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Rushabh Mehta

MS BI geek talk and the community

  • Board Members at the 2009 PASS Summit in Seattle

    This blog post is part of a series of regular PASS updates to the community that I will be posting on the main PASS Blog and will cross post here.

    It feels like eternity, yet only 6 weeks back the PASS community came together in Seattle for yet another exciting summit. The educational content was cutting edge and the company comprised of who's who of the Microsoft SQL Server world. This year's summit certainly did not fail to excite and rejuvenate everyone who attended.

     

    The PASS board and the terrific team at HQ worked extremely hard all year to build the community at large and support various community initiatives. The summit was a time for the entire team to reach into the community, to  receive input on how they had done so far and what they should do moving forward. Although the summit itself was demanding, it was also a time to celebrate successes.

     

    As we went through the pictures from the summit, we found this collection of amazing pictures of our board members. We hope you enjoy them as well.

  • Something to Look Forward to: A Unique SQL Server Conference

    A short while back Mosha wrote an interesting blog entry putting together a comparison between the upcoming MS BI conference and the 2008 PASS Summit. This comparison was based on the information that was publicly available at the time.  It got me thinking about the upcoming 2008 PASS Summit and the attendee experience planned. I realize that there is a lot of the summit experience that is still under planning or not fully confirmed and so, not communicated out. So, I am going to try in this blog.

    When I look at my own reasons for attending conferences in the past, 3 things come to mind - Networking, experience and education, in that order, although, I can see why most companies tend to decide on which conference to send employees to based on mainly the education aspect of a conference. So, I will talk about that aspect of the PASS summit first.

    The Education

    The PASS summit has over 150 deep technical session (including 14 deep dive pre-conference seminars) dedicated to SQL Server. There is something (or a lot) for everyone to learn. You will have a chance to learn from the experience of your peers in the community based on real facts and implementations – not the marketing spin. You will learn what works and what doesn’t work in a real-life implementation and you will learn best-practices. No other conference can claim to offer that depth of technical training. The summit also features a complete track (12 sessions) dedicated to best practices and implementation that is being delivered by the SQL CAT team. The PASS summit is also quite unique from any other conference that you may attend, in the diversity of speakers. Most other conferences generally have just a few expert speakers delivering multiple sessions. PASS has, at last count, 104 speakers delivering over 150 sessions! These speakers are not only industry experts and Microsoft product group members, but also our peers who have learnt in the trenches and are willing to share their experiences. This is one summit where you can come in and not only learn from others, but share your own experiences.

    Speaking of education, the PASS summit also features a Lounge which will contain a theater where experts will conduct chalk-talks in an interactive environment. Additionally, there will be hands-on labs where you will be able to learn how to use new features in SQL Server 2008, including Business Intelligence.

    All this great educational opportunity at the PASS summit certainly begs the question for Business Intelligence professionals about which conference to attend. If Mosha’s full day pre-conference session on Deep dive into MDX is not enough of a reason to attend the PASS summit, you should make PASS your summit choice if you are a BI professional that interacts with the SQL Server product stack or manages and administers Business Intelligence components in your organization. Some of the sessions we have include “Building a 100TB+ Scientific Data Warehouse” by Michael Thomassy, “Collecting Analysis Services Performance Data by using Management Data Warehouse, SQL Profiler, and AS DMVs in SSAS 2008” by Carl Rabeler, “Integrating Predictive Analysis throughout the Data Lifecycle” by Donald Farmer and “High Performance Data Warehouses in SQL Server 2008” by Erin Welker. I have in the past 2 weeks spoken to a number of Business Intelligence professionals and colleagues and a large number of them are planning on attending the PASS summit and many have also indicated interest in Mosha’s pre conference seminar! So, register before space fills up.

    The Experience

    This is the official Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Re-Launch Event! A target attendance of over 3000 professionals makes the upcoming PASS summit the largest global gathering of SQL Server professionals under one roof and a high-energy event you wouldn’t want to miss. Attendees will include a few hundred members of the SQL Server product development team from Microsoft who will not only be interacting and speaking with attendees, but also attending the sessions and in some cases providing perspective on the design aspects of certain features. More importantly they will be listening to your experiences and pain points so that they can enhance the product.

    Also attending will be top experts from the community including SQL Server MVP’s who will be delighted to spend time answering your technical questions and helping solve those problems that have been plaguing you, at our Ask the Experts lounge. In fact, I am sure that many of your favorite bloggers will be at the summit looking forward to meeting you in person. One of the frequent feedbacks we have received from attendees in the past is that a few minutes of face-to-face time with one of the experts helping them solve their persistent problems have paid for the summit costs many times over. How’s that for value! We are also expecting over 200 Microsoft employees who design, build and manage SQL Server solutions and databases within Microsoft. So, this is an opportunity to find out how they “eat their own dog food”!

    Speaking of designing, building and managing solutions and databases, the summit will also feature the largest gathering of vendors dedicated to making products and solutions that allow you to extend your investments in the SQL Server product. You can learn about all these different (and some new) offerings and also compare them under one roof! One of our Platinum Sponsor this year is DELL and I am certain that you will hear about some of their Database solutions for SQL Server. This year, PASS will also (potentially) feature a new and exciting Lounge experience which I cannot talk about yet as details are not finalized – but you can expect to hear about it soon. You surely don’t want to miss finding out all about them!

    Part of the summit experience also includes discounted onsite certification exams where you can get certified in SQL Server 2008 product, participate in Microsoft focus groups and buy books at a discount from the book store.

    There will also be some very exciting announcements from Microsoft during keynotes featuring top Microsoft SQL Server Management executives, Ted Kummert, Tom Casey and David DeWitt. Ted will provide a sneak peek at the future of SQL Server and Microsoft’s data platform and discuss the latest release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and new technologies debuting in the short-term, as well as reveal plans for long-term technology developments that will change the data platform landscape. Tom will discuss the overall strategy, design, development and delivery of the Microsoft business intelligence platform with SQL Server 2008 and beyond, while David is expected to discuss his vision for the evolution of the database and Microsoft’s role in changing the face of data management.

    For many of us, who are managing mission critical systems back at work, being disconnected from the office is not an option, the venue features a number of internet stations and free wireless connectivity throughout the summit venue so that you can check on your emails and the health of your servers while on-site.

    This PASS summit also provides you some opportunity for relaxation and fun. Starting from our Heroes Unite theme, which will enhance your onsite experience, to the parties that we have planned for you (the Welcome reception on Tuesday, Expo Hall reception on Wednesday and a “signature” evening event on Thursday that you don’t want to miss), you are sure to have a blast! We are also hosting the SQL Heroes contest that you have an opportunity to participate in. Additionally, there might be opportunities to attend other vendor sponsored parties. Be sure to walk through the Expo hall and talk to vendors to find out more.

    The Networking

    Now, this is why I attend the PASS summit. This is my opportunity to get to meet and know my peers and make friends, getting to know people who I can reach out to long after the summit. PASS is where I first met Kevin Kline, Wayne Snyder, Peter DeBetta, Fernando Guerrero, Kirk Haselden and a host of other community leaders who I now consider good friends. These networking opportunities are everywhere at the PASS summit starting from the welcome reception and stretching all throughout the summit, whether at the Lounge, trade-show floor, at one of the various parties or just out in the halls. I encourage all of you to take maximum advantage of this great opportunity to get to know your peers.

    It all adds up to real Value!

    The education and experience I described above is just a small part of the overall summit experience. The value that this summit provides you reaches far beyond the on-site experience. For example, many of the break-out sessions are recorded and available to all attendees online after the summit. This allows you to review those sessions that you could not personally attend because of the sheer amount of session choices in each time slot. You also have the opportunity to purchase a DVD of the sessions so that you can watch it at your leisure. Many of our speakers are also readily accessible to you. So, you can contact them with specific questions on their sessions even after the summit.

    You should register now to reserve your seat at the summit before it potentially sells out due to on-site capacity constraints this year. To make your registration even more valuable, you should be able to find discount codes on some of the community sites that you regularly visit, like SQLBlog.com or SQLTeam.com. Check this link to find even more valuable discount offers from Solid Quality Mentors that you can take advantage of. They will certainly extend the value of your registration $’s.

    I would love to hear from you, if you are planning to attend. If you are a speaker or an MVP, please consider writing a short blog about what you are planning on speaking about at PASS or what you are most looking forward to at the PASS Summit.

     

    Consider this your call to action to register now! And oh – be sure to make on-site plans ahead of time using our online scheduler (going live in a couple of weeks) to make the most of your summit experience. See you in Seattle this November!
  • Custom Components posted on CodePlex

    If you recall my earlier post on Custom components, I just wanted to provide you an update that the 2 components have been posted on CodePlex. You can get the links from Jessica's blog. I would love to hear from any of you who end up using the components or just re-purpose the code. As I mentioned in my earlier post, these source codes can also act as a great starting point for some custom logic that you need to implement for your SSIS packages.
  • Webcast on SSRS 2008 and others

    Last night (very very late), I attended a live webcast delivered by Peter Myers on SSRS 2008. It was a great introduction to SSRS and the new (some quite refreshing) changes. I continue to be impressed by the power of tablix and of course the dundas charts.I am certainly looking forward to working more with SSRS 2008.

    BTW: Jessica Moss and I are delivering a webcast on SSIS Intro next week, but I am more excited about some other upcoming webcasts being delivered by Greg Low, Randy Dyess, Sony Jose and Craig Utley. You can find out about these webcasts and also about the recordings here. Hope to catch you there next week.

  • Gracefully Handing Task Error in SSIS Package

    I am sure that there is already some blog or article about this. But, I encountered this today and decided to go ahead and blog anyway. I had a situation, where I expected at certain times (the first of every month), a task to fail, but regardless, I wanted the package to continue to run with success. One other issue, I had, was that I did not want to Error Handler of the package to kick off in case of this task failure. Also, since the task was in a Sequence Container, it was causing the Sequence Container execution results to be Failure thus invoking the "On Failure" workflow.

     

     Default behavior

    This is the default behavior where the task failure for the “Drop active jobs partition” SSAS DDL task invokes the error handler at the package level (which is where I have a global error handler) and invokes a failure of its parent container. Since I know that this task is bound to fail the 1st of every month (In this scenario, I am dropping, creating and processing a monthly SSAS partition on a daily which won’t exist on the 1st of a given month), I want to gracefully “ignore” this failure and not signify a failure or write error rows in my error log tables. So, the way to handle this scenario was..

    1.       Create an “On Error” Event Handler on the task “Drop active jobs partition” – You can leave the event handler blank with no tasks

    On Error Event Handler

    2.       To Prevent the error from going further up the chain, open up the System Variables from within the On Error error handler of the task and change the Propogate property’s value to False

    Propogate Property

    This should provide the desired result where the error is contained within the task

    Result

    Optionally, you can also choose to set the ForceExecutionResult property of this task to be Success so that it always signals a success – Even with this, you still need to follow the above steps to prevent errors from bubbling up in the package.

  • Custom Data Flow Components in SSIS for dealing with Delimited Strings

    I have never been a .NET developer. Maybe that is why, despite good guidance from sqlis.com and others, I never ventured into the world of custom components. Scripting, on the other hand, I could handle thanks to Donald's book which has always provided a great reference. Well, a couple of weeks back, I finally came across a classic scenario of reuse where I could no longer avoid writing custom data flow components. So I Google’d (Live just does not make a good verb Microsoft!) away for help. Fortunately, I did not have to go too far for help. Three excellent sources of information included this article on sqlis.com by Allan Mitchell, the samples that you can install with SQL Server (usually found at C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Samples\Integration Services\Programming Samples) and finally CodePlex. On CodePlex, I found the Normaliser Component written by Jamie Thomson. There are also a few good books written by a lot of my friends in the SSIS community - but I must confess that I don't always read technical books except on rare occasion. :)

    The few references I cited above go a long way towards getting you close to your goals. Beyond that, you still need some .NET skill to better understand the code in relation to what you need to do for your unique situation. That is where Jessica came in. Fortunately for me, she was working on this project with me and is far more proficient in .NET that I ever will be! So, thanks to her help we got the components done. What amazed me was that with the references I mentioned above, it took less than 3 days to understand and write 2 different custom components (one synchronous and one asynchronous) and achieve high degree of reusability.

    To give you a quick background on the custom components, both these custom components deal with de-limited strings in a column. The first component, which is a synchronous component, sorts and de-duplicates the data inside each row. So, if you have the following input...

    1              Kirk,Donald,Anjan,Ritu,Catherine,Anjan

    2              Jamie,Allan,Simon,Erik,Andy

    You would end up with the following output

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon

    The second component un-pivots a delimited string. So, in the example

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon

    You would see the following output

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu    1              Anjan

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu    2              Catherine

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu    3              Donald

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu    4              Kirk

    1              Anjan,Catherine,Donald,Kirk,Ritu    5              Ritu

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon           1              Andy

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon           2              Allan

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon           3              Erik

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon           4              Jamie

    2              Andy,Allan,Erik,Jamie,Simon           5              Simon

    The un-pivot component preserves the order of the data in the string and does not do any sorting or removing of duplicate values. It also adds a numeric column to provide the position id of each value. Both of these components also accept the delimiter string as a custom variable to the component.

    So, I am interested in hearing some feedback as to whether these components would be something you see use for?

  • Joe Healy made me do it!

    So, I am finally back from hibernation - and I hope it lasts! It all started when I got an email today from Joe Healy. For those of you who dont know Joe, he is my favorite .NET developer evangalist from FL. You can find out more about Joe the vibrant FL community from his blog. Now, as you will find out through my blogs, I am no .NET guy - but I like Joe all the same since he does "tolerate" the SQL guys! :) Actually Joe is a great community supporter no matter what your technology preference - just make sure it is something Microsoft sells! :)

    Going back to Joe's email today, he asked me if I had a blog and I promptly sent him the link to my <empty> blog site which my good friends Peter DeBetta and Adam Machanic were kind enough to set up for me. Of course he immediately pointed out that he wasn't looking for an empty blog site! So here I am.

    Anyway, I have been doing some fun stuff this week with some custom SSIS components with my colleague Jessica Moss and I hope to blog about it and share that custom component as well in the next 2 - 4 days as soon as I am able to. I am also working with Master Data Management and am very excited about the potential and so will start blogging about that as well. From time to time, you will see me blog about PASS although I will try my best to balance my technical posts with my passion around community and PASS. So stay tuned!

    Also, next week I will be at the MVP summit and if you are attending and are from FL, let Joe know because that is the only way you will get invited to his legendary Florida geek laager! See you there!

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