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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 .

SQL Server 2014 In-Memory OLTP (Hekaton) Limitations

One of the biggest new features in SQL Server 2014 is SQL Server In-Memory OLTP, known mostly by its code name of Hekaton (see SQL Server 2014: In-memory OLTP Engine, code-name: Hekaton).  Basically, this puts tables in memory, giving a potentially huge performance boost when accessing these tables, especially… Read more

3 comments, 488 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 January 2014

Power BI Q&A Preview now works on your data

As I mentioned in Power BI first impressions, Power BI Q&A is an instantaneous search experience that uses a natural language query.  The user enters a question and it interprets it and serves up the correct interactive chart or graph.  It only worked with sample data installed when you… Read more

0 comments, 190 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 2 January 2014

Entity Data Modeling with Visual Studio

While there are a lot of tools out there for data modeling, there is one option that is free if you have Visual Studio.  It’s called the Entity Data Model Designer.  It works well if you need a quick-and-dirty way to create a logical model of tables and have the… Read more

4 comments, 4,136 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 26 December 2013

Power Query load settings

One point of confusion I see with Power Query is some people believe Power Query adheres to the Excel limit of a max of 1,048,576 rows that can be imported.  However, there is a way around this limit.  When using Power Query, on the Query Editor dialog, under Query Settings,… Read more

0 comments, 249 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 23 December 2013

I’m presenting at the PASS Business Analytics Conference

I am fortunate enough to have been selected to give a presentation at the PASS Business Analytics Conference in San Jose, CA on May 7-9.  Below is my presentation abstract along with more info about the conference.  I hope to see you there!

Building an Effective Data Warehouse Architecture

You’re… Read more

3 comments, 210 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 19 December 2013

Power Query Preview December Update

Microsoft keep turning out updates to Power Query.  For December, some of the new features (download):

  • Connection to three more data sources: Sybase IQ, Exchange, and Dynamics CRM Online
  • When using the Navigator pane in the Power Query search, it will automatically detect database relationships
  • You can share…

Read more

0 comments, 327 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 December 2013

Power BI for Office 365 FAQ

As I have been giving demos on Power BI for Office 365, I have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, with many clients really loving it.  There are common questions that I hear, and I thought I would list them here with answers:

Will there be an on-premise… Read more

3 comments, 393 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 12 December 2013

Certification Updates for SQL Server 2014

Info from Microsoft on how the MCSA and MCSE certifications will be altered for SQL Server 2014:

In reviewing the SQL Server 2014 product, the Microsoft Learning Experiences team determined that the new features focus on performance tuning and high availability.  As skilling and testing around these features is best… Read more

0 comments, 1,062 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 December 2013

Power Query Preview November Update

As I mentioned in my previous post (see Power BI first impressions), Power Query is a great new tool and Microsoft has been updating it frequently.  The latest update has many new features, among them:

  • Connectivity to Windows Azure Table Storage – You can now import from Windows Azure…

Read more

0 comments, 359 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 December 2013

Power BI for Office 365 requirements

“Power BI” is an umbrella name for a lot of products, which I explain at Power BI first impressions (also I have a video at Power BI for Office 365 video).  Power BI is an Office 365 marketing offering (see pricing).  Each of the products that comprise Power… Read more

3 comments, 1,224 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 3 December 2013

SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) – October 2013 update

Since my last post about the SSDT update for August, there have been two updates, each containing one fix:

The September 2013 release has a targeted fix for the Schema Compare error when working with large display text or high DPI.

The October 2013 release contains an updated installer that… Read more

0 comments, 288 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 26 November 2013

Power BI for Office 365 video

A demonstration of Power BI for Office 365, showing you how all the various tools and technologies work together: Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, Power BI sites, Data Management, Power BI Admin center, Power BI for mobile, and Power BI Q&A.

With so many tools it can… Read more

4 comments, 1,268 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 21 November 2013

Create video presentations

I recorded my first video presentation and demo using the screen recording and video editing software called Camtasia Studio for Windows.

It’s a great product that makes it easy to create videos that includes demos.  They also have a nice list of tutorials.

They offer a fully functional… Read more

0 comments, 153 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 19 November 2013

SQL Server Data Tools BI (SSDT-BI) for SQL Server 2014

Last month I blogged that SQL Server Data Tools for SQL Server 2014 CTP2 now available.  You can download that here.  This will run the SSDT install (not a SQL Server 2014 install).  This installs the Visual Studio 2012 shell, and makes available the SQL Server Database Project… Read more

0 comments, 836 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 November 2013

Power BI first impressions

I have been using Power BI the past few weeks (see my video of all the features) after I was invited by Microsoft to test the Power BI for Office 365 Preview (register here).  I have to say I am extremely impressed.  It allows for a self-service reporting and… Read more

11 comments, 442 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 12 November 2013

Tabular model: Not ready for prime time?

While the tabular model in SSAS makes it much easier to build cubes than the multidimensional model, I am not seeing it used as much as I expected.  One reason is if you are a BI developer and have been using the multidimensional model for a while, you tend to… Read more

13 comments, 15,501 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 November 2013

Fast-Track Data Warehouse for Windows Azure

Microsoft has introduced an image into the Windows Azure Virtual Machine Gallery that is pre-optimized for a Fast Track Data Warehouse (FTDW) workload.  FTDW is a reference configuration optimized for data warehousing.  Not only is there an image for SQL Server 2012 SP1 (rated for 400GB database warehousing workloads), but… Read more

0 comments, 378 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 November 2013

Windows Azure SQL Reporting discontinued

Windows Azure SQL Reporting was the new name of the reporting services component (which was formerly known as SQL Azure Reporting Services) that went live June 12, 2012.

However today, October 31, 2013, notification went out to current Windows Azure SQL Reporting customers that the service will be discontinued in… Read more

0 comments, 907 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 November 2013

SQL Server Data Tools for SQL Server 2014 CTP2 now available

From Microsoft, SSDT is now available for SQL Server 2014:

We’d like to announce the availability of SSDT that supports SQL Server 2014 databases.  SQL Server Data Tools for SQL Server 2014 CTP2 is pre-release software, does not support upgrade from an existing SSDT install or upgrading to any new… Read more

2 comments, 302 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 31 October 2013

PASS Summit 2013

Not much news came out of the PASS Summit 2013 from last week, but boy did I have a blast!  I met over 100 people who were presenters or bloggers (I counted).  I made an effort to find them as I wondered around the halls.  I also had a lot… Read more

0 comments, 228 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 October 2013

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