Monday, July 28, 2008

SSIS for IT Professionals

One of the "Tech*Talk" video interviews I recorded during Microsoft's TechEd conference last month in Orlando is now online. I talked with Joey Snow of the TechNet Edge web site about SQL Server Integration Services for IT Pros. You can check it out on the TechEd Online video library site in various formats:


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SSIS Community Samples on CodePlex

The SSIS team has just published the first two of a set of community samples to the CodePlex site. Take a look here:

The exciting thing is that these samples include both a binary redistributable and source code, so you can use them as-is if they serve your needs, and customize them if they only get you part way to your destination. The first two samples are an XML Destination component (this is an oft-requested data flow destination, so this is probably going to be the big crowd pleaser) and a Regular Expression Flat File Source component that provides many capabilities above and beyond the built-in Flat File Source.

You can check out the features on the release page here:


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Check Out This Lineup!

I've posted before about the Business Intelligence Virtual Conference I'm helping to organize. Even though I have not had much to say about this exciting event in the last few weeks, this doesn't mean that I haven't been feverishly busy making sure that the conference will be great. We're still finalizing the session schedule, but we have the speaker list nailed down[1]. Check this out:

  • Donald Farmer: Donald is the Principal Program Manager for SQL Server Data Mining at Microsoft and was the Program Manager for SQL Server Integration Services for the SQL Server 2005 RTM release. Donald is always a much sought-after and highly rated speaker, especially when he's talking about his favorite topics like data mining and fish farming.[2]
  • Brian Knight: Brian is a SQL Server MVP and the author of multiple books on SQL Server Integration Services. He's presented regularly at major conferences like TechEd and PASS, and is a great speaker all around.
  • Ted Malone: Ted is a Visual Studio Team System MVP, but knows more about the Microsoft BI stack than most SQL Server MVPs I know. Ted is also a great speaker who has presented at various conferences on lots of SQL Server related topics.
  • Matt Masson: Matt is a developer on the SQL Server Integration Services team at Microsoft, and worked at Cognos before joining Microsoft. As an SSIS insider, Matt has great insight into the inner workings of the product, and will be sharing them during his sessions.
  • Sonya McNeal: Sonya is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and consultant who specializes in the Microsoft BI stack. She presented some of the highest rated instructor led labs at the TechEd conference in Orlando this June, and will be bringing her many years of training and presenting experience into play for the virtual conference.
  • Scot Reagin: Scot is a SQL Server MVP and a mentor with Solid Quality Mentors with more than 20 years experience in the database and BI field. Scot has presented at many major conferences including TechEd, PASS and SQL Connections.
  • Matthew Roche: If you're reading my blog hopefully you have some idea who I am, but just in case, I'm a SQL Server MVP, MCT and experienced BI speaker and consultant. I'm honored to be the conference chair for this conference, and will be doing everything in my power[3] to ensure that this conference sets the bar for BI conferences to come.
  • Craig Utley: Craig is a mentor with Solid Quality Mentors, and used to be a Program Manager on the SQLCAT team at Microsoft and is the author of several books. These guys are the best of the best - they're the ones that get called in when no one else can solve the problems. Craig is also a regular presenter who can make even the most complex BI topics easy to understand.
  • Erik Veerman: Erik is a SQL Server MVP and a mentor with Solid Quality Mentors who has co-authored several books on SQL Server Integration Services and is responsible for the SSIS ETL best practices in Microsoft's Project REAL. Erik is a regular author and presenter on all facets of the Microsoft BI stack.
  • John Welch: John is a SQL Server MVP and is the Chief Architect at Mariner, where he is responsible for the full end-to-end Microsoft BI stack. John is an experienced presenter with deep insight into all of Microsoft's BI products.

What an amazing lineup - I can't adequately express how excited I am to be working with this team. Each speaker will be presenting three sessions (and I'm just as excited about the session list as I am about the speaker list - I can't wait to share it with you) for a total of 30 sessions plus three keynote presentations - one for each day of the conference.

And remember - the entire virtual conference is just $100 for the full three days, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, if you attend the virtual conference you also get a $150 discount off the Dev Connections Fall 2008 Conferences this November in Las Vegas.

How could it get any better than this?

[1] As of this writing, the speaker list on the conference web site isn't complete - we're still waiting on a photo from Matt Masson, but everything else is there.

[2] Don't ask. Trust me. ;-)

[3] And of course, because I listen to Manowar, my power is pretty much limitless.

SQL Connections, Revisited

I just posted about the two breakout sessions I'll be presenting at the Fall SQL Server Connections Conference in Las Vegas. Just in case you're wondering if it's worth it, I want to share with you some attendee comments from my session on SSIS deployment at the Spring SQL Server Connections Conference in Orlando:

  • Good presentation skills.
  • Great ideas on guidance I can apply immediately.
  • Too crowded! Tables?
  • Room was way too small.
  • Without question, the best session of the conference. If I had learned nothing else, it would have been worth the trip for his alone.
  • Great speaker.
  • Really tested me on program terms. Presenter was fabulous!
  • Good jokes.[1]
  • Outstanding!

As you can see, we had an excellent time in Orlando. We were a little crowded - it was standing room only room - but we didn't let that slow us down, and now that the conference organizers understand just what a big draw SSIS can be, we should not run into the same problem in Vegas.

Do you notice anything else about these comments? Everyone had fun. SSIS is such an exciting and interesting topic[2] that people had no choice but to learn a lot. And of course the fall sessions are only going to be better, so plan on being there!


[1] I'm not honestly sure what this guy was smoking - this is a comment I've never seen before. ;-)
[2] Well, I think so anyway, and since I'm the one on stage for these sessions my passion will be contagious - if you're there you'll catch it too.

What Happens in BIDS, Stays in BIDS

That's right - it's time to start planning for the Fall 2008 SQL Server Connections Conference in Las Vegas. It's going to be held at the Manadalay Bay Resort and Casino from November 10th through November 13th, and there are lots of excellent sessions scheduled. In fact, I will be delivering two SQL Server Integration Services sessions:

SQL Server Integration Services Development Best Practices
Are you tired of feeling like you’re making the same mistakes over and over again? Would you like to have a roadmap that outlines the pitfalls you’re likely to encounter when building ETL solutions with SSIS? Then this session is for you! You’ll learn how to get the most from the SSIS tools and platform through a set of SSIS development best practices from a battle-scarred database and BI consultant who has survived the rough projects and lived to tell the tale.

SQL Server Integration Services Performance Tuning and Optimization
SSIS packages have many capabilities, from control flow to event handlers to scripting. But the SSIS data flow is where the decisions you make will have the greatest impact on the performance of your packages. In this session, you’ll learn what’s going on under the hood in the SSIS data flow pipeline, and how to take advantage of that knowledge to make your packages perform better. You’ll also learn general tips and tricks to improve SSIS package performance and how to get the most out of your packages.

Sound like fun? Well, it gets even better!

Do you remember the Business Intelligence Virtual Conference I mentioned a few weeks back? I'll post more information about the virtual conference once we get the session schedule finalized, but for now you should know that if you attend the Business Intelligence Virtual Conference - $100 for three days worth of amazing content - you will get a $150 discount for the Fall SQL Server Connections conference.

How cool is that? If you're planning on attending the SQL Server Connections conference (or any of the Dev Connections conferences being held at the same time, because a ticket to one gets you admission to all of them) then we're essentially paying you $50 to attend the Business Intelligence Virtual Conference. That's like $50 better than free, which in my book is pretty darned cool.

So start planning now, and I'll look for you in Las Vegas!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Data Visualization Gone Wrong

Or perhaps gone horribly, horribly right.

I must say "thank you" to Ken for sharing this URL. We all knew that charts and graphs could be staggeringly funny, but we never knew just how funny they could be. Until now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Outlook and Time Zones

I travel quite a bit for work (and occasionally for pleasure) and I like to track my itineraries in Outlook so I don't lose track of things and miss my flights. This also allows me to have everything at my fingertips on my Windows Mobile phone, which makes my life so much simpler.

The problem with this is that most of my travel crosses multiple time zones - I will be departing from New York, but I may be landing in Seattle or Denver or Frankfurt. And that means that I need to "do the math" to ensure that the times I'm entering into my Outlook appointments are appropriately adjusted for the differences between my local time zone and the time zone for wherever I will be landing.

But not any more.

I've just discovered[1] the "Time Zone" button in Outlook 2007:

You know where I'll be! [2]

When you click on the Time Zones button, two drop-down lists appear, one for the time zone of the appointment start time, and one for the time zone of the appointment end time. How cool is that? This is going to save me so much time (and aggravation, because there few things more annoying than suffering because of your own mistakes) in the weeks and months ahead.

Now if I could just figure out how to make it so that these drop-down lists are always visible by default...


[1] Yes, this is the appropriate time to let me know that this has been there since Outlook 2000 or the like - I am often the last to know.

[2] I'm not going to show you one of my actual flight itineraries (you never know what stalkers are out there ;-) but I will show one of the highlights of the yeah - Manowar headlining the Magic Circle Festival next month in Germany. Will you be there too?

Congratulations, Ted!

Congratulations are in order - my friend and colleague Ted Malone has been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award for Visual Studio Team System. So take a moment and send Ted a word of congratulations, and remember to ask him "What's a NUMA?" while you're at it.

Keep up the great work, Ted!

SSIS - Changing Variable Scope

If you read my last blog post about SnagIt, you already know that when I was creating the package for my "putting dates in file names" blog post, I inadvertently created the variables at the data flow scope, when I needed to create them at the package scope instead. And if you've spent much time working with SSIS, you know that this means I had to delete all of the variables and re-create them, setting all of their properties and expressions all over again.

What a pain. The SSIS tools in Visual Studio will let you change just about any property of a variable, but not the variable scope. There should be some tool to do this, right?


Well, this is a new feature that is being added to the BIDS Helper Visual Studio Add-In project on CodePlex. Check out the details here:

As with quite a few interesting recent additions to BIDS Helper, this feature is not yet part of a major release, so you'll need to download the source code and build it yourself, but this is relatively simple. Hopefully the project team will have version 1.3 locked down and ready for public release soon, but in the meantime you can get it if you want it. I just wish I'd had it when I was building that sample package...


I blogged on TechSmith's delightful SnagIt application almost a year ago and have been using it daily ever since. SnagIt is one of those applications that's kind of hard to describe (why would anyone spend money for something like this when you get Print Screen and Paint for free with Windows, right?) but once you start using it you wonder how you ever lived without it. Every blog post that you've seen here[1] that has screen shots has been written with the help of SnagIt.

And now it's gotten a lot better.

Last month TechSmith released SnagIt version 9, with a whole slew of new features and capabilities. There are too many to list here, so you can check out the What's New page if you're interested - the thing that blows me away is the capture organizer - when you capture an image, it goes into a tray where you can save it, edit it, delete it or just plain ignore it if you're not ready to do anything else just yet. This provides an amazing degree of flexibility, and makes working with a large number of captures (such as documenting a I workflow through still images) a trivial task.

As a case in point, my last blog post has a total of 19 screen captures, some of which were taken out of order[2]. Think about how you would traditionally do that; if you're like me,this would involve saving the files with sequentially-numbered file names, and then re-naming them as necessary. With SnagIt 9 this was simply a matter of capturing all of the images I thought I might need, deleting the ones I didn't need, and then saving the ones I decided to use once all of the writing was done. I love it.

And the best thing is that TechSmith offers a free trial version for download, and the full version is only $49.95. And no, they're not paying me anything for this recommendation - SnagIt is just one of those tools that I use every day that not enough people seem to know. Check it out and see for yourself!


[1] Or forum posts, book chapters, or articles - anything!

[2] I inadvertently created the variables I used for this post at the wrong scope, so I ended up going back and deleting and recreating them, and had to re-capture all of the images of the Variables window. What a pain.