SQL Server 2012: Business Intelligence Edition

Well this was quite the little surprise this morning. Microsoft announced a new edition to the SQL Server lineup for 2012 – Business Intelligence edition. In addition to a new edition (funnily I don’t see Datacenter in that lineup) we also have a new licensing scheme for SQL Server. In SQL 2012 it looks like Microsoft is finally moving to the core-based licensing model. Ladies and gentlemen, start your grumbling! Okay, seriously, the new licensing scheme shouldn’t be that big of a shock to anyone. I think most of us have been expecting this for quite some time as it only makes sense as newer processors are coming with more and more cores.

As for the new edition of SQL Server, I think it’s an interesting move to say the least. As SQL Server adoption in the enterprise keeps going up, it kind of makes sense that they’d make a dedicated edition for the BI stack. The last few releases of SQL Server have been BI-feature heavy and when you’re architecting your setup, you should be setting up dedicated boxes (if possible) for the BI stack anyways. In my eyes this is a pretty smart move, although I’m sure some will disagree. With the separation of church and state Engine and BI you can now have a little more flexibility in your choices, especially regarding licensing.

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So what does the new licensing change mean for you? Should you be worried? Well if you’re not sure how your licenses are currently distributed or what you have out in your enterprise deployed right now, I HIGHLY suggest you download and use the MAP Toolkit. This free tool will not only discover instances in your enterprise (not only SQL Server!) but it will give you some really great detailed information including usage information (this is a must-use tool if you’re considering consolidation), editions, number of cores, etc. Run it against your environment and then have a chat with your local Microsoft rep about how the new changes might affect your existing infrastructure.

What are your thoughts on the new changes? Like it? Hate it? Don’t care? Let me hear it in the comments.

Deploying SSIS Packages with BIxPress

oldbusted-newhotness
Same functionality but obvious differences

If you’ve worked with SSIS for any amount of time, you may quickly come to find that the native way of deploying packages can be…cumbersome. The native tools, while helpful, aren’t exactly the most intuitive to setup or use. This post will show you how you can quickly and easily deploy and configure packages using BIxPress.

Old and Busted

Before I show you how to deploy packages, I should probably quickly explain how to deploy packages in SSIS using native methods. I won’t go into every single detail here on how to deploy packages natively, however, if you’re interested in doing it step-by-step the built-in Help in Business Intelligence Development Studios (BIDS) has a complete walkthrough tutorial for you to check out. To access those tutorials simply press Ctrl+F1 from within BIDS (or click on Help menu and select How Do I from menu). From the ‘How Do I?’ list click on Find Tutorials, Integration Services and then select your tutorial. The one I’m referring to in this post is the Tutorial: Deploying Packages.

The condensed version of the tutorial is this: in order to deploy packages you have to go through a series of steps that aren’t exactly obvious from the interface. First, you have to manually enable the ability to even deploy. You get to this by going to the properties of the project, go to Deployment Utility and set the CreateDeploymentUtility option to True. Once you’re done doing that, you have to build (or rebuild) the project for it to generate what is called a Deployment Manifest file. This file is saved to the file path configured for DeploymentOutputPath where you set the properties for the Deployment Utility. This part alone reeks of user-interface fail to me, but I digress.

Once you’ve created your deployment manifest you’ll need to copy that manifest file out to a share on the target server. After you’ve copied it there, you double click it to launch the Package Installation Wizard. This wizard is pretty typical of Microsoft wizards and is pretty straightforward as far as walking you through your various options. For complete details on deploying using the wizard, refer to the tutorial in the Help. By the time you’re done with the wizard you’ll have deployed the package but your options for customization of deployment are limited.

New Hotness

After learning SSIS over the past year, one of the things that BIxPress has absolutely spoiled me with is the ease of deploying packages. In BIDS just right-click on your package and select Deploy SSIS Package (BIxPress) from the context menu. This will launch the BIxPress Package Deployment wizard. The first screen that comes up gives you a few really cool options such as copying folder structures (if needed), deploy XML files for you if you used XML configurations, you can change the location of those configuration files on your target server, and even change the package level protection from here. These options here have made deployments a breeze for me as on QA servers I had clients putting configs in D:SSISConfigs and on production it was something different like E:SSIS_Configs. Being able to quickly and easily change these options on the fly has saved me tons of headaches.

The next screen is the real meat of this feature. Here you can actually select more than just the one package you right-clicked initially for deployment. Additionally you have lots of options for deploying to and from a server. You can deploy to/from your regular options of File System, SQL Server or SSIS Package Store but here its easily laid out for you for ease. Speaking of ease, ever wanted to deploy in the opposite direction (i.e. production to development)? Simply check off the box ‘Enable 2-way deployment’ and you can quickly deploy bi-directionally quickly and easily. Pretty slick, eh?

Once you check off the packages to deploy and select your deployment destination options, simply click the deploy button in the middle and it quickly deploys your packages. Once it is complete you get a summary of the deployment results which you can save for change management purposes. That’s it, you’re done!

If you want to try out BIxPress you can download a trial copy from the Pragmatic Works website.

We Are Community

Today I was planning on writing a summary post of PASS Summit experience but something happened last night that caused me to change up the queue for blog posts and quite frankly bothered me. Today I’d like to address a few things regarding the Community, behavior within it and just general thoughts about stuff. I apologize ahead of time for the word vomit you’re about to read.

So last night a certain individual began ranting to certain folks on Twitter about how what he thought about the MVP Award and how it seems like they “hand it to anyone now” based on “printing out a card for after hours events”. This person (whom for the time being I’m simply refusing to mention) had an opinion, which is fine. When myself and some others started reading this we began defending whom they were talking about, which in this case was Jen McCown (Blog | Twitter) of MidnightDBA fame. What was funny to me was that this person didn’t seem to want to have a reasonable conversation, they seemed to have an almost personal grudge. Even in email format (yes, some of us tried to reason with him in private as well), he kept up the childish name-calling and outlandish behavior.

Now granted, if you don’t like the MVP program or who is awarded, that’s fine and dandy and you can let the folks at Microsoft know (Blog | Twitter | Facebook). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when you put your opinion in a public forum and others challenge you on your statements don’t whine about it and throw a fit. Don’t break down into childish attacks. Don’t start attacking everyone with ridiculously stupid statements and then claim people are attacking YOU. Yes, all of this happened and more last night. Missed the fun? This guy got a new hashtag generated for him aptly named #sqlidiot.

Another interesting point came up during our “conversations” with this guy, namely he made a statement about us whining and we were taking Community vs Real Life. Let’s think about this for a second. The SQL Community is not exactly huge, and if you attended PASS Summit last week you get the sense that it’s more like a global family. Most of us know each other offline and a lot of us have never met but when we do finally meet in person you know each other so well you actually FORGET the fact that you’ve never met! We celebrate our triumphs together. We share our pain together. We pray together. We lift each other up and support each other. Hell, we even officiate each other’s weddings! This is Community. This is Family. To think that our interactions are limited to digital medium is both nearsighted and flat out wrong, it’s only a small part of a very large (and global) picture.

As witnessed last night you can see how protective we are of each other. Noticed I have not made mention of status at all. That’s because something like the MVP award, while cool, doesn’t mean you can’t/don’t belong in this family. From the person looking to start writing their first SQL query, to the professional speakers, to the folks writing the engine for the products we all know and love we are all One. Yeah, sounds a little over the top existential but I truly feel that way about this Community. When someone goes on a public forum and starts tearing others down, for no apparent reason whatsoever, don’t be shocked when you have quite a few folks fighting back. You may be brave behind a keyboard but I’d love for someone to try that nonsense at a SQLSaturday event or PASS Summit. It’s not Community vs Real Life, Community IS Real Life and I will defend it, and the people that make it up, until the very end.

Finally there’s general conduct. We’re all entitled to our own opinions but how you express those opinions, especially in a public forum like Twitter, is critical. I can have a conversation with someone and not see eye to eye with them, that’s fine. Resorting to childish name-calling and tired/pathetic ‘your mother’ comebacks just makes you look like an absolute idiot and you lose any and all credibility you may have had to start with. Some people tend to forget the acronym PASS stands for the Professional Association for SQL Server, emphasis on professional. While we do tend to have our after hours and colorful fun, you’ll rarely see someone all-out break that professional decorum. That’s a matter of respect, for both yourself and the people you interact with. Think about the consequences of your actions, ESPECIALLY in a public forum. The Internet, as they say, is forever (and Google Bing Bingle has a long and easily searchable memory).

I know some of you followed along closely last night and even chimed in with this guy, some of you lurked, some are probably hearing about this for the first time. What are your thoughts?

PASS Summit Keynote Day 1 Highlights

CLOUD! BIG DATA! EXCEL! CLOUD! CLOUD! Okay, recap done. Not really…sort of. In all honesty, while delivered in a fairly terrible fashion, there were some pretty big announcements made in today’s keynote. First let’s start with the one a lot of folks have been waiting on….

Official Names Revealed

The release of SQL Server we’ve known as “Denali” for the last 12 months now has an official name: SQL Server 2012! I know, not exactly exciting but at least it’s nice to have an official name. Also, since according to Mayan calendar the world ends this year anyways, this is THE LAST VERSION OF SQL SERVER YOU’LL EVER NEED!!! In addition to Denali SQL Server 2012 getting a name, we also got the official name for project “Crescent”, which is now officially known as PowerView.

 

BIG Data on Windows/Azure

Those worried about the NoSQL movement and how Microsoft would play in that space? No more worrying, now you get best of both worlds with the announcement of Microsoft’s support for Hadoop on Windows and Windows Azure! This is actually pretty exciting even though, in this blogger’s humble opinion, this kind of scale doesn’t matter for 99% of the folks out there. With this announcement, however, Microsoft has made huge strides in make the Cloud more relevant for big businesses. Want a multi-terrabyte system that scales? Windows Azure can handle that for you now. Want to handle that internally? Local options also supported. Or create a hybrid solution, the possibilities are actually fairly cool here.

The other story that was sold is that you can use Microsoft BI stack against your data in Hadoop. An example of this was shown by using PowerPivot to connect to Hadoop on Windows via the new ODBC connector. This connector will be available sometime in November as a CTP download. Speaking of connectors, Microsoft recently released connectors for PDW as well so you can connect big data with big iron for those who need that kind of data firepower.

 

Project “Data Explorer”

They also showed off a new tool which allows you to explore and merge data from Azure marketplace and various data sources. They spent a good chunk of time demoing bringing together data from Azure Marketplace, SQL Server and some other sources. Honestly I started tuning out a bit at this point since the #sqlpass stream became “interesting” at that point.

 

The rest of the keynote consisted of a rather downplayed series of demoes in Excel/PowerPivot/Power View. If you’d like you can check out the keynotes yourself here.

Expiring Databases and Policy-Based Management

Today on Twitter my friend Jes “Run Forrest Run” Schultz Borland (Blog | Twitter) asked the Community “How do you clean up your dev environments? Let DBs sit out there forever? Delete after X months? Other? This seemed like an interesting issue to tackle and me being the PBM freak that I am, immediately I had a light bulb moment for a policy. In this post I’ll show you a policy you can run against your databases (can work in dev or whatever environment suits you) and will tell you which databases are older than 30 days old. As an added bonus, I’ll also show you how to add a custom extended property to set a custom expiration date.

Continue reading “Expiring Databases and Policy-Based Management”

Small Business Hardware

[NOTE] My blog post scheduling-fu is weak, so this post didn’t go out Friday as planned. My apologies.

This is the final installment of our Small Business series. So far we talked about how to get the software, and we’ve talked about the different options of SQL Server available to you. Today we’re going to talk about what hardware you’ll need as a small business to setup your database environment for success.

Continue reading “Small Business Hardware”

SQL University: SQL Server Editions for Small Businesses

In our last session we talked a little bit about the different options you have in regards to SQL Server in your environment. We talked about HOW to get the software but now we’re going to talk about what the different editions are and what they offer you. For a quick comparison between editions you can use the Edition Comparison page at the Microsoft site. As a small business you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck. You also want to make sure that whatever decision you go with, you can easily scale up so your infrastructure can grow as your business does. Thankfully, SQL Server’s growth scale is pretty easy. We’re going to cover editions from the lowest level up.

Express Edition

This edition of SQL Server is free, which is great especially if you’re looking to get your feet wet developing on the platform and don’t have/not willing to put down the cash for a license just yet. Express edition is great if you’re looking to build small-scale applications or small desktop applications. Great thing about this edition is its also portable so as an ISV (Independent Software Vendor) you can actually create an application using Express Edition and bundle it with your own software.

The drawbacks for these lower editions come in the restrictions. For Express Edition you are restricted to 1 CPU, 1 GB memory utilized and the databases have a 10 GB size restriction. If you do decide to go with this and you find that it is too restricting for your needs, you can easily upgrade your instance to the next level up which is Standard Edition.

Compact Edition

Compact Edition is also a free edition of SQL Server however you won’t ever be running anything (read also: infrastructure) from your business off this. Why did I include this then? Well, there are small businesses out there that develop software for clients that are mobile or occasionally connected employees (think travelling salespersons). Compact Edition gives you the ability to create software and embed a database inside the application. This edition gives you the ability to use SQL Server on a small-scale and distribute with your applications for free.

Workgroup Edition

Workgroup edition is much less restrictive than Express edition, however this is edition you have to pay for. At this level you start getting more protective features such as Log Shipping, something that Express doesn’t offer. Also your restrictions go way up here as this edition supports up to 4 CPUs, 64 GB of memory and the database size limitation goes up to 524 PB! Also on the administrative side, you get the ability to use the SQL Agent which allows you to automate jobs on a schedule. This also allows you to create maintenance plans, use Database Mail and use Performance data collector (2008 R2 feature).

If you look at the pricing for this edition it is pretty close in price to Standard Edition, which makes me wonder why they even bother offering this as an option since they’re clearly trying to steer you towards Standard! This may not necessarily be a bad thing as Standard Edition is going to have everything you’ll need to get started but it just makes things kind of confusing for everyone when you offer so many options to begin with.

Web Edition

This is geared more towards the shops that will be using SQL Server on a public-facing website. This is important distinction to make as the licensing terms between this and some of the other higher-level editions (i.e. Standard, Enterprise) are different. For instance if you’re using SQL Server Standard edition internally and only 10 people/devices will be connecting to it, you can purchase individual CALs (Client-Access Licenses) at a much lower cost than a per processor license. A per processor license allows for unlimited connections to the target server. The Web edition’s license is only available on a per processor basis but its per processor cost is much lower than that of a Standard Edition but still offers pretty much the same feature-set as that of Standard. These types of distinctions are important to make as you want to make sure your company is properly aligned license-wise for your uses. Again, you can check out the Licensing page to get a quick look at each edition’s list prices for comparison.

Standard Edition

This is more than likely where most companies end up starting off at as far as choosing SQL Server for infrastructure use. Standard Edition offers a pretty comprehensive list of features, which you can check out here on the Features Supported page. Standard Edition is going to give you not only the full power of SQL Server but also the protection you need as a business in that it offers protective features such as database mirroring, log shipping, backup compression (the other editions do backups but don’t do compression, if you’re looking to save on disk space this is nice option to have), replication, automation, much more.

As a small business there are a few things you need to make sure you’re doing to protect yourself, namely backups (if you don’t do anything else, please PLEASE setup backups!!!) and general maintenance. Not sure what you need to do for either of those? Make sure you check out the Administration and High Availability/Disaster Recovery posts at SQL University to help give you some direction.

SQL Azure

SQL Azure is the new kid on the block and brings a whole new dimension to how you can use SQL Server in your enterprise. So far all of the editions we’ve discussed require you to not only purchase the software, but you’ll need hardware to set it up on! With SQL Azure those headaches are removed as Microsoft hosts your database instances for you in their data centers so you get the power of SQL Server plus the peace of mind that your databases and applications (they offer Windows Azure as well) is backed by an extremely robust and scalable infrastructure. In addition, they’ve started rolling out other nice features like Reporting Services and Data Sync. Data Sync is really cool as it allows you to sync your cloud databases with those already in your local environment. Please note both of these features have not been rolled out to production in Azure yet.

The other nice thing about Azure is that the pricing model is much different from what we’ve discussed so far. With Azure you pay for usage/data consumption rather than worry about processor licenses and all of that stuff. You can check out their FAQ page to answer a lot of questions you may have about this exciting new emerging offering. You can also check out their cool Pricing Calculator to help you figure out what your costs would look like.

As cool as Azure is, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows folks. Unfortunately there are feature limitations in Azure that may make this a deal-breaker for your company. You can see the full list of Feature Limitations here. Now before you read the list and freak about Backup/Restore and Replication not being supported hear me out: Azure is already doing both of those things for you in the back-end, hence you don’t need to handle it yourself. Buck Woody (Blog | Twitter) will be covering Azure more in-depth this semester or can check out this blog for everything you need to know.

Conclusion and Homework

Bottom line is there are many options available to you as a business to use SQL Server, the big question is what works right for you. Also bear in mind that you don’t have to just have one edition, you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Have a web application but you need to host it on-site? Get a web edition license and put it on a web server in your office. Need that same website to scale and not have to worry about infrastructure? Move it up to Azure. Have multiple applications that require SQL Server but each application has certain patching restrictions? Buy a standard edition license and create named instances all on one piece of hardware.

Your homework for this assignment is listed below. To complete this assignment post your response here or write up your own response blog post and link your post in the comment section below.

  • Figure out a licensing scheme for this fictitious startup company that has the following requirements –
  • Public-facing website that will handle light to moderate traffic at first. Must be able to scale in case demand ramps up rapidly.
  • This company develops software so would like to have a development, QA and production environment if possible.
  • Sales division has people that have mobile devices with partial copy of sales database on them. They need to be able to sync data up when they come back in to the office from the field. If possible, sync while on the go.
  • Need to be able to automate routine maintenance such as backups for all critical databases in-house.

SQL University: Architecture for Small Businesses

Welcome back to SQL University! This week we’re going to be discussing architecture. In previous weeks we’ve discussed architecture at a high level (Capacity Planning Week) but this week we’re going to get a little more focused. SQL Server is used by businesses of all sizes from local grocery stores to large-scale sites like MySpace (Case Study) or GoDaddy (Case Study). So why are we focusing on architecture for small businesses? The reason is that if you’re expecting for your grow and expand, making the right architectural choices up front can help reduce the headaches that come with potentially rapid growth.

Continue reading “SQL University: Architecture for Small Businesses”

SQLSaturday #85 Orlando: Pragmatic Works BI Pre-Con!

I’m very proud to announce that Pragmatic Works will be presenting a Business Intelligence Workshop pre-con for SQLSaturday #85 in Orlando on Friday September 23rd! In this session you’ll have not one, not two, not three but FOUR Pragmatic Works consultants walking you through how to develop a full business intelligence solution from the ground up! Your instructors for this awesome pre-con are:

Jorge Segarra (Twitter | Blog)

I’m a BI Consultant for Pragmatic Works and a SQL Server MVP. In addition to being a member of the Jacksonville SQL Server User Group (JSSUG) I’m also a PASS Regional Mentor for the U.S. Greater Southeast region. I have also co-authored the book from Apress “SQL 2008 Pro Policy-Based Management“. Redgate Exceptional DBA of the Year 2010 Finalist.

Mike Davis (Twitter | Blog)

Mike Davis, MCTS, MCITP, is a Senior BI consultant at Pragmatic Works. He is an author of a few Business intelligence books. Mike is an experienced speaker and has presented at many events such as several SQL Server User Groups, Code Camps, SQL Server Launches, and SQL Saturday events. Mike is an active member at his local user group (JSSUG) in Jacksonville, FL.

Brad Schacht (Twitter | Blog)

Bradley is a consultant at Pragmatic Works in Jacksonville, FL. He was an author on the book SharePoint 2010 Business Intelligence 24-Hour Trainer. Bradley has experience on many part of the Microsoft BI platform. He has spoken at events like SQL Saturday, Code Camp, SQL Lunch and SQL Server User Groups. He is a contributor on sites such as BIDN.com and SQL Server Central as well as an active member of the Jacksonville SQL Server User Group (JSSUG).

Kyle Walker (Blog)

Kyle is a Business Intelligence consultant for Pragmatic Works. His current and past work experience includes Integration Services, data warehousing concepts, Reporting Services, and Crystal Reports. He is active in the local and online community as a speaker for SQL Lunch, Jacksonville SQL Server Users Group, and past SQLSaturday events, as well as a blogger on BIDN.com.

Abstract:

In this full-day workshop, you’ll learn from the author team of Jorge Segarra, Mike Davis, Brad Schacht, and Kyle Walker 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.

Take Home Skills:

  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

See you all in Orlando!

OMG I’m an MVP!

I can’t believe it, but I can finally say that I’m now officially a Microsoft SQL Server MVP! Last week I got the great news from my MVP lead, Ryan Bolz (Twitter) in…a peculiar way. Allow me to explain. Typically MVP renewals and new awardees are notified four times a year, once every quarter. This past quarter’s notifications went out on July 1st. Like so many in the community, when the quarterly MVP day rolled around I was guilty of refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes for 24 hours hoping for that magic Wonka ticket into MVP-ville.

Felt a little something like this...

Alas, July 1st came and went with no email. Disappointed turtle was disappointed. Now I say I was disappointed since I knew I’d been nominated the last few quarters but hadn’t heard anything yet. And yes, I know “it’s the award you’re not supposed to want”, but still it’s stressful knowing you’re up for it but not hearing anything one way or the other. This time around I figured “oh well, keep it up and eventually…maybe”. Anywho, last week as I was at the JSSUG meeting when I got a DM from Ryan with the following: “Hi Jorge — Congratulations! You are a MVP. Call me so I can explain it all to you.”

Say WHAT?!? I checked and double checked the message to make sure it wasn’t some sort of sick prank. As soon as I got out of the meeting I gave Ryan a call to find out what was going on. I’d heard of folks getting awarded out of cycle before but I was still thoroughly confused as to what was going on! As it turns out, apparently I HAD been awarded MVP status in the July 1st batch but something went wrong with getting me the notification. For those not familiar with the process, Microsoft sends out the MVP emails en-masse to folks which seems to trip every spam filter around. Since this is the case, folks are told to check their spam folders on MVP day just in case. In my peculiar case it wasn’t a matter of spam filter black hole but rather an error in my contact information. Near as I can tell they had an invalid email address on file for me so they weren’t able to send me my notification!

Fast forward a few weeks and Ryan had gone on vacation and gotten sick during that period, when he finally got back to the office and catching up he somehow discovered that I had no idea I was awarded. That’s when he dug around and sent me a DM on Twitter as that was a guaranteed means of getting to me directly.

The Mushy Part

Story aside, I want to let you all know how truly grateful I am for this honor. It’s been a pleasure and privilege being a part of this amazing SQL community and this award just compels me to keep working even harder to deserve it. I want to thank everyone for the warm congrats and support, it means a LOT! I’d also like to send a special thank you to those who nominated me and sent me words of encouragement every quarter.

Speaking of working harder I got another piece of amazing news last week as well: I’ll be presenting for the first time at PASS Summit this year! What makes THAT even cooler is that the session is a Community Spotlight session, meaning you guys were gracious enough to cast your vote for me so I can bore educate the masses on Policy-Based Management at the Super Bowl/World Cup of SQL Server events! That being said thank you all so SO much for all your love and support and I look forward to continue serving this community for years to come!