Developing SSIS solutions on OS X : Part1 – Introduction

I need to state from the outset that this series of articles is not intended to sway anyone into choosing the Apple platform for SSIS development. Nor do I wish to enter into any debate about Apple hardware versus Windows based hardware. Been there, done that and I regularly lose on many fronts.

If you are considering the switch or already have, then hopefully I can save you some time and provide some guidance on how to proceed with tooling up for SSIS (or general Windows) development on this platform.

My reasons for choosing the MacBook Pro and subsequently using it as a Windows / SSIS development platform are simple. I really like it. It’s quality equipment, performs well and reliably and despite a few annoying niggles, its very productive.

So, if you have decided to go down this route, or are considering the switch, then read on.

The iPhone and iPad are driving the enormous growth in Mac sales via the ‘halo’ effect. At the other end of this discussion, Microsoft is absolutely dominating the ETL space with SSIS. If you have arrived at this blog post through a route other than SSIS, ETL means Extract, Transform & Load and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is Microsoft’s solution.

In a nutshell, ETL is all about moving, consolidating & transforming data to make it more useful and valuable.

I used Windows based PC’s to do my ETL consultancy work (COBOL/SQL) right up until Apple decided to use Intel chips in their hardware platforms. I had always wanted to have a Mac but couldnt justify have two separate platforms. Enter Bootcamp.

Bootcamp allows a Mac OS X user (Tiger 10.4 onwards) to boot their system into Windows. This was a big step forward. I started with a Core 2 Duo, white Macbook with 4gig of RAM. Six years later I am using a 15″ MacBook Pro with 16gig of RAM, a 256gig SSD boot disk with a 750gb 7200rpm Momentus Hybrid hard drive in the DVD drive bay. This is all driven by OS X Lion (10.7) and allows me to run mulitple Windows XP and Windows 7 virtual machines on VMWare Fusion 4.1.1.

I also connect it to an Apple 27“ Thunderbolt display in my home office and to a 24” monitor (via a VGA adaptor) at a client site. The Apple Cinema / Thunderbolt displays are excellent. The resolution and image quality is so good. The Dell monitor is also fine, but not as good quality. However, there is a hefty price difference.

I was using two 24“ Apple Cinema displays connected via a Matrox DualHead2Go graphics device. This was great for parking SSMS in one screen and Visual Studio / BIDS in the other, with a bit of room for email and file explorer near the bottom. However, with the release of the Thunderbolt 27” monitor and its built in Ethernet, Thunderbolt and USB ports, I have gone back to the single, larger monitor. I keep the MBP screen open at the client site, using the 24″ monitor, so I still have a parking area for Mail and file Explorer. The Matrox device works with the new Thunderbolt comms port, but it did bring with it a few issues reviving the external monitor from sleep conditions. Matrox are fairly good with releasing firmware and software updates. I also make heavy use of Spaces, enabling fast switching between Windows 7, Windows XP and OS X Lion.

So thats the platform I have evolved over the last few years.

I think this is superb SSIS development option. As a data architect, communicating ideas, stratagies and plans are as important as the design and build process. This dual OS platform gives me the best of both worlds.

Next installment – Equipment and software list

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  1. eric 2012-04-20 at 14:42 #

    @jamiet has tweeted about my post re “Microsoft is absolutely dominating the ETL space with SSIS …”, can I back this up. I am sure there are plenty of vendors out there that will have solid arguments against that assertion, but here are my reasons why I think this is probably true and if not quite, then why it is very likely to become so.

    I attended Ralph Kimballs “ETL Architecture in Depth” course in April 2011. There were 60 attendees and during a show of hands about ETL platform usage, over half said they were using or planned to use Microsoft SSIS.

    As I mentioned in my previous “Luxury” ( blog about the SQL Server community, about how the talent pool is growing. This is a growth market. Yes it might be hard to recruit at the moment, but if I was at Uni or thinking about retraining, I would give serious consideration to learning SSIS, before any other ETL tool suite.

    Finally, I think SSIS lowers the entry level for genuine data integration and analysis, opening up business intelligence opportunities. I dont know the list prices for ETL solutions such as Informatica, Oracle Data Integrator, BusinessObjects Data Integrator, DataStage etc., but I do know these have generally been the domain of big IT shops. I have heard anecdotal stories about one of these tools; that it is much more expensive to develop with than compared to SSIS.

    By licensing SSIS free with the database engine, Microsoft make their product very compelling. This means that small businesses that are growing and beginning to embark upon “data centric / business intelligence” projects (as distinct from core IT systems and solutions), they are very likely using SQL Server and will probably move onto SSIS.

    Only time will tell, but my money is on SSIS.