Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Austin SQL Saturday 2016 - Call for Speakers

SQL Saturday is coming to Austin in January 2016. We've just made the reservations for the conference space and have opened up the call for speakers.

Whether you are an experienced speaker, or someone new just starting out, this is the chance for you.

If you are local to the Austin area, you can come to the next CACTUSS User Group meeting on July 21st at the Microsoft Offices.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

PASS Summit Prices Going Up Soon

If you are planning to attend PASS Summit but still haven't registered, be aware, prices go up this coming Monday. After that, prices go up by $400.

Also, if you are a member of your local user group, there is an additional discount code available. For example, if you are part of the CACTUSS User Group in Austin, you can use the following code for an additional $150 discount: LC15LJV7

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SQL 2016 Community Technical Preview Now Available

Great news! SQL 2016 is available as a Community Technical Preview. This means you can start playing with the next version of SQL Server and begin learning about all the cool, new features.

I'm particularly interested in the enhancements to SSIS. The last major update to SSIS was in SQL 2012, which I feel was a vast improvement over SQL 2008.

Jorg Klein has a great write-up detailing many of the new Business Intelligence features that will be part of SQL 2016. Not just for SSIS, but also for SSAS and SSRS, as well.

Similar to other technical preview products, you will need to register before downloading the software. This is a simple process and just takes a minutes. Plus you'll get notified about new releases as the product continues through the evaluation process.

One thing to be aware of, similar to SQL 2014, it no longer comes with SSDT/BIDS/whatever you want to call it. So, you will need to install that separately.

Never fear, Visual Studio Community Edition and SQL Server Data Tools Business Intelligence are available for download, as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SQL Server 2016 Technical Preview Coming This Summer

Microsoft made some cool announcements at the Ignite Conference yesterday. If you're a data geek, then you'll be happy to know that the next version of SQL Server is coming up soon.

This summer, Microsoft in planning to release SQL Server 2016 Public Preview. You can sign up to be notified once it becomes available.

Some of the high-level features they are advertising include:

  • Always Encrypted

  • Stretch Database

  • Real-time Operational Analytics & In-Memory OLTP

  • Built-in Advanced Analytics, PolyBase and Mobile BI

  • Row-level Security and Dynamic Data Masking

  • More Synchronous Replicas for AlwaysOn Availability Groups

  • Round Robin Load Balancing for Secondaries

  • Native JSON Support

You can read the data sheet information here.

Brent Ozar has a nice write-up with his thoughts on what it all means. He does a nice job of distilling the marketing buzz down to nuts and bolts and what it will really mean to the rest of us.

I know I'm signing up to download the SQL Server 2016 Preview as soon as it's available. How about you?

Monday, May 4, 2015

SQL Saturday #396 Dallas BI Edition

This past weekend, I traveled to Dallas to attend SQL Saturday #396 BI Edition. SQL Saturday is a free (mostly) all-day training event about all things SQL Server. This particular event was focused on Business Intelligence and SQL Server. There were a total of 27 sessions on various topics including Power BI, SSIS, Azure, Big Data, Data Visualization, Reporting, and more.

The event was held at Microsoft's office in Irving, Texas. The facility was very nice with the exception of some issues with the air conditioning. Sometimes it was running, and other times it was off. Since we were there on a weekend, it is not normally programmed to run.

They had excellent WIFI available for all attendees. This was a nice feature, as it allowed me to work on some Data Warehouse assignments I had, all while learning more about Data Warehouses. Very nice.

Session Highlights

The first session I attended was Russ Loski's Introduction to BIML. BIML stands for Business Intelligence Markup Language. You can use BIML to help create templates for your SSIS packages. So for example, if you have to create 100 packages that perform a similar function, BIML can help you with that.

Next up, Bryan Smith showed us how to use Power Map. He was a last minute fill-in due to a schedule conflict, and I must say he did an awesome job. He only had one PowerPoint slide. Yeah! The rest was all demos. He showed us some cool use cases involving Hurricane Sandy, weather data, demographics, etc. He also had some cool tricks looking at Microsoft's real estate information, energy usage, and heat. He was able to pinpoint who has a mini-fridge under their desk. That would be me! :-)

Finishing out the morning sessions was Allen Smith teaching us about Dimensional Modeling. He took us through the basics of relational vs. dimensional modeling, star and snowflake schemas, and had some group exercises where we had to determine what were fact tables and what were dimension tables.

Over lunch, several of the sponsors and vendors had technical sessions that they presented. I skipped out on these to grab some lunch, network, and socialize. All sessions and no gossip makes Steven a dull boy.

For the afternoon, I took in Mike Diehl's presentation about incorporating the Agile Methodology with Microsoft development tools. I've worked in an Agile shop before, but using mostly open source and un*x-based tools. So it was neat seeing someone be an Agile Evangelist using the Microsoft Stack.

Next, was Meagan Longoria talking about data visualization and how to make it interesting and entertaining. She spoke to us about the horrors of relying solely on numbers arranged in tables for your reporting needs. And executive dashboards? If it doesn't fit on one page, then it's not a dashboard. Love it.

Last and certainly not least, Bill Fellows finished out the day with a session on learning to love SSIS. This was a very lively session, with Bill sharing his wisdom on all aspects of SSIS. He touched on configuration methods, logging, troubleshooting, and much more. While the session was only as hour, he tried to fit as much content in as possible. As a testament, this was the last session of the day, he kept going after the time ran out, and we all stayed until we had to leave. He gets my gold star for the day.

Brazilian Breakfast

For me, no trip to Dallas is complete without a stop at Cafe Brazil in Deep Ellum. I discovered this place years ago when I came to see Björk perform at Deep Ellum Live. I highly recommend the Brazilian Breakfast and Caramel Latte. This is the place where I learned to like coffee many moons ago.

Make love to your stomach!
If you've never been, check it out, your stomach will thank you. Also, the Deep Ellum neighborhood is a great area with a funky, artsy vibe. If you're familiar with South Austin, or the Montrose neighborhood in Houston, it reminds me of those places.

If you do go and your server is Kelsey, be sure to tip her well. When I stopped in it was her and one lone cook holding down the fort with lots of customers present. She was literally running back and forth, and I do mean literally. Shame on the owners for not scheduling more staff.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Last Call for SQL PASS 2015 Early Bird Pricing

If you are interested in going to PASS this year, please take note of your calendar. Early Bird pricing ends on January 11th. The Early Bird price is $1195, versus the full price of $2395. That is over a 50% discount.

Early Bird Pricing
The difference in price could cover most of your flight and hotel. If you are stuck convincing your manager about the need for some training, the folks at PASS got your back. They have already laid out a plan of attack to justify your attendance.

So, go talk to your boss and see if your employer can swing it. You might just be surprised as to what they say. If not, consider paying your own way. One hundred dollars a month is not very much when you consider all that you get from attending PASS. You don't have to go every year, but if you've never gone, you owe it to yourself to do so at least once.