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James Serra's Blog

James is currently a Senior Business Intelligence Architect/Developer and has over 20 years of IT experience. James started his career as a software developer, then became a DBA 12 years ago, and for the last five years he has been working extensively with Business Intelligence using the SQL Server BI stack (SSAS, SSRS, and SSIS). James has been at times a permanent employee, consultant, contractor, and owner of his own business. All these experiences along with continuous learning has helped James to develop many successful data warehouse and BI projects. James has earned the MCITP Business Developer 2008, MCITP Database Administrator 2008, and MCITP Database Developer 2008, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. His blog is at .

Cortana Analytics Suite

Yesterday at the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference in Orlando Microsoft announced the Cortana Analytics Suite, which is a new package of data storage, information management, machine learning, and business intelligence software in a single convenient monthly subscription.  Microsoft’s Cortana personal digital assistant, until now available to consumers on mobile… Read more

1 comments, 159 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 July 2015

Microsoft Azure Data Catalog

Just announced is the Microsoft Azure Data Catalog, which is an enterprise metadata catalog / portal for the self-service discovery of data sources.  It becomes available on Monday next week, July 13, 2015.  Check out this short video on it.  My response to this is – woo hoo!  I have… Read more

0 comments, 176 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 July 2015

What is Polyglot Persistence?

Polyglot Persistence is a fancy term to mean that when storing data, it is best to use multiple data storage technologies, chosen based upon the way data is being used by individual applications or components of a single application.  Different kinds of data are best dealt with different data stores.… Read more

0 comments, 360 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 July 2015

What is Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics?

Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics (ASA) is a fully managed cloud service for real-time processing of streaming data.  ASA makes it easy to set up real-time analytic computations on data flowing in from devices, sensors, web sites, applications and infrastructure systems.  It supports a powerful high-level SQL-like language that dramatically simplifies… Read more

0 comments, 193 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 3 June 2015

How an MPP appliance solution can improve your future

Massive parallel processing (MPP) is the future for data warehousing.

So what is MPP?  SQL Server is a Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) solution, which essentially means it uses one server.  MPP provides scalability and query performance by running independent servers in parallel.  That is the quick definition.  For more… Read more

4 comments, 173 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 May 2015

SQL Server 2016 public preview arriving this summer

SQL Server 2016 was recently announced.  Top new features include:

  • Always Encrypted protects data at rest and in motion.  With Always Encrypted, SQL Server can perform operations on encrypted data and best of all, the encryption key resides with the application in the customers trusted environment.  Encryption and decryption of…

Read more

0 comments, 241 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 May 2015

Azure Data Lake

At the recent Microsoft Build Developer Conference, Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie announced the Azure Data Lake.  It is a new flavor of Azure Storage which can handle streaming data (low latency, high volume, short updates), is geo-distributed, data-locality aware and allows individual files to be sized at… Read more

1 comments, 261 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 13 May 2015

Azure SQL Data Warehouse

Analytics Platform System (APS) is Microsoft’s massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehouse technology.  This has only been available as an on-prem solution (see video Overview of Microsoft Analytics Platform System).  Until now.  At the recent Microsoft Build Developer Conference, Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie announced the… Read more

6 comments, 325 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 6 May 2015

TechEd is now Microsoft Ignite

In case you were wondering what happened to the TechEd conferences, Microsoft is now bringing together the best of previously individual events – the Management Summit, the Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and TechEd conferences – and then taking it to the next level, based on what customers and partners have… Read more

1 comments, 195 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 4 May 2015

Types of NoSQL databases

A NoSQL database provides a mechanism for storage and retrieval of data that is modeled in means other than the tabular relations used in relational databases.  NoSQL is often interpreted as Not-only-SQL to emphasize that they may also support SQL-like query languages.  Most NoSQL databases are designed to store… Read more

4 comments, 442 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 15 April 2015

What is a data lake?

A “data lake” is a storage repository, usually in Hadoop, that holds a vast amount of raw data in its native format until it is needed.  It’s a great place for investigating, exploring, experimenting, and refining data, in addition to archiving data.  There are various products that you can use… Read more

4 comments, 355 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 8 April 2015

Creating a large data warehouse in Azure

Microsoft Azure provides you two options when hosting your SQL Server-based data warehouse: Microsoft Azure SQL Database and SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machine.  Which one is appropriate based on the size of the data warehouse?  What are some hardware features to choose from for an Azure VM for… Read more

6 comments, 6,208 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 19 March 2015

Operational Data Store (ODS) Defined

I see a lot of confusion on what exactly is an Operational Data Store (ODS).  While it can mean different things to different people, I’ll explain what I see as the most common definition.  First let me mention that an ODS is not a data warehouse or data mart.  A… Read more

5 comments, 6,446 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 26 February 2015

Presentation slides for “Building a Big Data Solution”

Thanks to everyone who attended my session “Building a Big Data Solution” (Building an Effective Data Warehouse Architecture with Hadoop, Cloud and MPP) for Pragmatic Works today.  The abstract for my session is below and the recording will be available here tomorrow.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Here is the… Read more

0 comments, 325 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 24 February 2015

Power BI Made Simple

In an effort to understand Power BI and all the products it encompasses, I have made this slide deck to hopefully make things easy for you: Power BI Made Simple.

It is a presentation that covers all the products under the Power BI umbrella. I give an overview of… Read more

4 comments, 459 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 18 February 2015

What is Advanced Analytics?

Advanced Analytics, or Business Analytics, refers to future-oriented analysis that can be used to help drive changes and improvements in business practices.  It is made up of four phases:

Descriptive Analytics: What is generally referred to as “business intelligence”, this phase is where a lot of digital… Read more

0 comments, 403 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 11 February 2015

Microsoft product roadmap now public

Ever wonder about Microsoft’s product roadmap?  With Microsoft rapidly releases products and services, they realized the need to provide better transparency.  Well wonder no more!  They have released the Cloud Platform Roadmap Site (visit here).

Roadmaps are given for: Microsoft Azure, Intune, Power BI, and Visual Studio Online; server… Read more

1 comments, 7,553 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 4 February 2015

Power BI Designer and Power BI Dashboard

Long has the question been asked “Which Microsoft tool do I use for dashboards?”.  SSRS, Excel, PowerView, Report Builder and PerformancePoint are all candidates.  But that has all changed, and the future of dashboarding is here: Power BI Designer.

The Power BI Designer is a new companion application for Power… Read more

1 comments, 693 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 January 2015

Using Power BI to access on-premise data

The following blog describes how to use certain cloud-based Power BI for Office 365 products (Power View and Q&A) on a Power BI Site that will reference data on-premises.  To do this you will use certain on-premise Power BI products (Power Pivot and Power Query) to gather the data.  Note… Read more

4 comments, 667 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 January 2015

Analytics Platform System (APS) AU3 released

The Analytics Platform System (APS), which is a renaming of the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), has just released an appliance update (AU3), which is sort of like a service pack, except that it includes many new features.  These appliance updates are made available frequently, about every 3-4 months.… Read more

0 comments, 670 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 December 2014

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