So once you have the DQ schema tables filled with rules and their results, you can easily create an SSRS report dashboard  ( dataset joining dql.ValidationResult and dql.ValidationRun tables ) looking something like this for example:

Untitled Diagram (4)

The datasets for this report are a piece of cake to come up with when you think about the data model we have from the second part of this tutorial. You can use for example:

DECLARE @CurrValidationRun_ID INT;
SELECT @CurrValidationRun_ID = ISNULL(MAX(ValidationRun_ID),0) FROM dql.ValidationRun WHERE ValidationRunEnd IS NOT NULL;
DECLARE @PrevValidationRun_ID INT = @CurrValidationRun_ID - 1;

(SELECT VRP.ValidationErrorCount FROM dql.ValidationResult VRP WHERE VRP.ValidationRun_ID = @PrevValidationRun_ID AND VRP.ValidationRule_ID = VR.ValidationRule_ID) AS PrevErrorCount,
(SELECT VRP.ValidationErrorCount FROM dql.ValidationResult VRC WHERE VRC.ValidationRun_ID = @CurrValidationRun_ID AND VRC.ValidationRule_ID = VR.ValidationRule_ID) AS CurrentErrorCount
FROM dql.ValidationRule VR;

or you can use CROSS APPLY or what ever technique you are the most comfortable with. The Data quality rule column in the table should be a link to a subreport containing the specific rule errors with links to the CRM application business objects.

When it comes to the drill down into the subreports, you need to query the dql.ValidationResultItem table but you are facing one issue here. As you’ve seen, I have used 6 ResultCol columns for the results and in the Contact with multiple invoicing addresses example you have 6 columns filled with data. But what if you had used less than 6 columns in some rules? So how can you prepare the report column layout in the specific rule results subreport? The same problem is with the SSRS matrix / table column headers. I leave this part up to your imagination.

You can go with a simplistic approach, show all 6 columns in the table report layout and have the column visibility and column header value based on some Data quality rule – specific configuration and solve this issue with an lookup expression. You could also choose a more technical approach and build dynamic SQL statements using the Data quality query metadata and prepare a dataset for a matrix style report with some pivoting / unpivoting. I would not go into more details here as everyone is working in an different environment and this is really the fun part where you can spend some time evaluating the best available options. I leave the reporting for Management up to you as well. It is really the fun part where sky is the limit and the solution is totally based on your preferences.


This lightweight Data quality framework can be considered pretty easy to build yet very powerful. You can further expand the functionality in many ways. You can even make this framework call available Datasets used for example for addresses cleaning and have some auto corrections being done. You should not forget about row-level security , so the users cannot touch each others owned business entities. But the main thought behind this is to provide the users an easy to use interface through which they can easily fix the Data quality issues that they are responsible for. Just remember to keep it simple and well performing!

Build your own Data quality framework part 2/3

The database back-end part of this simple framework will be made of these parts:

schema dql – containing all the Data quality objects mentioned below

table dql.ValidationRule – containing a list of Data quality rules with their meta information

table dql.ValidationRun – containing information about the validation runs

table dql.ValidationResult – containing aggregated information with the results needed for your reporting

table dql.ValidationRuleItem – containing the lowest level info related to the business object specific errors, ie. a list of the Contacts having more than 1 invoicing address filled in SQL_VARIANT datatype columns

stored procedure dql.ValidationRunner – responsible for the Data quality rules evaluation, maintenance of data and aggregations for reporting

stored procedure dql.ValidationRuleAPI – responsible for the Data quality rules management

SQL Agent job DataQuality – responsible for scheduled execution of the stored procedure dql.ValidationRunner

Here is a relational schema to give you a better idea:

Untitled Diagram (1) (1)

And how do we bring the Data Quality evaluation to life?  First we need to fill the Data quality rules and their meta information into the dql.ValidationRule table.

INSERT INTO dql.ValidationRule
( ValidationRuleName
, ValidationRuleDescription
, ValidationRuleQuery
, ValidationRuleColumns
, IsActive )

'Contacts with multiple invoicing Address',
'List of all contacts with their owners having multiple invoicing addresses in the CRM',
'SELECT Contact_ID, ContactName, ContactOwner_ID, ContactOwnerName, AddressType, COUNT(*) AS [InvoicingAddressCount]
FROM dbo.Contact WITH (NOLOCK)
WHERE AddressType = ''Invoicing''
GROUP BY Contact_ID, ContactName, ContactOwner_ID, ContactOwnerName, AddressType
1 UNION ...

At this phase you can build your simple stored procedure API. Just prepare a stored procedure called dql.ValidationRuleAPI that can either insert, update or delete a Data quality rule based on the provided parameters.

Next you need to create the stored procedure dql.ValidationRunner which will take care of the main part. It has to create a row in the dql.ValidationRun table to mark the validation run has started. Then it needs to iterate through the table dql.ValidationRule, use the value from the ValidationRuleQuery column, build a dynamic SQL statement and fill the result table dql.ValidationResultItem with each Data quality query results. ( No need for cursors here, you can refer to this link to use much more lightweight solution using a temp table )


INSERT INTO dql.ValidationResultItem(
ValidationRun_ID ,
ValidationRule_ID ,
ResultCol1 ,
ResultCol2 ,
ResultCol3 ,
ResultCol4 ,
ResultCol5 ,
ResultCol6 )

EXEC sp_executesql @statement;

**Note: In case you’ll have different result column count for each query, you need to generate the INSERT INTO… statement also in a dynamic SQL manner. You can use some simple logic based on the column count metadata for the specific rule. The result would look like EXEC sp_executesql @statement where @statement is set something like : ‘INSERT INTO dql.ValidationResultItem (…) SELECT DATA QUALITY QUERY SELECT GOES HERE’…

After each rule being finished, this SP needs also to write the number of found results for the rule into the dql.ValidationResult table. Once all the rules are finished and all the results are inserted into the result table, this SP needs to mark the end of the validation run back into the dql.ValidationRun table and do some maintenance so the result table does not grow out of control. This table could easily become really huge, being considered the job is scheduled once in a hour, evaluating in average 50 rules with about approx. 100 results per rule. At any cost avoid using DELETE statement here, use TRUNCATE. I have spilled the results for the last 2 runs into a temp db table, truncated the result item table and inserted the spilled results back. I am pretty much sure you can come up with a more elegant solution.

Here is a simple UML diagram explaining the dql.ValidationRunner stored procedure workflow.

Untitled Diagram3.png

One important note. DO make sure, all the Data quality queries have NOLOCK hints. You don’t want to stop your production CRM application with your queries. Also I strongly advise to have the framework run on a different server then your CRM database production.