SQL SAT #118 recap

Last Saturday, April 21st, I went to my first SQL Saturday event of the year. It was the first one held in Madison, WI. And before I start reviewing the sessions I attended, let me say thanks on a job well done to everyone involved. From the event organizers and volunteers, to the vendors and speakers, this was one of the best events I have ever attended. Before the event I received emails keeping me pumped for the event. We all received a map of the venue and a great visitors guide to the Madison area, very helpful to those of us unfamiliar with the area. The venue itself, Madison Area Technical College, was a great pick. Check-in was smooth and well run. The session rooms were comfortable, and I never felt crowded. Lunch was very tasty and well stocked, plenty of food for everyone. There was no lack of space to sit and mingle with other attendees. Cows of a spot was a great idea. I got to sit with Bill Fellows and Mike Donnelly, among others, at the BI table and listen in on a conversation of SSIS in SQL 2012.

But what about the sessions, you ask? There were plenty, I believe 30 in all, with a good mix of topics. You could have stayed with all BI, all developer sessions, or attend some of each. We also had access to the Guidebook on our smartphones, great for easily seeing what sessions were coming up next. As always, each session I chose meant I missed a session I wanted to see. But that’s the good thing about SQL Saturdays, sometimes you can catch a session you missed at the next one. And Chicago (#sqlsat119) is just a few weeks away.

The first session I went to was “Setting up an ETL Framework with SSIS 2012″ by Dave DuVarney. I’m fairly new to SSIS in general and only heard about creating frameworks recently. I’ve seen how many different components there are to configure, from variables to connections to logging. Dave started out by explaining what he considers to be the components of an ETL framework, then went on to show how the new SSIS catalogs took all of the hard work out of it. What was especially impressive was how you can create different environments, like development, testing, and production, and configure your package to run against each, basically just by pointing to the right one.

Next up was “Scriptable UI with Powershell” by Steven Murawski. Steven showed us a free tool, ShowUI, that works with Powershell. ShowUI is a wrapper for WPF, and using it you can script a form in just a few lines. All the heavy lifting needed for WPF is done in the modules. So all you need to do is import the module and start building some amazing forms. Right now I’m thinking of ways to use ShowUI with the SQLPSX Powershell modules.

“Using SQL Windows Functions” by Steve Hughes was next. Steve walked us through the functions, some of which are available all the way back to SQL 2005. Even better are the new ones coming in SQL 2012, like LAG, LEAD, FIRST_VALUE, and LAST_VALUE. We also saw the how to use ROWs to return the next or previous records. These functions make me wish we were using 2012 now.

After lunch I watch Mark Vaillancourt talk about “MDX: First Contact”. I like to build my own source data when I work with new concepts to make sure I understand what’s involved, not just following a step-by-step walkthrough against the same old database. Mark took that to a whole new level, using the Star Trek TV universe to populate his cube. Indeed, his whole presentation was done using this Star Trek theme. He uses topics like “Hailing Frequencies” or “The Trouble With Tuples” to make his points. And of course he named his demo cube BORG. This was a very entertaining and educational session. Mark is going to present again in Chicago next month and I highly recommend seeing it, even if you’re an MDX wizard.

Unfortunately I had to leave after that and missed out on a few more sessions. I really wanted to catch “You’re My Density” with Erin Stellato. Hopefully I can catch up with that one soon.

Thanks again to the #sqlsat118 team for an exceptional job well done! I can’t wait until next years Madison event!