In response to the need to analyze large quantities of data, the field of business intelligence was created. But as the amount of data grew and requests to analyze information from payment transactions, Fitbit data, and more piled high, it seemed an impossible task. But Microsoft saved the day for businesses with its SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and models, like the Power BI service and the tabular model.
SSAS helps businesses gain valuable insight through data mining and data science. The goal of SSAS is to use this data to improve customer experiences and decrease business costs.
What Is SSAS?
The two main types of SSAS are Azure and Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services. They are data mining and online analytical processing (OLAP) tools that are easily accessible to companies worldwide.
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These services cover reporting, integration, and analysis. Analysis services consist of two types of OLAP and data mining: multidimensional and tabular. OLAP is part of the broader category of business intelligence, which encompasses relational databases, data mining, and report writing.
SSAS creates an instant connection to backend data and has predictive analytic capabilities that use familiar applications like Microsoft Excel and SharePoint. In a nutshell, SSAS technology helps create accessible and easy to read data, to help insights from data.
Types of SSAS Models
To get a better understanding of what SSAS is, let’s look at the two main types of models we use today. These will lend some insight into what server analysis services are and the principal differences between the models.
The Tabular model is an in-memory table, which means that all the data is stored in the memory. It compresses this data using a technology called VertiPaq, which can store more than a terabyte of data. In Azure, you can store 400 gigabytes of data, so you can handle large data sets.
Tabular models can also summarize queries at fast speeds, and are organized in low detail columns and tables. The goal of this model is to make data simple to understand and to help businesses gain valuable insight.
Multidimensional Data Model
The multidimensional model predates the tabular model. In this model, all data is written to disk rather than stored in memory. This makes the multidimensional model slower. It is also not available on Azure. This model works by building complex cubes of data that can be used to store and locate data.
Although it is a slower and more complex process, it does have some functions that are unavailable in the tabular model.
SSAS Terms Explained
Here are some examples of typical terms that are used when discussing SSAS. Read through these so you can get a basic understanding of the systems before beginning a course in SSAS.
- Data warehouse. In computing, a data warehouse is a system used for reporting and analyzing data. Think of it as a virtual warehouse filled with information.
- Data marts. Next, you have data marts, which are like little data markets. Each data mart deals with a specific subject, so although the data contained in them is limited, it’s quicker to build these than it is to build a data warehouse.
- Named queries. A named query is usually represented as a table. You can specify an SQL expression in a named query to select rows and columns from tables in one or more data sources.
- MDX queries. MDX stands for MultiDimensional eXpressionsis a query language used to obtain data from multidimensional models.
- Data sources. A data source views where a piece of data originated from.
Once you are familiar with computer programming and data, you can easily learn SSAS through online tutorials or courses. There are also plenty of books and resources out there for students who want to become SSAS pros. Read on to see our courses section to get started learning.
How Long Does It Take to Learn SSAS?
Depending on your programming background and your awareness of SSAS, it could take you anywhere from 14 hours to 14 months to learn. If you have zero programming and data skills, it could take longer.
How to Learn SSAS: Step-by-Step
Here is a beginner’s guide on how to gain the necessary skills to learn how to analyze data with SSAS.
- Learn programming languages. Studying R and Python is a great place to start. Then, move toward learning SSAS specific languages like DAX, MDX, and TSQL. These are not programming languages, but are languages specific to data queries that are essential to learn.
- Explore resources. Then, begin looking at online resources from Microsoft on SSAS, or read some texts so that you can get a better understanding.
- Take SSAS training. You can start taking online courses for free and then study to gain a certification in SSAS. Once you are certified, you can begin working on data mining projects.
- Practice data analysis software. Practice will make you a great data-miner. Start practicing data analysis to learn about the different types of software so that you are comfortable with all kinds of data analysis tools by the time you are employed. Try out Power BI, which comes with a free trial, and when you are more comfortable, you can start to work with Azure.
The Best SSAS Training Courses
Below are some of the top SSAS training courses available online. By signing up for these, you can gain an excellent knowledge of the different models available, and learn to implement SSAS with either paid online training, or free online classes.
Best Online SSAS Courses
Here are some paid online courses for those interested in topics within SSAS. Check out these lessons on an array of data analysis and data science techniques.
- Where: Online
- Time: 16 hours to 14 months
- Price: Varies (7 days free)
These excellent courses are all available on Coursera and provided by various institutions, including UC Davis, the University of Michigan, and IBM. These range from certificate courses on data analysis to SQL basics and data warehousing for businesses.
- SSAS Tabular Video Course
- Where: Online
- Time: 11 hours
- Price: Free trial (Course $249)
At a fairly reasonable price, this Sqlbi course provides 129 lecture videos, a certification, and a master DAX video course. This course is perfect for beginners and professionals alike. The website also has plenty of resources and learning tools.
- Business Intelligence with SSAS Training Course
- Where: In-person or online
- Time: 14 hours
- Price: $4300 in-person or $3,500 online
In this NobleProg course, students will learn all about SSAS. You will learn how to install SSAS, the relationship between SSAS, SSRS, and SSIS, data modeling, how to design OLAP cubes, manipulate data using the MDX, and how to deploy BI solutions using SSAS. But if the price is too high, check out our top picks for free courses below.
Best Free Online SSAS Courses
Browse these free online options for building your SSAS skills. These are great choices if you want to start to wrap your mind around the intricacies of server analysis services.
- Learn Microsoft BI
- Where: Online
- Time: 35 videos
- Price: Free
Learn about Microsoft BI with this series of free tutorial videos. These cover all the business intelligence basics you will need to know, such as Cube Wizard, how to create dimensions, and the basics of aggregation.
Google Digital Garage
- SQL for Data Analysis
- Where: Online
- Time: 30 hours
- Price: Free
In this course, you will learn to extract data, join tables together, and perform aggregations. You’ll learn how to conduct complex analysis using temp tables, subqueries, and window functions. You’ll also be able to write SQL queries to successfully tackle a range of data analysis tasks.
- Where: Online
- Time: Varies
- Price: Free
Khan Academy has excellent free classes on computer programming, including one unit on SQL. Students can gain new SSAS skills while studying, or explore other disciplines. These classes are perfect for beginner programmers who are interested in SSAS.
Best SSAS Books
Here are some of the best texts to help you learn SSAS, tabular modeling, DAX, and general business intelligence. Add this knowledge to your data analysis toolkit by reading alongside your studies in one of the courses above.
In this book, experts in Microsoft data modeling and analysis discuss how to create complete BI solutions. Russo and Ferrari will walk you through how to create data models and explore features like scalability, optimization, and deployment.
Definitive Guide to DAX, The: Business intelligence for Microsoft Power BI, SQL Server Analysis Services, and Excel, Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari
This book will guide you through Microsoft’s DAX language for business intelligence, analytics, and data modeling. You will learn to master table functions through code and model optimization and will learn to write robust code quickly. This book gives examples of programs you can run with free Power BI and will help you make the most of VAR in Power BI, Excel, or Analysis Services.
Should You Study SSAS?
Help take business intelligence to the next level and learn to mine data that could help make any business successful. This in-demand skill will help you gain employment as a data analyst as you discover exciting new data.
There are many types of tech companies that may suit your interests as you apply for jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, you could earn $84,810 per year working as an operations research analyst, so studying SSAS is a worthwhile investment.
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