At BlueGranite, we spend a lot of time learning all we can about new technologies; we spend a lot of time working with our partners, Microsoft and Hortonworks, to develop strategic programs to help our customers solve business problems; and we also spend a lot of time with our clients, helping them realize their goals.
As we approach the close of 2016 – a busy year in the data and analytics industry – we at BlueGranite have a lot to be thankful for. While we take time this Thanksgiving week to reflect on the bounties that we’ve been afforded and the relationships that we nurture, the staff here is also grateful for the growth of the analytics industry. I recently reached out to our team to find out exactly what they appreciate most.
Merrill Aldrich:“I’m thankful for new features in SQL 2016 like the CREATE OR ALTER syntax for stored procedures.”
While the CREATE OR ALTER syntax may seem like a small addition in Microsoft’s SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1, it’s a huge boon to SQL developers who have long struggled with awkward IF EXISTS DROP syntax when making a change to a stored procedure. Even more impactful when implementing DevOps, this new syntax will call for stored procedures to be modified or created with the same command, simplifying both development and deployment processes. New additions to SQL Server, like this one, show that Microsoft listens to users and developers alike, and strives to make its products great for the entire end-to-end chain.
David Eldersveld: “I’m thankful for the opportunity to develop in a platform like Microsoft Azure. I can immediately feel productive without having to wait long or worry about infrastructure. Whether it’s a project related to SQL databases or SQL Data Warehouse, Hadoop with HDInsight, machine
learning with Azure ML, or more, I can focus on the solution rather than challenges with the setup.”
2016 was a banner year for Microsoft Azure. The amount of growth was staggering, and the adoption rate with our customers matched that pace. The ability to use platform-as-a-service products as part of our customer’s solutions has greatly simplified the build and deployment processes.
The ability to shift away from the classic acquire-servers-and-license-them model has enabled an environment where we can help our customers get creative and implement their solutions in novel ways; avoiding the expense of needing to piggyback a solution onto a platform that may not be a great fit.
Azure has enabled us to operate in an “always select the right tool for the job” mode of operation, which is a huge win for us, for our customers, and for Microsoft.
Meagan Longoria: “I’m thankful for the Tabular Model Scripting Language (TMSL) in the new SQL 2016 Tabular models. It’s easier to read, as well as to copy and paste. It facilitates quick metadata changes and makes code merges much easier. And it works with PowerShell and Biml!”
For many users of Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), this feature may have gone unseen, but for advanced users like Meagan, it was a great improvement to the previous version’s gratuitous use of XML. TMSL enables operations teams to easier manage multiple environment deployment options.
The operative features offered with PowerShell, and scripting features enabled when partnered with Biml, are also a huge benefit to customers. The ability to script the development of package templates directly relates to a quicker (and hence cheaper) development cycle, allowing us to focus our expertise on the finer points of solution design rather than the repetitive tasks of scriptable development. This pushes our focus away from repetition and forward to unlocking the insights that are a huge benefit of TMSL.
Erik Roll: “I’m thankful for the Power BI community who share their great designs, build custom visualizations, and answer lots of questions on how to implement Power BI best practices.”
The Power BI community is a unique piece of treasure in the analytics landscape. The Power BI product team embraces the community and enables them to make Power BI a better product. Following an open-source pattern, custom visuals are created by community members and delivered through the Custom Visuals Gallery on powerbi.com. The newly introduced Data Stories Gallery features great ideas, experiments, and “I didn’t know you could do that” examples from people across the globe. Our very own David Eldersveld has a featured example with his “See and Say Power BI Report.“
The community is also engaged in supporting other Power BI users, and supporting the Power BI product team by offering, and voting on, suggestions for product improvement. The community is THE reason why Power BI is quickly becoming the leading tool for analytics consumption in today’s data landscape.
Steve Cardella: “I’m thankful for Hortonworks DataFlow. It does a great job of managing data ingestion and transport.”
We’ve used Hortonworks DataFlow on several of our customers’ projects and have been impressed with how much it simplifies the process of dealing with data in motion. Having a graphical WYSIWYG editor is a great addition to the Hadoop developer’s toolkit. With HDF 2.0, we’ve enjoyed the increased security, and additional processor types, extending our reach into different customer systems even further.
We love products that make our job easier, and HDF is one of those great products that make Big Data approachable. With HDF, we can focus more on solving the problem that the customer approached us with, rather than worrying about how to tie together various technologies and infrastructure. It’s like a Big Data easy button, and that makes it one of our go-to tools.
Jim Bennett: “I’m thankful for SQL Server 2016 SP1 because SSAS Tabular models are now NUMA aware.”
SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 was an incredible gift that we are thankful for multiple times over. In addition to the developer improvements mentioned above by Merrill, we are also excited about SSAS performance improvements due to the SSAS Tabular engine being non-uniform memory access (NUMA) aware.
Better memory management is key for performance in today’s high-powered servers with their large memory capacity, and SSAS is all about high performance. Adding NUMA awareness to the SSAS Tabular engine increases its ability to more intelligently manage memory and provide better performance for end-user reporting and dashboards.
While we’ve listed a few of the industry advances that have made our lives easier this year, we at BlueGranite are most grateful for you – our collaborators, clients, and partners. And we’re eagerly looking forward to the discoveries, advances and partnerships 2017 holds.