A technical blog about my projects, challenges, and discoveries in the world of data warehousing using SQL Server, Power BI Desktop, DevExpress, and more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top Ten Things Learned at SQL PASS on 10/12/2011

Wednesday is when the conference starts in earnest, and so I definitely learned more than I can summarize here, but these ten things really stood out to me. As with my first list, this is roughly chronological over the course of the day.

  1. There are over 4,000 registered attendees at this event. Add in the presenters and the vendors, and you can imagine how packed the rooms are. It is good to have such a thriving community; and yet, it does strain the capacity of the venue.
  2. SQL Server Code Named "Denali" has officially been named "SQL Server 2012," and is expected to be released in the first half of next year. "Crescent" has officially been named "PowerView" and will be a part of the SS2012 release, but apparently it requires the Enterprise edition. This is unfortunate, because that will put it in reach of only a couple of our Shelby Systems, Inc. customers.
  3. SQL Server 2012 will provide connectors and (eventually) drivers for something called "Apache Hadoop." This is something I will need to learn more about. Apparently Hadoop is a way to consume gigantic amounts of essentially unstructured data (on the order of pedabytes) and generate meaningful output. I don't know that I'll ever need that in my current role at Shelby Systems, but it is an interesting feature.
  4. I learned several things during the demos in the keynote, including: "sentiment" is now a measureable fact that can be quantified and reported on through the Microsoft Data Marketplace and the upcoming "Data Explorer"; only John Wayne has made more movies than Samuel L. Jackson.
  5. Stephen Few is a name I heard multiple times with regard to optimizing report style and layout. I believe I'm going to have to look into his web site at www.perceptualedge.com and check out his books.
  6. If I can get ahold of some mapping files that include the ZIP code layer (the Census Bureau is said to have some in the public domain), I should be able to get the mapping feature in Reporting Services to map down to that level. That would be much better than the current limit of reporting at the state level.
  7. Satori Software (a vendor here as well as a partner with Shelby Systems, Inc.) could actually return latitude and longitude information back to the NAAddresses table if we added that to our service agreement with them. The additional licensing cost makes it unlikely that this feature would be a part of all our customer's ShelbyMAILROOM package, but it is interesting to know.
  8. The inactivated slicer problem I noticed in the Excel PivotTables that are created programmatically from ShelbyQUERY is probably triggered by some option in the automated set up of the table. A manually-create OLE DB connection can use slicers just fine. It appears to have something to do with an OLAP-related setting, but I'm going to have to follow up on this more with Microsoft. Helpfully, one of the PowerPivot techs gave me his contact info and invited me to e-mail him if I couldn't pinpoint it on my own. I have to give props to the Microsoft staff here at PASS, who are as helpful as they can be.
  9. I have been doing date filtering in the WHERE clauses of queries in a way that will impede the efficiency of the query, possibly adding multiple seconds of time to getting the query results.  I have to learn ways to avoid putting table columns into functions, even the DATEDIFF() function.
  10. The pie chart is not an effective way of communicating comparisons in reports. Bar charts are far an away the best chart for most comparisons. Gauges too are relatively ineffective communicators. But the bullet chart is exceedingly good at communicating "KPI" style data with more context. I will have to learn how to create them in Reporting Services.

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