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Data & Intelligence

Navigating Cognos TM1 Cube Types


Cubes are to TM1 what tables are to relational databases.  Almost all data stored in TM1 is stored in and accessed from cubes. Do you know the difference between the types of these
basic objects?


Let’s explore!



First, each and every TM1 cube must have at least two and up to a maximum of 256 dimensions.

There are four types of cubes in Cognos TM1. They are:

  • “Standard”,
  • “Control”,
  • “Virtual” and
  • “Lookup”.

Standard Cubes

A “standard” Cognos TM1 cube is referred to as a “hard” cube or a cube where data is actually loaded and “resides”.

There are two ways to create (standard) cubes:

  • Empty Cube – You can manually create an “empty cube” by selecting (at least) 2 dimensions from the list of existing
    dimensions in the “Creating Cube” window to create a new cube with no data.
  • External Data Sources – You can create a cube and load it with data by using TurboIntegrator to identify and
    map dimensions and data from an external data source to a new or existing cube. (Of course, this requires some expertise using TurboIntegrator).

Control Cubes

Control cubes are “special” Cognos TM1 cubes. These “special” cubes are created and used by TM1 and by definition, are “hard” cubes that hold data.

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Cognos TM1 itself uses control cubes to perform certain activities (of course you can access information in these cubes as
well). These activities are:

  • Security
  • Client and Group Administration
  • Object Attribute and Properties Control
  • Performance Monitoring
  • “Hold” Tracking by username

All control cube names are prefixed with a first character of “}” and are by default “not visible” within in TM1 Server Explorer. These cubes can be made visible in TM1 Server Explorer by:

  1. Selecting “View” and then
  2. Display Control Objects”.

Note: It is possible to create a cube and prefix its name with the “}” but although this will “show and hide” your cube with the rest of the “}” cubes – your cube will not “really” be a TM1 control cube.

Virtual Cubes

A “virtual” cube is a TM1 cube which is referred to as a “soft” cube where no data actually is loaded to or resides in but references data points in
other cubes.

To a TM1 user, a virtual cube may have the exact same appearance of a standard or “hard” cube.

Being a” fully rule calculated cube”, virtual cubes have no data stored in them but use rules to “pull” data from other cubes (and possibly to perform additional calculations on that data).

To perform this “data pull” into your virtual cube, you utilize TM1 “inter-cube” rules. These rules must be associated with that virtual cube.

While the rule statements reside in the target cube, the feeder statements to support these rules will always reside in the source cube.

You’ll use the TM1 rule DB function. The DB function must reference the cube (where the data you want to retrieve lives) and then provide a value for each of the dimensions in that cube:

DB('myCube', dimension value, dimension value,... dimension value);
Of course, you can only reference or pull data from cubes that reside in the same TM1 instance as the virtual cube.

Some Cognos TM1 cubes may be very complicated, large or have intensive rule calculations.  In other examples, data required for a reporting may be sourced from multiple cubes. In these cases, specific end user reporting may become difficult (especially for the “more casual” TM1 user) or somewhat slow. Defining several specific virtual cubes – referencing information in unique views of the larger cube or cubes – can be very useful.

Lookup Cubes

Another type of TM1 cube is the “Lookup” cube. This is a sort of  “utility” cube.

Lookup cubes are cubes that you can set up and use to support other  cubes and processes within a TM1 application. These cubes are usually read-only
or even made “not visible” to the user and may contain calculations or reference  data that is then “pulled” into other cubes using TM1 rules.

Whenever there is a need to perform a translation or conversion of  information, your choices would be to use an element attribute or a Lookup

Typically, if it’s a “single point” translation (involves only one  dimension) you’d want to use an attribute. If the translation involves  “multiple points”, then you would use a lookup cube.

Okay – that’s the 4 types – did I  miss any?

au revoir!


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Jim Miller

Mr. Miller is an IBM certified and accomplished Senior Project Leader and Application/System Architect-Developer with over 30 years of extensive applications and system design and development experience. His current role is National FPM Practice Leader. His experience includes BI, Web architecture & design, systems analysis, GUI design and testing, Database modeling and systems analysis, design, and development of Client/Server, Web and Mainframe applications and systems utilizing: Applix TM1 (including TM1 rules, TI, TM1Web and Planning Manager), dynaSight - ArcPlan, ASP, DHTML, XML, IIS, MS Visual Basic and VBA, Visual Studio, PERL, Websuite, MS SQL Server, ORACLE, SYBASE SQL Server, etc. His Responsibilities have included all aspects of Windows and SQL solution development and design including: analysis; GUI (and Web site) design; data modeling; table, screen/form and script development; SQL (and remote stored procedures and triggers) development and testing; test preparation and management and training of programming staff. Other experience includes development of ETL infrastructure such as data transfer automation between mainframe (DB2, Lawson, Great Plains, etc.) systems and client/server SQL server and Web based applications and integration of enterprise applications and data sources. In addition, Mr. Miller has acted as Internet Applications Development Manager responsible for the design, development, QA and delivery of multiple Web Sites including online trading applications, warehouse process control and scheduling systems and administrative and control applications. Mr. Miller also was responsible for the design, development and administration of a Web based financial reporting system for a 450 million dollar organization, reporting directly to the CFO and his executive team. Mr. Miller has also been responsible for managing and directing multiple resources in various management roles including project and team leader, lead developer and applications development director. Specialties Include: Cognos/TM1 Design and Development, Cognos Planning, IBM SPSS and Modeler, OLAP, Visual Basic, SQL Server, Forecasting and Planning; International Application Development, Business Intelligence, Project Development. IBM Certified Developer - Cognos TM1 (perfect score 100% on exam) IBM Certified Business Analyst - Cognos TM1

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