This is really cool – Mariner (my employer) was awarded the Microsoft Performance Management Partner of the Year award this year, based on a solution that we created for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) system. When I was first told about the award, I asked, “It’s for the Southeast region, right?”. The answer: “No, think bigger.” “The US? Very cool!” “No, bigger than that.” Yes, it’s the Worldwide Performance Management Partner of the Year – selected from over 2000 entries.
So what is this award winning solution? It’s a performance management system that allows school systems to track how well they are progressing on their long term goals for improving the learning environments in schools. This was an interesting solution to work on – most of my experience has been in applying business intelligence to more traditional business solutions. While there are some similarities, the core focus is very different. Success for a school system isn’t judged on profits, it’s based on how well the children are educated. Since I have one child already in the CMS system, and another one going in soon, there was much more of a personal impact from seeing what they were doing, and their approach to meeting their goals.
It was also interesting from a technology standpoint. The technology for the solution involves most of Microsoft’s BI stack – SQL Server for the data repository, SSIS for the data integration, SSAS for analysis, SSRS for some reporting, and Sharepoint + PerformancePoint Server for the front-end display of the analytic information. It’s pretty impressive seeing how Microsoft’s BI story has really come together over the last couple of years, and actually getting the chance to put all these pieces in action with each other was great (and challenging in a few spots ). The team that did the development work did a great job with it, and it really shows in the end product.
I presented an “SSIS 101″ session to one of our local user groups yesterday, the Carolina IT Professionals Group (http://www.carolinait.org/). It was an interesting presentation to do, as the audience is fairly broad, covering networking professionals, application developers, and hardware people. Out of the roughly 100 people in attendence, only seven had actually used SSIS, and there were two or three more that had used DTS. Over the past few years, most of my presentations have been done to audiences that are familiar with data warehousing, so it was a little different to present to a group that wasn’t ETL centric.
However, it was a good experience. The audience asked a lot of good questions. A number of people followed up after the presentation to say that they hadn’t been familiar with SSIS prior to the presentation, but now that they had seen it, they see a lot of use for it in automating some data movement tasks. One person told me that he currently spent one to two hours every morning babysitting a set of cursor based stored procedures that moved data from one server to another, and now he was going to automate the process with SSIS.
I’ve recently done a series of presentations around SSIS that focused on more advanced topics, and on some product development that Mariner (my employer) is doing around SSIS. I’ve been acting as a product manager on that, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s given me the opportunity to apply a lot of the experiences I have had with SSIS toward creating something that will help companies manage their SSIS implementions over time. I promise not to turn this blog into a running advertisement, but as we get closer to launch I will include some links to the product information, as I’d love to get feedback from the community on it.
I was on the CodePlex (www.codeplex.com) site today looking for the Analysis Services Stored Procedure project, and found that they have a number of SQL Server related projects available. First, all of the SQL Server samples have been uploaded to the site, which is nice if you only want to grab one or two of them.
There is also the aforementioned AS Stored Procedure project (http://www.codeplex.com/ASStoredProcedures) , which has some great examples of extending AS functionality with .NET based stored procedures.
Then there is the SQL Inserter project, which can generate INSERT statements from database tables. It’s handy for quickly moving small amounts of data, if you don’t want to use the Import / Export Wizard.
There are also a couple of test data generators (http://www.codeplex.com/datagenerator and http://www.codeplex.com/TdGen). Data Generator is designed to be used in .NET based development, and TdGen is for databases.