Letters, March 2002

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A Wake-Up Call

Thank you for the two excellent articles in your January 2002 focus about career development. I've read Brian Moran's "The Future of the DBA" (InstantDoc ID 23240) and Morris Lewis's "Learning for Life" (InstantDoc ID 23090) five times already. I consider these articles and the accompanying sidebars by other SQL Server gurus as a personal wake-up call.

Like the articles note, a good DBA might never use Full-Text Search, but they need to have expertise in a core area such as Data Transformation Services (DTS), Microsoft .NET, business intelligence (BI), or programming and data access. This issue helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and spurred me to start thinking about how to weather the transition from a "traditional" DBA to a "future" DBA. Again, thank you.

Still a Role for Production DBAs

Regarding Brian Moran's "The Future of the DBA" (January 2002, InstantDoc ID 23240), I take exception to the trend toward turning DBAs into programmers and developers. The best place for a production DBA is in the IT network department. A real production DBA should be concentrating on integrating SQL Server into the overall structure of the production environment. As systems get more complicated—for example, with Storage Area Networks (SANs), clusters, and the need for WAN security—DBAs need to be more network-savvy than ever. The career roles that the article describes are certainly excellent jobs for someone in the development department. But the real production DBA should be very close to the server room and working with network operations. Of course, production DBAs should still play an important role in making recommendations and mentoring the design process. Someone at your sister publication Windows & .NET Magazine must agree with me to some extent because that magazine regularly features SQL Server­related articles.

Telling Time with Analysis Services

Yoram Levin's "What Time Is It?" (January 2001, InstantDoc ID 16041) is one of the best articles I've seen about Analysis Services Time dimensions. Well done! I'd love to see more articles in this vein.

T-SQL's Strength? Stability

In his Editorial: "Multilingual SQL Server" (December 2001, InstantDoc ID 22997), Michael Otey said that one of SQL Server's weak points compared with DB2 and Oracle is its lack of programmability. What's its biggest strength? Stability. One of the things that makes SQL perfect as a programming language for databases is that it's type safe and doesn't use pointers or other constructs that can get you into nasty trouble. SQL is a closed language that lets you do what you have to do; it isn't meant to address every coding problem. The big push for Microsoft's T-SQL has been to support the three "abilities": reliability, scalability, and extensibility. By allowing other Microsoft .NET language extensions, Microsoft might be taking steps backward on the first two abilities. The potential for harm is bad enough already with extended stored procedures.

Distributing Applications

William Sheldon's "Scripting a Custom Database Installation" (November 2001, InstantDoc ID 22428) proved to be a valuable and timely article for our software development group. We're in the process of trying to find the best method for distributing our applications to international branches. The article helped tremendously by giving us many good ideas for how to deploy our database and the objects that go with it.

Microsoft Conferences on DVD

I totally agree with Brian Moran's SQL Server Magazine UPDATE commentary "Users Need Access to Conference Content" (December 13, 2001, InstantDoc ID 23510). I've attended many Microsoft TechEd conferences. The experience is wonderful, and the networking is priceless. The conference fees are certainly worth the price of admission. However, given the state of the economy these days and the availability of both broadband access and DVDs, I don't see why Microsoft can't make the content available for a small fee, like a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Library subscription. Conference attendance wouldn't suffer, and Microsoft would benefit from the enhanced support that these "nonconference" attendees could give their companies.

TOAD a Prince of an IDE

I agree with John Paul Cook's assessment of Oracle's tools in his article "SQL Server and Oracle: Making the Connection" (November 2001, InstantDoc ID 22264). I wouldn't doubt that Oracle has intentionally ignored the tools market to leverage its consulting business. However, Quest Software's TOAD is far from crude. I challenge anyone to find an IDE for SQL Server that comes close to TOAD's functionality, performance, or price. You can choose either the freeware version or the for-fee version, which has received extensive upgrades during the past 2 years. Thanks for the fantastic article! It's nice to see input from fellow dual-hatted (Oracle/Microsoft) DBAs.

Trying Out MDX Examples

I've just read Russ Whitney's Mastering Analysis: "MDX by Example" (December 2001, InstantDoc ID 22994), and I want to try the examples that he provided. In SQL Server 2000, what tool do you use to key in MDX queries? If you use Query Analyzer, how do you configure it to reference cubes?

Analysis Services is an optional component built in to SQL Server 2000, so you have to specifically request that it be installed. After you've installed Analysis Services, you'll see a program in your Start menu called MDX Sample Application. I base all my examples on that sample application. Have fun with the MDX examples!

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