Monday, February 4, 2013

Train yourself, yourself

Getting skilled up is the only way to stay alive in the IT services business, and the best way to do that is hands-on experience.  But it isn’t always easy to explore a new tech or skill if you are not working on a project that it is being used on, apart from time constraints the hardware and software you need may be lacking. So I decided to post a couple of things I`ve come across to help in this regard. And since I`m a SQL guy, I will focus on SQL type things.

I`m not saying formal, class based or course-type training is useless, it is great to introduce you to a new field and get you going quicker, but to become skilled, it will have to be some dirt under the nails stuff.

So let`s start at the beginning.


SQL Server Sample Databases:

For almost all of what follows you will need the AdventureWorks set of sample DB`s, download them at: The codeplex site is a great source for Sample databases and source code.

SQL Server Virtual Labs:

“Virtual Labs enable you to quickly evaluate and test Microsoft's newest products and technologies through a series of guided, hands-on labs that you can complete in 90 minutes or less. There is no complex setup or installation required, and you can use Virtual Labs online immediately, free.” -Microsoft

These labs are really great; each consists of one or more Hyper-V Instances hosted in the cloud that you can work on for 90 minutes. As well as an instructional step by step guide you can follow, or you could just mess around….

Some of the topics that are covered:
·         SQL Server 2008 R2: Database Mirroring
·         SQL Server 2012: AlwaysOn Availability Groups
·         SQL Upgrade: Upgrading to SQL Server 2008 R2
·         Exploring Power View
·         Importing and Developing a BI Semantic Model in Microsoft Visual Studio.
·         SQL Server 2012 - What's new in Manageability

Windows Azure – Free trail:

Need a platform to test or host something you`ve been working on? Microsoft Azure has your back here; they offer a free 90 day trial of their cloud hosting solution. All you need is a credit card to register, and you can have a fresh new SQL instance, web service or even a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine with SQL 2012 running in 15 minutes.  And don’t worry they automatically put a R0.00 limit on your account during the trial period, so you can`t get caught with your pants down.
The free trial includes:

·         compute / 750 small compute hours per month
·         web sites / 10 web sites
·         mobile services / 10 mobile services
·         relational database / 1 SQL database
·         SQL reporting / 100 hours per month
·         storage / 35GB with 50,000,000 storage transactions
·         data transfer / unlimited inbound & 25GB outbound
·         media services encoding / 50 GB (input & output combined)
·         cdn / 20GB outbound with 500,000 transactions
·         cache / 128MB
·         service bus / 1,500 relay hours and 500,000 messages

They have a couple of Hyper-V images you can fire up immediately, or you could upload your own.

I am currently trying to put the Microsoft SQL 2012 BI Demo VM on a bit of a diet, so that I can upload it , host it, and have all the SharePoint-Integrated BI niceties in the cloud. I am still just scouting for an internet connection to abuse…cough cough… I will write a blog post as soon as I`ve got this sorted.

Microsoft product samples:

Recently I`ve been longing (weird I know) to go through the whole lifecycle of a business intelligence solution; from dimension modeling to ETL and building cubes and finally onto Reporting and designing dashboards and such.
I came upon Microsoft’s product samples, particularly the SSIS packages and SQL code that builds the Adventure Works Data Warehouse from its namesake OLTP database. This helps me to go through and understand all the steps in detail. This particular one I downloaded from Codeplex;
There are many more of these samples covering a host of different topics. They can also be installed from the SQL Server installation media.

And last but not least….SQL Server Books Online:

BOL is probably the single most useful resource for SQL Server professionals…..Straight and Simple.

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