Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SQL Server 2014 CTP1 & SQL Server Data Tools June 2013 Update

At the beginning of the month I posted about the next version of SQL Server being called SQL Server 2014, well now the first publicly available build of it is available for download! You can download it from this link along with a post about the new features included. To download it you will need to have a TechNet or MSDN subscription, which I have recommended for anyone that works with the Microsoft server technologies before to keep up with the latest versions.

There is also a good blog posts about getting started with the new in-memory OLTP in SQL Server 2014 (previously called Hekaton) by the SQL Server database team. I'm sure that there will be more of these posts for the other new features in SQL Server 2014 over time. If you have access to an Azure account you can now also create a VM with SQL Server 2014 CTP1 via a template, which is a really quick way to get a new server setup to test out.

And for those that are using SQL Server 2012 a new update to SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) has also been updated with the new June 2013 update. New features added include Data Compare, Extensibility and Build & Deployment Contributors and a few others. When you go to the download page you will also notice that there is a separate download for what is now being called SSDT-BI for Visual Studio 2012. Not sure why Microsoft is doing this, but yet again the BI functions look like they are being separated out into separate downloads. This goes against everything that I thought SSDT was going to fix with it being a single tool, but I'm guessing the different groups in Microsoft are having issues working together to provide a single download for all functions in SSDT, which is too bad.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Midlands SQL Server User Group - June 2013 Monthly Meeting

Thank you to all of those that came to the Midlands SQL Server User Group meeting tonight in the Columbia, SC area. I presented my "Capture Change and Apply it With Change Data Capture & SSIS 2012" session and there were lots of good questions that I hope will lead to at least some of the attendees trying out CDC in their environments!

Below is the link that I promised during the session to download both the presentation slides and all of the scripts and code that I used in the demo.

The requirements for these samples to work are SQL Server 2012 EvaluationDeveloper or Enterprise Editions, AdventureWorks2012 and AdventureWorks2012DW. Also as I mentioned in the session you must have full admin rights to the SQL Server instance that you are going to try and setup CDC on, so a local instance on your own workstation/VM is recommended.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Office Mobile for iPhone (with Office 365)

Microsoft just released Office Mobile for iPhone today! This is the long rumored application that Microsoft has been ready to release for quite awhile, but holding off until it could figure out how the purchasing would work with the Apple App Store. I'm not sure if/how they worked all of that out, but I do know that the app is free in the App Store and it requires an Office 365 Home Premium or ProPlus subscription. I already have a Home Premium subscription, so I was able to just click the button to sign in to my existing account and it worked. There is a button for those that don't have an Office 365 subscription, not sure where that goes, but I assume it will take you to the appropriate Microsoft page to buy the subscription (which is where the issues with the Apple App Store come in).

This app does not currently connect with Enterprise versions of Office 365, as I tried to log into my accounts provided by Microsoft for our User Group and my company and neither worked. The good news is that once you sign in with your Office 365 Home Premium or ProPlus subscription then you can add other sources for documents (called Places in the app) and from there you can connect to any Office 365 Enterprise account (using the Office 365 SharePoint option in the Add a Place screen) or even your Enterprise hosted SharePoint server (using the SharePoint option in the Add a Place screen).

The benefits to the Office 365 Home Premium subscription are huge the more computers that you plan to install the Office applications on to. You get 5 full licenses to the whole Microsoft Office suite for PC or Mac  and it will always be the latest version of Microsoft Office. Plus you get 20GB of extra space on your SkyDrive account, for me that bumped me up around 50GB total. You also get 60 minutes of Skype World minutes to use on a Skype account for calls around the world. And you get free access to all of these mobile applications that Microsoft is starting to roll out for all platforms. I think that it is an awesome deal at $99.99/year or $9.99/month.

For now it is only on the iPhone, but that is great for my use since I always have my iPhone with me and now if I need to do some quick edits or bring up one of the many Office documents I have on my SkyDrive I can view/edit them in the more familiar Office apps, instead of risking editing them on another app that might mess up the document. Hopefully in the near future this will also come out for the iPad, but at least for now I have it on the mobile device that I use the most.

For more information, here is the link to the Microsoft Office blog post about the iPhone app and the Microsoft Office 365 home page.

While this may not seem like it is a Microsoft BI related post, I'm hopeful that this will also lead to the Excel version on the iPhone doing all of the same cool BI stuff that we can do on the desktop in the near future! I'll let you know as I use the apps more if I find any of that or when those new features are added.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Visual Intelligence - Book Review

Time for something a bit different on my blog, a book review! I haven't done any book reviews on here before because I'm not much of a book reader and especially not technical books. Usually I just skip around and reference the chapters that I need, but for this book I actually read it cover to cover. And on top of all that I'm reviewing a book that I actually know all of the authors, so no pressure.

The book that I'm reviewing is "Visual Intelligence: Microsoft Tools and Techniques for Visualizing Data" by Mark Stacey (blog | Twitter), Joe Salvatore (blog) and Adam Jorgensen (blog | Twitter) published by Wiley on April 2013. The first thing that you will notice about this book is that it is published in color, and no I'm not just talking about the cover, but the pages in the book actually have color printing throughout. While most of you may think that this isn't a big deal, for technical books it is very rare that you can get a publisher to take this risk since it does add to the cost of the printing the book. In the case of this book though, it is required that it be printed in color because of the different visualizations being shown throughout along with helping to highlight points throughout about good and bad use of color in visualizations. There are many diagrams, screenshots and pictures throughout the book, which help to summarize the various tools that are being referenced. This is probably the strongest point about this book is that it does a great job outlining exactly what each Microsoft visualization tool does and does not do. The technologies covered are all Microsoft in this book, so you will not find any comparisons in detail on the Microsoft tools over a competitor, which I think helps to narrow the focus of this book and prevents it from becoming overly complex in explaining what each tool can or cannot do. The Microsoft technologies covered span from Microsoft Excel, SQL Server Reporting Services, PerformancePoint to the newest PowerPivot and Power View and few others in-between.

This book is great for anyone that is evaluating various Microsoft visualization tools and having a hard time deciding which ones to use in their applications. It is also great review for those that have used most or all of these technologies over the years to make sure you understand them and help to explain the newer ones that you may not know so much about. I have used all of the tools mentioned in this book in various applications over the years, so for me this book provided a great resource for clearing up why certain tools only do things in a very specific way. In the end I think that I will use this book in the future as a reference tool when I go into a client that is not sure what visualizations they want to use to help make the discussions go quicker and be able to provide quick samples of each.

I also want to mention that there are exercises that you can do in just about every section of this book. I did not actually go through these exercises at this time, but I do hope to have the time to go back and do that in the near future. To do all of these exercises you will need quite a bit of software since Microsoft has all of these tools spread across the SQL Server, SharePoint and Office families of products. There are instructions provided or links mentioned in the book for how to get all of this software setup along with where to get the sample data used. There is also a website setup by Wiley for this book that contains more information related to the book.

Overall, I found this book to be a very easy read and provided a great overview of lots of different tools in the Microsoft product list that can be used for visualizing data. The book also throws in some of the history of visualizations too, which I found really fascinating, especially the pictures of some very early ones. If you are thinking about using Microsoft tools for data visualization and unsure which tools to use, this book would be perfect for you since it will give you the details for each tool and what its strengths and weaknesses are. Even if you are a developer that works with these technologies, I'm sure just like me you still can get confused on which tools do which visualizations better than others, so it works as a great quick reference for that as well. And if you are looking for just that type of comparison, Appendix A has all of the features for each tool summarized in tables that makes it very easy to find the right tool for the job.

If you are interested in getting this book, below is the link to to pick it up and it is also available in Kindle format, but I would recommend only reading that on a color device (Kindle Fire, iPad, Surface or any other color capable tablet/e-book reader).

Monday, June 3, 2013

BIG SQL Server Updates!

Wow, take a vacation for a week and all kinds of great things get announced for SQL Server!

For those that missed it, with SQL Server 2012 SP1 Cumulative Update 4 included changes that allow for Power View to now access Multidimensional cubes! Previously Power View was only able to use the newer Tabular Data Models, but now you can use your existing Multidimensional cubes built in SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). This change also makes it so that you can write the same DAX queries in your Power View reports against those same Multidimensional cubes without requiring you to use MDX (MultiDimensional eXpressions). The only downside is that it only works with the Power View integrated into SharePoint 2010/2013. Eventually the Power View that is built into Excel 2013 should be able to do this as well, but at this time that update is not yet available (keep your eye on my blog I will make sure to mention it as soon as it is available).

The other big news came out of TechEdNA 2013 in New Orleans today, the next release of SQL Server is going to be named SQL Server 2014! I heard rumours that the SQL Server team was moving away from the R2 name that they used to use for the in-between release (Windows Server teams are still using R2 as they announced Windows Server 2012 R2 as well). The biggest new feature of SQL Server 2014 will be the previously announced "Hekaton" project or In-Memory OLTP as they are calling it now. Should help to provide some amazing performance for databases. Along with that there are many more updates to futher add more cloud/Azure functionality and make it easier to transition to that from traditional on-prem servers. For more details, see this post from the Microsoft SQL Server team and keep you eyes here as I will keep you updated on what I hear as well!

More exciting times ahead with SQL Server, glad I got those SQL Server 2012 certifications out of the way, so that I can be ready for the 2014 versions next year!

SQLSaturday #200 - Philadelphia

Thanks to everyone that attended my "ABCs of CDC with SSIS 2012" at SQLSaturday #200. Got lots of great questions during the session and great reviews/feedback after the session as well. As promised, here is the link to download all of the materials from the session.

I had a fantastic time in Philly visiting with my Dad, who lives in the area and getting to do the tourist thing for a couple days. Even got to try the famous Pat's Cheesesteak (witout onions) and visit the Valley Forge National Park. Lots of fun and hoping that I don't wait another 15 years to get back to Philadelphia.

Thanks again to all of the organizers/sponsors/speakers/volunteers of the SQLSaturday #200 event, things ran very smooth and it was a good turnout. I was honored to be part of the bi-centennial event and to meet so many new people.