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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 .

Book: Expert Cube Development with SSAS Multidimensional Models

Those of you who use SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) are likely familiar with the “bible” for designing cubes: Expert Cube Development with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services by Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari , and Chris Webb.  Well, a new edition has just been published, with a changed name… Read more

0 comments, 862 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 4 March 2014

Introduction to Hadoop

Hadoop was created by the Apache foundation as an open-source software framework capable of processing large amounts of heterogeneous data-sets in a distributed fashion (via MapReduce) across clusters of commodity hardware on a storage framework (HDFS).  Hadoop uses a simplified programming model.  The result is Hadoop provides a reliable shared… Read more

7 comments, 4,198 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 February 2014

What is HDInsight?

There are two flavors of HDInsight: Windows Azure HDInsight Service and Microsoft HDInsight Server for Windows (recently quietly killed but lives on in a different form).  Both were developed in partnership with Hadoop software developer and distributor Hortonworks and were made generally available in October, 2013.

Windows Azure HDInsight… Read more

4 comments, 484 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 25 February 2014

Annoying Recruiters

In a follow-up to my blog post Low-rate recruiters – The bane of my existence, Michael Bramante (website) wrote me a hilarious email that I wanted to share, with his permission.  I have had many similar experiences as his:

I’ve worked alongside plenty of Indians in my… Read more

11 comments, 377 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 February 2014

PolyBase explained

PolyBase is a new technology that integrates Microsoft’s MPP product, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), with Hadoop.  It is designed to enable queries across relational data stored in PDW and in non-relational Hadoop data that is stored in the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), bypassing… Read more

8 comments, 3,489 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 18 February 2014

Why I just became a Microsoft Employee

I have been an independent consultant (IC) for quite a while now.  In an amazing number of coincidences, or just plain fate, in a matter of 17 days I went from hearing about a job opening at Microsoft to accepting their offer.  It all started when a friend of mine… Read more

20 comments, 393 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 11 February 2014

Power BI for Office 365 now available!

Microsoft has announced today the general availability of Power BI for Office 365!

Microsoft describes it as: Power BI for Office 365 is a complete self-service Business Intelligence (BI) solution delivered through Excel and Office 365 providing you with data discovery, analysis, and visualization capabilities to identify deeper business… Read more

0 comments, 294 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 February 2014

24 Hours of PASS: Business Analytics Edition videos online

On February 5, 2014 business intelligence experts took to the virtual stage for the 24 Hours of PASS: Business Analytics Edition to deliver a series of one-hour webcasts, digging deep into the world of business analytics.  All session recordings and slide presentations are now available for streaming from the PASS… Read more

0 comments, 258 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 6 February 2014

Forcing a contractor to go W2

I have had a few questions like this: “I was wondering if there is a reason the vendor/broker/head hunter forces a contractor to go on W2?  As per many vendors, lots of big banks are insisting that contractors should be on vendors W2 and NOT have a sub-contracting relationship through… Read more

1 comments, 259 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 4 February 2014

SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) – January 2014 update

The SSDT January 2014 release has been updated to support both SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse Appliance Update 1 (AU1) and continues to support SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse.  This release of SSDT is now PDW version-aware, and the experience is different when connected to SQL Server… Read more

0 comments, 480 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 28 January 2014

Power BI for Office 365 pricing announced

Pricing for Power BI for Office 365 has been announced (see pricing).

 

It’s all very confusing to me but Melissa Coates does a great job explaining it (see Initial Pricing for Power BI Has Been Announced).

More info:

Microsoft pins a price tag on its PowerBI business-intelligence… Read more

0 comments, 263 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 21 January 2014

PASS Business Analytics Conference discount code

I have previously blogged that I am presenting at the PASS Business Analytics Conference.  If you are looking to learn more about business intelligence and data warehousing, there is no better conference out there.  And if you are looking to meet people like you in the industry and share… Read more

2 comments, 326 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 16 January 2014

Independent consultant: How to find work

When I talk to people about switching from being a salaried employee to an independent consultant (see my presentation How to make a LOT more money as a consultant), the most frequent question I hear is “I worry about having to drum up my own business.  I never had… Read more

0 comments, 367 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 January 2014

Business Intelligence/Data Warehouse Assessment

When I am tasked to do a business intelligence or data warehouse assessment, the steps I take to do that depend on the amount of time and the number of people I have.  The result of the assessment will be a plan to build a new data warehouse or business… Read more

2 comments, 637 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 9 January 2014

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, 972 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, 237 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, 5,748 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, 391 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, 247 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, 407 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 December 2013

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