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SSRS and SSAS-Sourced Parameter Dataset Performance Issues

Reposted from Chris Webb's blog with the author's permission.

Ahhh, Reporting Services and Analysis Services integration – a never ending source of pain and frustration! Although I shouldn’t complain because it’s been quite lucrative for me in terms of consultancy work…

Anyway, recently I was tuning a SSRS report based on a SSAS cube for a customer. Looking at Profiler I could see a number of slow queries being executed, which was strange given that it was a fairly simple report. It turned out that during the design phase this report had had a number of parameters created in the SSAS query designer that had later been deleted; however, when you delete a parameter in the SSAS query designer BIDS does not delete the hidden dataset that it is bound to. What’s worse is that when an SSRS report is executed all dataset queries are also executed, even if the datasets aren’t used anywhere in the report, which means you get the overhead of running extra queries. It’s an easy mistake to make and in this case the execution of unused datasets was adding several seconds to the execution time of the report.

You can reproduce this problem very easily by creating a simple report based on the Adventure Works cube. Once you’ve created the data source, open the query designer, drag the Internet Sales Amount measure onto the grid, drag the Customer hierarchy from the Customer dimension onto the filter pane and check the Parameters box:


Now close the query designer and reopen it, then remove the Customer hierarchy from the filter pane, close the query designer again and delete the report parameter. When you Preview the report you’ll see the following in Profiler:



The highlighted row shows the hidden dataset is being executed. What you need to do to fix this is to right-click on your data source and check the Show Hidden Datasets option:


You’ll then see the offending, automatically-generated, hidden dataset and you can delete it:



Luckily, BIDS Helper has functionality to find unused datasets in your reports for you:

And there’s more! What I found really interesting about this parameter dataset query was how long it was taking to execute. In this example 2.5 seconds, even on a warm cache, seems like a very long time to me even though there are a lot of members on the Customer hierarchy. Once the report is deployed that goes down to a consistent 2.1 seconds, and when I run the same query through SQL Management Studio it goes down to 1.5 seconds. Why the difference in execution times? I’m not sure, but I suspect it’s a combination of the connection string properties used and the use of a flattened rowset. In any case, 1.5 seconds is still slow and it’s certainly not good if you actually do want to use a query like this in a dataset bound to a parameter.

Luckily, if our parameter datasets are causing performance problems, we can usually rewrite the queries involved to make them faster. Here’s the original query from the parameter in the example:

MEMBER [Measures].[ParameterCaption] AS
MEMBER [Measures].[ParameterValue] AS
MEMBER [Measures].[ParameterLevel] AS
FROM [Adventure Works]

If we decide that we can make do without the All Member and the level-based indenting that goes on in the parameter dataset (this is an attribute hierarchy, after all, so there’s just one level), we can use the following query in the dataset instead:

FROM [Adventure Works]

Once the first query above has been replaced with the second, and the report parameter has been hooked up to use the new fields, Profiler shows that the time taken to execute the parameter dataset has gone down to around 0.7 seconds:


That is, of course, almost 2 seconds faster than the original query in Preview mode and almost 1.5 seconds faster than the original query in the deployed report. Not a lot on its own but certainly noticeable, and if you have more than one large parameter the cumulative gain could be quite significant. If you create a separate OLEDB connection to the cube and use the second query in a dataset, the execution time is even faster, going down to around 0.45 seconds:


Incidentally, some of the more astute may be asking why I need to include MEASURES.DUMMY in the query above when I can use an empty set on the columns axis instead. Two reasons: one, if you use an empty set on columns in the OLEDB connection you get no rows returned; two, I noticed when the query was being executed in SSRS a Query Subcube event was raised suggesting measure data was being requested from the cube – this didn’t happen when I ran the query in SQL Management Studio. I suspect both problems are something to with SSRS using a flattened rowset, so I’ll investigate and post back here when I get an answer.


Chris has been working with Microsoft BI tools since he started using beta 3 of OLAP Services back in the late 90s. Since then he has worked with Analysis Services in a number of roles (including three years spent with Microsoft Consulting Services) and he is now an independent consultant specialising in complex MDX, Analysis Services cube design and Analysis Services query performance problems. His company website can be found at and his blog can be found at .

Tags: mdx, performance, ssrs


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