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James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger (JamesSerra.com) and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Microsoft Big Data Certification Exams

I previously blogged about Microsoft certification changes, and since then there have been some new Microsoft Big Data certifications exams released:

Already live:

70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server

70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning

70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure HDInsight

Now… Read more

2 comments, 125 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 8 August 2017

Azure Analysis Services web designer

Microsoft has released a preview of the Azure Analysis Services web designer.  This is a browser-based experience that will allow developers to start creating and managing Azure Analysis Services (AAS) semantic models quickly and easily.  SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) and SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) will still be the… Read more

1 comments, 156 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 2 August 2017

Azure SQL Data Sync 2.0

Azure SQL Data Sync has been ignored for quite some time, but has finally gotten an update (it’s in public preview).  This release includes several major improvements to the service including new Azure portal support, PowerShell and REST API support, and enhancements to security and privacy.

SQL Azure Data Sync… Read more

0 comments, 135 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 July 2017

4TB disk sizes for Azure IaaS VMs available

Microsoft has introduced two new disk sizes for Azure IaaS VMs in P40 (2TB) and P50 (4TB) for both managed and unmanaged Premium Disks and S40 (2TB) and S50 (4TB) for both managed and unmanaged Standard Disks.  This enables customers to add 4x more disk storage capacity per VM.… Read more

2 comments, 302 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 July 2017

Data lake details

I have blogged before about data lakes (see What is a data lake? and Why use a data lake?), and wanted to provide more details on this popular technology, some of which I cover in my presentation “Big data architectures and the data lake“.  In short, the… Read more

3 comments, 246 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 June 2017

Azure DevTest Labs

I have been working at Microsoft now for 3 years and 4 months (side note: it’s by far the best company I have ever worked for).  You would think by now I know about every Azure product, but we release new products and services at such a tremendously fast pace… Read more

2 comments, 303 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 21 June 2017

Data Science Virtual Machine

The Data Science Virtual Machine (DSVM) is a customized VM image on Microsoft’s Azure cloud built specifically for doing data science.  It has many popular data science and other tools pre-installed and pre-configured to jump-start building intelligent applications for advanced analytics.  So instead of you having to create a VM… Read more

3 comments, 1,882 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 June 2017

Data Warehouse Fast Track Reference Guide for SQL Server 2016

I had previously blogged about the Data Warehouse Fast Track for SQL Server 2016, a joint effort between Microsoft and its hardware partners to deliver validated, pre-configured solutions that reduce the complexity of implementing a data warehouse on SQL Server Enterprise Edition.

Now available are two new excellent white… Read more

2 comments, 398 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 June 2017

SSAS high availability

If you are looking at providing high availability (HA) for SSAS, here are 3 options:

  1. Install SSAS on a Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC)
    Here’s a good article. The main issue with this option is that SSAS isn’t cluster-aware, so if windows is “OK” but SSAS (the service)…

Read more

5 comments, 251 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 24 May 2017

SQL Data Warehouse reference architectures

With so many product options to choose from for building a big data solution in the cloud, such as SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW), Azure Analysis Services (AAS), SQL Database (SQL DB), and Azure Data Lake (ADL), there are various combinations of using the products, each with pros/cons along with… Read more

6 comments, 289 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 May 2017

Microsoft Build event announcements

Another Microsoft event and another bunch of exciting announcements.  At the Microsoft Build event this week, the major announcements in the data platform space were:

Azure Cosmos DB

Azure Cosmos DB is the next big leap in the evolution of DocumentDB.  Cosmos DB is Microsoft’s globally-distributed, horizontally scalable, multi-model database… Read more

2 comments, 347 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 12 May 2017

Power BI Premium, Report Server, Apps and API

Announced today are some really cool new Power BI features:

Power BI Premium

Previously available were two tiers, Power BI Free and Power BI Pro ($10/user/month).  The problem with Power BI Pro is that for large organizations, this can add up.  In addition, their performance needs might not be met.… Read more

15 comments, 1,097 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 3 May 2017

Microsoft Data Amp event announcements

Yesterday was the Microsoft Data Amp event where a bunch of very exciting announcements were made:

  • SQL Server vNext CTP 2.0 is now available and the product will be officially called SQL Server 2017:
    • Runs on Linux and Docker
    • Support for Graph queries.  More info
    • Support for R and now…

Read more

1 comments, 488 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 April 2017

Using Azure for free

There are a number of options for using Azure for free.  This is very useful for those of you who are not familiar with Azure and want to “play” with it:

Read more

1 comments, 360 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 11 April 2017

Artificial Intelligence defined

The new buzzword in the industry is “Artificial Intelligence” (AI).  But exactly what is AI and how does it compare to “machine learning” and “deep learning”?  The best definitions I have seen come from the excellent article “Why Deep Learning is Suddenly Changing Your Life”:

So, AI is really… Read more

2 comments, 816 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 6 April 2017

Microsoft database migration tools

There are various Microsoft tools that you can use to help you migrate your database (updated 8/9/17):

Data Migration Assistant (DMA) – enables you to upgrade to a modern data platform by detecting compatibility issues that can impact database functionality on your new version of SQL Server and Azure SQL… Read more

3 comments, 215 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 March 2017

U-SQL Defined

Azure Data Lake Analytics (ADLA) is a distributed analytics service built on Apache YARN that allows developers to be productive immediately on big data.  This is accomplished by submitting a job to the service where the service will automatically run it in parallel in the cloud and scale to process… Read more

2 comments, 171 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 23 March 2017

PolyBase use cases clarified

I previously talked about PolyBase and its enhancements (see PASS Summit Announcements: PolyBase enhancements).  There is some confusion on PolyBase use cases as they are different depending on whether you are using PolyBase with Azure SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW) or SQL Server 2016, as well as the sources… Read more

3 comments, 170 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 15 March 2017

SQL DB now supports 4TB max database size

Azure SQL Database (SQL DB) has increased its max database size from 1TB to 4TB at no additional cost.

Customers using P11 and P15 premium performance levels can use up to 4 TB of included storage at no additional charge.  This 4 TB option is currently in public preview in… Read more

0 comments, 126 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 March 2017

Power BI and Excel options for Hadoop

Below I have attempted to list the various options for reporting off of Hadoop (HDInsight, HDP, Cloudera) using Power BI Desktop and Excel.  Some of the data sources prompt you to choose the Data Connectivity mode of either Import or DirectQuery.  For those that don’t you are limited to Import… Read more

0 comments, 174 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 9 March 2017

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