Day 2 Review #sqlpass #summit12

To follow up on my first post about day one of this years PASS Summit, here is how day two played out

The “keynote” here was some PASS discussions, then Quentin Clark (MSFT exec) and Julie Strauss (wicked smart) doing an end to end demo on many things.. Hadoop, Azure, Data Explorer, Power View, Excel, etc. The blogger table was pretty annoying with their tweets during the demo calling it out as boring and not what DBA’s want, failing to remember that half the conference is BI people. I think the demo was “dry” but they showed many things and tied it together. I saw Julie at TechEd and she knows what she is doing. Of course every year the blogger table is going to say “zoom” on the presentations, which yes, they should be doing, or changing resolution, but to see the bantering back and forth on twitter is just bad overall for the people attending and watching and looking for info. The blogger/twitter table should be relaying information that people at home are clamoring for, not bad mouthing the presentation/presenters.

I hit up 4 sessions in all on Thursday Nov 8th..

1. BID-307-M: Using Power View with Multidimensional Models

As with day one, I mentioned I try to get to presentations by Microsoft employees, today was no different. The first one being with Bob Meyers and Sivakumar Harinath. This was a deep dive into the newly announced functionality yet to be released or given a date that will let us hit OLAP cubes with Power View. Honestly I wish Microsoft would have released this from the get go. One thing I don’t understand though is why Power View uses DAX to hit OLAP and TABULAR, while Excel uses MDX to hit OLAP and TABULAR. Seems split brained to me. Choose one and go. Many audience questions in this one, and one downfall of Microsoft Employee presentations is that they have a hard time saying “no” and get into discussions with audience members, many times taking too much time on some specific question.

Presentation was good, and we learned some things. New dimension properties for ImageUrl, Geography (for mapping), etc. And what will and won’t work with Power View and OLAP. Good stuff.

2. BIA-400-HD: Enterprise Data Mining with SQL Server

This was a double session, and I just stayed for the first half. Mark Tabladillo (marktab) is a PhD so that tells you something. Data Mining in SSAS/SQL Server has always been an enigma since day one. I don’t know of many using it in real life (besides the AdventureWorks Demo?) – it is kind of SSAS Cube Writeback, awesome, but not widely used. He showed how you can use the SSAS Data Mining cubes and Excel Add in to do forecasting, basket analysis and how to get into some of the options and get data out yourself to make your own visualizations, pretty cool stuff, but like I said, I left half way through…

3. BIA-309-M: Enriching Your BI Semantic Tabular Models with DAX

I left the Data Mining session early to get a good seat for this presentation. Kasper de Jonge from Microsoft is one I always try to get to as he is wicked smart as well, and usually the presentations are awesome, this one was no different. Getting into the details with DAX and just seeing someone like Kasper use PowerPivot, Excel .. it shows how “he” would use it, being a program manager, which is different than most. Great to pick up tips/tricks and just see how he goes about doing even the basics. He even showed off the trick on changing the DAX on an imported table to a DAX query to get whatever you want back from your tabular cube, he has a blog post that I went through a while ago to the same effect, which was cool.

4. BIA-206-M: BI Power Hour

Finally to end the day..Matt Masson and Matthew Roche again, with Patrick LeBlanc, Peter Myers, Sean Boon and Chuck Heinzelman.

This presentation reminded me of a Brian Knight spectacular.. throwing trinkets, books, etc to audience, goofy stuff. Pretty funny, and they go through SharePoint, SSIS, PowerView etc. Very lighthearted and a good way to end a 2nd day on non-stop technical things. Matt Masson is probably a stand up comedian at night, just funny stuff. I have seen Chuck present before and he is good, Sean showed us some PowerPivot with Olympic data and Shark bite data, Patrick with a Windows Phone app and Azure and SQL Data Sync, Matt with SSIS data app, and Peter Myers filled in at the end by capturing data from the audience over mobile and slicing/dicing it. I have seen Peter before as well and he is very methodical, it was his first “power hour” and it showed, but hopefully he does it again and is a bit more prepared.

Thursday night was the appreciation night, and gather at the EMP (music museum) in Seattle. They shuttle you over and back. Two free drinks, food (I think I had mac and cheese 3 nights in a row for some reason last week), and you can tour around the museum. There was #SQLKaraoke, but the sanctioned one, not the one at Busch Gardens. Live band and you get to sing, pretty cool stage and everything. Again, bummer, my voice was out or I would have sang a tune.

So to wrap up my 2nd full day, BI, BI, BI all day. More to come with the last day and overall thoughts for this year.

#sqlpass 2011 Summit Thoughts

Want to get a quick post out before I forget everything cool I have been thinking about the 2011 SQL Pass Summit in Seattle WA.

The conference started out great with a first timer reception (this was my second year), and I knew a few first timers so that would great.

The first day keynote was good, and then the sessions I hit were on a full range of things, new semantic search stuff with file table, and more.

I missed a couple of sessions on day 1 because I was in a Microsoft led focus group on “BI in the cloud” some very cool ideas thrown out and excited to see what is coming up in the future.

More good keynote on day two, a deeper dive into the stuff in SQL Server 2012 (formerly Denali). Went to some good sessions on Data Quality Services (DQS) and Vertipaq vs OLAP, and Power View (remember the space!) SharePoint and Power View integration, etc. Some very cool stuff coming soon with the 2012 release.

Tabular cubes vs Multidimensional cubes. OLAP vs Vertipaq, etc. Big debates and questions here, when to put things in Tabular vs MDX, etc. DAX solves some hard problems we run into with MDX.

Another thing I went to a couple sessions on was StreamInsight. This is some very cool technology for complex event processing, using .NET and LINQ. The StreamInsight guys are crazy smart. Also integrating StreamInsight with Azure, and doing some crazy processing and analysis of tons of data in near real time. I see this technology making a difference somewhere down the road.

Power View was another big winner from the summit. This integrates with SharePoint 2010 as a Silverlight (SL still isn’t dead?) report builder and viewer. Not even sure they are called “reports” anymore, but “views”. You create views and you can interact/edit them in real time. Export to PowerPoint too. These views work off “tabular” vertipaq BISM (BI semantic model) cubes. This technology is going to change how we deliver information to the business.

Being able to take a PowerPivot (no space!) and reverse engineer it into SQL Server Data Tools (formerly BIDS – in VS2010 shell) to create a BISM tabular cube and publish to SSAS Tabular instance looks great. Solving problems like crazy snapshotting and many to many and time analysis using DAX looks very useful.

Of course, GameWorks appreciation night was fun, and I found a Mcmenamins (Six Arms) up the road from the convention center, so I got get a taste of Ruby again. Good conversation and times at the Taphouse and around the Sheraton and Convention center was good too. Seattle is a nice city and the weather was pretty good I thought. Another great summit.

Microsoft BI: Creating Local OLAP Cubes using XMLA and ascmd.exe

Most people, when using OLAP cubes, are hitting the live version that is located on SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). They hit it with Excel, or some other reporting tool, etc. I have blogged previously about offline cubes and how you could possibly use them.

Now, the blog I did before, I talked about creating them with Excel, and that works great for end users. But what about automating the process? What about filtering dimension members, or measure groups, etc?  Now that you can use the Panorama Gadget for Google Apps/iGoogle (http://google-pivot-tables.blogspot.com/2008/04/panorama-analytics-gadget-for-google.html) you can upload .cub files and do BI in the cloud, how cool is that!

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Well, one option is purchase CubeSlice – http://www.localcubetask.com/  and use that to create your .cub files. CubeSlice works great, and is a good option if you want something with a ton of options and ease of use.

You can also create .cub’s using CREATE GLOBAL CUBE syntax in MDX, and you can also use XMLA to create a .cub. Options galore! Chris Webb blogged a few years about about using XMLA to create .cub’s here – http://cwebbbi.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!7B84B0F2C239489A!877.entry  He was using the MDX Sample App (I believe that comes with SQL 2000?)

What I was looking for was an easy way to us GLOBAL CUBE or XMLA and automate it, CubeSlice is nice, but there has to be a way to replicate (at least in a basic way) what they are doing. Thinking about XMLA – as to me it seems more powerful, that was the route I chose. I didn’t want to install the MX Sample App from SQL2K, and what Chris Webb says in his blog, and other things I read, basically the problem with using XMLA to create you .cub in SQL Server Management Studio is that you can’t specify a connection string, you have to connect to an SSAS instance. Using the MDX Sample App, you can specify a local file, and then run the XMLA and it will create the .cub file. So I just need to replicate that. 

I have also blogged about using ascmd.exe here . ascmd comes with the SSAS Samples with SQL 2005 (usually located here: C:Program FilesMicrosoft SQL Server90SamplesAnalysis ServicesAdministratorascmd) . You just need to compile it and you can use it to execute XMLA. So I decided to try that. I created an XMLA file to create my cube, and then executed it with ascmd.exe

ascmd -S c:MyOfflineCube.cub -i c:MyOfflineCube.xmla

In seconds, you have an offline cube. Now, in your XMLA you can have filters, etc. You could create an XMLA file that has some kind of variable, and you could create a replace task to replace that with what you wanted filtered, think maybe based on location, or employee, etc, and then kick out personal cubes for users, etc.

One thing I didn’t really get into is how to get your XMLA script. You could figure it out for yourself, but I actually just used CubeSlice for this example. You can create an offline cube with CubeSlice and actually see the XMLA code and use that. Maybe creating the XMLA script manually/yourself would be good info for another blog post 🙂

OLAP PivotTable Extensions on CodePlex

This weekend, I ran across this on CodePlex – OLAP PivotTable Extensions which got me thinking back to a post by the Excel blog about adding calculated measures and named sets in VBA (which is another blog post completely)

From CodePlex:

OLAP PivotTable Extensions is an Excel 2007 add-in which extends the functionality of PivotTables on Analysis Services cubes. The Excel 2007 API has certain PivotTable functionality which is not exposed in the UI. OLAP PivotTable Extensions provides an interface for some of this functionality.

What an awesome tool. I have been playing with it for a couple days and I have turned on some of the “power” users of the OLAP cubes to it as well. The first thing I thought of when running across this was “Woah, ok, when business users request calculated measures that might be more obscure, or just specific to them, they can add them! We don’t have to do a special release, maybe not even a release at al!”

The uses for this tool could be pretty extensive. You can import and export calculation libraries, you can also see the MDX that Excel is producing, which is another plus (I know there are other ways to get it, but this tool makes it easy!) – With the MDX you can just copy it and run it in SSMS to see the results there. You can see how Excel is doing things behind the scenes with your result set to make it look nice.

Another sweet feature, if you have a cube with tons of attributes, there is a search tab to search for the attributes you want.

I haven’t seen any issues yet. One user had to install the Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition Runtime which the CodePlex site says is required, so no big deal.

If you have tons of users using OLAP Cubes with Excel 2007, take a look at this free open source tool on CodePlex, you probably will get some good mileage out of it. I think Microsoft should put these features in the next version of Office!