Master Data Services Terminology Overview

When moving from a data warehouse world to MDM, there is some new terminology to learn.  Each of the terms below are components of a Master Data Services model.  In brackets is the equivalent term in the data warehouse world:

  • Domain – subject area; what you are managing (i.e. customer, product).  Grouping of related business data that is an area of focus for a master data management solution
  • Model [Schema] – Models are the highest level of organization within MDS.  Models are nothing but containers of related entities.  Only entities within the same model can be related within MDS
  • Entity [Table or SSAS dimension] – a container for a set of members.  Contains attributes. Entities are the base containers for data in MDS. In their simplest form, entities can be thought of as tables in a database.  Users control the attributes (columns) that are managed for each entity.  If explicit hierarchies are enabled for an entity, the entity becomes far more complex, managing parent members and their consolidations as well as collections, their attributes, and the members associated with those collections
  • Member [Rows in a table or SSAS members] – a data element; classified as a leaf, consolidated, or collection member type.  Members are the records that populate all the entities created in MDS.  Leaf members are the primary members of an entity.  If an entity is enabled for explicit hierarchies and collections, then consolidated members can be created, and can have their own attributes
  • Attribute [Column or SSAS attributes] – a property of entity members. Attribute types include free-form, file, or domain-based.  Attributes describe members.  Attributes can be loosely thought of as columns in a table.  Entities contain members and their attribute values
  • Domain-based Attributes – Domain-based attributes are attributes in which the available values are restricted to the members stored in a related entity
  • Hierarchy [SSAS hierarchies] – organization of members into various consolidated groups and levels to support analytic requirements.  There are two management types for hierarchies in MDS: explicit and derived.  Hierarchies enforce rules for member inclusion to ensure consolidations do not lose or double count values in connected applications
  • Collection [SSAS named sets] – user-defined subset of leaf and consolidated members.  Collections provide member grouping flexibility that is not supported in hierarchies
  • Business Rule – business logic that is intended to invoke a certain Master Data Services action
  • Subscription View – provides a layer over the MDM tables, denormalizing the master data and applying recognizable names to columns, making them much easier to work with.  This allows for integration with downstream systems dependent on master data, hierarchies, and collections
  • Canonical – standardized data definitions/common data model
  • System of Entry (SOE) – Primary point of data entry.  This may be direct entry or through services that update the data in virtual real time
  • System of Record (SOR) – Most, if not all systems, receive their data from this source.  When conflicts arise, this system is considered primary

More info:

MDS Architecture Notes

About James Serra

James currently works for Microsoft specializing in big data and data warehousing using the Analytics Platform System (APS), a Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence/MDM architect and developer, specializing in the Microsoft BI stack. He is a SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
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