SQL Saturday #215 – Jacksonville, FL:  

I’d been looking forward to this event for a few months now and it had arrived at last — SQL Saturday Jacksonville!

Part of the reason I’d been looking forward to this event (in addition to the great lineup of speakers and sessions) is the pre-con session for which I attended:   “Building a SQL Server 2012 BI Platform” by Brian Knight (B | T) and Devin Knight (B | T).

Now, a day long session which goes through the entire SQL Server 2012 / Sharepoint 2013 Business Intelligence stack in a whirlwind is a great thing, but when its taught by both Brian and Devin Knight?  Sign me up!

The pre-conference session on Friday started with a discussion of source data — an OLTP data source.  From there, we covered the basics of data warehouse design and then dove into designing a traditional business intelligence solution — a data warehouse fed by an ETL process.  With our data in place, we followed a traditional BI approach and built a multi-dimensional SSAS cube.  To contrast, we also built a new SSAS tabular model based on a PowerPivot Excel workbook.  With our data models in place, we finished out the BI stack by exploring them with SSRS, PowerPivot, PerformancePoint, Power View, and a little bit of Geoflow.  An enormous amount of material, it was great going through the entire stack from start to finish with such knowledgeable teachers.

The next morning, after a quiet evening to rest my brain, the main SQL Saturday event was held on the University of North Florida campus.  The venue for the event provided ample space, with a couple of larger auditoriums as well as a number of standard classrooms.  The weather for the event was a sunny and beautiful spring Florida day — which was important as lunch (which was provided free for the event) as well as mid-session breaks were spent outside.

I attended six sessions, all of which were great.  A couple that really stood out to me:

  • Introduction to SSAS” by Bradley Schacht (B | T) — Bradley covered SSAS from the beginnings and getting started building a cube.  This tied back very nicely to the pre-con session on Friday (and even shared a few slides) and helped to reinforce a few of the ideas.
  • Principles of BISM Tabular Modeling” by Javier Guillen (B | T) — Javier covered his rules for tabular modeling — common areas where people get stuck and how to avoid them.  Unfortunately, we only had enough time to get through about half of the rules, but it was great information and I learned a number of great tips!
  • Iron Chef: BI Edition” by Brian Knight (B | T) and Mike Davis (B | T) — This is probably the most fun session I’ve ever attended.  It was the last session of the day and everybody was ready for some fun.  Mike and Brian had a “BI Cook Off” with Mike representing traditional BI and Brian representing self-service BI.  A number of speakers and Pragmatic Works crew made up the judges / peanut gallery.  The entire topic tied back nicely to Friday’s pre-con and the good-natured heckling from the judges panel made it a non-stop laugh.

I’d like to give a special mention to the sponsors of the event as well.  As always, they were friendly and had lots of treats to pass out to people walking by, however, two went above and beyond.  Alluvion brought in an amazing ice cream sundae bar (free to all) and iMethods brought in a Game Truck, which I didn’t get a chance to make it over to.  Great fun!

At the close of the sessions, there was the traditional gathering for final words and raffles.  There was a ton of energy in the room and tons of freebies being tossed around chaotically!

After SQL Saturday there was an after hours event — SQL Karaoke.  As with everything else, it was well organized and well executed — lot’s of free food, some free drinks, pool, and lots of bad music!  Thanks for the memories, Jacksonville User Group!