Top New Features of SSAS 2016

In the previous post I talked about the importance of SSAS as a component to effective BI solutions and overall BI architecture. To reiterate and summarize that post, I’ll just posit the following:

Whether data is loaded into an SSAS server or SSAS serves as only a semantic layer over underlying relational data sources, SSAS is still a critical bridge between client tools and the data warehouse or source data as it simplifies, enriches, and centrally administers security and version control enabling a vast number of disparate users to analyze potentially massive amounts of data.

Here’s a quick, very high level grouping of top new features in SSAS 2016:

  • Performance and Scalability
    • Tabular can handle larger, more complex workloads via ‘Super DAX’ project
    • Tabular partitions can now be processed in parallel
  • Direct Query
    • Significant performance improvement
    • Oracle, Teradata, and APS added as data sources
    • Excel (MDX) client tools supported
  • Advanced Tabular Modeling and DAX Capabilities
    • Bi-Directional Relationships to address Many to Many scenarios
    • Variables and Calculated Tables to mitigate complexity
    • Over 50 new DAX Functions
  • Design and Development in SSDT
    • Fast, fluid modeling operations
    • Display Folders
    • Improved Intellisense, comments and indenting now supported
    • Single DAX change propagates to all dependent DAX
  • Administration
    • Tabular Object Model (TOM) and Tabular Modeling Scripting Language (TMSL)
    • Extended Events GUI now available for Tabular models
    • Powershell SSAS cmdlets and SSIS Execute DDL Tasks

Additionally, here are the features and improvements that I’d like to see added:

  • Import from Power BI Desktop (PBIX) to SSAS Tabular
    • I believe this will be available later this year
  • Power Query (M) as a data source to SSAS
    • This has been in the marketing material (see image below) but I haven’t heard anything of it recently – could open entire new use cases for SSAS
  • DAX Development Environment in both Visual Studio and SSMS
    • SSMS still offers an MDX/Multidimensional view of models
    • Visual Studio/SSDT doesn’t expose the functions or DMVs or query analysis tools like DAX Studio

PowerQuery for SSAS and SSRS

  • R Support?
    • With R Server in SQL 2016 and the rise of ‘intelligent applications’ it seems only natural that SSAS and R should work well together. (DAX, MDX, and R clients to BISMs)

Here’s what I look forward to learning more about:

  • How do Direct Query models handle large scale and complex models across data sources?
    • Example: Columnstore index in SQL Server, Teradata and APS appliances
    • How much performance drop-off is there relative to In-Memory
  • How can existing DAX queries and metrics be re-written to take advantage of SSAS 2016? (variables, new functions, etc)
  • How can TMSL an Powershell cmdlets be used to more easily manage and automate SSAS databases such as processing jobs, synchronization, backup and restore, etc

That’s all for now! Sometime in June I’ll blog about SSRS 2016 (massive upgrade!) and may follow up on overall SSAS and Power BI topics between now and then.



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