SQL Server Magazine UPDATE, June 22, 2006--Can the Spreadmart Beast Be Tamed?

In This Issue:
In the real world, users rely heavily on spreadsheets for working with data. Because the spreadmart phenomenon seems to be here to stay, we must ask whether we can tame this beast—or will we instead embrace it?

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June 22, 2006

1. Perspectives

  • Can the Spreadmart Beast Be Tamed?

2. SQL Server 2005 Watch

  • MOM Provides Proactive SQL Server Montitoring
  • Product Watch: AVIcode and Tableau Software

3. Hot Articles

  • Q&A: Transferring Identity Field Values
  • T-SQL 2005: Don’t Overlook the New SQL Server 2005
  • In a Nutshell: What’s On Your Desktop?

4. Events and Resources

  • Download Whitepapers and Win!
  • Disaster Recovery for Windows-Based Applications
  • Reducing Exchange Downtime
  • x64 Advantages

5. Featured White Paper

  • Test-Drive the Starter PKI Program

6. Announcements

  • SQL Server Performance Tips, Articles, and Forums
  • June Special—Save $80 On the Windows Scripting Solutions Newsletter

7. Web Community

  • http://www.sqlmag.com

Sponsor: SPI Dynamics
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1. Perspectives

Can the Spreadmart Beast Be Tamed?
by Brian Moran, [email protected]

In last week’s SQL Server Perspectives article “Spread the Love: The Challenge of Corralling Scattered Data” ( http://www.sqlmag.com/Article/ArticleID/50607/sql_server_50607.html ), I discussed the topic of spreadmart. I gave you a definition of spreadmart as a word meaning both spreadsheet and data mart. The phenomenon occurs when large amounts of data—important data—is stored in a spreadsheet. This environment lacks many of the controls and ability to share information that a real database has. However, because the reality is that lots of business users rely on spreadsheets, I’ve formed two assumptions about the spreadmart phenomenon:

  • A vast amount of corporate data will always reside in spreadmarts rather than traditional databases.
  • Most consumer data (e.g., Christmas card lists, recipes) will always be stored in spreadmarts rather than a real database.

In other words, spreadmarts are here to stay. So we have to ask whether we’ll ever become skilled in managing them.

This week I’m going to offer a potential vision of the spreadmart future that will be sure to annoy database purists. Last week’s column resonated with readers. I’ve received many interesting responses, which I’ll share in future installments of the spreadmart discussion. This week, I simply want to present my potentially antagonistic vision of spreadmart futures.

As I mentioned last week, Microsoft has planned several interesting technologies that will deal with spreadmart in different ways. Microsoft isn’t defining its future based on the goal of “solving spreadmart,” but the company is clearly embarking on a long-term, overarching campaign to support improved collaboration. I don’t want to simplify my thesis too much, but I believe that any discussion of collaborative data management must involve a discussion of managing spreadmarts. It’s a safe bet that Microsoft’s direction will be based on Microsoft Office; a good example of how Microsoft is using Office applications to foster collaboration is the recently announced Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 ( http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jun06/06-06PPS07PR.mspx ). It’s a great direction, and I think the approach will offer tremendous value. I plan to write a lot more about the really cool features in Office 2007 as they relate to collaborative data management.

But what if this approach to spreadmart management is flawed—or if not flawed, simply doesn’t address wide spectrums of the spreadmart problem? In April, I discussed the announcement of Google OneBox for Enterprise and its potential positioning as an application- and data-management environment (“Enterprise-Class Data Management—From Google?” http://www.sqlmag.com/Article/ArticleID/50149/sql_server_50149.html ). Last week, Google launched a test version of a spreadsheet, which you can download at http://labs.google.com . No, it’s not as full-featured as Excel or any desktop spreadsheet. However, the Google spreadsheet is server based and is designed to be used by multiple people editing data at the same time. Hmm. Google didn’t use the buzzword “collaboration,” but this spreadsheet sure sounds like a collaboration tool, which is the market Microsoft is hanging its hat on.

It’s hard to fit all of my ideas on this subject into the tiny space I have each week. But let’s think through this a bit. Is a spreadsheet such a terrible way to view and interact with data from an end-user perspective? Of course not. Spreadsheets are great end-user tools. But spreadsheets are a nightmare for corporate IT people who have to deal with all the problems that large-scale reliance on spreadsheets can create. However, imagine a data tool in which the end-user experience feels like a spreadsheet and the back end feels like a database—and includes some of the more traditional database features, such as security, scalability, versioning, multi-user access, rapid searching, and all of the rest of the features that database traditionalists have come to know and love? What if someone figured out a way to take the best parts of a spreadsheet and merge it with the best parts of a database by using new data-persistence technologies that might not even have been invented yet? Hmm. Sounds like a nifty idea. I’m not saying that this is the direction that Google is going, and I’m not saying that Google will succeed, even if I’ve guessed its direction. But it sure is an interesting idea. And if anyone can do it, I won’t be surprised if the problem is solved by one of the world leaders in search and indexing technology.

One of two things will happen with when people read this editorial. One possibility is that everyone will quickly forget the silly idea I outlined today (except for friends and colleagues who delight in reminding me when I write a dumb editorial). Or perhaps, 3 to 5 years from now, I’ll be writing a new series of editorials discussing a set of recently announced products and services that are poised to dramatically reshape the way consumer and corporate spreadmart data is used and managed. If it’s the latter, I’ll be sure to remind you about this article, which proves that I’m a data visionary who possesses great skill in predicting new trends in data management. Which do you think it will be?

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2. SQL Server 2005 Watch

MOM Provides Proactive SQL Server Montitoring
Microsoft released the SQL Server Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), a feature pack that provides proactive and reactive SQL Server 2005 and 2000 monitoring. The pack lets enterprises monitor SQL Server system availability and configuration, collect performance data, and set default thresholds. Local and remote connectivity checks help ensure database availability. Features of the management pack include: monitoring the state of services such as SQL Server, SQL Agent, Report Server, and Notification Services; monitoring the state of databases; monitoring available database space; ensuring databases are configured correctly; ensuring client connectivity; monitoring blocked processes; watching for failed and slow agent jobs; monitoring replication health and alerting about failures; and monitoring the state of Database Mirroring. You can use the information you get from the management pack to identify problems before they become critical. The Microsoft SQL Server Management Pack Guide that comes with the pack describes the content of the management pack and how to deploy it. Download the Microsoft SQL Server Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 at

Product Watch
by Blake Eno, [email protected]

Communicate and Resolve Application Problems
AVIcode announced the AVIcode TFS Incident Management Connector, a solution that enables communication between Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server. When you use this product with the AVIcode .NET Management Pack, you can communicate and resolve application problems such as performance bottlenecks, coding errors, and connectivity and security issues. With AVIcode TFS Incident Management Connector, you can map MOM to multiple Team Foundation Server projects to effectively monitor and manage problems across application teams. For more information, contact AVIcode at 443-543-0030 or [email protected].

Better Understand Crucial Business Information
Tableau Software announced Tableau 2.0, data analysis software that lets users at all levels of expertise see and understand business information. New features let users easily access and analyze large data without technical training or IT support. A new Dynamic Calculations feature uses a drag-and-drop interface to create custom aggregations, computed fields, totals, and subtotals. New dynamic data inspection features let people target specific data points for deeper inspection or exclusion from the visual analysis. Additional features include visual model building and data playback and paging. For more information, contact Tableau Software at 206-633-3400 extension 1 or [email protected]

Sponsor: LeftHand Networks
Explore how the standardization of storage hardware will change market dynamics, focusing on the growth of iSCSI SANs and “glue software.”

3. Hot Articles

Q&A: Transferring Identity Field Values
by Microsoft’s SQL Server Development Team, [email protected]

I’ve been having trouble using SQL Server 2000 transactional replication to transfer Identity field values. In my environment, both the publisher and subscriber are SQL Server 2000 servers running Service Pack 3 (SP3), and the tables and articles on the subscriber have the exact same schema as those on the publisher (including Identity properties and foreign and primary key constraints and indexes). I understand that by default, transactional replication populates tables at the subscriber with no Identity property, but I really want to keep the property. What's the correct way to set up my transfer so that the subscription can keep Identity properties?

Read the answer to this question today at

T-SQL 2005: Don’t Overlook the New SQL Server 2005 NEWSEQUENTIALID() Function
When a new version of SQL Server is released, it’s only natural that a subset of the new features gets a lot of exposure, while other features get little or no exposure. However, some of the overlooked features are very interesting and have important practical uses. In his June T-SQL 2005 column, Itzik Ben-Gan highlights the NEWSEQUENTIALID() function, a new SQL Server 2005 function that he almost overlooked. This new function lets you generate sequential globally unique identifiers (GUIDs). Read this article today, try out the new function, and post your comments at

In a Nutshell: What’s On Your Desktop?
Kevin Kline has a theory that you can learn a lot about a person based on what browser windows are sitting idly open on their desktop. Have you've ever come upon your spouse, kid, or coworker’s desk when they weren't around and seen a collection of pages up that showed you a side of that person you never knew about? Kevin shares what’s on his desktop—and wants to know what’s on yours. Post your reply to Kevin today at

4. Events and Resources

Special Offer: Download any white paper from Windows IT Pro before June 30, and you could win a pair of Bose Triport Headphones. View the full selection of papers today at

Learn to differentiate between alternative solutions to disaster recovery for your Windows-based applications and how to ensure seamless recovery of your key systems whether a disaster strikes just one server or the whole site. On-demand Web seminar.

Any unscheduled downtime—especially of your Exchange systems—can quickly affect a company's bottom line. Learn essential skills for reducing downtime to minutes instead of hours.

Learn the advantages of running SQL Server 2005 and its BI subsystems on the x64 platform; the performance benefits the x64 architecture provides for Analysis Services, Integration Services, and Reporting Services; and how to migrate to the new 64-bit x64 platform.

See the complete Windows IT Pro Network guide to Web and live events.

5. Featured White Paper

Test-drive the Starter PKI program and learn how companies that need to secure multiple domains and host names can benefit.

Whenever you download a white paper from Windows IT Pro before June 30, you'll be entered to win Bose Triport Headphones. See the full selection of papers today at http://www.windowsitpro.com/whitepapers

Hot Spot: Websense
Combat phishing and pharming with complete protection against complex internet threats by filtering at multiple points on the gateway, network, and endpoints.

6. Announcements

SQL Server Performance Tips, Articles, and Forums
Hundreds of free tips and articles on SQL Server performance tuning and clustering. And get quick and accurate answers to your performance- and cluster-related questions in our forum. All from the SQL Server performance and clustering authority: SQL-Server-Performance.com.

June Special—Save $80 On the Windows Scripting Solutions Newsletter
Get endless scripting techniques and expert-reviewed code. Subscribe to Windows Scripting Solutions today and save $80: https://store.pentontech.com/index.cfm?s=1&promocode=eu2666us

June Special&Save $80 On the Windows IT Security Newsletter
Get endless solutions for building and maintaining a secure enterprise. Subscribe to the Windows IT Security newsletter today and save $80.

7. Web Community

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