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.