I may be at SQL Rally this week but that doesn’t excuse me from my SQL University duties. Today we are going to talk about SQL Server Analysis Services. While most nearly everything in the BI stack is outside my comfort zone I should remind you all that I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night and wrote most of this post while in the room there.
It isn’t enough to just point to SSAS and tell someone “go learn that thing over there.” No, you need to understand more about why you would ever need to use SSAS in the first place. At what point should someone stop and think “yeah, this is exactly when I would want to be using SSAS.”
For most people that breaking point comes in the form of performance issues caused by queries that require an aggregation (a summation or calculating an average over a specified time duration). When you hit the point that your reporting needs are causing performance issues for other users than you need to start thinking about the use of SSAS.
It’s as good a line as any other to be drawn with regards to answering the question “is now the time we need to think about using SSAS?”
Let’s say you have hit that point where you feel the need to explore SSAS. How do you get started? Well, you could check out this article I wrote a while back (OMG! It’s been THREE YEARS since I wrote that!) Yes, it’s true, at one point I thought I would have the opportunity to dive deeper into all things BI. However, I never really got the chance (which also means I never really took the chance) to get started and dive as deep as I would have liked.
Anyway, the ideas in the article still hold true for someone looking to get started with SSAS, so have yourself a look. After looking, go and get your hands dirty. Follow the steps and build yourself an actual cube. Poke around SSAS using SQL Server Management Studio and get a feel for some of the security and administration aspects.
What else would I talk about here other than building a data model? No, not that kind of data model, this one. It is one thing to work your way to building a cube, it is a far greater thing to build yourself a data model that will satisfy actual business requirements. You’ll need more information on how to do that correctly than what you will learn from just a blog post.
As it so happens I have a handful of books in my library that will help get you started. Check out this book as well as this book. Put them into your library as well and use them as a reference.
By this point you should have enough experience and skills such that you can start teaching others. The teaching can be done internally, perhaps just for the developers in your shop at first. The teaching can also be external, perhaps with blog posts, paid articles, or even presenting at a SQL Saturday (or SQL Rally…or the PASS Summit…)
The point here is for you to become a master of SSAS you will need to start making an effort to help others learn.
Looking for more information? Start following these folks for all things BI, they are quite willing to help.
- Stacia Misner (blog | @StaciaMisner)
- Erika Bakse (blog | @BakseDoesBI)
- Jen Stirrup (blog | @jenstirrup)
- Julie Smith (blog | @datachix1)
- Audrey Hammonds (blog | @datachix2)
- David Stein (blog | @Made2Mentor)