Intrinsic Member Properties: The MEMBER_NAME Property

Monday Jul 21st 2008 by William Pearson
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MSAS Architect Bill Pearson introduces the intrinsic MEMBER_NAME property. In hands-on exercises, we gain exposure to the use of the property in generating simple lists, as well as datasets to support report parameter picklists.

About the Series ...

This article is a member of the series, MDX Essentials. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of the Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) language, with each tutorial progressively adding features designed to meet specific real-world needs.

For more information about the series in general, as well as the software and systems requirements for getting the most out of the lessons included, please see my first article, MDX at First Glance: Introduction to MDX Essentials.

Note: Current updates are assumed for MSSQL Server, MSSQL Server Analysis Services, and the related Books Online and Samples.

Overview

In this lesson, we will examine an intrinsic member property, MEMBER_NAME. As many of us are aware, the intrinsic member properties supported by SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services are of two types: context sensitive member properties and non-context sensitive member properties. MEMBER_NAME belongs to the second group of properties. As a general group, intrinsic member properties provide additional information that can be used by applications to enhance the user's experience. Support for the non-context sensitive member properties is the same for all members, regardless of individual context.

The purpose of the MEMBER_NAME property is to support the return of a name for the member with which it is associated. MEMBER_NAME can be useful in a host of different applications. Moreover, as I have noted to be the case for other functions and properties within the MDX Essentials series, MEMBER_NAME allows us to exercise a great deal of presentation “sleight of hand,” in working with MDX in Analysis Services, as well as within Reporting Services and various other reporting applications that can access an Analysis Services cube.

The MEMBER_NAME property can be leveraged in activities that range from generating simple lists to supporting sophisticated presentations. It is a particularly effective tool when we need to provide parameter picklist support and the like, as we shall see. We will introduce the function, commenting upon its operation and touching upon examples of effects that we can employ it to deliver. As a part of our discussion, we shall:

  • Examine the syntax surrounding the function;
  • Undertake illustrative examples of the uses of the function in practice exercises;
  • Briefly discuss the results datasets we obtain in the practice examples.

The MEMBER_NAME Property

Introduction

According to the Analysis Services Books Online, the MEMBER_NAME property specifies, quite simply, “the name of the member.” MEMBER_NAME has many applications, including the rather obvious uses with Analysis Services members that are included in the definition, as well as its pairing with other MDX functions to leverage its power even further. As an example, as we have seen is the case with the .Name function (among many other functions), in earlier articles of this series, MEMBER_NAME can also be synergistically combined with the .CurrentMember function; we will see an example of this specific combination within the practice exercises that follow.

We will examine the syntax involved in leveraging the MEMBER_NAME property after our customary overview in the Discussion section that follows. Following that, we will conduct practice examples within a couple of scenarios, constructed to support hypothetical business needs that illustrate uses for the property. This will afford us an opportunity to explore some of the presentation options that MEMBER_NAME can offer the knowledgeable user. Hands-on practice with MEMBER_NAME, where we will create expressions that leverage the function, will help us to activate what we learn in the Discussion and Syntax sections that follow.

Discussion

To restate our initial explanation of its operation, the MEMBER_NAME property, when acting upon a member, returns the member name of the object to which it is appended with the period (“.”) delimiter. MEMBER_NAME can be used for a great deal more than the support of simple lists of unique object names, as we have intimated. When we couple it with other functions, we can leverage MEMBER_NAME to deliver a wide range of analysis and reporting utility. As in so many cases with the Microsoft integrated business intelligence solution, consisting of MSSQL Server, Analysis Services and Reporting Services, this function, residing within the Analysis Services layer, can be extended to support capabilities and attributes in the Reporting Services layer. Knowing “where to put the intelligence” among the various layers is critical to optimization, in many cases. For more of my observations on this subject, see Multi-Layered Business Intelligence Solutions ... Require Multi-Layered Architects.

The MEMBER_NAME property returns, as we have noted, a name associated with the member, primarily for display purposes. Recall, as an aside, that if we are using MEMBER_CAPTION (we explored the MEMBER_CAPTION intrinsic member property in Intrinsic Member Properties: The MEMBER_CAPTION Property, a member of my MDX Essentials series here at Database Journal) in conjunction with a member for which a caption does not exist, the query returns MEMBER_NAME, effectively holding MEMBER_NAME as a default caption.

Let’s look at some syntax illustrations to further clarify the operation of MEMBER_NAME.

Syntax

Syntactically, anytime we employ the MEMBER_NAME property to return the associated name, the member for which we seek to return the name is specified to the left of MEMBER_NAME. The property takes the object to which it is appended as its argument, and returns, within a string, the Name of the object specified. The general syntax is shown in the following string:

<<Member_Expression>>.MEMBER_NAME

In short, putting MEMBER_NAME to work couldn’t be easier. When specifying the property to return the name of a member or members, we simply append it to the right of the member(s) under consideration.

As is typically the case with MDX functions, operators and properties, the MEMBER_NAME property can often be best leveraged by combining it with other functions, operators or properties, particularly “relative” functions, to generate lists of names, and so forth, as we shall see in short order.

NOTE: For information on several of the “relative” functions, see my article MDX Member Functions: "Relative" Member Functions, within the Database Journal MDX Essentials series.

We will practice some uses of the MEMBER_NAME property in the section that follows.

Practice

Preparation

To reinforce our understanding of the basics we have covered so far, we will use the MEMBER_NAME property in a couple of examples that illustrate its operation. We will do so in simple scenarios that place MEMBER_NAME within the context of meeting business requirements similar to those we might encounter in our respective daily environments. The intent, of course, is to demonstrate the operation of the MEMBER_NAME property in a straightforward, memorable manner.

We will turn to the SQL Server Management Studio as a platform from which to construct and execute the MDX we examine, and to view the results datasets we obtain. If you do not know how to access the SQL Server Management Studio in preparation for using it to query an Analysis Services cube (we will be using the sample Adventure Works cube in the Adventure Works DW Analysis Services database), please perform the steps of the following procedure, located in the References section of my articles index:

Prepare MSSQL Server Management Studio to Query Analysis Services

This procedure will take us through opening a new Query pane, upon which we can create our first query within the section that follows.

Procedure: Satisfy Business Requirements with MDX

As a basis for our practice example, we will assume that we have received a call from the Reporting department of our client, the Adventure Works organization, requesting our assistance in meeting a specific report presentation need. The client has implemented the integrated Microsoft BI solution - in addition to using Analysis Services as an OLAP data source, they use Reporting Services as an enterprise reporting solution. The MDX we explore together, we are told, will thus be adapted and extended for ultimate use within Reporting Services, in multiple parameterized reports.

A group of report authors want to display the Names of the Customer Geography Cities (the City level members of the Customer Geography hierarchy of the Customer dimension), alongside the respective “MDX Qualified Names” (their term for the qualified names / Unique Names within Analysis Services), to provide an index, or map, for a developer who needs the Unique (“MDX”) Names, alongside the total Internet Sales Amount for each, for a reporting project he has undertaken.

This represents a simple, yet practical, need that we can readily satisfy using the MEMBER_NAME property in conjunction with a relative function, .CurrentMember. The solution we will propose also includes the .UniqueName function, so our example will also serve, to a small extent, as a review of what we covered in String Functions: The .UniqueName Function, an earlier article within this series. We will create a basic query that returns the City names for each U.S. City in which we have customers (whether we have conducted Internet Sales with them or not) with the Unique Name for each respective U.S. City. Some of the Unique Names we generate with the query will ultimately find their way into the Dataset definition of reports that the developer intends to construct within Reporting Services – the “MDX” name for the City can be used in axes, slicers, and so forth, within queries against the Analysis Services cube under consideration.

The requests relayed by the client representatives evidence a need to present multidimensional data in a manner that we think might best be served with the MEMBER_NAME property. Once our colleagues provide an overview of the business requirements, and we conclude that MEMBER_NAME is likely to be a key component of the option we offer, we provide the details about the function and its use, much as we have done in the earlier sections of this article. We convince the authors that they might best become familiar with the MEMBER_NAME property by examining an introductory example, where our objective is to generate a straightforward list of the unique City members, together with corresponding Names and Internet Sales Amounts, in a results dataset.

Procedure: Use the MEMBER_NAME Property to Generate a Simple List of Members with a Measure in a Results Dataset

Let’s construct a simple query, therefore, to return the requested Customer City information, presenting the Names, Unique Names, and Internet Sales Amount in three, side-by-side columns, with the corresponding City member names as rows.

1.  Type (or cut and paste) the following query into the Query pane:

-- MDX068-01  Using MEMBER_NAME and .UniqueName 
--   to generate a name / unique name list within the data grid
    
WITH
MEMBER
  [Measures].[Customer Geography - Name]
AS
  '[Customer].[Customer Geography].CurrentMember.MEMBER_NAME'
MEMBER
   [Measures].[Customer Geography - MDX Qual Name]
AS
   '[Customer].[Customer Geography].CurrentMember.UNIQUENAME'
         
SELECT
   {[Measures].[Customer Geography - Name], 
      [Measures].[Customer Geography - MDX Qual Name],
         [Measures].[Internet Sales Amount]} 
      ON AXIS(0),
   
   {DESCENDANTS( 
      [Customer].[Customer Geography].[Country].&[United States], 
         [Customer].[Customer Geography].[City]
      )} 
   ON AXIS(1)
FROM    
   [Adventure Works]  

The Query pane appears, with our input, as depicted in Illustration 1.


Illustration 1: Our Query in the Query Pane ...

2.  Execute the query by clicking the Execute (!) button in the toolbar.

The Results pane is populated by Analysis Services, and the dataset partially shown in Illustration 2 appears.


Illustration 2: Results Dataset (Partial View) – Combined Use of MEMBER_NAME and .UniqueName with .CurrentMember

We see Customer Geography City names, the output of the Customer Geography - Name calculated member, populating the first data column. The respective Customer Geography City Unique Name (a “qualified” MDX name that can, itself, be used within a query against the Adventure Works cube) for each occupies the second data column (which we populate via the Customer Geography - MDX Qual Name calculated member in the query), alongside the corresponding Internet Sales Amount measure. The Customer Geography City members themselves occupy the row axis, as the client has requested.

The calculated members Customer Geography - Name and Customer Geography - MDX Qual Name employ the MEMBER_NAME property and the .UniqueName function, respectively, in conjunction with the “relative” .CurrentMember function, which, as we can easily see from our practical example, results in a combination list of the captions / qualified names of the members that we specify in our row axis. (Similarly, if we had specified the Customer Geography State - Province or Customer Geography Country levels in the row axis instead, we would have obtained a list of the members of those levels as a result). Intersecting the calculations with the members under consideration can be leveraged, in similar fashion, to produce sophisticated results within more elaborate structures and processes.

3.  Select File > Save As, name the file MDX068-01, and place it in a meaningful location.

Our client colleagues express satisfaction with our initial solution, and state that it satisfactorily displays the names of the Customer Geography Cities, alongside the respective qualified / unique names within Analysis Services. They state that they expect this approach to provide the desired index for the developer who needs the Unique (“MDX”) Names, alongside the total Internet Sales Amount for each of the Customer Geography Cities, and that this “map” will equip him to complete the reporting project he has undertaken.

Procedure: Use the MEMBER_NAME property in another example to Provide Parameter Picklist Support in Reporting Services

Let’s look at an example that expands upon our first, this time to meet a mechanical need within the reporting layer of an integrated BI application. As many of us are aware, enterprise reporting applications typically allow for parameterization (via what are sometimes known as “prompts” or “parameter prompts”) to enable information consumers to quickly find the information they need from a report. These parameters, whose values are physically passed to an axis specification or a slicer in the dataset query, often act to put filters into place “on the fly;” the “filters” are thus enacted when the consumer types or selects a value, or a series of values, at run time.

In general, there are two primary types of parameters, type-in and picklist, which can be mechanized through various means. Type-in parameters accept directly typed user input for the value upon which the report is based. An example of input might, for a report based upon an Analysis Services cube, consist of the Unique Name for a given filter, say, for one of the Customer Geography Cities in the list we created earlier.

The trouble with type-in parameters is that they are subject to input error, and thus can fail to produce the desired results if they are not precisely correct. This can be particularly cumbersome for information consumers when the report is based upon an Analysis Services cube, because, even with a list like the one we generated above with the Unique Names mapped to the “English” names for various filter selections, the precise MDX qualified name might present a typing challenge for some.

For this reason, the alternative parameter type, the picklist, provides a more user-friendly experience. A picklist presents a selection of choices to a consumer, based upon a static file, a dataset from a larger data source, or through other means. The picklist is often the tool of choice, because of its inherent elimination of typing errors. A well-constructed picklist makes selection easy for the consumer (who is not often pleased with a long scrolling process, or other cumbersome method, as the initial step in generating a commonly requested report). An investment in developing a good picklist often pays great dividends in consumer satisfaction.

The list we have generated above provides virtually all we need to support parameterization within Reporting Services and other enterprise reporting applications. Let’s do another example, this time with the primary objective of picklist support. We will construct a dataset upon which the picklist selections can be based, and then overview an illustration of the use of this dataset in MSSQL Server Reporting Services.

NOTE: For details surrounding hands-on approaches (as you will see, they are Legion) to constructing picklists in Reporting Services, see these articles in MSSQL Server Reporting Services series here at Database Journal:

Let’s assume, as a background scenario, that, in contacting us to say that they are happy with the index we have provided for the developer as outlined in our previous example, the Reporting department with which we worked earlier asks for further assistance of a similar nature. Their next request is a common one: they want to provide picklist support within an OLAP report, which they have constructed using MSSQL Server Reporting Services. The data source is, once again, the Adventure Works sample cube that accompanies an installation of MSSQL Server Analysis Services 2005 (and with which most of us are familiar). The consumers want the selector for the parameter picklist to display the regular Name for the Product Categories each time an information consumer runs the report.

While the focus of our article is the MDX required to meet this request, and specifically upon the use of the MEMBER_NAME property within an MDX query, the dataset that this query generates would be added in Reporting Services’ Report Designer, among other steps, to meet the requirement for parameterization within the designated OLAP report. Let’s create a query to generate the list, and then take a look at how we might use the data returned within the reporting layer.

Our initial approach is quite similar to the previous example – it’s in the intended end use of the returned data where we do something different. We again have a need that we can readily answer using the MEMBER_NAME property in conjunction with a relative function, .CurrentMember. The solution also includes the .UniqueName function. We will be targeting the Name column in the resulting dataset (we’ll call it Product Category - Name) for the name that is displayed in the selector for the parameter picklist. The Unique Name column of the returned dataset (the qualified “MDX” name for each Category member of the Product dimension, Product Categories attribute hierarchy), which we call Product Category – MDX Qual Name in the query we construct, will serve as the value that is actually passed to the cube in the MDX of the query. The happy result is that we insulate report consumers from the MDX altogether, while providing them ad hoc selection of a Product Category upon which to filter the report data.

Our first step is to construct a query to return the requested Product Category list, presenting the selector Names and Unique Names in two side-by-side columns. The corresponding Product Category members of the Product dimension (Product Categories attribute hierarchy) will inhabit the row axis, as we shall see.

1.  Select File --> New from the main menu, once again.

2.  Select Query with Current Connection from the cascading menu that appears next, as depicted in Illustration 3.


Illustration 3: Create a New Query with the Current Connection ...

A new tab, with a connection to the Adventure Works cube (we can see it listed in the selector of the Metadata pane, as expected) appears in the Query pane.

3.  Type (or cut and paste) the following query into the Query pane:

-- MDX068-02  Using .MEMBER_NAME and .UniqueName to 
--   generate a picklist selection
WITH
MEMBER
   [Measures].[Product Category - Name]
AS
   '[Product].[Product Categories].CurrentMember.MEMBER_NAME'
MEMBER
   [Measures].[Product Category - MDX Qual Name]
AS
   '[Product].[Product Categories].CurrentMember.UNIQUENAME '
SELECT
   {[Measures].[Product Category - Name], 
      [Measures].[Product Category - MDX Qual Name]} 
         ON AXIS(0),
        
   {[Product].[Product Categories].[Category].MEMBERS}
     ON AXIS(1)
FROM 
   [Adventure Works]  

The Query pane appears, with our input, as shown in Illustration 4.


Illustration 4: Our Second Query in the Query Pane ...

4.  Execute the query by clicking the Execute (!) button in the toolbar.

The Results pane is populated by Analysis Services, and the dataset depicted in Illustration 5 appears.


Illustration 5: Results Dataset – Another Use of MEMBER_NAME and .UniqueName with .CurrentMember

We see Name for the individual Product Categories, the output of the Product Category - Name calculated member, populating the first data column. The respective Product Category Unique Names (again, the “qualified” MDX name that can be used within a query against the Adventure Works cube) - the output of the Product Category – MDX Qual Name calculated member - occupy the second data column. The Product Category attribute hierarchy members themselves occupy the row axis, as our client colleagues have requested (the row axis will not be used in the reporting environment). The calculated members Product Category - Name and Product Category - MDX Qual Name employ the MEMBER_NAME property and .UniqueName function, respectively, in conjunction (again) with the “relative” .CurrentMember function, which, as we can easily see from our practical example, results in a combination list of the Names / Qualified Names of the members that we specify in our row axis.

5.  Select File > Save As, name the file MDX068-02, and place it in a meaningful location.

We will not take the steps, within this article, which occur inside the reporting layer to construct the picklist apparatus. However, let’s take a look at one approach to assembling the parts in Reporting Services (or, similarly, in another OLAP reporting application). First, we would transfer the query to Reporting Services’ own Data tab to generate a dataset within the report under consideration. This query, together with the dataset it generates, would look something similar to that which is partially shown in Illustration 6.


Illustration 6: Constructing a Dataset in Reporting Services to Support a Parameter Picklist

NOTE: This is only one approach to creating the dataset – perhaps the more obvious of several. Another might be more optimal, depending upon the reporting environment under consideration. Other approaches, the components of which might occupy different layers of the Microsoft integrated business intelligence solution, might include installation of the calculated members at the cube level, and then calling (versus defining and building) them from the reporting layer.

For a step-by-step procedure that demonstrates the construction of such a cube-based solution to support a picklist in Reporting Services, see Create a Cube-Based Hierarchical Picklist in my MDX in Analysis Services series, or Parameterization from Analysis Services – Cascading Picklists in my MSSQL Server Reporting Services series here at Database Journal.

Once we have created the dataset, the next step is to add a parameter to the report. Inside the Report Parameter definition, we would reference the new dataset (in the example I created for my illustrations I left it named at the default of Dataset1), as shown, and then select Product Category - MDX Qual Name and Product Category - Name the Value and Label fields respectively. Illustration 7 presents a view of the way all this would tie together in the Report Parameter dialog inside Reporting Services.


Illustration 7: Pulling It All Together inside the Report Parameter ...

At this point all that remains is to return to the primary dataset underneath the report and to insert the parameter variable within an axis specification or a slicer, where it acts as a filter (there are examples of this, and all other steps, in the articles I have cited above). Executing the query then triggers the “prompting” action of the new Product Category parameter.

The selection list, displaying the regular Product Category name, is manifested in the parameter dropdown when we preview or execute the report, as partially depicted in Illustration 8.


Illustration 8: The Product Category Parameter Selector in Action ...

And so we see that our query, using the MEMBER_NAME property and .UniqueName function, in conjunction with the “relative” .CurrentMember function, to present the Names and Unique Names for the Product Categories in two side-by-side columns, can be readily used to support a picklist for a parameter within the reporting layer of the business intelligence solution of our client. Having demonstrated the workings of the MEMBER_NAME property and .UniqueName function in this fashion has helped us to show our client colleagues that we have, within the current dataset query, established support for parameterization based upon underlying cube data.

Our client colleagues express satisfaction with the results, and confirm their understanding of the operation of the MEMBER_NAME property within the contexts we have presented in the practice exercises. We reiterate to the Reporting team that knowing “where to put the intelligence” within the various layers of the Microsoft integrated BI solution can mean highly tuned performance and effective solutions for consumers throughout our organizations.

6.  Select File -> Exit to leave the SQL Server Management Studio, when ready.

Summary ...

In this article, we introduced the MDX MEMBER_NAME property, which can be called upon in activities that range from generating simple lists to supporting parameters in the reporting layer, as well as more sophisticated uses. We introduced the function, commenting upon its operation and touching upon the datasets we can deliver using MEMBER_NAME.

We examined the syntax involved with MEMBER_NAME, and then undertook a couple of illustrative practice examples of business uses for the function, generating queries that capitalized on its primary features. Our exercises included an example that drew upon our earlier examination of the .UniqueName function, which we used in combination with MEMBER_NAME to create a results dataset. We then illustrated the use of a similar dataset to support a parameter picklist in a report that queried an Analysis Services data source. Throughout our practice session, we briefly discussed the results datasets we obtained from each of the queries we constructed.

» See All Articles by Columnist William E. Pearson, III

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