SQL Bits

Business Intelligence in Azure – SQLBits 2018 Precon

What can you expect from my SQLBits pre conference training day in February 2018 at the London Olympia?

Well my friends, in short, we are going to take whirlwind tour of the entire business intelligence stack of services in Azure. No stone will be left unturned. No service will be left without scalability. We’ll cover them all and we certainly aren’t going to check with the Azure bill payer before turning up the compute on our data transforms.

What will we actually cover?

With new cloud services and advancements in locally hosted platforms developing a lambda architecture is becoming the new normal. In this full day of high level training we’ll learn how to architect hybrid business intelligence solutions using Microsoft Azure offerings. We’ll explore the roles of these cloud data services and how to make them work for you in this complete overview of business intelligence on the Microsoft cloud data platform.

Here’s how we’ll break that down during the day…

Module 1 – Getting Started with Azure

Using platform as a service products is great, but let’s take a step back. To kick off we’ll cover the basics for deploying and managing your Azure services. Navigating the Azure portal and building dashboards isn’t always as intuitive as we’d like. What’s a resource group? And why is it important to understand your Azure Activity Directory tenant?

Module 2 – An Overview of BI in Azure

What’s available for the business intelligence architect in the cloud and how might these services relate to traditional on premises ETL and cube data flows. Is ETL enough for our big unstructured data sources or do we need to mix things up and add some more letters to the acronym in the cloud?

Module 3 – Databases in Azure (SQL DB, SQL DW, Cosmos DB, SQL MI)

It’s SQL Server Jim, but not as we know it. Check out the PaaS flavours of our long term on premises friends. Can we trade the agent and an operating system for that sliding bar of scalable compute? DTU and DWU are here to stay with new SLA’s relating to throughput. Who’s on ACID and as BI people do we care?

Module 4 – The Azure Machines are here to Learn

Data scientist or developer? Azure Machine Learning was designed for applied machine learning. Use best-in-class algorithms in a simple drag-and-drop interface. We’ll go from idea to deployment in a matter of clicks. Without a terminator in sight!

Module 5 – Swimming in the Data Lake with U-SQL

Let’s understand the role of this hyper-scale two tier big data technology and how to harness its power with U-SQL, the offspring of T-SQL and C#. We’ll cover everything you need to know to get started developing solutions with Azure Data Lake.

Module 6 – IoT, Event Hubs and Azure Stream Analytics

Real-time data is everywhere. We need to use it and unlock it as a rich source of information that can be channelled to react to events, produce alerts from sensor values or in 9000 other scenarios. In this module, we’ll learn how, using Azure messaging hubs and Azure Stream Analytics.

Module 7 – Power BI, our Sematic Layer, is it All Things to All People?

Combining all our data sources in one place with rich visuals and a flexible data modelling tool. Power BI takes it all, small data, big data, streaming data, website content and more. But we really need a Venn diagram to decide when/where it’s needed.

Module 8 – Data Integration with Azure Data Factory and SSIS

The new integration runtime is here. But how do we unlock the scale out potential of our control flow and data flow? Let’s learn to create the perfect dependency driven pipeline for our data flows. Plus, how to work with the Azure Batch Service should you need that extensibility.


Finally we’ll wrap up the day by playing the Azure icon game, which you’ll all now be familiar with and able to complete with a perfect score having completed this training day 🙂

Many thanks for reading and I hope to see you in February, its going to be magic 😉

Register now: https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx?EventID=2023328

All training day content is subject to change, dependant on timings and the demo gods will!


Wearing Four Hats at SQLBits 2017

I know there are lots of great blog posts already out there from great people sharing their experiences from SQLBits. However, I hope none of them can offer an account quite as unique as mine from this years event. Why? Well, most people go to SQLBits as attendee’s to learn, network and socialise. This certainly applies to me. But ‘attendee’ was just 1 of my 4 hats (roles) at SQLBits 2017. In this post I’d like to share with you details of my other hats. Which alone poses a wardrobe problem… Orange with black writing or black with orange writing!

Firstly, let’s label my hats…

  1. Attendee
  2. Helper
  3. Speaker
  4. Exhibitor

Before I share any more information with you its worth saying from the start that this was not an easy task juggling these 4 different roles! Very long days with little sleep, little nourishment, and little time to pause. That said, I wouldn’t change it for the world and would gladly do it all again. The reward and enjoyable of SQLBits greatly outweighs any negativity.

Hat Number One – Attendee

I’ve already mentioned being an attendee is the main reason for going to SQLBits. But just to add some stats to that statement:

  • 88 expert speakers
  • 290 hours of content
  • 120 sessions
  • 13 tracks
  • 4 event days
  • 7500 square meters of conference space
  • 700 square meters of partying

SQLBits really is an awesome event! If you haven’t been before I strongly recommend it. Even if you just go for the Friday party, maybe not dressed as a Rubik’s cube though!… Sadly for a disco themed party this often takes some explaining (invented in 1974 + BI SSAS cube)  🙂

Hat Number Two – Helper

Helping at SQLBits is so much more than wearing a bright orange tshirt and telling people where the toilets are! Its about being part of something bigger. Being part of the #SQLFamily that makes the conference tick. Those early starts and late nights to ensure attendee’s have the best possible experience are returned by being part of this great team.

To give you an idea of what I mean by family, here is a picture we posed for (I’m in the middle), just to congratulate an absent helper and friend on the birth of his son just days before the conference. Congrats Terry aka @SQLShark.

I’m not going to waffle on about helping, instead I’m just going to direct you to the blog of my bearded friend Mr. Rob Sewell about why we volunteer at SQLBits. Great post. Great pictures!

Hat Number Three – Speaker

This was only my second time at SQLBits but I was honoured to get selected to speak on Saturday. I took along the Raspberry Pi’s and showed the audience how to build an IoT solution end to end within the Microsoft stack using Azure.

For those that asked me for my C# UWP app code that I ran on the Pi this is now available on GitHub here:


If speaking on Saturday wasn’t enough I was also invited to talk in Chris Testa-O’Neill’s session on Friday about Azure Data Factory. I offered our real world experiences of the service from a recent customer project, building a complete business intelligence solution in Azure.

I’ll certainly treasure those 20mins in the limelight. Thanks again Chris.

Hat Number Four – Exhibitor

This year with SQLBits being held on the home turf of Purple Frog Systems we simply had to sponsor the event and make our mark. This was a very proud moment for the company having never sponsored Europe’s biggest data platform before.

I was charged with the setup and collapse of the stand as well as speaking to all the lovely attendee’s during breaks about what we do. The purple glow sticks and balloons were all my idea. You’re welcome!… Did I mention Purple Frog is also recruiting, please send your CV to Jobs@PurpleFrogSystems.com.

Another little known sponsor called Microsoft 🙂 also embraced the spirit of things by having a very purple exhibitor stand. Seen to the right. Total coincidence, but let’s claim it as a win for the frog massive! Ha.

If you won one of our Raspberry Pi starter kit prizes I’d be keen to hear from you about how you’ve used the device. Please reach out.

That’s it from SQLBits this year. Start counting down the days until next years event.

Many thanks for reading.

My Introduction to the SQL Server Community

Once I was blind, but now I see!

In the early part of 2015 (I think) a work colleague and friend suggested that on Thursday evening I attend the SQL Server Midlands User Group. The event was completely new to me, I’d neverSQLBitsXVPic1 before ventured outside my professional comfort zone, or even had any appreciation that there was such a gathering about SQL Server locally. Anyway, I registered and got some more details. The event was currently ran by some guy called Alex Whittles.

Thursday evening came around and I made the journey from Stafford to Birmingham and the venue for the user group, the Midlands Art Centre (MAC). Little did I know that this event was to become the catalyst for my career and involvement in the SQL Server community. Needless to say the event was a massive eye opener to how close the SQL Server user community was, not just socially, but in terms of knowledge sharing and skills transfer. Family is the best way to describe it, a massive SQL Family.

Time passed and I proceeded to attend the next few Midlands User Groups, meeting new people and listening to the rich variety of speakers that gave up there time to attend each session. In short I was hooked. I might compare myself to the robot Johnny 5 from the 1986 film Short Circuit needing “more input”. Well the webinars started to flow and I quickly realised that I needed to shed my current skin and public sector employer and engage more with the SQL Server Community with a view to expanding my horizons.

Next I attended the Azure User Group, SQL Relay, SQL Saturday Exeter and then the big one SQL Bits XV (which was also the technical launch for SQL Server 2016). I was honoured to be an official helper at my first ever SQL Bits which felt incredible to be part of this huge event. Meeting people that are as passionate about what they do as I am was truly inspiring.

During this time my ambitions were rewarded and through the SQL Server Midlands User Group that guy I mentioned above, Alex Whittles, became my boss! I joined Purple Frog Systems as a Business Intelligence Developer in March 2016.


So what next? Well my friend, keep an eye on this blog and lets find out.


Thanks Rob for the pictures.




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