Wednesday, September 9, 2009

East Iowa SQL User Group meeting

This may be one of the nuttiest things I’ve ever done, at least from a technical side.Yesterday I drove to Cedar Rapids to attend the monthly meeting of the I380 Corridor (East Iowa) SQL User Group. That’s a 9 hour round trip drive for a 2 hour meeting, not a very efficient use of my time. But I was glad I did.

The East Iowa group is headed by Michelle Ufford, writer of the SQL Fool blog and Ed Leighton-Dick. Last night’s meeting included a tip of the month by Michelle on using Adam Machanic’s latest version of his who is active script. This was followed by a Live Meeting with Jessica Moss who gave an introduction to data warehousing. That’s what I came for. Ed taped the meeting and hopefully it will come out clean enough so they can post it. I’d love to see it again.

Jessica discussed just what data warehousing is. She went into the design and life cycle of a dw, the definitions of fact and dimension tables, the types of dimensions, the differences between a star and snowflake schema, and how SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS fit into all this. She also discussed the different methodologies, Kimball and Inmon. Finally she gave a demo of a dw, from ETL to reporting, using the AdventureWorksDW2008 database. There was only one question, from Michelle, about using procedures to load data as opposed to a Slowly Changing control in SSIS. Jessica recommended using the SSIS approach.

Jessica’s presentation was exactly what I was looking for, a beginning point for how to build a data warehouse. There’s a lot of information and discussions out there but most of it assumes some knowledge already. And classes usually focus on the tools, not the methods. I need to learn both if I’m to create a good design.

Everyone at the user group was friendly. It was a small gathering, maybe 15 people total. The only difference between them and the Chicago group is they cut their pizza in wedges rather than squares.  

There was one piece of bad news, however. The Iowa group is sponsoring a SQL Saturday on October 17th in Iowa City. But they are far behind what they need as far as registered attendees. They need to hit a certain level for funding from their sponsors to kick in. I think they are running into an issue where there’s another SQL Saturday scheduled the same day in Orlando and others in October. That’s a shame, because I really want to go to this one. Jessica is supposed to come and expand on last night’s presentation. They’ll make the decision Friday if they need to cancel.    

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