Preparing this book review, I felt a little like George Costanza from Seinfeld. Remember that episode where George had to read the book Breakfast at Tiffany's for a book club he had joined. He went to great pains to find and watch the movie because he was too lazy to read the book.
This book sat on my desk for weeks and I just couldnt seem to open it. Once I finally did, I still had to force myself to keep going. Not that the book was poorly written but because I was just feeling lazy. Then I remembered that the DVD that comes with the book includes video tutorials for each chapter. Soon, I was comfortably viewing my way to a good understanding of SSIS.
24-Hour Trainer: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services
Brian Knight, Devin Knight, Mike Davis
Paperback, 384 pages, July 2009
The Movie: Better Than the Book?
The authors would probably want to slap me if I told them their video tutorials were better than the book, and for good reason. The book is excellent and its clear they put a lot of hard work into it. Heres what I like about the book:
- The overall concept is learn it fast in 24 hours
- Chapters are short and focused on a single, easy to digest topic
- About half of each chapter is the Try It section where you get hands-on practice
- The examples are well designed and seem to contain no frustrating typos
- Comprehensive coverage of what appears to be all the important topics
That having been said, it was the video tutorials that really impressed me. Im ashamed to admit that at first, SSIS intimidated me a little. Now that Ive been through the tutorials, I wonder what I was ever afraid of. Its similar to how I felt a decade ago when I first started learning SQL Server. I was so confounded by the new technology that I took one of those week long, instructor-led training courses. It was a great jump start and helped me overcome that initial new-technology fear factor.
Remembering that experience got me thinking; how much would it cost to take a course on SQL Server Integration Services at one of the national training companies? New Horizons is my favorite, so I looked it up on their website and sure enough, they have a 3-day course on SSIS. It will set you back $1350. No doubt the course is worth it, but the outline for the course suggests its not all that different from what you learn in the Knight's 24-Hour Trainer for SSIS.
This Wrox book sports the typical tech-book price of $49.99 but in my opinion, its completely worth it. In fact, Im not the only one who thinks so. The reviews on Amazon are all glowing, not one of them giving it less than 4 stars. Also, I was first attracted to this title because it was said the book was a favorite of those attending the PASS Conference. Having read the book and watched the tutorials, I understand why.
Excellent Video Tutorials
By now, youve probably ascertained that I liked the tutorials, but you neednt simply take my word for it. One of them, chapter 45, is posted on YouTube so you can view it for yourself. Its the lesson on running packages and serves as a good representative sample of what to expect.
There is, in fact, a video for every chapter in the book. Heres what I like about the tutorials:
- The authors are easy to listen to and the sound quality is excellent
- Zooming, highlighting and pointers are used to good effect
- The pace is just right. I was able to perform the tasks myself as I watched the video (I work with dual monitors)
- They parallel the chapter text perfect but amplify it well
That last point will probably need some explanation. It goes without saying that writing is a vastly different medium than speaking but exactly how its different is not so obvious. When we speak, we spontaneously emphasize things as we think of them. Its difficult to write that way and editors like to revise such rambling and disjointed text. When speaking, however, one can get away with a lot of spontaneous interjection, and thats exactly what happens on the videos.
For example, while demonstrating how to create a Send Mail Task, the narrator casually mentions that one can check on the progress of the task by clicking the Progress tab. Duh! But I never even noticed it there. I mean, most tutorial tasks run so quickly their incremental progress doesnt matter. In this case, however, the mail server couldnt be found so the task was waiting for a time-out, which gave me an opportunity to watch the progress of the task.
There were other numerous little things the authors interjected, probably without even realizing it, that were valuable in my understanding of how to work in the BIDS development environment.
This concept also applies to things that were not omitted from the chapter but which simply blew by me when I read it, or were not clear. An example of that is the use of the Union All task, which the Authors use as a generic receptacle into which to execute tasks. Below is a screen shot of how this package appeared in my SSIS environment. I mean, its clear WHAT one needs to do but not entirely clear WHY one would do this. In the tutorial, the authors had an opportunity to amplify the reasoning for using this control.
I loved this book and I loved getting up to speed with SSIS. In retrospect, I feel stupid for putting it off. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to get started with SQL Server Integration Services.
Years ago, I cut my development teeth on Microsoft Access and VBA code and frankly, thats what I have traditionally used to perform tasks that are simple in SSIS. I once built a VBA application to locate a SQL Server backup file, zip it and ftp it off-site. It took a bit of code and a couple library references to do something easily accomplished in SSIS. Thanks to the Knight's 24-Hour Trainer for SSIS I now have a much easier way to accomplish this and many other data management tasks and they make learning it a real pleasure.