by Marlon Ribunal

Virtual SQL Playground Adventure: Building The Virtual Environment

Few blog posts ago, I decided to build a virtual environment for a personal SQL Server sandbox. So, the Virtual SQL Playground Adventure blog series came to life.

In the introduction I promised to document everything but did not do a follow up blog post after that. That doesn’t mean I did not build the virtual environment.

SQL Server Test Environment on Hyper-V

As shown in the screen capture above, I have the following:

  • Domain Controller / Active Directory
  • SharePoint 2013
  • SQL Server 2012
  • SQL Server 2012 in SharePoint Mode
  • Windows 8 Enterprise

The DC indicates that all these servers and a client are under a domain. If you are building a virtual environment even for personal testing/learning purposes, a basic domain should be a bare minimum.

Plus, if you check the training kit for the SQL Server 2012 certification exams, network is a required component of the exam preparation.

I have used this test environment in writing my book “SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services Blueprints“. I think I am ready for a new test environment. And I want to start from a clean slate as I commit myself to learning more about SQL Server this year.

I know this particular post is supposed to be a guide to building your virtual environment as indicated by the title. But you know what? I am not going to rehash the how-to stuff. I’d like to point you, though, to some blog posts that I found useful in building my new virtual playground.

My new virtual environment is quite similar to the first one. What I did differently is use differencing disks for the same purpose mentioned by Steve Jones in his blog series (see link above) – and that is, to save storage space. And also, I separated all the virtual machines and their virtual disks on an external hard drive.

differencing disks on Hyper-V Virtual Machines

The virtual machine portion of building my SQL Server Playground is almost complete. I just need to add a couple of clients (Windows 8.1 x64) to use as development machine and test workstation for third-party tools.

SQL Server Lab on Hyper-V

by Marlon Ribunal

Laying The Ground For A Successful Reporting Project

Building a reporting system from the ground up is a daunting task. Such a big project usually involves intricate resource movement. Reporting is an important component of Business Intelligence (BI). Therefore, perceptive implementation options of the reporting portion should be considered. Data analysis and integration become pointless if they lack the proper delivery of meaningful presentation to those who need them.

Purposeful research and requirement analysis precede any action in the initial or implementation phase of the project. But more crucial than understanding the requirements is possessing a deep knowledge not only of the business processes but also of the company itself.

Laying the ground for the success of your reporting project reckons on few factors that are within your control:

Immerse yourself in the business

Knowing what your company does gives you a leverage in any reporting initiative. You must know your company from the inside out – the products or services, the customers, the target market, the competitors, the industry, the stakeholders, among others.

It is not enough to know all the processes or procedures in conducting the business of your company. The key here is to get yourself as close to the core of the business as possible. Make it personal. Feel your company’s heartbeat. Develop a genuine concern for the company.

Immersing yourself in the core of the business gets you to a level where you are comfortable in dealing with every situation that arises in the midst of the project. Plus, it will align all the values you uphold to that of the company. Why is this important? Seeing things with the same lens that the company is seeing through is an indispensable step in understanding the vision of the company.

Understand the desired metrics

What are you trying to measure? Knowing the vision of your company helps you to identify the key barometers and parameters. The Key Performance Indicators give a good glimpse of how far or near the company is to its goals or objectives.

The key is to identify the indicators that bespeak of what the company is trying to achieve. It is one thing to have the cutest dashboard, it is another thing to have a meaningful dashboard. We tend to get enamored of the latest and shinest dashboard tools. Just because you can build the most complicated dashboard doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself this question before you build: Does this hold meaning to what my company wants to measure?

Get to know your report consumers

If you are in the same mindset as the late Steve Jobs, you have an inkling of how often your report consumers do not know what they want to see in their reports. I experienced this myself in the past. I received this specs and built the report based on them. The next morning I received a complaint from the person who requested for that report. I followed his specs to a tee.

That is the common mistake of report developers – accepting requirements or specs without taking into consideration the user’s perspective. Steve Jobs is often correct in this regard. Hence, knowing the business processes and understanding the company metrics is very important.

Understand what your users want. See what they have on those Excel sheets sitting on their laptops. Understand how data influence their day-to-day decisions.

Live and breathe data

As a data pro, you must live and breathe data. One part of the equation in any report project is the metadata – the intangibles or the business processes; the other part, which is equally important, is the data themselves. The data hold every meaning your company wants to draw from their business.

Understand collation, data types, indexes, performance, etc. Learn the structure of your data as they are stored in your databases. Understand how they are collected and to which application they are tied with.

Getting the upper hand on every business application deployed in your company is half the battle.

To sum up, there are few things to consider before you even deal with a reporting project head on. It is not enough that you understand the project specs. Knowing what’s behind every process and number play an important role in the success of your reporting project.

by Marlon Ribunal

My First Book: SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services Blueprints

Packt Publishing has published SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services Blueprints – the book that Mickey Stuewe (b | t) and I have been collaborating on for months. Packt has published this title under their Blueprints Series.

What exactly is a Packt Blueprints Book?

“Blueprints are basically in a standard tutorial format, [...] Continue Reading…