There was a time when a new release of SQL Server – and therefore a new release of SQL Server Analysis Services – was the most exciting thing in the world for me. New functionality! New things to blog about! Not so now that my focus, and Microsoft’s, is on Power BI and we get cool new functionality there every month. All the same there are still a lot of people running SSAS on-premises and SQL Server 2022 has just been released, so what’s new and is it worth upgrading?
There’s nothing about Analysis Services in the SQL Server 2022 GA announcement blog post, but you can find a list of what’s new here:
Most of the items listed here are performance optimisations, most of which have been available in Power BI and Azure Analysis Services for some time now (although we haven’t got parallel execution plans for DirectQuery in Power BI just yet 😉). Probably the most important in my opinion is MDX Fusion, the main effect of which is to improve the performance of Excel PivotTables and cube-function-based reports connected to SSAS Tabular – I saw some cases where MDX queries ran a lot faster when this rolled out for Power BI. All the features are applicable to SSAS Tabular although some are applicable to SSAS Multidimensional too; there are also a few other minor optimisations that aren’t listed. The new cloud-billing model announced here is only applicable to the SQL core engine and not to SSAS, SSRS or SSIS.
There are no deprecated features but Multidimensional’s data mining features and PowerPivot for SharePoint are now officially discontinued (which means that they are now no longer supported – see the definition of “discontinued” here).
As a Microsoft employee, obviously I’m going to say you should upgrade to SQL Server 2022. As a member of the Power BI product group I would add that you should also consider migrating all your on-prem SSAS Tabular models to Power BI Premium if you can: Power BI Premium is the strategic direction for enterprise BI as well as self-service BI and that’s where all the investment is going from now on. Don’t think about migrating to Azure Analysis Services instead – we’re already encouraging people to migrate from AAS to Premium! My colleague Dan English just posted a great walkthrough of the new AAS to Premium migration experience here, which is worth checking out.
Migration from SSAS Multidimensional to Power BI is a much more difficult task. You’ll need to rebuild your existing cubes and calculations from scratch manually in Power BI (there are no tools to automate migration because it isn’t possible to build them). Simple cubes should be easy to rebuild; more complex cubes, for example those with parent/child hierarchies, custom rollups or SCOPE statements for example, will be much more difficult to migrate and you may need to accept that you can’t reproduce some functionality exactly. You can always run SSAS Multidimensional in a virtual machine in Azure if you need to move to the cloud and there are VM images to make that easy.