Analysis Services

IBAX SSAS Value Pack

Before I start, I need to declare that since Michael Brönnimann (one of the guys at IBAX behind this product) is a friend of mine I can’t really be considered an unbiased reviewer of this product; however, since I think it’s interesting and deserves wider exposure, I did think it was worth blogging about. In fact I’ve more or less given up reviewing products and books on this blog because I know so many people in the SSAS world that it makes impartiality on my part very difficult; it’s just easier to flag up interesting stuff and not try to make any kind of critical assessment.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand: a look at the IBAX SSAS Value Pack. The product’s web page is here:
Basically, it’s a template Analysis Services solution that contains solutions to many cube design and MDX calculation problems that you can adapt for your own project. The idea is that, rather than building everything yourself from scratch, if you bring your own data into an existing solution you’ll be able to build something that’s very feature-rich very quickly without having to spend too much time worrying about the design and implementation of the difficult stuff. And the template itself certainly is very feature rich: it has a full set of time series calculations, many other financial and analytical calculations, different types of currency conversion, showing measures in different scales, formatting and colour highlighting, actions and drillthrough.

The next question is, of course, will you actually get any value from a product like this (assuming you don’t buy it as a service offering)? I mean, if you don’t know how to implement this stuff in the first place are you going to be able to adapt someone else’s code to your own requirements? Well, there’s a lot of documentation and some introductory training included in the package to help get you up to speed; and I think if you’re going to learn how to learn SSAS it always helps to have some worked examples to try to understand; and even if you throw away 80% of what you get, the remaining 20% will have still proved useful. If the alternative is to spend months and months developing something, and then finding you’ve made some fundamental mistake in the design early on that you can’t now change, then it’s got to be better.

Arguably Microsoft should be providing something like this to its customers and partners; there have been various service-offerings and solution accelerators developed for SSAS over the years but nothing much has ever come of them. The Add Business Intelligence Wizard in BIDS does something similar too, but again that never seemed to be a development priority and it suffered in the earliest releases of SSAS 2005 from generating MDX that didn’t follow best-practices or, worse, just didn’t work. Adventure Works is probably the closest comparison, and although it does a good job as a sample database it’s not really a template for an enterprise solution. So it’s up to third parties like IBAX to fill the gap in the market…

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