Decision Support

Browse Cubes

What is a Cube?

A cube is a data analysis tool that allows quick and easily manipulation of data. One can use a cube to quickly and easily answer business questions, such as "How much money was spent, by fiscal year, by organization, by budget, by expense object?"

Why is it called a cube and how does a cube answer this question?

  • Let's use the example question above - How much money was spent BY fiscal year, BY organization, BY budget, and BY expense object?. Each of those BY clauses is considered a dimension.
  • Because a cube elicits the notion of 3-dimensionality, the word cube was adopted to represent data organized to facilitate exploration by any number of dimensions.
  • A data cube has one other major component, called a ‘fact’ or a ‘measure’ (these terms are used interchangeably). The "How much" portion of the question is what's being measured. Cubes can also contain counts, percentages - anything on which one can do math.
  • So putting it all together, a cube is a way of storing data that lets users quickly get answers to 'how much' or 'how many' questions, sliced by the dimensions of the user's choice.

Much more information on facts, measures, and dimensions, and how to slice and dice the data, is available in the UW Financial Activity Cube - Getting Started Guide (PDF).

Using Cubes

No special software is needed to work with cube data. If you have Microsoft Excel (or other software such as Tableau), you're set. A technical detail for those interested: UW’s central Business Intelligence environment uses Microsoft Analysis Services to build and manage cubes. 

Using Cubes on a Mac

Neither the Mac operating system nor Excel for Mac supports online analytical processing (OLAP) technology, for a couple of reasons:

  • SQL Server Analysis Servers (SSAS), the Microsoft tool used to create the cubes, works only in Windows Integrated authentication (not supported by Mac)
  • The Object Linking and Embedding Database (OLE DB) connection is a Windows only provider

The solution is to run a virtual Windows environment on your Mac and connect to cubes through that environment.

Getting Access To Cubes

If you already have access to run reports and query data, you do not need to request new access to use cubes – you're already covered.  If you need to request access, you can do so at the Request Access page.

List of Available Cubes

Cube Database Cube Server (Production) Cube Name Cube Contents and
Refresh Schedule



  • EDW report usage statistics since 2008
  • Cube refresh is on demand



  • EDW cube usage statistics since 2010
  • Cube refresh is on demand


Fin Activity Biennium 2013

  • 2013 Biennium to date
  • Cube refresh is daily


Fin Activity Biennium 2011

  • 2011 Biennium to date
  • Cube refresh is daily through 7/31/2013, then frozen


Fin Activity Biennium 2009

  • 2009 Biennium to date
  • Cube refresh is daily through 7/29/2011, then frozen


Fin Activity Biennium Minus1

  • Full 2007 Biennium
  • No cube refresh required as biennium is closed



  • Research Administration Awards data from 2006
  • Cube refresh is daily

Table 1. Currently available cubes.
*The Financial Activity cubes reflect transactions from the BudgetActivityDetail table in the ODS database.


Connect to and Use the Cubes

Financial Activity Cubes

See the Connection Guide to Financial Activity Cubes -- via Excel (PDF). 

Research Administration Cube

The following videos show how to connect to the cube and get started using it.

Length Title Description
video5:57 1. Prepare Excel to connect to an EDW cube
  • Learn why you access EDW using your UW NetID credentials
  • Create file to automate opening Excel
  • Run the automated file to open Excel with your UW NetID
video1:30 2. Connect Excel to the Research Administration Data Cube
  •  Create a data source connection
  •  Connect to the cube
  •  Prepare pivot table environment
video7:24 3. Explore Research Administration data using Excel pivot tables and the Research Cube
  • Slice and dice Research Awards data by organization, time, sponsor, and more
  •  Create a chart that changes on the fly as you slice and dice