Hadi Fadlallah
BimlStudio splash screen

Building SSAS OLAP cubes using Biml

March 16, 2021 by

In this article, we will explain how to use the Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) to build SSAS OLAP cubes, noting that this article is the ninth article in the Learn Biml series.

Introduction

As we mentioned previously, Biml scripts are not only used for building Integration Services packages. They can also define and deploy database objects or SSAS OLAP cubes and tabular models.

Biml SSAS projects are only available in BimlStudio (commercial product and the only Biml development IDE). To create SSAS projects using BimlExpress, we should use the SSIS task and components to execute SQL, MDX, and XMLA commands to build relational or analytical databases.

In this series’s previously published articles, we explained how to use Biml scripts to create and manage SSIS packages and build and deploy database objects. This article is the first SSAS article in this series to explain how we build SSAS OLAP cubes using Biml.

For BimlExpress users, if interested to learn more about processing SSAS OLAP cubes using Biml, you can refer to the following article: Biml XIII – The Biml Script for the Entire SSAS Database. It explains how to build MDX queries dynamically using Biml extended C# scripts.

This article explains how to use BimlStudio to automate building OLAP cubes. It doesn’t explain the BimlStudio graphical interface since this article series teaches Biml as a language and not the related commercial products. You can refer to the official website to learn more about BimlStudio or other products provided by Varigence. Besides, this article doesn’t explain the OLAP cube concept. It assumes that the reader has previous knowledge of the OLAP cube and the SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).

When I started writing this series, I was not sure if I will include how to manage SSAS cubes and tabular models using Biml. Recently, while searching for this topic, I didn’t find many helpful and clear articles. I found an article published on the Solisyon website where it lacks illustrations and many details. So I decided to write this article starting from the link mentioned to provide a more clear guide.

BimlStudio download and installation

First of all, we should download the BimlStudio installation file from Varigence Website.

BimlStudio homepage

Figure 1 – BimlStudio homepage

When the Bimlstudiosetup.exe file is downloaded, open it to start the installation. First of all, the end-user license agreement (EULA) is shown up.

BimlStudio EULA

Figure 2 – BimlStudio EULA

Then, the registration form is shown. Suppose you are looking for a trial product key. In that case, you can enter your name and email and click on the “Get Product Key” button, so the trial key is sent to you via email. Or you can click on “I already have a product key” if already registered.

Requesting a trial product key

Figure 3 – Requesting a trial product key

As shown in the figure below, the trial period is 13 days.

Validating trial

Figure 4 – Validating trial

The next step is to select the features to install.

- Selecting features

Figure 5 – Selecting features

Once selected, you need to approve this product’s license terms by clicking on the Update button, which also starts the installation.

Accepting license terms

Figure 6 – Accepting license terms

Installation in progress

Figure 7 – Installation in progress

Installation completed successfully

Figure 8 – Installation completed successfully

Once the installation is complete, open BimlStudio to get started.

BimlStudio splash screen

Figure 9 – BimlStudio splash screen

Creating a Biml project

After opening BimStudio, let’s create a new blank project by clicking on the “Empty Project” icon.

BimlStudio welcome screen

Figure 10 – BimlStudio welcome screen

To create a new project, you should first enter a project name and the directory where the project files are saved.

Creating a blank project

Figure 11 – Creating a blank project

The following image shows the main BimStudio form. If you want to learn more about BimlStudio, you can refer to the official documentation.

BimlStudio user interface

Figure 12 – BimlStudio user interface

  • Note: In the previous article in this series (Building databases using Biml), we built the database objects using Execute SQL Tasks in SSIS. In BimlStudio, there is no need to use SSIS. A Biml script that defines the database object can be executed directly, or we can convert them to DDL SQL statements as we will see in this article

Adding Biml Scripts

To add a Biml script, switch the solution explorer from the logical view to the project view as shown in the image below.

Switch to the project view

Figure 13 – Switch to the project view

Right-click on the project folder and click on “Add > New item…”.

Adding a new item

Figure 14 – Adding a new item

On the New Item dialog, select the “Biml File (.biml)” and click on the Add button.

Adding a Biml file

Figure 15 – Adding a Biml file

Once the Biml file is added, the Biml script editor is opened within the main form.

Biml script editor

Figure 16 – Biml script editor

Defining the environment

Before defining the SSAS OLAP cubes objects, we should first define the working environment.

We should add a Biml script named “Environment.biml” where we define the connections, database objects needed to build the SSAS OLAP cube.

Connections

Connections should be defined within the “Connections” Biml element. To create an SSAS OLAP cube, we must define two connections:

  1. The data source connection: In this tutorial, the data source is the AdventureWorksDW2017 database, which can be downloaded from AdventureWorks sample databases – SQL Server | Microsoft Docs
  2. The SQL Server analysis server connection: we created an SSAS database also named AdventureWorksDW2017

Database

Another thing we should define is the database object. Even if the database is mentioned in the connection string, we should define them separately since the database object define is needed while defining dimensions. Databases are defined within the “Databases” Biml element.

Schema

The last object we need to define is the schema. A schema should be linked with the database object defined previously. Schemas are defined within the “Schemas” Biml element.

Putting all parts together

Our first Biml script (Environment.biml) should look like the following:

Defining Dimension tables

Now we should provide the metadata needed to built dimensions. We should provide the metadata of the dimension tables in the source database.

The Biml script should contain the following information:

  1. Table metadata:
    1. Table name
    2. Schema name
    3. Friendly name
  2. Columns metadata:
    1. Name
    2. Data type
    3. length
  3. Identity information:
    1. Name
    2. Columns
  4. OLAP dimension configuration (Not all properties are always needed):
    1. Dimension name
    2. Attributes
    3. Hierarchies
    4. Relationships

If you are not familiar with those properties, you can refer to the following articles published on SQL Shack:

As we mentioned in the introduction, we will define the same OLAP objects mentioned in the article published on the Solisyon website

Currency dimension

The following is the Biml script to define the source currency dimension table and the currency dimension object:

Sales Territory dimension

The following is the Biml script to define the source currency dimension table and the currency dimension object:

Date dimension

The following is the Biml script to define the source currency dimension table and the currency dimension object:

Defining Fact tables

After defining the environment and dimensions, we should define the fact table (measure group). Same as dimensions, we should provide the metadata of the source table and the OLAP measure group object as mentioned in the code below:

Defining Cubes

The last file we will create is to define the SSAS OLAP cube. This Biml script contains information from all files created above. We should map each object in the cube with the object definition created previously.

Bringing Biml script live

After defining the SSAS OLAP cube object, our solution tree should look like the following:

Solution tree

Figure 17 – Solution tree

Let’s switch to the logical view to check how objects are organized in the Biml project:

Logical view showing that SSAS OLAP cube object was not recognized by BimlStudio

Figure 18 – Logical view

From the image above, we can see that BimlStudio doesn’t recognize the object defined within the Biml scripts, and all scripts are organized within the “Utilities” folder.

This means that the Biml scripts added are used as a reference, and they must be switched to the live mode. To do so, switch back to the project view, select all Biml scripts, right-click, click on “BimlStudio action > Live”.

Switching biml script to live mode

Figure 19 – Switching Biml script to live mode

You will note that a blue circle will appear over the selected scripts.

Scripts converted to live mode

Figure 20 – Scripts converted to live mode

If we switch to the logical view, we can see that the BimlStudio recognized all objects defined within the scripts added, and the “Utilities” folder is empty.

Logical view showing that SSAS OLAP cube object are recognized by BimlStudio

Figure 21 – SSAS OLAP cube objects recognized by BimlStudio

Building project

To build the project, first, we should precompile the scripts to check that they don’t contain errors. In the top menu, go to the “Build and Deploy” menu and click on “Precompile BimlScripts”.

Precompiling scripts

Figure 22 -Precompiling scripts

If no errors are found, click on the “Build” button to generate the SSAS OLAP cube objects and needed DDL SQL Statements.

Building projects

Figure 23 – Building project

Now, if we go to the project output directory, two folders were created:

  1. DDL: contains the SQL Statement to build the data source objects defined
  2. SSAS: contains the SSAS database objects generated

Project output directory

Figure 24 – Project output directory

DDL Statement generated

Figure 25 – DDL Statement generated

SSAS OLAP cube database created

Figure 26 – SSAS databases created

To learn more on attaching the SSAS database, you can refer to the following official documentation: Attach and Detach Analysis Services Databases | Microsoft Docs.

Conclusion

This article explained how to install BimlStudio and how to use it to create an SSAS OLAP cube and the related database object in the data source. Using Visual Studio to create and deploy an SSAS database is more comfortable. As mentioned in the previous article in this series, Biml is more potent in automation, noting that there is another way to automate building SSAS database using C# and AMO libraries.

If you are interested in this topic, but you find that writing Biml script is hard, you can add the SSAS objects using the BimlStudio interface and check the Biml code generated.

Table of contents

Getting started with Biml
Converting SSIS packages to Biml scripts
Using Biml scripts to generate SSIS packages
Extending Biml with C# scripts
Using external C# script files within Biml
Biml alternatives: Building SSIS packages programmatically using ManagedDTS
Biml alternatives: Building SSIS packages programmatically using EzAPI
Building databases using Biml
Building SSAS OLAP cubes using Biml
Building SSAS tabular models using Biml

Hadi Fadlallah
Analysis Services (SSAS), Biml, OLAP cube

About Hadi Fadlallah

Hadi is an SQL Server professional with more than 10 years of experience. His main expertise is in data integration. He's one of the top ETL and SQL Server Integration Services contributors at Stackoverflow.com . Also, he published several article series about Biml, SSIS features, Search engines, Hadoop, and many other technologies. Besides working with SQL Server, he worked with different data technologies such as NoSQL databases, Hadoop, Apache Spark. He is a Neo4j and ArangoDB certified professional. On the academic level, Hadi holds two master's degrees in computer science and business computing. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in data science focusing on Big Data quality assessment techniques. Hadi really enjoys learning new things everyday and sharing his knowledge. You can reach him on his personal website. View all posts by Hadi Fadlallah

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