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Denis Gobo

Interview With SSIS Guru Jamie Thomson

I asked for some names of people who you would like to see interviewed here at Sqlblog and Jamie Thomson's name popped up a couple of times. I contacted Jamie and he was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer these questions.  So, here are the questions.

 

How excited are you about SQL Server Data Services (SSDS)?

I’d say that “intrigued” is more the right word as opposed to “excited”. I’ve got more than a passing interest in machinations in the internet space as well as my obvious interest in SQL Server so SSDS marries those two things up rather well. Frankly, everything that travels on the internet is data in one shape or another so I believe that the skills and experience that we as data professionals apply today in hosted database applications will serve us well when data is stored in the cloud. I don’t know when cloud storage usage will hit that upward inflexion point; five, fifteen, fifty years, who knows?; but I am convinced that it will happen eventually.

 

What are the most important things a person can do to master SQL Server?

 Oh that’s easy to answer, although a bit corny. Just flip open your laptop and start using it. I’m a great believer that training courses and books can only take you so far in the pursuit of wisdom, if you want the knowledge to sink in then you’ve got to get on and put the theory into practise. I’ve been to many training courses and presentations in my life and to be honest a lot of what I hear has left my head before I’ve even got to the exit. SQL Server Express is free so it downloaded and start playing – that’s what I did. I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. I realised recently that I wasn’t completely au fait with transaction isolation levels in SQL Server so rather than digging out a book on it I opened my laptop and started hacking away and now I have a set of scripts that illustrate the theory perfectly – its definitely the best way to learn

 

What are the most important things a person can do to master Transact-SQL?

As before, just start using it. Books Online is a much-maligned resource but its invaluable to have that wealth of knowledge at your fingertips so if you’re stuck on anything just hit the F1 button and you can usually find the answer after a bit of searching (it takes a while – Books Online’s search abilities aren’t the greatest). We’re also lucky in the SQL Server community that there are so many great online resources where you can ask questions and learn from people with the experience so make sure that you put those resources to good use. I started with SQLServerCentral.com which is a really useful site and the SQL Server forums on MSDN at http://tinyurl.com/5pyqpg  are also invaluable. Not long ago I was speaking to a guy from the SSIS team that had recently joined from IBM and he said that when he joined he was taken aback at the plethora of community engagement that exists around Microsoft products. He’d never experienced anything like that at IBM.

 

What is the most popular article on your site?

 Another easy one. Its my blog entry entitled Suggested Best Practices and naming conventions that I published in January 2006. I’m really pleased about that too because I’m a huge proponent of employing best practices and consistent ways of working. I accepted a long time ago that there are much smarter guys than me around doing SSIS development so decided that if I could impart knowledge about the best way to accomplish something rather than covering the stuff that is really hard to do then that might be of real value. In a way that blog entry is a culmination of everything that my blog is about. Its always a work in progress as well because I’m constantly updating it; the most recent update was just last week.

 

What new things in SSIS in SQL server 2008 are you looking forward to?

The new Lookup component in SSIS 2008 is a vast improvement on the old one in my opinion so I would probably plump for that. Its a painstaking experience to have to recharge a Lookup cache that exists in a ForEach Loop and the new Lookup component goes some way to alleviating that (although not far enough in my opinion). The fact that rows that result in a cache miss are no longer treated as errors is also a big plus.

 

What would you like to see in the next version of SQL Server (not 2008) in terms of SSIS?

 SSIS doesn’t have a great story around reusability. There is no real notion of “build once, use many times”. We can distribute these monolithic files called packages around, and that’s OK, but it would be great to have finer-grained control than that. I think it would be a huge step forward to be able to take, for example, a data flow and instantiate it in multiple packages. You can do that today by siphoning the dataflow into a dedicated package but that’s not an ideal solution in my book because there is an overhead involved in spinning up extra packages just for single discrete operations. On the same theme there was a feature that was slated for SSIS2008 but eventually got pushed out, that being the ability to take a group of components and instantiate them in different dataflows (aka flowlets) – I hope to see that in the next version.

 

What SQL Server books are on your bookshelf?

 Compared to some of my peers I probably don’t have that many – I don’t think I’ve ever managed to read a textbook cover-to-cover. I have Kirk Haselden’s “SQL Server integration Services”, Brian Knight et al’s “Professional SQL Server Integration Services” and “Inside SQL Server 2005 : T-SQL Programming” by Itzik Ben Gan but they’re all gathering dust in a box somewhere. As I said before, I prefer to just get the laptop out and start hammering away with Books Online as my trusty sidekick.

 

Do you think that DT_DBTIMESTAMP was named incorrectly, after all if you need to use timestamp you need DT_BYTES?

 I’d prefer to say that the TIMESTAMP datatype synonymn in SQL Server is a misnomer rather than DT_DBTIMESTAMP being named incorrectly..

 

What about SSIS do you love the most?

 I think I’m on record as saying that expressions are one of my favourite features of SSIS so I guess I’d have to go with that. Yeah, I can’t imagine developing SSIS packages without expressions to be honest. “Love” is pushing a bit though. Who asked that question? J

What do you miss from DTS which is not available in SSIS?

I wasn’t a heavy user of DTS so am not really qualified to answer but I think I speak for the community when I say that the Import/Export wizard in DTS is more user-friendly than the one provided with SSIS.

 

Why can't you overwrite an Excel file in SSIS/DTS but you can overwrite a text file?

I have no idea. I didn’t even know that this was the case. JET engine peculiarities perhaps?

 

Which SSIS component should be used a lot more than it is used now?

 There aren’t really any components that deserve to be used more per se because your choice of component is usually dictated by the requirement that you are trying to fulfil. Having said that I generally warn people off from using the Slowly Changing Dimension wizard in favour of Lookups so for that reason alone I would probably have to say the Lookup component.

Do you think that the addition of C# in SSIS is good?

 Undoubtedly. Its always good to have options for programming languages.

 

Name some of your favorite blogs.

This is hard because according to Google Reader I am subscribed to over 250 feeds. In the SQL space Bob Beauchemin’s blog is a must have as is the UK SQL community feed at http://sqlblogcasts.com/blogs/  and of course SQLBlog at http://sqlblog.com/blogs. You pretty much cover the majority of the best SQL bloggers out there with those feeds. Away from SQL Server I closely follow Dare Obasanjo at http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/, you’re always good for a bit of controversy when he writes something. Joe Gregorio (http://bitworking.org/news/) and Sam Ruby (http://intertwingly.net/blog/), even though I don’t know what they’re on about half the time, are also worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and even though I abhor the main guy that writes it, Techcrunch (www.techcrunch.com) is unmissable. I’d like to say Channel 9 was on my recommended list but there seems to be a dearth of SQL Server content on there in my, admittedly biased, opinion.

 

Where can we see you in the near future? Any seminars, talks, events or books in the pipeline?

No, none at all. The biggest “speaking engagement” I have coming up is saying “I do” at my impending wedding to my wonderful fiancée Helen so SQL activities are on the backburner for a while.

 

Published Wednesday, July 02, 2008 11:06 AM by Denis Gobo
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Comments

 

Mark Wisecarver said:

Congrats Jamie. ;-)

July 3, 2008 9:07 AM
 

Kelly Martens said:

Congrats to you Denis on your MVP selection. Love your blog.

July 3, 2008 9:14 AM
 

Anthony said:

How about fixing the bugs in SSIS?  

1) Cant CSV import text files, quote delimited, which have embedded quotes in the character fields.  DTS can do it.  Access and Excel can do it.  SSIS chokes.

2) Cant import variable record length files.  SSIS mangles and destroys the destination data.

Come on guys, these are "101" features.  And I dont want to hear "you can add another step to......" because you dont need another step in "lesser" software.  

August 7, 2008 9:31 PM

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About Denis Gobo

I was born in Croatia in 1970, when I was one I moved to Amsterdam (and yes Ajax is THE team in Holland) and finally in 1993 I came to the US. I have lived in New York City for a bunch of years and currently live in Princeton, New Jersey with my wife and 3 kids. I work for Dow Jones as a Database architect in the indexes department, one drawback: since our data goes back all the way to May 1896 I cannot use smalldates ;-( I have been working with SQL server since version 6.5 and compared to all the other bloggers here I am a n00b. Some of you might know me from http://sqlservercode.blogspot.com/ or even from some of the newsgroups where I go by the name Denis the SQL Menace If you are a Tek-Tips user then you might know me by the name SQLDenis, I am one of the guys answering SQL Questions in the SQL Programming forum.

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