Technology is growing fast and we are enjoying it. We reshape our daily created data in a form that satisfies our needs. One of the technologies which is used more commonly these days is SQL Server Tabular Models, SSAS Tabular in short. Lots of industries decide to go with SSAS Tabular in their new projects and some defined new projects to slowly switch their existing SSAS Multidimensional to SSAS Tabular. I know, there is a big debate around SSAS Multidimensional vs. SSAS Tabular. But my aim is to prevent going through that sort of discussion. As the title implies, this post is about documentation that I believe is one of the most important parts of every project which is also sacrificed the most. In this post I explain how to document your SSAS Tabular model in Power BI Desktop and Excel. I know, there are some products you can find in the internet that can generate documentation in various formats like Word, PDF, HTML and so on. But, If you’re looking for a free and somehow more intuitive way of documenting your SSAS Tabular Models with Power BI then this article is for you. Through this article, we create a documentation tool with Power BI. I call it SSAS Tabular Model Documenter. In this method we don’t use DMVs at all. For those who are not familiar with DMVs I shortly explain what DMVs are, if you’re already familiar with DMVs you can jump this section.
You can download a copy of SSAS Tabular Model Documenter in Power BI template format (pbit) at the end of this post. It is a Christmas present for you.
What are DMVs?
Dynamic Management Views, DMVs in short, are queries that retrieve metadata information about an instance of SQL Server Analysis Services. DMVs work on both SSAS Multidimensional and SSAS Tabular server modes. DMVs can be used to monitor server operations and health. The DMV query structure is very similar to T-SQL, therefore you use “SELECT” statement followed by “$System” which is an XMLA schema rowset. The DMV queries look like below:
SELECT * FROM $System.<schemaRowset>
So you can open SQL Server Management Studio, connect to an instance of SSAS (Tabular model for the sake of this post) and run the following query to get lots of information about tables in your Tabular model:
Note:This method only works with SSAS Tabular 2016 and above.
Document SSAS Tabular without DMVs
In SSAS Tabular 2016 and above there is a tiny metadata database that can be loaded in Power BI Desktop or Excel to document the corresponding SSAS Tabular model. The database is a SQLite database. In the previous post I explained how to visualise SQLite data in Power BI. The requirements for this post are the same as the previous post, so I encourage you to check it out. Therefore, I just explain how to find the metadata file and how to build a model in Power BI Desktop. I also explain how to do the same in Excel for those of you who would like to add some annotations or comments to the outcomes.