Understand What Role MDX Plays in Third-Party Reporting Tools

  • by Scott Lawrence, Director, Product Marketing, Cognos
  • May 1, 2004
Third-party reporting tools generally use Multidimensional Expression (MDX) to generate reports and query multidimensional data sources in BW. The author explains the features and functions of the technology, the differences between shallow and deep MDX, and how it affects your BW resources.


Multidimensional Expression (MDX) is the industry standard language used to query multidimensional data sources and generate reports in BW. It is typically used by third-party reporting tools.

Those of you who are interested in a non-SAP reporting solution to augment Business Explorer (BEx) need to understand the impact of MDX. Each tool uses it differently, and MDX affects your BW resources.

Over the years, third-party reporting tools have employed different levels of MDX. The level of MDX usage can impact your system and the capabilities you can realistically expect from them. I will explain the implications of deep versus shallow MDX support. I will also detail how MDX can support a self-service, Web-based reporting environment (ad hoc, standard reports, complex reports, pixel-level formatting for reports, easy interface, etc.), and how it can affect a broad base of users with limited BW knowledge and little to no technical skills.

MDX is not user-friendly like other query languages such as SQL, and it is not a language that you are likely to use yourself. It is run in the background by various applications, however, including third-party BW reporting tools. Created by Microsoft, the MDX syntax offers many benefits. Perhaps its most attractive feature is that MDX is very flexible so it can be used on a range of platforms.

Scott Lawrence

Scott Lawrence is director of product marketing at Cognos and has over nine years of business intelligence experience at the firm. He spent the past five years working on Cognos’s packaged analytic applications for SAP and other ERPs. Scott is currently focused on Cognos’s SAP solution with ReportNet. He also has experience working with global companies such as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and Credit Suisse.

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