Sunday, December 9, 2007

Books, books, books!

My "A Whirlwind Tour of SQL Server Integration Services" presentation last week at the CNY Developers User Group was a huge success. We had a big turnout and everyone seemed very enthusiastic about the capabilities of the SSIS platform, and many attendees stayed around very late to ask questions and get into wonderful tangents about SSIS.

And one of the most frequently asked questions was "what SSIS book should I buy?" Now in an ideal world this should be an easy question to answer (and in an ideal world I would have had a slide handy to answer it) but sadly, there is no single SSIS book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to developers who are new to the SSIS platform and tools. So instead of having a nice simple answer, I'm forced to resort[1] to answering with a list of links and explanations. And here is that list:

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services by Kirk Haselden: If you're new to SSIS, this is the one book to buy. It's not a great book (sorry Kirk, but I'm awfully picky) but the author has great insight into the product (as well he should, since he led the development team for SSIS up through RTM) and does a good job of communicating its ins and outs to the reader. If this book went into more depth and had more real-world examples (yes, and had twice as many pages) it would be a must-have.
  • Professional SQL Server 2005 Integration Services by Brian Knight, Allan Mitchell, Darren Green, Douglas Hinson and a bunch of other people: This book fills in a few of the cracks that Kirk Haselden's book does not, but other than that it doesn't really deliver for me. If you have a book budget and need to buy more than one introductory SSIS book, get this one too, but otherwise you should probably pick up Kirk's book and move on...
  • The Rational Guide to Extending SSIS 2005 with Script by Donald Farmer: This is the best resource I've found on using the Script Task and Script Component in SSIS, and is one of my favorite technical books in general. It's very well written with deep insight into the product, and is a very easy read. However, scripting is one of those "tools of last resort" for most SSIS projects, so this book is also not a "must have" if you're just getting started.
  • The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit by Joy Mundy, Warren Thornthwaite, and Ralph Kimball: This is probably the only "must read" book on my list, but it's not really a SSIS book, or a developer book, so I don't know if it's as appropriate for the people who asked for book recommendations as it is for me. This is a great "BI best practices" book, and while it has quite a bit of SSIS content, but it covers the whole gamut of real-world BI/DW projects from a "you need to do these things" perspective as opposed to a "this is how you do these things" perspective for SSIS, SSAS and SSRS with some other goodies thrown in as well.
  • Foundations of SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence by Lynn Langit: This book provides a great introduction and overview to the Microsoft BI stack (kind of like the last one, but thinner) and with a more hands-on, how-to focus. (I was the technical reviewer on this book, so I realize that I'm biased and will stop before I say too many glowing things about it. ;-)
  • Expert SQL Server 2005 Integration Services by Brian Knight and Erik Veerman: This is my favorite SSIS book today, hands down. So why did I save it for last? As this title implies, this is not an introductory book - it assumes that the reader has a good foundation with SSIS fundamentals and is ready to start solving real-world problems more efficiently using tested tools and techniques. So this one is a "must have" but it may not be a "must have right now" for everyone.

Wow, it took me a long time to complete this post. Last month I averaged a post every day. Here it is now, halfway through December and I've barely managed to publish two semi-technical posts. (And it took me almost a week and half to type a list of books - how crazy is that?) Why is it that December is always the busiest month of the year for technical projects? It always seems to be that there is 50% more to do in December than any other month, despite the holidays. I've been swamped, and my blogging productivity is suffering, but at least I'm making all of my client-facing deadlines...

Anyway, enjoy! And let me know if you have any questions, too.

[1] Boy, it's great to have someone to blame! I never have nice simple answers anyway, but at least this time I can blame the SSIS book market!

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