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Meet Paul

Those of you who have attended one of my talks on BI probably know this story. I get asked about it a lot so wanted to share this more permanently. For me this story sums up the chance we have with Microsoft BI to fix one of the biggest issues in the corporate world.

Some time ago I worked as a BI Consultant on a data warehouse project at a major customer. All floors in the 20 floor office were like the ones you see in movies, all mindless, endless rows of cubicles. My cubicle was one in what they called ‘the front row’, which I think meant ‘at the central aisle’, which ran from the door to the manager’s offices in the back.

One day the door opened and someone that looked a bit like Charlie Chaplin walked out onto the floor. He was dressed like an old school English gentleman; complete with hat, newspaper and umbrella. He wore a yellowish dress shirt, blue suspenders and a brown tie with little blue bears on it. I estimated him to be about 70 years old. I am not that good at guessing ages, he might have been 75. Anyway, it was clear that he was well beyond retirement age. He looked around a bit and waited. In the back of the floor his arrival was noticed and someone hurried over to him and guided him to one of those identical cubicles a little further from where I was. Since I felt this was going to be interesting I went to get some coffee and made sure I passed along that cubicle on my way. ‘Charlie’ sat at an old computer (remember those CRT monitors?) and I saw him do something that grabbed my attention. He started Microsoft Excel version 5.0. When I got back from the coffee machine I stopped at this cubicle again and I saw him busily typing away. Some moments later a matrix printer which also stood there sprang into action and started spitting out some papers. He started to collect his stuff, took a quick glance and the papers and handed them over to guy who greeted him at the door and left.

I had the chance to peek at what was on those papers and I am no expert but to me it seemed a lot like a profit and loss statement. That got me puzzled even more, so instead of returning to my cubicle I walked over to the office of the BI manager, who was also my project lead. I described what I saw (‘older man came in, sat in a cubicle, pushed some buttons, printed some pages and left’). The BI manager looked at me and nodded: ‘You just met Paul’.

He continued: ‘Paul used to work for us and retired about five years ago. In this long employment here he made a big Excel spreadsheet that enables us to generate a profit and loss statement. We hire Paul twice a year just to come in here, push some buttons and get us that statement. We pay him handsomely for that service because we need that statement for the financial authorities here. If we do not provide the statement one time twice a year we might lose our license’.

Stunned, I looked at him and said: ‘I am going to ask you a tough question.’ He replied: ‘I know what you are going to ask so go ahead’. I said: ‘Let’s imagine that, heaven forbid, Paul dies tomorrow.’. He froze, looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘We would go bankrupt or lose our license.’

Although this might seem a little over done, this is a true story. Think about it for a moment what this could mean for you and your company. Do you think you have a Paul in your company? I am sure you have; every customer I talk to recognizes this story in some share or form. Do you have any idea what he has built and how dependent the company is on it?

It is time to find Paul, talk to him and make sure you understand what he built. If you can, migrate his stuff over to a more corporate solution. In any case, we need to get this under control. This is not a tiny little company I am describing here, this is a multi-million dollar business and the P&L statement comes from a black box Excel 5.0 sheet that Paul built and only Paul knows how to run.

MDS / DQS integration on a domain controller

Normally I would never advice you installing anything on a domain controller, let alone SQL, MDS and DQS. However if you have BI demo machine you will probably have all this (and more) running on the same box. At least I do J

If you do you will probably get this error message when you try to enable the DQS integration from Master Data Services Configuration Manager after you successfully installed DQS and MDS.

When clicking the button ‘Enable integration with Data Quality Services’ an error will pop-up:

Here is where it gets a bit confusing. If you read the error message closely, it seems that MDS is looking for a local account on your machine instead of a domain account. However, with it being a domain controller, you cannot create local accounts…

To make this work you need to do the following:

  1. Add a Windows User Login into SQL Server for [YourDomain]\MDS_ServiceAccounts.

     

  2. Then run the following query against your DQS_MAIN database, which creates a user on the DQS_MAIN database which maps to the login you just created and adds the user to the DQS_Administrator role. Of course you can also do this using the UI. Make sure to enter your DOMAIN in the query below before executing.

    use [DQS_MAIN]
    GO
    IF NOT EXISTS (SELECT * FROM SYS.SYSUSERS WHERE NAME = ‘MDS_ServiceAccounts’)
    CREATE USER [MDS_ServiceAccounts] FOR LOGIN [YourDomain\MDS_ServiceAccounts]
    exec sp_addrolemember @rolename=N’dqs_administrator’,@membername=N’MDS_ServiceAccounts’
  3. When done go back to the Master Data Services configuration manager and hit the button again. Now it should come back with:

Victory ! J

 

SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint 2013 – Better Together session on repeat

June 10th, we will be hosting a SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint 2013 – better together session aimed at partners at our Microsoft office in the Netherlands! This is the third delivery, because the first two deliveries were overbooked and highly valued.

More information at http://blogs.microsoft.nl/blogs/sharepointonline/archive/2013/02/08/uitnodiging-sql-server-2012-and-sharepoint-2013-better-together.aspx

Looking forward to meeting you there!

(Please note that this session will be in Dutch..)

SQL Server 2012 Unboxing

Just about every new consumer technology device will be greeted with “unboxing” videos on YouTube. A lot of the people I talk to really need to start unboxing SQL Server 2012 and start to understand what is in the box. Most of them already have access to SQL Server 2012 and still think it is just a database. There is so much more! This post is aimed to providing a quick overview of what exactly is in the box with pointers to where you can find documentation.

  1. Database Engine (SSDE)
    First off, let’s start with the product that gave SQL its name: the database. This is without doubt the best known product of the whole SQL suite and also the most used. More often than not this is also the only product people use and know. Find out more here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms187875.aspx
  2. Data Quality Services (DQS / SSDQS)
    Introduced with SQL Server 2012, DQS is a knowledge-driven data quality solution that works on the premise of specifying what defines data quality in a knowledge base and using to cleanse data automatically during ETL (see SSIS below), Master Data Management (see MDS below) processes or manually.
    See: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff877925.aspx
  3. Analyis Services (SSAS)
    Analysis Services is SQL Server’s analytical database or cube. It features both more traditional cubes and tabular models, provides self-service analysis capabilities and includes data mining. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb522607.aspx
  4. Integration Services (SSIS)
    Integration Services is a full-blown ETL tool and can be used for all sorts of data integration solution. SSIS features a drag and drop interface to build the solution and provides a lot of components out of the box with connectors to and from just about any database, file storage or file format. If need be, you can also use the power of .NET to build the exact behavior required. SSIS also integrates with DQS to use data quality knowledge bases during ETL processes. For more info visit: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms141026.aspx
  5. Master Data Services (MDS)
    Master Data Services enables users to build a Master Data Management solution on top of SQL Server. MDS integrates with DQS to make data quality aspects a part of the overall MDM solution. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee633763.aspx
  6. Reporting Services (SSRS)
    Reporting Services is the enterprise reporting solution that delivers web-enabled reports that can get information from a variety sources and be rendered in various formats (including Excel, Word and PDF). Also, reports can be retrieved on demand, on subscription bases or based on a alert. Find out more here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms159106.aspx
  7. StreamInsight
    StreamInsight is Microsoft’s Complex Event Processor (CEP). CEP technology enables high throughput and real-time (low latency) processing of streams of data (events). Examples include financial trading, Web analytics, sensor data, etc. StreamInsight is provides a familiar development platform based on .NET to quickly start using real-time information. See: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee391416.aspx

That concludes the quick unboxing of SQL Server 2012. Although there is a lot more to say (about features, but also around editions and capabilities) , this should give you a good idea of what is in the box. Bottom line: there is a lot more to SQL Server than just a database!

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