Episode 107: BI for the Little Guy

Episode 107: BI for the Little Guy

Episode 107: BI for the Little Guy Carlos L Chacon

Data analytics is all anyone seems to talk about anymore.  We’ve even caught the bug at SQL Data Partners and have started working with data platform MVP César Oviedo from Costa Rica.  César has been helping us on some projects and we thought it was time we introduced him to everyone.  On the Spanish front, he has been very busy putting out YouTube videos and publishing content for BI LATAM (Latin America).  We invite him on the show to introduce himself and our conversation turns to the idea of BI for the little guy–smaller organizations that need to take advantage of analytics and how the ecosystem is changing to support them.

We are happy to introduce César to you and know you will enjoy hearing from in this episode and future episodes.

Episode Quotes

“The problem that business intelligence has had in the past is the thinking… Ok, the BI is for Enterprise. The BI is for huge companies.”

“Again a small or medium or huge company needs an architecture behind to support all your solution.”

“Another piece that is rally fancy today is data science… Everybody is trying to understand and talk about data science.”

“I think the days of the DBA who’s only responsibility is backups have come and gone.”

Listen to Learn

00:30 A little background on César
02:00 General view of today’s topic – Business Intelligence
02:52 Companero Shoutouts
03:59 Announcements about the Companero Conference
06:44 Microsoft released updated drivers for PHP to connect to new SQL Server
08:41 SQL Server 2017 – High availability support for SSRS
10:46 Why should small and medium organizations care about business intelligence?
14:14 What are the available options that you can take advantage of some business intelligence?
17:25 Tips or suggestions on PowerBI
21:12 Other things to look at when implemnting business intelligence: data warehouse, data lake etc.
23:51 About analytics and data science, and the pendulum swing of job roles
27:00 SQL Family questions

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/bilatam
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BusinessIntelligenceLatam/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cesaroviedo/

César OviedoAbout César Oviedo

César Oviedo is a Data Platform MVP with more than 15 years of experience working in multidisciplinary projects running roles such as Scrum Master, Project Manager, BI Developer and DB Administrator. With experience leading teams and projects with more than 30 members. Currently focused on Data Science and Big Data platforms. Community Manager at “Business Intelligence LATAM” (BI PASS Chapter Leader for Costa Rica and PowerBI User Community), international speaker and trainer for Data and Cloud technologies.

*Untranscribed introductory portion*

Carlos: Companeros, welcome to Episode 107. We’re switching things up a bit again today as we tend to do from time to time. Joining us today is going to be Cesar Oviedo from SQL Data Partners.

Steve: Hey, SQL Data Partners I know that company. Wait, that’s our company.

Carlos: Yes, so Cesar is going to start working with us. He is helping us out with a few projects. So Cesar is from Costa Rica and he is an MVP in Business Intelligence down there so you can see where he is going to be picking up some slack for us. So Cesar welcome to the podcast.

Cesar: Hi Carlos. Hi Steve. A little scared you know. It’s my first time in a podcast.

Carlos: Well, yes, so it’s a little funny or ironic that you say that because obviously after a hundred episodes we’ve gotten a little bit use of this but I know you have created your own Spanish language version but you’re doing kind of a webcast of sorts there. You’ve done, what, 6 or 7 episodes then?

Cesar: Yeah, it’s around 5, but it’s kind of hard to find speakers.

Carlos: Yes.

Cesar: I don’t have one hundred and others. I am working on it.

Carlos: So now that you’ve come on the English language version, I’ll send Steve down to the Spanish language version. We can do that next time.

Steve: Oh boy, that’ll interesting. I’ll have my translator dictionary handy.

Carlos: Yeah, I’m sure Google Translate will work just fine. Just speak into the mic and it will translate everything you want to say. So, Cesar is going to be helping us out. We don’t know that he will be on every episode. We’re gonna try to get him in on as many as we can but he will be joining us from time to time and so it will be good to talk with you further, Cesar. Ultimately out conversation today is going to revolve around Cesar’s focus and that’s business intelligence. So we are going to chat a little bit about why small and medium businesses might need business intelligence and of course from the Microsoft perspective, how they might be able to take advantage of that and some of the new resources that are available to them. So before we do that.

Steve: Yes, do we have any companero shout outs this week, Carlos?

Carlos: We do, and I’ve checked this name twice because he accused me of saying it wrong last time, but Alberto Lopez. Alberto is giving us some love for Episode 104. It’s interesting how kind of the comments come in. Somebody tagged Eugene. So, Episode 104 was the Episode with Eugene. We were talking about learning and how to learn and lots of people thought that it was a very interesting episode and that idea of the half-life. You know, learning radioactivity idea, got a few people talking. So thanks to Nicky, and I’m just going to leave it at Nicky because I cannot pronounce that last name. Bert Wagner and Nicole Gaudreau for chiming in for Episode 104 as well.

Steve: Episode 104 was a lot of fun and on the non-technical side.

Carlos: That’s right. It’s something that we all face with, we kind of deal with on a regular basis.

Steve: And we have the Companero Conference coming up in a couple of months.

Carlos: That is right. We are getting very, very close. It’s starting to get exciting. I guess when this episode goes out we will be at 60 days or so, so we are getting close. Of course, if you are a listener of this podcast and you want to come you can use a discount code, companero, and that will get you 15% or $75 off. We will remind you that on August 16th will be the next price increase so the conference will increase $100. So, if you want to beat that and apply the $75 to that you can do that before August 16th.

Steve: So, to get the absolute best price use the discount code and do it before August 16th and you’ll be in.

Carlos: That’s right, and with your favorite companeros. We’re even going to try to convince Cesar that he needs to come.

Cesar: Of course, I would love to go there.

Carlos: Hey, that’s right. Who wouldn’t love to go? So, I won’t give too much away but I
do want to start. It’s not on the website, so again you’re king of getting some insider news here. But one of the activities, one of the things that we’re going to do at the conference is give you a way to be able to test your SQL Server knowledge with some of the other attendees or against the other attendees. So we think we’ve put together kind of a fun little activity spearheaded by Mindy who was one of our speakers and that should be great fun.

Steve: Yeah, that does sound like a lot of fun. I remember Mindy talking about that a while back so I’m excited to see how that goes.

Carlos: That’s right. And I guess let’s see by now the website has been updated a bit, like with most things as this is your one, we kind of iterated a bit on the website and so we’ve made some changes; hopefully made the ability to access the speakers and the session information a little bit easier. So we hope that you’ll check that out and let us know what you think. So, it’s been a little while but I think it’s time for some SQL Server in the News.

Steve: So, Microsoft has just released updated drivers for PHP to be able to connect and use SQL Server, and you might be wondering, “Why is this important?” Well, for anyone who is out there coding web applications in PHP, and they are trying to get to the SQL Server database, they need to use these drivers to be able to talk to the database. Without that, the drivers have been there for a while but Microsoft has come up with lots of iterations over the years for them and they have come a long way from the beginning. Every time they come out it’s always good to see that there is a new batch of patches and stability fixes along the way that make it even better. If you’re using PHP to talk to SQL Server you might want to look at those new drivers and consider upgrading.

Carlos: Yeah, and I think they continue to invest in “non” Microsoft technologies. It’s not just .NET connecting to SQL Server anymore. Now that SQL Server is in Linux. You know, I was actually on the Ruby Rogue’s podcast talking about connecting Ruby on Rails to SQL Server. Of course, I guess PHP has been there for a while but I think they are trying to increase that adoption, trying to reduce the barriers the developers have to be able to use SQL Server as a data store; which is kind of fun to see because I think then from an administrator perspective that might mean that there are more opportunities to then support or be part of different projects than I was previously.

Steve: Yes, indeed.

Carlos: Another change or another update, so in conjunction with SQL Server 2017 but I think it’s substantial and that is this idea of scale-out support or basically high availability support for SSRS. If you’ve known or even for a long time coming using clusters, SQL Server cluster, and then you have Reporting Services. That didn’t really work all that well. I said reporting services, and then I guess I should add also in addition Integration Services and being able to use that Catalog DB so the Catalog DB can be used in availability group scenarios so basically it can move. It could be redirected and your packages will still work.

Steve: Then with that you don’t need to be deploying the packages then to every server because now that’s going to be aware availability groups and you just have to deploy it to the availability group using the SSIS DB and you’ll be in better shape.

Carlos: Right, you can leverage that availability group because you started deploying to the catalog whereas before it was a little bit prohibitive because that couldn’t get replicated. Now it can.

Steve: Alright, very nice.

Carlos: Ok, so the URL for today’s episode is going to be sqldatapartners.com/BI, for business intelligence.

Steve: Or sqldatapartners.com/107 for our episode number.

Carlos: And so with that let’s go ahead and turn our attention over to our guest. Cesar,
welcome again. Ultimately, we are talking about business intelligence, kind with a focus for small and medium organizations. So I guess first tell me why should these organizations even care about business intelligence?

Cesar: You know, actually the answer for this question is pretty simple, everybody has data. The problem that business intelligence has had in the past is that, I don’t know, maybe around 10 years ago when I started working in business intelligence everything was, “Ok, the BI is for Enterprise. The BI is for huge companies.” I guess the main problem is that the companies are still considering BI is like a fancy feature or something that maybe it’s not for me. But to answer your question, everybody has data, so why we will not have the features or the mechanisms to get high quality data and to get your insights. Because again it’s different if you have a simple report that is showing you the sales, yesterday’s sales or something like that or the weekly sales or something like that, very simple stuff.

Carlos: Right, because everybody have data we should be able to interrogate that data and ask it questions. But they’ve been on the fence or behind because of the complexity. Right? You have to have a ton of people and you need to spend a ton of money on hardware and software. It gets real complicated, real fast.

Cesar: Yeah, but I always say, I am not working for Microsoft, or I’m not working for Tableau, or any other BI providers. Basically, I am a SQL Data Partners person, consultant, so basically. I always say, the main problem behind all the difficulties for the small and medium companies to get BI or new features is the provider’s stuff. Because it is the same thing as, it’s Microsoft’s fault, it’s Oracle’s fault because you as a small or medium company usually doesn’t have the money to make your own research. If you want the data, if you want your insights, but you I don’t know, let’s say some company comes to you and talk beautiful things and start talking about Big Data and Data Lake, and Cloud, and a lot of different stuff. Of course this provider is searching for his own business, but you as a small or medium company, you don’t have the money to buy those kind of fancy features but you still have the needs.

Carlos: Well, so obviously we are Microsoft-centric. Let me take another little sip of my Kool-Aid here, kind of focused on the SQL Server and the Microsoft Stack. You’ve mentioned Data Lake and Cloud, and Business Intelligence is a word we’ve been hearing a lot about. I guess the easy button approach is the right word. But what kinds of options are available to me now that I can take advantage of some Business Intelligence?

Cesar: The quick answer for your question is PowerBI. It’s basically, “Ok, I have
PowerBI.” It’s an open and free tool. But the problem here, again, is if you’re a company and you have your needs to create your dashboard or whatever, you just download your PowerBI. “Ok, what I can do to make it happen in a good way? What can I do to have a real dashboard that can handle my information to grow with my data?” Basically, this is something really important here because you can go to and download your PowerBI desktop or just create that PowerBI.com account, but what is the problem with that? Ok, I need the training and I need some basic knowledge about how it works. And let’s say a medium company, probably I have a lot of data and what about the data warehouse? The data warehouse is not something that is in PowerBI. It’s something different. It’s something about SQL Server. Again, it’s something that needs to be considered. It’s not only the tool. It’s the development of the projects.

Carlos: So the easy button is not quite there, right? I mean, you mentioned PowerBI being available so they can start using some of this data and I actually think back and we’re going to use one of the first projects we actually worked together on was an organization managing hotel data. And so they had all these information from spreadsheets and third parties that they were getting this stuff from, and they were just sucking it up into PowerBI and I thought, “Hey, we’ve arrived. We are using business intelligence. Yay!” And then they started adding more and more spreadsheets and it just got slower and it didn’t quite work for them. So while they may be able to use the reporting capabilities, you might still need somebody to help you kind of connect the dots from an architecture perspective.

Cesar: Yeah, absolutely. Again, it’s kind of hard to find a low performance in PowerBI. But again, this customer did it. I know that there is a lot of different people or companies out there trying to make it happen, trying to make his own dashboard and without any kind of support of anybody, so it’s a really, really interesting thing.

Steve: So then let’s say a small to medium size company wants to do business intelligence and create a business dashboard and they download PowerBI and they are ready to get started but they don’t know where to go. Do you have any tips or suggestions there of how to get to that next level?

Cesar: Yeah. First you have to understand that if you are doing anything, you can stop talking about PowerBI stuff. If you download something from internet and looks very simple, cheap, awesome, there is something, you know, some piece is pending.

Steve: It’s almost too good to be true.

Cesar: Yeah, exactly, exactly. This is exactly what I mean. Basically, PowerBI is this kind of stuff because it’s awesome. It’s really simple to use. But if the tool is free and I can create a dashboard in a few minutes, basically, let’s call it, again, a small, medium or huge company, you need architecture behind to support all your solution. The first step, or the first advice is, reconsider the steps, and consider that a piece is pending.

Carlos: So even though they’ve made this tool available it might not include all the pieces that you need to get up and going. I mean, not completely. They are trying to make this easy, right? I guess I’m putting on my Microsoft hat for a second, and it’s very, very cool. You can’t disagree that it’s not very cool and pretty easy to use. I think that kind of extension of, you know, if you’ve been working with Excel that leap or that jump to PowerBI is pretty simple, right?

Cesar: Yeah, it’s pretty simple. Actually, one of the podcasts they did in the past, one of them with the most traffic was the Data Warehouse with Jesus (name unclear) from Mexico was a really, really interesting point of view, was some really good conversation about this topic about, “Ok, there is PowerBI and everybody is loving PowerBI. What is happening? Why still we have problems with the data? The companies are not creating power business intelligence?” It’s not that simple. You need solutions, you need development, you need architecture to support your design. So basically, this is really, really important.

Carlos: And I know we’ve talked about this program before but this idea of being
able to solve the business problem and understand that. I think this is a perfect marriage of that technology and the business problem. So, you might not be “writing” the reports anymore. But you can still help with some of the plumbing, right, connecting the dots. And I think if you’re willing to do that and speak business, if you will, if you’re a technology person, and to be able to help those business owners with that then there will be lots of opportunities there for you. So, I guess we talked about PowerBI and the free components. Other plumbing or other things that organizations might need to look at as they start implementing some business intelligence?

Cesar: Yeah, of course. We talked a little about data warehouse but some people listen now about it or maybe just understand data warehouse as a huge database or something like that. So again, one of the primary companies in a real business intelligence solution, and this transformation and stuff so basically what I mean with transformation, I am talking about Integrations Services or if I am 100% Cloud I can consider data factory. Again, there is a lot of different mechanisms to do a lot of different things but again transformation is really important with integration services or data factory, as well I can use Data Lake, HDInsight, anything, you know, the big data stuff is growing as well.

Carlos: A little bit scary, right? I mean, I guess you hear that Data Lake, and again, granted, I’ve only seen demos and whatnot but I’m not sure I would associate the easy button and Data Lake just yet.

Cesar: No, it’s not for everyone but this is part of what I’m trying to talk. You know, it’s not for everyone and you have to understand that. If you’re a small company or you are a medium company you need that Data Lake or you don’t need that HDInsight to start working with your BI stack.

Carlos: I guess I would say, I would caveat that slightly and say existing company because there are plenty of new organizations, you know, ala .coms that might make a lot more sense for, but again those are primarily technology companies to begin with. And I think they would have a little bit more the staff and whatnot to be able to comprehend and implement some of those pieces.

Steve: So for instance, if you’re a .com or a startup or you have the developers and the IT staff that’s already doing the work in the Azure environment jumping into the Data Lake or the HDInsights or other things may not be that far off, I think. Is that what you’re trying to say?

Carlos: Yes, that’s right. Ok, very cool. Let’s see, what else?

Cesar: Another piece that is really fancy today is data science and stuff, you know, everybody is trying to understand and talk about data science.

Carlos: That’s right. I don’t know how about there in Costa Rica but one of the things the salaries are starting to swing towards the analytics and the data science way. So it used to be that from a salary perspective, database administration was kind of where it’s at and we’re starting to pendulum swing a little bit there and those salaries are starting to get really big. And so you’re starting to see people jump ship and want to learn more about that.

Cesar: Yeah, but you know what is interesting here because in SQL Server 2016 now you have the R components, and Python is for the 17. Right now you have R in PowerBI so it’s like, “Ok, something is changing.” You have to understand that a lot of additional features for data science is coming to the regular tools. So I always have that really coming, I don’t know, is existence question about is that the real disposition have a real future or will be part of everything? Because it’s in PowerBI so who will use this scripting, a PowerBI user? I don’t think so, doesn’t have the knowledge. Probably a BI developer? Maybe. And a real data scientist will say, “Ok, but this is a dashboard”, or “this is not the scripting. I really love the scripting stuff and the R scripting.” It’s like, hmm.

Carlos: Right. It would be interesting to see kind of how the job roles continue to evolve there, based on the technology that becomes available.

Cesar: Yeah.

Steve: I think with that there will probably end up being some crossover between the roles that a traditional DBA has to do versus a data scientist and there will be some overlap there.

Cesar: Now that you are talking about the DBA. The DBA have a huge challenge right here because everything is changing in his box. You know, it’s changing everything. Now we have little other different components the DBA have to handle.

Steve: I think the days of the DBA whose only responsibility is backups have come and gone.

Cesar: Yeah.

Carlos: Well, awesome. Well, obviously this is I think is just the beginning of the conversation that we’ll have and we’ll, of course, have you back on and continue this discussion in other episodes. Should we go ahead and jump into the SQL Family?

Steve: Let’s do it. So Cesar, how did you first get started with SQL Server?

Cesar: As you know, as everybody in the podcast know I’m from Costa Rica. So basically, here in Costa Rica, if I am in the near city basically you are a software developer, basically. I used to say, when I started working as a software developer I really hate to be a software programmer. It’s like, ok this is not for me. And it’s because I really love to interact with the final users and understand the requirements, and this kind of stuff, that software programming is not part of that. You know, software programming is more like, “Ok, you have requirements or in this case or histories from a scrum or whatever.” But this is not for me. I really love to interact with the customers and understand their real insights inside the business. This is why I just decide to move to anything else and I find SQL Server, actually DTS in SQL Server 2000, and ok, wow this is for me, I’m going to start growing. Basically, that is why I am here.

Steve: Exciting. I can remember using DTS on a number of different things back then.

Cesar: I don’t know if the word is “wow”.

Carlos: So, it’s funny, having just recently had to install, I guess that was 2000, right? But installed 2005, kind of taking me back a little bit there, right? One of the questions we’re going to ask you here is what do you want to change about SQL Server? Having had to deal with the 2005 installation here recently, I can assure you that I’m very grateful for the changes that have been made since those early days.

Steve: That is so true.

Carlos: So, having said that, if you could change one thing about SQL Server what would it be?

Cesar: You know, one of the primary stuff that, I always say that the SQL Server has to change was the, let’s say the integration with the BI stack was really strange. Right now with the PowerBI, with Data Lake, with BI, with HDInsight and Data Factory and others, you can see that the data platform stack is growing but outside the SQL Server. So for me, this is something that is already happening, and it’s something really, really interesting.

Carlos: May I, you know, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal right here, so the integrations between the engine and the PowerBI?

Cesar: No. I mean, if you go, let’s say, business intelligence solution in 2005 or 2008 you will find that you only have Integration Services, Reporting Services and Analysis Services, so basically everything is inside a box. Everything is inside the SQL Server.

Carlos: It comes with SQL Server. Like it is part of the, it’s almost like an attachment, an add-on.

Cesar: Exactly. Right now, this is really, really different because there is a lot of different features and tools that are outside of the SQL Server. So for me, this is awesome. This is the way Microsoft can grow PowerBI month per month, so every time it is changing and adding new features that of course, if process is inside, DVD installation will be impossible.

Carlos: We’re interjecting here another question, so do you see like they’ve done with Management Studio, which I guess is one thing. But currently, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Reporting Services and Integration Services still, you have to go through the SQL installer. Do you see, this is just conjecture on our part, we’re not saying this is going to happen. But could you see a day when there is an Installation Services installation or SQL Server Reporting Services installation that are kind of their own products.

Cesar: Yes and no. It’s kind of tricky question because if you tried to search for different tools or different options instead of Integration Services you will find Data Lake. So basically, it’s like Integration Services is the big guy and Data Factory is the newborn baby and it’s just starting to grow and understand what is the business and how to do everything. It’s really strange or really difficult for a new tool to handle or to be a stand-alone tool. You can see that. If you learn to create Integration Services in 2005 and you go to 2016 or 2017, you will find that basically it’s the same. There is only a few changes. Why is that? Basically, because Integration Services is a great tool, have a lot of different features, and basically do what needs to do.

Carlos: Yeah, so I guess I wonder, and one of the reason I guess I give pause to that, and again I’m not saying it will become its own product, but with the advent of Polybase, right? We know that Polybase is going to start connecting to more than just Hadoop. Might you see something like an integration or that middle tier which is what SSIS does, right, to kind of become its own, “Hey, I don’t rely on SQL Server necessarily, anymore. I can start doing integrations with different technologies”. I don’t know, it should be interesting.

Cesar: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, so, what is the best piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Cesar: Ok. When I started working with Business Intelligence here in Costa Rica, it was really hard to find, it’s like, “Ok, I am a BI guy.” Basically I just decided, “Ok, I go back to be a software developer, start searching for new opportunities.” I just have objective to be a fulltime BI developer. This is something that, it’s advice for myself, it’s something just to go on with what you want to do and search for a new specialization. Again, I will say I decided that my specialization will be business intelligence but I can choose as well software developer. I can be an architect or whatever as well in the software area. So, just search for specialties.

Carlos: Once you know what you want, go for it.

Cesar: Yeah, exactly.

Carlos: Our last question for you today Cesar. If you could have one superhero power, what would it be and why do you want it?

Cesar: It’s a really strange question. You know, I really love the Marvel superheroes and one of my favorites is, I have two maybe, probably. The first one is Wolverine. Doesn’t have any reason why, just because he’s cool.

Carlos: Yeah, kick butt and take names.

Cesar: Yeah, exactly, and some kind of immortality or something, but it’s not real immortality, it’s like getting old really go slow–

Carlos: Like auto-healing.

Cesar: Yeah, exactly, the healing factor and stuff like that. And the other is Dr. Strange. Some mystical stuff and doesn’t have any relationship with SQL Server. Is that an issue?

Carlos: No, that’s ok. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining us and of course we look forward to working more with you and having you back on the podcast.

Cesar: Thank you.

Steve: Yup. Thanks for joining us.

Carlos: Ok, so Steve and I need to brush up a little bit more on our Business Intelligence and Cesar is going to help us do that. Of course, if you have other topics or suggestions for things we should be talking on the podcast you can reach out to us on any of the social media options. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn. I am @carloslchacon.

Cesar: You can find me at LinkedIn @cesaroviedo.

Steve: And I’m on LinkedIn @stevestedman, and we’ll see you on the SQL Trail.

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