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Merrill Aldrich

Technical content about Microsoft data technologies. All opinions expressed are purely my own and do not reflect positions of my employer or associates.

Miscellanea: Kids, School, Oracle, Analysis Services, PerformancePoint

I haven’t been posting much lately – I’ve had a lot of very interesting stuff going on, but have also been trying to keep an eye on my work/life balance. So today it’ll have to be bullets that I hope to follow up with real posts at some future date:

Good Thing: my kids started school this month. The older one is in kindergarten, the younger in half-day preschool. They both seem to love it and they are really thriving; it’s amazing how much they are changing even daily.

I’m volunteering to help out with the school’s web presence, which doesn’t sound like much, except that this is Arbor Heights Elementary – and if you were involved with the web back in the early to mid ‘90’s you might know is one of the very first schools ever to have a web site. If you had access to Mosaic back in the day, you could hit the image maps on the site and learn about the Earth Day Groceries project. Mark Ahlness still teaches at the school and uses the web in his classes. It should be fun to help out.

Good Thing: I was finally able to successfully introduce Analysis Services at my workplace. I’d tried this at my previous job, but the stars just didn’t quite align there due to a combination of “biological issues” – essentially business people who gave lip service to wanting quantitative data about the business, as long as it was

  • a) free of both cost and effort
  • b) not impactful to their preferred decision making process, which was a cross between cowboy/hunch and seat-of-the-pants guesswork
  • c) most importantly, not politically damaging to them by exposing their actual financial performance

Happily I am in a much better place, where we have a good BI system in place from a cultural point of view. The main issue with it was that it used only a relational data warehouse as a back end, which is relatively big, costly and slow for many types of analysis. So I was able to sell the SSAS notion pretty easily, but then of course…

Good Thing: I’ve had to learn Analysis Services and some basic MDX. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. Having sold the idea, I then had to make it work :-). MDX is interesting, but very hard for someone so entrenched in SQL.

Good Thing: We didn’t just implement SSAS – we are deploying the whole soup-to-nuts BI enchilada including SharePoint 2010 with PerformancePoint Dashboards plugged into SSAS. PerformancePoint is interesting in a version 1 sort of way; I am eager to see where it goes when it becomes more fully featured. At least the charts look good, which is a step forward.

Bad Thing: We lost a long-time team member at work to greener pastures. He did seem a little burned out. That took our little team of DBAs down to three; we do have a contractor in to help out, but it’s meant taking up the extra work and postponing some things we’d like to do. I am looking a little harried.

Good Thing: Our little team was comprised of Oracle and SQL Server DBAs separately, but we’re working to combine the team and skills into one cross-platform well-oiled machine. I’ve been cross-training the Oracle guys -- who, by the way, are brilliant, so they essentially teach themselves and ask me the occasional question -- and have put one or two toes in Oracle myself. They are coming with me to PASS in November.

The Oracle RDBMS itself has some amazing stuff that SQL Server doesn’t, but also feels a little raw from a user perspective due to basically a total lack of a mature GUI client. (Yes, Questies, we have Toad :-). I’m still waiting to get to the good stuff everyone promises is in there; so far I can’t say I love it. It’s just so ugly. It feels a little like back when I was in college and someone put me in front of emacs on a Sun Sparc, with wild-eyed promises of its awesomeness. Trying to keep an open mind.)

Good Thing: My two toes in Lake Oracle have to to with a project to do data obfuscation for test and dev data using SSIS. We shopped some commercial tools for this, but they were unreasonably expensive and lacked key features. Instead, I put my hand up to handle this with SSIS packages and save the money. I am happy to report that the SSIS 2008 + MS Oracle Connector by Attunity combination is outstanding. Saved my bacon. And this little project has allowed me to do a deeper dive into SSIS features I had not used much, like the lookup cache transform. If only the days had 26 hours.

Good/Bad Thing: I’m blogging on a MacBook Pro in a Starbucks. This might mean I have become an insufferable yuppie. Note to self: inspect lifestyle and values…

Published Wednesday, September 29, 2010 10:08 AM by merrillaldrich

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