Will MDX Go Mainstream?

I always look out for Mark Whitehorn’s articles in the Register, if only because I’m tickled to see any mention of MDX on the front page of the UK’s foremost IT news site. Here’s his latest:

While I agree with his judgement that "MDX will become a highly saleable skill" (it already is for me!), and while I agree with with all his arguments that MDX is a good thing and better than SQL for BI queries, I can’t agree with his central argument that application developers are going to start learning it on a massive scale. I would really, really, really like to believe it but I can’t. A small minority of developers who develop specialist analytical applications will need to learn a bit but everyone else will rely on third-party products like Dundas OLAP Services (what’s going to happen about that with the MS acquisition of the Dundas products? Anyone know?) or the Intelligencia OLAP Controls. It’s not that MDX is difficult per se, but that people who are used to thinking in SQL – and developers are always going to need to know some SQL – find it very difficult to start thinking in MDX, and that’s a big hurdle to overcome. And as the existence of not just the tools I mentioned but the entire AS client tool market proves, it’s also relatively easy to write a generic MDX query generator that will work well on just about any cube whereas you can’t just write a generic SQL query generator that will work on any set of tables without building a metadata layer over the top (eg in the way Report Builder needs its Report Models); and once you’ve built that metadata layer you might as well have built a cube anyway.

4 thoughts on “Will MDX Go Mainstream?

  1. Yes I read the same thing and it has given more impetus to learn MDX, Im a long time Oracle Express/Oracle 10 Olap expert looking to enhance skillset. I do like MDX and agree if your not use to thinking multidimensionally it would be a challenge, but as I have for many years its not too bad…Like all new languages…the syntax can be a little perplexing at times..but for the most part its fun to learn…
    I do like what Microsoft is doing as regards Analytical services/katami 2008and am very exicited about the improved MOLAP writeback capabilities, which should open up a whole lot of opportunities in financial planning as will Performance Point

  2. Hi Chris,
    Is there some specific AS 2008 feature(s) that Mark is alluding to here: "..the arrival of SQL Server 2008 will change the landscape for application developers because Business Intelligence (BI) is set to expand from the analytical world into the transactional.."? Proactive caching was introduced in AS 2005 – are there some new bells and whistles?
     – Deepak

  3. No new features that I know of, no, but there could be some I suppose.
    This kind of remark becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy when MS put enough marketing effort behind it. I know a lot of customers who started using AS simply because of the hype surrounding AS2005 when they could have done what they wanted just as easily in AS2K.

  4. Microsoft did not buy the whole of Dundas. Microsoft bought the chart controls (for integration into SQL Server Reporting Services) and took over the development team related to that product only. Dundas remains a company as is with no direct links to Microsoft.

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