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When Lynn Langit’s name appears in my inbox or RSS feeds, I never know what to expect—only that it will be interesting! She may be inviting me to share a technical webcast, passing pithy comments about a conference speaker, or recalling the sight of swimming elephants in Zambia, where Lynn tirelessly promotes information technology as a force for improving health care. On this occasion, it was an invitation to write a foreword for this, her latest book, Smart Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2008. As so often, when Lynn asks, the only possible response is, “Of course—I’d be happy to!”

When it comes to business intelligence, Lynn is a compulsive communicator. As a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, this is part of her job, but Lynn’s enthusiasm for the technologies and their implications goes way beyond that. Her commitment is clear in her presentations and webcasts, in her personal engagements with customers across continents, and in her writing. Thinking of this, I am more than pleased to see this new book, especially to see that it tackles the SQL Server business intelligence (BI) technologies in their broad scope.

Business intelligence is never about one technology solving one problem. In fact, a good BI solution can address many problems at many levels—tactical, strategic, and even operational. Part I, “Business Intelligence for Business Decision Makers and Architects,” explores these business scenarios.

To solve these problems, you will find that your raw data is rarely sufficient. The BI developer must apply business logic to enrich the data with analytical insights for business users. Without this additional business logic, your system may only tell the users what they already know. Part II, “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services for Developers,” takes a deep look at using Analysis Services to create OLAP cubes and data mining models.

By their nature, these problems often require you to integrate data from across your business. SQL Server 2008 Integration Services is the platform for this work, and in Part III, “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services for Developers,” Lynn tackles this technology. She not only covers the details of building single workloads, but also sets this work in its important architectural context, covering management and deployment of the integration solutions.

Finally, in Part IV, “Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and Other Client Interfaces for Business Intelligence,” there is a detailed exploration of the options for designing and publishing reports. This section also covers other popular “clients”—the applications through which business users interact with your BI solution. So, even if you are a Microsoft Office Excel user, there is valuable information here.

When all of these elements—integration, analysis, and reporting—come together, you know you are implementing a “smart solution,” the essence of this most helpful book.

I know from my own work at Microsoft, presenting and writing about BI, how difficult it is to find good symmetry between technology and the business case. I also know how important it is. Architects may build smart technology solutions, but enterprise decision makers put the business into BI. For these readers, Lynn makes very few assumptions. She quickly, yet quite thoroughly, takes the reader through a basic taxonomy of the moving parts of a BI solution.

However, this book is more than a basic introduction—it gets down to the details you need to build effective solutions. Even experienced users will find useful insights and information here. For example, all OLAP developers work with Analysis Services data source views. However, many of them do not even know about the useful data preview feature. In Chapter 7, “Designing OLAP Cubes Using BIDS,” Lynn not only describes the feature, but also includes a good example of its use for simple validation and profiling. It is, for me, a good measure of a book that it finds new things to say even about the most familiar features.

For scenarios that may be less familiar to you, such as data mining, Lynn carefully sets out the business cases, the practical steps to take, and the traps to avoid. Having spent many hours teaching and evangelizing about data mining myself, I really admire how Lynn navigates through the subject. In one chapter, she starts from the highest level (“Why would I use data mining?”) to the most detailed (“What is the CLUSTERING_METHOD parameter for?”), retaining a pleasant and easy logical flow.

It is a privilege to work at Microsoft with Lynn. She clearly loves working with her customers and the community. This book captures much of her enthusiasm and knowledge in print. You will enjoy it, and I will not be surprised if you keep it close at hand on your desk whenever you work with SQL Server 2008.

Donald Farmer
Principal Program Manager, US-SQL Analysis Services
Microsoft Corporation

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