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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 .

Redundancy Options in Azure Blob Storage

So you have data in Azure Blob Storage and are concerned about reliability.  Have no fear!  There are three replication options for redundancy:

1. Locally Redundant Storage (LRS): All data in the storage account is made durable by replicating transactions synchronously to three different storage nodes within the same region… Read more

0 comments, 430 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 November 2015

Copying data from Azure Blob Storage

In a previous blog I talked about copying on-prem data to Azure Blob Storage (Getting data into Azure Blob Storage).  Let’s say you have copied the data and it is sitting in Azure Blob Storage (or an Azure Data Lake) and you now want to copy it… Read more

0 comments, 140 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 15 October 2015

Azure Data Lake enhancements

I first blogged about Microsoft’s new product, the Azure Data Lake, a few months back (here).  There are already enhancements, as announced at Stata + Hadoop World.  Here they are in brief:

  • The Azure Data Lake has been renamed to the Azure Data Lake Store.  The…

Read more

1 comments, 180 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 September 2015

Getting data into Azure Blob Storage

If you have on-prem data and want to copy it to Azure Blob Storage in the cloud, what are all the possible ways to do it?  There are many, and here is a quick review of them:

AzCopy: A popular command-line utility designed for high-performance uploading, downloading, and copying… Read more

2 comments, 219 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 September 2015

Relational databases vs Non-relational databases

I see a lot of confusion about the place and purpose of the many new database solutions (“NoSQL databases”) compared to the relational databases solutions that have been around for many years.  So let me try to explain the differences and best use cases for each.

First lets clarify these… Read more

5 comments, 348 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 August 2015

Hadoop and Microsoft

In my Introduction to Hadoop I talked about the basics of Hadoop.  In this post, I wanted to cover some of the more common Hadoop technologies and tools and show how they work together, in addition to showing how they work well with Microsoft technologies and tools.  So you don’t… Read more

1 comments, 1,516 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 12 August 2015

Analytics Platform System (APS) AU4 released

The Analytics Platform System (APS), which is a renaming of the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), has just released an appliance update (AU4), which is sort of like a service pack, except that it includes many new features.  Below is what is new in this release:

AU4 continues to… Read more

0 comments, 265 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 6 August 2015

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, 294 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, 359 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

3 comments, 530 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, 301 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, 286 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

1 comments, 322 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

4 comments, 458 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

10 comments, 535 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, 266 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

7 comments, 649 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, 488 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, 6,429 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, 6,668 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 26 February 2015

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