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SQL Server DBA Tips & Tricks

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Pragmatic Tools Week: Task Factory

If you’ve ever spent any time doing SSIS development work, you’ll eventually come to a point when developing something and you think to yourself “there has GOT to be an easier way of doing this”. We at Pragmatic Works feel the same way so our team of developer monkey ninjas put together a nifty toolset called Task Factory to help ease some of those pains!

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SQLRally Overdrive: Birds of a Feather Discussions Event

Just wanted to post a quick note/invitation to everyone to come join us on Thursday, May 12th from 5:45-7:00 for the SQLRally Overdrive: Birds of a Feather Discussions event.

We’ll have several tables, each with a dedicated expert in the field hosting conversations. Want to delve into some shop talk about PowerShell? Curious about how Analysis Services are being setup by other folks in the field? Care to swap architecture design ideas about SSIS with others? Well this is the place to do this and more! Here’s the list of folks who have graciously volunteered to host tables at this event:

Mike Davis (Blog | Twitter) – SSRS

Grant Fritchey (Blog | Twitter) – Indexing/Performance Tuning

Adam Jorgensen (Blog | Twitter)- SSAS

Devin Knight (Blog | Twitter) – SSIS

Andie Letourneau (Blog | Twitter) – Women in Technology

Brian Moran (Blog | Twitter)- Professional Development

Jorge Segarra (Blog | Twitter) – Administration

Ed Wilson (Blog | Twitter) – PowerShell

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Pragmatic Tools Week: BIxPress

tim-taylor-aus-tool-timeMuch like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor had his themed weeks, we’re going to do something similar. This week we salute: (play fanfare music here) the Pragmatic Works BI toolset. Today we’re going to talk about BIxPress.

I’ve previously posted on BIxPress and how it helps DBAs out, but the heart of this product is really aimed at making your development quick and easy. Today we’re going to focus on a few things that really make this tool worthwhile by looking at the top 3 features of this product that I really love.

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SQLRally OverDrive Events!

So you’re going to SQLRally in Orlando next week? Want to take advantage of ALL of the awesome opportunities presented? In addition to all of the amazing training content you’ll see at the event itself, we’re holding some great stuff after-hours on Thursday. We’re calling this SQLRally OverDrive!

These are three different panel events being hosted by members of the SQL community. You have your choice of three cool events to choose from:

Birds of a Feather Discussions

Sit down with a group of people who are interested in the same SQL Server and BI topics as you are. Interested in SSIS? Gather with your peers to discuss the problems you’ve encountered and solved. Each table will be moderated by an expert in that area.

Conducting an Interview, Sponsored by OPASS

Conducting an interview can be intimidating and confusing. What makes a good interview? How do you differentiate candidates? This session will consist of 3 short interviews. After the interviews are complete, attendees will discuss how the interviews were conducted. Did the interviewers ask the right questions? Did the interviewers conduct themselves well? Which candidate would you hire and why? Quest SQL Server expert Kevin Kline will moderate the discussion.

Speed Networking, Sponsored by MagicPASS

Do you have trouble meeting people? Need help starting a conversation? Based on the speed-dating model, you’ll spend a few minutes with several different people with a set of pre-defined questions to ask and answer. Take the time to exchange business cards as well. When moderator Kendal Van Dyke says, “Go!” be ready to make some new contacts.

I’ll be hosting a table at the Birds of a Feather discussions so make sure to swing by and say ‘hi’ and we can talk shop. Just look for the tall guy with the rubber chicken on the table!
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SQL University: Precedence Constraints

Welcome back, class! In our last class, we setup a parent-child package configuration and showed how you can pass variables between the two in order to complete a unit of work. In today’s class we’re going to continue exploring that data load package and take a look at another critical piece of SSIS that you should know about: precedence constraints.

So what exactly are precedence constraints? They are the connectors that link together tasks in the Control Flow, and they define the workflow of your package. When two tasks are tied together with a constraint, the destination task will execute based on two things: The final state of the task that precedes it and special rules you can define on the constraint using specialized expressions.

Constraint Types

You can have different types of constraints between tasks. You can read more about constraints in detail from MSDN article (Link). I’ll briefly cover each of the constraint types in an abbreviated list and then we’ll discuss how we used these constraints in our parent-child package from our previous lesson.

  • Success – Workflow will proceed when the preceding container executes successfully. Visually indicated in control flow by a solid green line.
  • Failure – Workflow will proceed when the preceding container’s execution results in a failure. Visually indicated in control flow by a solid red line.
  • Completion – Workflow will proceed when the preceding container’s execution completes, regardless of success or failure. Visually indicated in control flow by a solid blue line.
  • Expression/Constraint with Logical AND – Workflow will proceed when specified expression and constraints evaluate to true. Visually indicated in control flow by a solid color line along with a small ‘fx’ icon next to it. Color of line depends on logical constraint chosen (e.g. success=green, completion=blue).
  • Expression/Constraint with Logical OR – Workflow will proceed when either the specified expression or the logical constraint (success/failure/completion) evaluates to true. Visually indicated in control flow by a dotted color line along with a small ‘fx’ icon next to it. Color of line depends on logical constraint chosen (e.g. success=green, completion=blue).

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Note: In these screenshots there are labels next to the precedence constraints indicating the type of constraint chosen. This is not a default behavior. To enable this click on Tools menu, go to Options. Under Business Intelligence Designers, go to Integration Services Designers and under the Accessibility section in the General menu, check the box for ‘Show precedence constraint labels’. This is helpful for folks who are color blind and are not able to differentiate between green/red/blue lines in designer. Big thanks to Dan English for this great tip.

image

Constraints in Action

Now that we’ve seen the different constraint types, let’s examine how they’re used in conjunction with parent-child package setup. Our first use of constraints comes at the top of the child package from the script task to the sequence containers. We’ve used an empty script task as an “anchor” task. This is used as a starting point to continue on to the corresponding workflow. As we learned in our last class, we have a variable being passed from our parent package with the value of the name of the file we are currently processing.

In this first example, we’re going to look at the constraint leading to the sequence containers for the Supplier table. We’ve used and Expression and Constraint here and chosen the value for Success. We’re also looking at the value of the variable being passed to the child package. For this particular workflow, we are waiting until the value of the variable ‘Parent_TblName’ is set to “supplier”. Once both of these situations evaluate as being true, we will execute this container.

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Now that we’re inside our sequence container, we have another set of constraints. Once again we’re using an empty script task as an “anchor” for our precedence constraints. This time we’ve got two possible paths to go down. The first is to execute an Execute SQL task. This task checks for the existence of the table (in this case, the supplier table). If it exists it will drop the table and then recreate it. The other path leads directly to a data flow task which simply loads the table specified from the flat file.

I’ve created another variable on this package called ‘AppendFlag’ which is a boolean value. The purpose of this flag is so that you can choose to load the tables with a fresh load from the flat file (the Execute SQL task path) or you can simply append an already existing table’s data with data (data flow path). The default value of the variable is false.

The first path to the Execute SQL task uses an expression and constraint which is looking at the value of the ‘AppendFlag’ variable. In order for us to go down this workflow both value of ‘AppendFlag’ must be false AND the previous component executed successfully. The other path from the script task leads directly to the data flow task which actually loads the table. For this path, I’ve set the precedence constraint to look for the value of ‘AppendFlag’ to be true. In this path, however, we’ve chosen to use a logical OR. The reason for this being that the Execute SQL task, once complete, also leads to the data flow task. Due to the data flow having two different input paths, we must use the logical OR (if you try to choose logical AND, BIDS will quickly yell at you).

Conclusion

When we bring it all together, we now have a parent-child package that passes variable values. These values are used to execute specific workflows based on the value of the variable passed. Precedence constraints are an extremely helpful and invaluable tool in your SSIS toolkit. Using precedence constraints can help you create very dynamic workflows within your packages.

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Policy-Based Management and Local Password Policy

This post is based on an interesting question/situation that was posted over at ASKSSC.com today. The user asked how to create a policy condition that enforces local sql accounts to adhere to password expiration policies.

First off, to create the condition itself is relatively easy. Below I’ve provided the T-SQL code so that you can create the condition that way. I’ve also included a quick list on how to create it via SSMS GUI.

T-SQL method:

Declare @condition_id int
EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_condition
    @name=N'Password Policy Enforced', @description=N'', @facet=N'Login',
    @expression=N'<Operator>
  <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
  <OpType>AND</OpType>
  <Count>2</Count>
  <Operator>
    <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
    <OpType>EQ</OpType>
    <Count>2</Count>
    <Attribute>
      <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
      <Name>PasswordExpirationEnabled</Name>
    </Attribute>
    <Function>
      <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
      <FunctionType>True</FunctionType>
      <ReturnType>Bool</ReturnType>
      <Count>0</Count>
    </Function>
  </Operator>
  <Operator>
    <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
    <OpType>EQ</OpType>
    <Count>2</Count>
    <Attribute>
      <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
      <Name>PasswordPolicyEnforced</Name>
    </Attribute>
    <Function>
      <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>
      <FunctionType>True</FunctionType>
      <ReturnType>Bool</ReturnType>
      <Count>0</Count>
    </Function>
  </Operator>
</Operator>', @is_name_condition=0, @obj_name=N'',
@condition_id=@condition_id OUTPUT

Select @condition_id

GO

SSMS method:

  1. Under PBM node, right-click conditions folder and select New Condition
  2. Name your new condition something useful
  3. Select Login facet from drop-down menu
  4. Click on field box and select @PasswordExpirationEnabled from properties list
  5. Set the operator value to True
  6. Click on ‘Click here to add clause’ to add another clause to policy
  7. Click on field box and select @PasswordPolicyEnforced from properties list
  8. Set the operator value to True
  9. Click OK. You’ve now just created a new condition!

Now we’re left with another question: Where does this password policy come from? For details on that you can refer to the Books Online article about it (link). If your box is on a domain that has Active Directory policies regarding password expiration, when you select the box for ‘Enforce password policy’ as well as ‘Enforce password expiration’, these settings will come from that policy. Don’t have an Active Directory policy? No problem! If a policy isn’t provided from Active Directory, Windows then looks to its local security policies for these values.

image

To see the local values, click on your Start button, then type in ‘secpol.msc’ (don’t type type the single-quotes). This will open up the Local Security Policy MMC Snap-in. Expand the Account Policies folder and then click on the Password Policy folder. In the right side pane you will see the various password-related options you can set such as Maximum password age or password length.

image

While policy-based management can help you check whether or not the accounts have the option enabled to enforce the policy checks, Policy-based management itself has not bearing on the Local Security Policy settings. This is something you, as an administrator, will have to set and configure outside of SQL Server.

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SQL University: Parents Just Don’t Understand

Welcome to the second week of SSIS this semester at SQL University. Today we’re going to talk about the relationship between children and parents. Ever had communication issues with your kids when you ask them to complete a chore? When they’re done, wouldn’t it be nice if they always came back and let you know they took what you said, applied it, and completed the job? What does that have to do with SSIS? Read on and find out!
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Be the Master of your Data Warehouse Universe at SQLRally!

Do you have a data warehouse initiative in your current organization and looking for a way to learn how to properly build and support it? Would you like to learn how to do this straight from the Masters of the BIverse themselves? Well you’re in luck! Next month at SQLRally there’s going to be a great pre-conference session held by the following:

Mike Davis (Blog | Twitter)

Devin Knight (Blog | Twitter)

Adam Jorgensen (Blog | Twitter)

Patrick LeBlanc (Blog | Twitter)

In this full-day workshop, you’ll learn from the author team of Mike Davis, Adam Jorgensen, Devin Knight, and Patrick LeBlanc how to build a data warehouse for your company and support it with the Microsoft business intelligence platform. We’ll start with how to design and data model a data warehouse including the system preparation. Then, we’ll jump into loading a data warehouse with SSIS. After SSIS, you’re ready to roll the data up and provide the slice and dice reporting with SSAS. The team will walk through cube development and data enrichment with things like key performance indicators, which are essential for your future dashboards.  Lastly, we will cover how to report against the data warehouse with SSRS, including a primer in how to write MDX queries against the SSAS cube.

What you can expect to take away from this session:

  1. Practical knowledge of building a Dimensional Model
  2. Designing a simple ETL process using SSIS
  3. Designing a Cube
  4. Designing simple SSRS Reports
  5. Building an integrated process that fully leverages the entire MS BI stack to load a Data Warehouse.

You can register here and pre-con fee is $199 (which includes lunch). This is a great deal so what are you waiting for? Sign up today as slots are filling up fast! See you at SQLRally!

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Find Table Heaps Using Policy-Based Management

This is just a quick post in regards to a conversation I just had via Twitter. If you don’t already use Twitter, the SQL Community has setup a great resource on there using the hashtag of #sqlhelp.

Today a conversation came up due to a forum question over at SQLServerCentral regarding applying policies to databases with tables that have heaps. If you’re not familiar with the term, a heap is a table that has no clustered index on it. This can be problematic from a performance stand point so it might benefit you to find a way to identify these potential problem children. Enter Policy-Based Management.

This is a simple policy that you can run against your servers and it will identify your tables that are heaps. Just to clarify this policy identifies if your table has a clustered index on it. If it doesn’t then it will fail policy check. I’ve provided two ways to get the policy.

Download policy by clicking here

OR (Updated 4/15/11 to include creation script for condition)

--CREATE CONDITION
Declare @condition_id intEXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_condition @name=N'Find heaps', @description=N'', @facet=N'Table', @expression=N'<Operator>  <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>  <OpType>EQ</OpType>  <Count>2</Count>  <Attribute>    <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>    <Name>HasClusteredIndex</Name>  </Attribute>  <Function>    <TypeClass>Bool</TypeClass>    <FunctionType>True</FunctionType>    <ReturnType>Bool</ReturnType>    <Count>0</Count>  </Function></Operator>', @is_name_condition=0, @obj_name=N'', @condition_id=@condition_id OUTPUTSelect @condition_id
GO

--CREATE POLICY
Declare @object_set_id int
EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_object_set @object_set_name=N'Find Table Heaps_ObjectSet', @facet=N'Table', @object_set_id=@object_set_id OUTPUT
Select @object_set_id

Declare @target_set_id int
EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_target_set @object_set_name=N'Find Table Heaps_ObjectSet', @type_skeleton=N'Server/Database/Table', @type=N'TABLE', @enabled=True, @target_set_id=@target_set_id OUTPUT
Select @target_set_id

EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_target_set_level @target_set_id=@target_set_id, @type_skeleton=N'Server/Database/Table', @level_name=N'Table', @condition_name=N'', @target_set_level_id=0
EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_target_set_level @target_set_id=@target_set_id, @type_skeleton=N'Server/Database', @level_name=N'Database', @condition_name=N'', @target_set_level_id=0

GO

Declare @policy_id int
EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_syspolicy_add_policy @name=N'Find Table Heaps', @condition_name=N'Find heaps', @policy_category=N'', @description=N'Heaps are tables without clustered indexes. Read the link below to learn more about heaps.', @help_text=N'Fragmentation (part 4):what are heaps? by Paul Randal', @help_link=N'http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sqlserverstorageengine/archive/2006/09/19/761437.aspx', @schedule_uid=N'00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000', @execution_mode=0, @is_enabled=False, @policy_id=@policy_id OUTPUT, @root_condition_name=N'', @object_set=N'Find Table Heaps_ObjectSet'
Select @policy_id

GO
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Meme Monday: 11 Words or Less

Looks like time for another meme, this time from Tom LaRock (Blog | Twitter). He challenged us to write a blog post in 11 words or less, so here’s my entry:

With a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Use tools appropriately.

If you’re reading this then I’m tagging you! If you don’t blog then add you 11 word post in comments below!

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