Jeremy Kashel

Jeremy Kashel's Blog

Master Data Services Many to Many Relationships

Many to Many Relationships (M2M) are possible in the current version of Master Data Services, but they come with a few workarounds. Thankfully, many to many hierarchies are one of the many new features that can be found in Master Data Services 2016. This post will contrast the M2M approach in the current version of MDS, before showing how its greatly improved in the current MDS 2016 CTP.

Customer Example – MDS 2014

The simple example that I’m going to show is Customers and Bank Accounts. That is, a customer can have more than one bank account, but a bank account can also have more than one customer, e.g. a joint account or a business account.

First, to show the MDS 2014 approach, there are a few entities to look at, namely Customer and Account:



Then there is an other entity that relates to both Customer and Account, called CustomerAccount, which essentially acts as a bridge table, allowing the M2M relationship to naturally exist in the data:


Moving away from the entities, I’ve created two derived hierarchies so that we can look at the data by account or by customer. So here we can see, for example, that Bob is keeping his own personal account, as well as the account with his wife…hmmm:


Or looking at this another way, we can see the inverted version of the hierarchy, where we see the Customers as the top level, with some accounts belonging to more than one customer:


As you may have spotted, there’s an issue with this approach. Whilst we do see the name of the Customer in the first hierarchy, its pointing at a member in the CustomerAccount entity, which is why the code is different each time. Enter SQL Server 2016…

Master Data Services 2016

MDS 2016 does a far better job at visualising the M2M relationship. You still need the link entity, but it will allow you to show the actual Customers and Accounts with their correct codes.

I’ve used the exact same entity setup as MDS 2014, so lets begin by looking at how we can build a hierarchy that shows customers by accounts. When creating a new Derived Hierarchy, we can see that the initial available levels list is just the same as it would be in MDS 2014:


The first step is to drag over the entity called Customer to the Current levels section. Once we perform this action, the Available Entities pane looks very different in SQL 2016 that in would in the current version. Now MDS is allowing us to pick the Account entity, but via another entity. Hence it says “mapped via” on the left hand side:


Once we finished the hierarchy build, and explore the hierarchy, we can see the same data as before, but this time its the actual correct customer codes that are displayed:


The derived hierarchy by Customer also displays the correct customer and account codes:



A derived hierarchy in Master Data Services 2016 now allows the correct display of many to many relationships between two entities. This is one of many new features in MDS 2016, offering quite a number of improvements over the SQL Server 2014 version.

Master Data Services Regular Expression Business Rules

As those of you who use MDS will know, the Code attribute within a Master Data Services entity is mandatory, as its used to uniquely identify the members within the entity. Not only is it mandatory, but unfortunately you cannot change its underlying SQL Server data type – it always gets created as an nvarchar. This is useful in some cases, but what do you do if you want to ensure that the Code can only be numeric? This post outlines two options that may help:

Master Data Services Security

Although it will vary across different MDS implementations, the Code is quite often used as as an auto incrementing integer, which can be achieved easily by changing the entity properties. If all you want is to auto generate the code and prevent users from changing it, then you can just set the Code to be read only, as shown below:


Business Rules

The security approach will work fine if users aren’t allowed to update the Code. On the other hand, if the Code can be updated, then a different solution is needed.

Here an MDS business Validation Business Rule type can help, as one of the Validation rules is called must contain the pattern:


By dragging this business rule onto the Action node, its now possible to write the rule action. If we chose the Code as the attribute to validate and then enter ^[0-9]+$ as the regex pattern, then the rule looks as follows:


Finally, after publishing the new Business Rule, members with an non-numeric code will now be invalid, as shown with the sample MDS Customer model:


MDS Derived Hierarchy Permissions

The MDS Hierarchy Member permissions have been given a complete revamp in SQL Server 2012. As explained here, the hierarchy member permissions are purely optional and allow you to limit the access to a specific set of members.

Even though the actual member permissions are optional, you may have a need to purely allow a user to browse and/or update the Derived Hierarchy. This is also something that’s been affected by the aforementioned change, so I want to explore here how we would grant users access to a Derived Hierarchy.

In 2008 R2, on the model tab, you got a Derived Hierarchies node, as shown in the image below:


If we contrast that to SQL Server 2012 (albeit with a different model), we don’t have a Derived Hierarchies node:


Therefore, to access the actual hierarchy, according to this article, you need to give the user Update permission on the model. That’s not the only way to do it, but certainly working only at the entity level, or the member level, is not good enough. To explore, lets look at an example. I have the sample Customer model installed and I want to give a test user access to the following CustomerType hierarchy, which is just made up of the CustomerType and Customer entities:


Going to the User and Group Permissions, just quick confirmation that assigning Update permission to the Customer and CustomerType entities is not good enough. As shown below, the user does not have access to any of the Derived Hierarchies that I wanted:


Upping the permissions level a bit by granting read only permission to the model does the trick – the test user can now see the Derived Hierarchy and can also add members. This is thanks to 1) a Read Only permission at the Model level and 2) Update permission on the two entities that make up the Derived Hierarchy:


However, the simplified security comes with a slight drawback, which is to get access to the Derived Hierarchy we’ve now given the user Read Only access to all entities in the model:


You may not want to grant a user access to all entities, but thankfully it can be avoided by granting an explicit Deny at the entity level. For example, as shown below I’ve set an explicit Deny for the AddressType entity:


This will ensure that the user now doesn’t see the AddressType entity on the Entities menu. Now that the user can see the hierarchy, what about restricting access to the members? That’s a bigger topic, so I don’t want to cover it here, but I will just provide a useful tip. When you’re testing your security, don’t forget that member permissions are not applied immediately! The following article explains how to immediately apply the member permissions, which is something that I’d recommend carrying out whilst testing.

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Packt have just released a second version of their ‘MDX Cookbook’, titled ‘MDX With Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services’, authored by Sherry Li and Tomislav Piasevoli. As I’m one of the technical reviewers of this book, it’s put me in a good position to be able to put together a review of the book in this blog post.

The new SQL Server 2012 version of the book is similar in terms of content and structure to the original, presenting a number of solutions to common MDX problems in a ‘recipe’ format.

In the first two chapters, the book covers basic MDX techniques, such as the layout of a basic query and a variety of techniques for working with sets. The pace of the book warms up nicely here, starting with a few basic concepts, before gradually getting more complex.

After a useful chapter on working with time in MDX, there are some excellent chapters that give what should be useful recipes on common reporting techniques, such as top/bottom members, ranking and averages.

As the book progresses, there are some more complex chapters that cover areas such as linear regression, complex sorts and recursion – to name a few. Whether the recipes are simple or complex, they works well, as each recipe is packed with step-by-step instructions and screenshots, all based on the SQL Server 2012 Adventure Works cube.


Although it’s also in the first edition, I particularly like the chapter ‘When MDX is Not Enough’, which talks about how modifying the cube design can assist you when writing some MDX queries. Essentially the chapter promotes evaluating if you can modify the cube design in some way, rather than writing very complex MDX, which is something that I completely agree with.

The book differs slightly to the 2008 R2 version in that a few more of the basics (e.g. basic MDX query structure) are covered in the introductory chapters. This seems to work well, meaning someone relatively new to MDX can pick up some simple concepts, whereas someone who is more experienced in MDX will also get a massive amount out of the book.

So overall this comes highly recommend for your bookshelf or Kindle…

Debug Custom MDS Workflows

The custom MDS workflows, AKA External Action Business Rules or custom MDS assemblies, are one of the more advanced features of MDS. They allow you to extend the standard MDS business rules by getting MDS to fire Entity Member member data at an external assembly of your choice.

There are a lot of moving parts to this feature, MDS business rules, the custom .Net assembly, service broker and a windows service! When a business rule meets your condition, then the rule is written to a service broker queue. The windows service interrogates the queue and then passes the information to the custom assembly. I’m not going to show how to do this, this is already done by Johan Machielse and also on MSDN. What I would like to show is how to debug the use of the custom business rules, just due to the number of moving parts and also a couple of quirks that I’ve encountered when using them.

Custom Assembly Deployment

One of the first things that may catch you out is the deployment of the assembly. To troubleshoot this, I recommend the           “-console” argument of the workflow service. If you run it in command line mode you may encounter a few errors:

“Could not load file or assembly 'YourAssembly' or one of its dependencies. This assembly is built by a runtime newer than
the currently loaded runtime and cannot be loaded.”

This means that you need to go the properties of your assembly in Visual Studio and change the Target Framework from .NET Framework 4 to 3.5.

Another error that you may get is "ERROR: Could not create type. Ignored.”  Assuming that you have actually put the assembly in the bin directory, this is most likely to be that the either the namespace or the class name in your DLL doesn’t match what you have in your config file. Check the contents of Microsoft.MasterDataServices.Workflow.exe.config match your DLL.

You may also get, “ERROR: Type does not implement IWorkflowTypeExtender.” This means that your assembly has been picked up correctly, but it does not implement IWorkflowTypeExtender.

If the assembly does start up ok without errors, you may still get errors when the exe tries to take a message off the service broker queue. An error such as “Could not dispatch due to missing extender <tag>” means that the tag that you’ve given to the assembly in the config file does not match the “Workflow Type” value of the MDS business rule:

<setting name="WorkflowTypeExtenders" serializeAs="String">
<value>MDSTEST=MDS.CustomWorkflow, CustomWorkflow</value>
Debugging the Custom Assembly

Once you do get the assembly working, you may find that the code isn’t quite doing what you want. A good way to troubleshoot this is to choose “Attach To Process” from the Debug menu in Visual Studio, as shown below:


If you do this, then you can add breakpoints to your .Net code as normal and step through in order to troubleshoot issues.

To conclude, this probably isn’t an exhaustive list of all the sort of errors that could occur with custom workflows, but with any luck it will save someone a few hours of troubleshooting.

Unique Values in Master Data Services

I’ve been doing quite a few demos and Proof of Concept (POC) projects recently for MDS. Understandably there are always a raft of questions that come up during demos and POCs, one of which recently was “how do I ensure that this attribute’s value is unique?”.

MDS can easily deal with simple uniqueness enforcement, which is something that anyone who has done any MDS development will no doubt know straight away. But if the requirement is more complex, such as ensuring that the attribute is unique in conjunction with other attributes, then I don’t think it’s as well known. Therefore I thought it would be worth a quick post on how to do this.

Code Attribute

To get the simple case out of the way, each MDS entity is always created with an attribute called Code, which must be unique. Therefore if you try and create/update a member with a duplicate Code, then you get the following error message:


Business Rules

To enforce uniqueness on any other attribute, you have to use business rules. Therefore, if I want to ensure that the attribute called Name must be unique, then I must carry out the following:

  • Go to the business rules editor and create a new rule
  • Drag the action of “must be unique” over to the actions node
  • Drag the Name attribute over to the “Select attribute” node, meaning that the action should look as follows:
  • image
  • Once that’s done, save the rule step and then re-publish the rule.

Trying to enter a duplicate value for the Name attribute will now give the following validation error:


Business Rules – Multiple Attributes

Now for the harder scenario. In the sample MDS product model, there is a Country attribute and also a Product Sub Category. I want to ensure that Name is unique, but only within a Country and Sub Category combination. To do this we go to the same business rules interface, and add the same action as before. Once that is done we carry out the following additional steps:

  • Change the radio button to “In combination with the following”
  • This is the part that I don’t think is that obvious. Drag over the Country attribute and then the Product Sub Category attribute onto the “attributes” node. This should give the following:
  • image
  • As before, save the rule step, then publish the rule.

Now a duplicate name will be permitted, but only within a country and sub category combination. If we do enter a duplicate value within a given Country/Product Sub Category group, then the following validation message is shown:


Master Data Services SQL Server 2012 Vs 2008 R2

I’ve given quite a few MDS demos recently and one question I seem to get asked often is “What features does MDS 2012 have compared to MDS 2008R2?”. As its happened quite a few times, I thought it would be a good idea to put a quick post together to explain the differences. The table below details all the features MDS has and compares the two versions:


MDS 2012

MDS 2008 R2

Front End

·         New Silverlight UI added for the Explorer area. Better performance, with less clicks to get tasks done.

·         Excel Add-in introduced

·         HTML based ASP.NET implementation.

·         No Excel Add-in


·         Carry out in the web UI, plus some tasks can be carried out in Excel

·         Allows the auto generation of a code without using business rules

·         Carry out modelling in the web UI only


·         Three types of hierarchies

·         Manage hierarchies in the new Silverlight UI

·         Three types of hierarchies

·         Manage hierarchies in the older UI style


·         Add members from Explicit Hierarchies or other Collections

·         Maintain a weighting on a member by member basis

·         Add members from Explicit Hierarchies or other Collections

Staging Process

·         A staging table is created per entity that you create in MDS. The table mirrors the exact structure that you see when you view the entity in the front end, making loading easier.

·         A generic staging table is used for all entities. This means, for example, you must load attribute changes in attribute name/value pairs


·         Deploy the model structure from the front end.

·         Deploy the data from the new command line deployment tool

·         Deploy model structure and data from the front end


·         Grant permissions to models, entities, attributes and attribute groups

·         Security cleaned up and simplified (no longer necessary to grant permissions to hierarchies)

·         Grant permissions to models, entities, attributes, attribute groups and hierarchies

Business Rules

·         Alter attribute values, validate data integrity, initiate workflow.

·         Some minor validation changes around using business rules to auto-generate Code values

·         Alter attribute values, validate data integrity, initiate workflow.


SharePoint Integration

·         Initiate a SharePoint workflow from MDS business rules

·         New functionality to embed the web UI inside a SharePoint page

·         Initiate a SharePoint workflow from MDS business rules


Data Quality Services (DQS) Integration

·         Connect to a DQS matching policy from Excel, against MDS master data

·         No DQS capability, as DQS is new in SQL Server 2012

Version Management

·         Create multiple copies of your master data and work with them independently as needed

·         Some minor UI improvements have been added

·         As SQL 2012, create multiple copies of your master data and work with them independently as needed

Transactions (auditing)

·         Transactions removed from Explorer and now are only available in Version Management

·         Therefore users cannot reverse their own transactions, only administrators can do this

·         Annotations are now permanent and cannot be deleted

·         Transactions viewable in two areas, Explorer and Version Management

·         Users can reverse their own transactions

·         Annotations can be deleted


·         No support to view Metadata – this is now a deprecated feature

·         Customise the metadata for most objects in MDS

·         View metadata in the metadata explorer

Installation & Configuration

·         Installation from the main SQL Server setup program

·         Minor changes to the configuration settings

·         Installation from the SQL Server media, but not included in the main setup program

For me the improvements to the performance and the addition of the Excel Add-in are the most compelling reasons to upgrade. The great thing in particular about the Excel Add-in is that data stewards can manage data with the familiarity of Excel, but the data itself will be stored in SQL Server 2012.

Matching with Master Data Services, DQS and SSIS

If you have an MDM requirement to consolidate multiple sources of Master Data together into a single golden record, then you have a few different ways to achieve this on the Microsoft platform. This blog post gives an overview of the different ways that various matching methods can be used in conjunction with Master Data Services for consolidation in Master Data Management, outlining the pros and cons of each option. In summary, the options are:

  • Data Quality Services (DQS)
  • SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
  • Plus Master Data Services itself has a few (not that well known) matching capabilities

Data Quality Services

A key requirement in all but the simplest MDM solutions is that the matching/consolidation must be carried out in an automated manner, with a Data Steward alerted to take action if needed (e.g. the matching engine incorrectly matches two customers, the Data Steward opens MDS and corrects this). This scenario would be hard to achieve with DQS, as it’s possible to automate the DQS cleaning, but it’s not possible to automate the DQS matching. This is something that I’ve raised connect issues about, here and here.

If your data to be matched into MDS is not coming in on a daily basis, and you therefore need to do more ad-hoc matching to produce your golden Master Data records, then DQS could be for you. The MDS Excel Add-in will give you the capability of matching data that you import into Excel with MDS members, harnessing the power of DQS. An overview of how this works is available here.

Integration Services

SSIS has been around for a long time now and, as many of you will know, contains fuzzy matching components. With the right MDS model design, its possible to carry out a batch based fuzzy match between your master records and end up with a mapping between your the records that exist in your source systems and your MDS golden records. The rough conceptual steps to do this are:

  1. Load the new and changed records from the source systems into a staging area.
  2. Clean and standardise your data. This is actually something that DQS cleaning can help with.
  3. Query your staging area to get the new records that you want to insert/update into Master Data Services.
  4. Now the question arises, do we have an exact or close match for these records already in MDS? While the exact matches are easy to deal with, use the SSIS Fuzzy Lookup component to establish whether there are any approximate matches.
  5. Link the source records to master records (if the match is high enough) using MDS Domain Attributes.
  6. Carry out appropriate inserts and updates into MDS using the MDS staging tables.
  7. Ensure that a Data Steward is alerted in some way if necessary (e.g. if the match threshold is below x% confidence). This can be done with Email or MDS Notifications, for example.

This process can run in batch overnight, with the Data Steward approving or rejecting the matches that SSIS has carried out the following morning. Whilst the above over-simplifies the process and technical work required, hopefully the process makes sense at a high level.

Master Data Services

Although you cannot feed MDS your source data and get it to automatically carry out matching for you, it does actually contain the raw components in order to do this. By this I mean the MDS database contains an assembly called Microsoft.MasterDataServices.DataQuality, which gives you a number of fuzzy matching T-SQL functions. These are called from the MDS front end when you carry out some filtering when viewing entities. Using them just for filtering in the front end really isn’t using the functions to their true capability, but thankfully you can use these functions in your own code.

You can use the MDS T-SQL functions in a similar way to the conceptual SSIS method outlined above, in order to match and eliminate duplicates. In addition, the MDS web API can also be used to carry out a fuzzy match, as mentioned in this forum post. Retrieving match candidates using a web service may be an attractive option if you’re trying to do real time MDM.


Essentially until it’s possible to automate DQS matching, we have a choice between SSIS and the MDS matching functions. The following e-book gives a very detailed overview of the matches that both are capable of doing. The MDS T-SQL functions are more flexible than the SSIS fuzzy components as you can choose what fuzzy algorithm you want to use, but the SSIS components let you choose between Fuzzy Grouping and Fuzzy Lookup out of the box, without having to write SQL. Although I tend find that both give very good matching results, the MDS T-SQL functions produce slightly better matches in my experience, plus give you the option of trying different algorithms to suit different scenarios.

It’s also worth mentioning that Profisee Maestro (full disclosure, we are a partner) integrates with MDS, offering its own matching algorithms. Maestro also has a front end with the ability to assist with survivorship and approval, which I think is a useful addition to MDS. Speaking of survivorship and approval, there are two options in MDS out-of-the box. The new Master Data Manager web front-end is much improved, but potentially the MDS Excel Add-In allows a bit more flexibility for survivorship carried out by a Data Steward, just due to its natural ability for filling/copying/pasting/filtering.

So overall, due to the various improvements, Master Data Services is now capable of tackling more complex MDM scenarios than in the 2008 R2 version.

Master Data Services in SQL Server 2012 RC0

There’s been a whole host of changes to MDS in the SQL Server 2012 RC (Release Candidate) 0 that came out the other week. This blog post gives an overview of the changes, before diving into detail on a few of them. At a high level, the following changes have been made to MDS:

  • Improved Master Data Manager front screen UI and navigation paths
  • Collections interface updated to Silverlight
  • Improved Excel user interface & functionality
  • Auto generation of entity code values, without using business rules
  • New deployment tool
  • SharePoint integration

Let’s take a look at each of these changes:

Improved Master Data Manager UI

Although the UI improvement (shown below) is good, the best thing about the Master Data Manager changes, in my opinion, is that clicking on the Explorer feature no longer takes you into the Model View, but instead takes you straight into your master data for your core entity (e.g. in a Customer model this entity would be Customer). I’m not sure if this would get a bit frustrating if you didn’t want the core entity, but then again everything seems very quick in RC0, so I don’t think it’s really going to matter.

Front screen

There’s also a new button next to a domain-based attribute that apparently has been designed to help with Many-to-Many relationships. I can definitely see that working, but it’s useful to have anyway to jump to the member details for the domain based attribute that you are viewing, many-to-many or not:


Collections Interface Updated to Silverlight

The collections interface is now much slicker, getting the Silverlight makeover seen in other areas of Master Data Manager. Switching between collections, for example, which could take a while in R2, now happens very quickly, making collections far more useable. The screen shot below shows how you edit collection members by picking members from one of the entities and adding those over into the collection by clicking the Add button:


Collections now have the concept of a Weight, meaning that you can alter the weighting value associated with the collection members, which could be useful for reporting purposes. The idea is that you extract the collection members and the weight values in a subscription view. A Weight column is actually included in the 2008 R2 collection subscription views, but there was no front end to modify the weight value, which has of course now changed:


Improved Excel User Interface and Functionality

The MDS Excel Ribbon has been given a makeover, meaning that you now see the following in the ribbon:

Excel toolbar

It’s interesting to see that the Favourites section has been replaced with the concept of ‘queries’. The idea is that you can send a query file via email to another user, providing that user has the Excel add-in. When the user double clicks on the query file (extension *.mdsqx), Excel will open and make a connection to MDS, using the connection and filter information provided in the file. This will result in Excel opening, with the user prompted if they would like to connect to MDS:

confirm connection

It’s also good to see that a few of the domain-based attribute issues have been addressed, namely the display of domain-based attribute names when you filter an entity and also the display of the names and the codes together in the Excel sheet. Here’s a screen shot of the how the attribute names are now visible when filtering the Country domain-based attribute that exists in the Customer model:


Auto Generation of Entity Code Values

If you wanted the code to be auto-generated in 2008 R2, you had to use a business rule. You can still do that if you want, but the create entity admin screen has changed slightly to include an option to auto generate the code. This works slightly better than business rules in my opinion, at least as far as the Excel add-in is concerned, as the code is returned to the user immediately after publishing, whereas the business rules require you to do a refresh in Excel and of course need more development! Here’s a screenshot of the add entity screen:


New Deployment Tool

Deployment has been altered in SQL 2012, with the addition of a new deployment tool, plus the fact that subscription views now get deployed. It seems that the current R2 deployment method (in the Administration section of Master Data Manager) is still included but now will not deploy data. To do that you need to use MDSModelDeploy.exe, as explained here. As an example, here’s how you can deploy the sample Customer model using MDSModelDeploy.exe, for default installations:

MDSModelDeploy deploynew –package “C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\110\Master Data Services\Samples\customer_en.pkg” –model “Customer” –service “MDS1”

SharePoint Integration and Further Details

Master Data Manager now supports a set of parameters that allow the MDS UI to be displayed without the header, menu bar and padding area. This means that MDS can now be incorporated into SharePoint or other websites. For the details on this, as well as more details on the above points, take a look at the following Technet article.

Managing SSAS Named Sets with Master Data Services Collections

Master Data Services Collections are probably not the first feature that come to mind when you think of the MDS product. The hierarchies and member grids tend to be the core functionality, but as this post will hopefully show, MDS Collections are useful also.

Collections are essentially managed lists of members that can come from multiple different MDS explicit hierarchies, or also from another collection. The idea is that this “subset of members” can be maintained in MDS by a business user and then fed to external applications for reporting or other purposes.

Analysis Services Named Sets

One example of how collections can be used is to maintain Analysis Services named sets. Some named sets, such as a Top 50 Customers, don't require any maintenance, as it’s just the top 50 of all customers, based on a particular measure. On the other hand, sometimes named sets can be static lists, e.g. a list of core products that the user wants to see for reporting.

In the latter example, if a user wants the definition of a named set to change, they have to get IT to change the MDX script. MDS collections can help by allowing the user to control the named set definition, reducing the burden on IT.

Example Scenario 

Here’s an example of how this is done. First of all, the end game is that I have a named set in Analysis Services that is currently just for 3 products. Therefore, a user can easily drop this set into an Excel report to get quick access to the products that are important to them:


So the challenge is that we need to find some way of extending this named set without doing it manually. This is where MDS starts to come in, so using the sample Product model that comes with MDS, I’ve created a new collection called Favourite Products, as shown in the image below:


If I go and edit the Favourite Products collection in MDS, then I can drag and drop more products into this collection, or remove some existing members. In this case, I’ve chosen to add two new products:


C#, AMO and the MDS API

So the named set represents the target that we need to get to, whereas the MDS collection that’s shown is the source. To get the contents of the MDS collection to update the named set, one way of doing it is to use the MDS API to pick up the collection members, and then to use AMO in order to write the named set into the MDX script. I’m just doing this in a C# windows application, but you could do it via a batch process, such as SSIS. For this post I’m just going to show the code, so here goes:

This post is already starting to feel too long so I’m not going to show the basics of the MDS API. For that, take a look at a good posting by the MDS Team blog here. Also, as anyone who knows me will no doubt agree, I don’t tend to get involved in doing C#, so don’t consider this to be production ready! It should give you an idea of the basics though. Anyway, assuming that we’re now connected to the MDS Web Service, I’ve created the following method that will return the members from the collection:

private HierarchyMembers ObtainHierarchyMembers(string entityId, string hierarchyId, string modelId, string versionId)
    HierarchyMembersGetRequest request = new HierarchyMembersGetRequest();
    HierarchyMembersGetResponse response = new HierarchyMembersGetResponse();
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria = new HierarchyMembersGetCriteria();

    //State that our hierarhcy type is a collection and that we want collection members
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.HierarchyType = HierarchyType.Collection;
    //Pass in the key search criteria to identify the correct collection in MDS
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.ParentEntityId = new Identifier { Name = entityId };
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.HierarchyId = new Identifier { Name = hierarchyId };
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.ModelId = new Identifier { Name = modelId };
    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.VersionId = new Identifier { Name = versionId };

    request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria.RowLimit = 50;
    request.International = new International();
    OperationResult result = new OperationResult();
    //Return the hierarchy members from the service
    return service.HierarchyMembersGet(request.International, request.HierarchyMembersGetCriteria, out result);

Before we use the above method, we need to connect to SSAS using AMO. That can be done quite easily with the following code:

Server server = new Server();
string connection = "Data Source=.;Catalog=Adventure Works DW 2008R2;";

After we’ve done all the usual error handling associated with connecting to a database, we need to pick up the SSAS database and cube:

Database database = server.Databases["Adventure Works DW 2008R2"];
Cube cube = database.Cubes["Adventure Works"];

Now we’re ready to call our ObtainHierarchyMembers method, before looping through it to build the named set:

StringBuilder mdx = new StringBuilder("\n//Auto generated named set at " + DateTime.Now.ToString() + 
    "\nCREATE SET CurrentCube.[Favourite Products] AS {");
int count = 1;
//Loop through the collection to build the mdx
foreach (ParentChild pc in hm.Members)
    //Add the members to the MDX string
    //This references the member by name
    //It would be possible to reference by member key, but would require more work
    mdx.Append("[Product].[Product].[" + pc.Child.Name + "]");
    if (count < hm.Members.Count())
        mdx.Append(", ");

Now we need to insert the named set in the correct place within the existing MDX script, bearing in mind it could already exist:

string currentScript = cube.MdxScripts[0].Commands[0].Text;
//Find the correct place to insert the named set within the MDX script:
int start = currentScript.IndexOf("\n//Auto generated named set at");
int end = 0;
StringBuilder newScript = new StringBuilder(currentScript);
if (start != -1)
    end = currentScript.IndexOf(";", start);
    //If the named set already exists, remove it
    newScript.Remove(start, end - start + 1);
    start = currentScript.Length;
//Insert the named set in the correct place
newScript.Insert(start, mdx.ToString());
//Update the cube's MDX script
cube.MdxScripts[0].Commands[0].Text = newScript.ToString();

Finally we just need to update the cube in order to write the MDX back to the cube:

//Call the update methods to update the cube

User Reports

Now that the cube has been updated, if the Excel report is refreshed, then the two new products will appear in the list:



Controlling SSAS named sets like this won’t be for everybody. I’ve certainly worked in a few clients where strict process has to be followed to update this sort of thing, but I can think of other companies that I know where this would be really useful.

Managing Analysis Services named sets is just one use for collections. Another example might be managing default multi-select parameters for SSRS reports. As collections are just lists of members that can be extracted easily, what you do with them is up to you!

Master Data Services Kindle Contest

This is a quick blog post to announce that Adatis are running a contest in conjunction with Packt around Master Data Services. The winner will receive an Amazon Kindle pre-loaded with our Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Master Data Services book.

In order to enter, all you need to do is follow @AdatisBI and copy and paste our eBook on Kindle message and retweet it using your twitter account. The message is:

RT & Follow @AdatisBI for a chance to WIN the #Adatis MDS book pre-loaded on a Kindle ! (

Please mark your retweet with the hashtag (#), so that we can find and consider your entry. Only one entry per person will be accepted.

You can find out the full details of how to enter, as well as terms and conditions, on the following page.

Good luck!