Martyn

Martyn Bullerwell's Blog

RANKX–Analysis Services 2012 Tabular

RANKX was a new function made available in DAX at the launch of SQL Server 2012; however Ranking is a widely used function in most BI projects, and was very much anticipated. Having worked extensively with Tabular on a recent project we had the need to rank over large sets of data, with models based on billions of rows. Whilst we were extremely impressed with the performance of Tabular, we found something not quite right with RANKX. Suppose we had the following very simple format of data, and wanted to perform a simple Rank over it.

CountryKey

Date

Units

SalesValue

53

24/01/2012

62

81.290619

156

03/01/2012

3575

5186.565208

48

07/05/2012

321

362.836524

157

16/04/2012

7

8.005637

134

19/08/2012

20

44.12

232

29/07/2012

40

49.313156

178

05/03/2012

47

61.25

63

26/03/2012

51

73.369509

153

17/06/2012

3061

6026.4

31

08/07/2012

3622

5005.038257

140

13/02/2012

9870

7713.968564

14

27/05/2012

29220

46728.26302

98

20/08/2012

297

377.653459

131

30/07/2012

172

182.591931

48

27/03/2012

348

411.801792

157

06/03/2012

3

8.01422

In order to a Rank the above data by country over all time we would probably write a simple DAX query as follows:

    1. DEFINE
    2.   MEASURE FactSales[UnitCount]= SUM(FactSales[Units])
    3.   MEASURE FactSales[Rank]= RANKX(ALL(FactSales[CountryKey]), FactSales[UnitCount])
    4. EVALUATE
    5.   SUMMARIZE(
    6.     FactSales
    7.    ,FactSales[CountryKey]
    8.    ,"ProductSalesUnits",FactSales[UnitCount]
    9.    ,"Rank", FactSales[Rank]
    10.   )
    11. ORDER BY
    12.   FactSales[UnitCount] DESC

Now you can see from the query above, in order to avoid any doubt we only rank over a single table and we have no joins to other tables at all. This works fine resulting in the data below.

FactSales[CountryKey]

[ProductSalesUnits]

[Rank]

227

91818113

1

226

21487836

2

39

9033389

3

14

7597054

4

82

4656585

5

109

3678302

6

75

3371681

7

140

2511239

8

107

1850520

9

208

1443241

10

31

1092047

11

153

997860

12

201

914827

13

59

870366

14

163

840927

15

Now assume we rank over a lot more data and wish to apply a simple CALCULATETABLE in order to filter some data out. We may write a DAX Query as follows:

  1. DEFINE
  2.   MEASURE FactSales[UnitCount]= SUM(FactSales[Units])
  3.   MEASURE FactSales[Rank]= RANKX(ALL(FactSales[CountryKey]), FactSales[UnitCount])
  4. EVALUATE
  5.   CALCULATETABLE (
  6.     SUMMARIZE(
  7.       FactSales
  8.      ,FactSales[CountryKey]
  9.      ,"ProductSalesUnits",FactSales[UnitCount]
  10.      ,"Rank", FactSales[Rank]
  11.     )
  12.   ,DATESBETWEEN('Date'[CalDate], DATE(2012,1,1), DATE(2012,8,31))
  13. )
  14. ORDER BY
  15.   FactSales[UnitCount] DESC

In this instance we are joining to a Date dimension, but that is it.  The above query yields the below result.

FactSales[CountryKey]

[ProductSalesUnits]

[Rank]

227

83147875

1

226

19446567

2

39

8137335

3

14

6769390

4

82

4100168

5

109

3321496

6

75

3010890

7

140

2165554

8

107

1655472

9

208

1274740

10

31

987122

11

153

908938

12

201

853322

13

59

771677

14

That works, we get results as we would expect within seconds. Now, if instead of ranking over an integer field, let’s apply the RANKX function to a real number. In this example we get a worrying result set using the DAX as follows:

  1. DEFINE 
  2.   MEASURE FactSales[SalesValue]= FactSales[Sales Value]
  3.   MEASURE FactSales[Rank]= RANKX(ALL(FactSales[CountryKey]), FactSales[UnitCount])
  4. EVALUATE
  5.   CALCULATETABLE (
  6.     SUMMARIZE(
  7.       FactSales
  8.      ,FactSales[CountryKey]
  9.      ,"ProductSalesValue",FactSales[Sales Value]
  10.      ,"Rank", FactSales[Rank]
  11.     )
  12.   ,DATESBETWEEN('Date'[CalDate], DATE(2012,1,1), DATE(2012,8,31))
  13. )
  14. ORDER BY
  15.   FactSales[UnitCount] DESC

Which outputs:

FactSales[CountryKey]

[ProductSalesValue]

[Rank]

227

84074007.25

1

226

29928143.25

3

14

10859628.74

4

39

8451588.111

4

109

7964922.769

6

82

6254219.85

6

75

4730390.37

7

107

2466064.97

9

208

1904009.18

10

140

1862708.961

11

153

1311217.35

11

22

1207366.72

13

59

1182179.95

15

Now let’s be clear, all we have done is simply change the measure from an Integer to a Float, the rest of the data is the same. You will notice that there are tie’s in the data that there should not be. Having scratched our heads for hours, rebuilt the model, re wrote the DAX, and had a number of colleagues check it over we found that when no calculate table is applied, then we get the correct answer again as follows:

  1. DEFINE
  2.   MEASURE FactSales[SalesValue]= FactSales[Sales Value]
  3.   MEASURE FactSales[Rank]= RANKX(ALL(FactSales[CountryKey]), FactSales[UnitCount])
  4. EVALUATE
  5.   SUMMARIZE(
  6.     FactSales
  7.    ,FactSales[CountryKey]
  8.    ,"ProductSalesValue",FactSales[Sales Value]
  9.    ,"Rank", FactSales[Rank]
  10. )
  11. ORDER BY
  12.   FactSales[UnitCount] DESC

FactSales[CountryKey]

[ProductSalesValue]

[Rank]

227

92885561.31

1

226

33237033.3

2

14

12253005.68

3

39

9414266.358

4

109

8928147.606

5

82

7120811.54

6

75

5296490.13

7

107

2756500.54

8

208

2146627.18

9

140

2115750.609

10

153

1479858.53

11

22

1339255.82

12

59

1324799.98

13

105

1320651.83

14

31

1277065.779

15

So what we have learnt here is that RANKX seems to give the wrong answer, but only when ranking over real numbers, and only when we filter the data set in some way using CALCULATETABLE. Not being able to find a clear reason for this behaviour we eventually gave in and raised it with Microsoft. Having spent a week or so working it through with the great support team at Microsoft, it seems that this is a current “feature” of RANKX. It is believed to be a floating point arithmetic issue that is driven from how floating point numbers are stored. It is documented here:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/78113/EN-US

There is also some further information documented here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg492146.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4106

I have been told by Microsoft that this is the same as it is in Excel, and Analysis Services, however still does not explain why the CALCULATETABLE makes a difference.  I am still working with Microsoft to see if we can get to the bottom of it.   However, if precision beyond 15 significant figures within the rank is not important to you (up to 99 Billion with 2DP) this issue is very easily worked around. Take the following DAX query:

  1. DEFINE
  2.   MEASURE FactSales[UnitCount]= FactSales[Royalty Value]
  3.   MEASURE FactSales[Rank]= RANKX(ALL(FactSales[CountryKey]), ROUND(FactSales[UnitCount],2))
  4. EVALUATE
  5.   CALCULATETABLE (
  6.     SUMMARIZE(
  7.       FactSales
  8.      ,FactSales[CountryKey]
  9.      ,"ProductSalesValue",FactSales[UnitCount]
  10.      ,"Rank", FactSales[Rank]
  11.     )
  12. ,DATESBETWEEN('Date'[CalDate], DATE(2012,1,1), DATE(2012,8,31))
  13. )
  14. ORDER BY
  15.   FactSales[UnitCount] DESC

Which now correctly outputs:

FactSales[CountryKey]

[ProductSalesValue]

[Rank]

227

84074007.25

1

226

29928143.25

2

14

10859628.74

3

39

8451588.111

4

109

7964922.769

5

82

6254219.85

6

75

4730390.37

7

107

2466064.97

8

208

1904009.18

9

140

1862708.961

10

153

1311217.35

11

22

1207366.72

12

59

1182179.95

14

105

1196551.61

13

31

1132926.109

15

You will notice that all I have done is ROUND the measure in the RANKX function to 2 decimal places, this will stop the calculation engine from ranking over an approximated value, and force it RANK on a decimal with less than 15 significant figures, which will in turn fix the ranking. Further to this, rounding the values prior to it being loaded into the model will also work, just be sure to keep below the 15 Significant figures if possible.

So in summary, it seems that the calculation engine, when using the RANKX function does not handle the float data type as we may expect. This can be easily rectified by losing some precision on the RANK measure you define. We have been informed that using the Currency function will also fix the problem. I hope this stops others going through the same pain. As and When i get any further information on this issue I will post it up.