Developing SSIS solutions on OS X : Part2 – Equipment and software list

(Part 1 – Introduction)

Here is my ideal kit list;

  • MacBook Pro 15″
  • SSD or Momentus hybrid drive
  • Optional conversion of DVD bay to a second HD bay
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display (or similar external monitor)

The software that you will need does depend on whether you are operating as an independent consultant or whether you are working within a coproate domain environment. The main difference stemming from this will be the software you personally need to deploy and it may not differ.

To run Windows you will require a copy of VMWare Fusion 4 (version 5 is now out). This runs as a native 64bit OS X application. I have tried Parallels (an early version and version 6) and I found it very poor for setup and the support was sub standard.

You absolutley need loads of RAM and fast disk storage. I think a minimum of 8gb of RAM is essential if you are too get the best of both operating sytems. These MBP’s run 16gb.

I think a mobile computing device is essential these days and the MacBook Air is not really designed for user upgrading, so the MacBook Pro is the obvious choice. However, I started writing this piece before the mid 2012 hardware refresh and there are now some alternatives.

The Macbook Air, configured with 8gb of RAM and 512gb of SSD is sufficiently configured to run a Windows VM with plenty of on board storage. The 2.0ghz i7 CPU packs plenty of power. The Macbook Pro 13“ isnt much different from the Macbook Air other than a faster CPU and the option for a traditional HD. However the 15” MacBook Pro has the separate graphics card (now from NVIDIA). This could make a difference for graphics intensive work, potentially making a difference with SSIS, however I can be certain of that. I do know that software like Pro Tools (music creation) suffers from the lack of a distinct graphics card, where heavy compute for maths operations plus simultaenous screen painting strains the system.

In the end I still recommend the Macbook Pro 15″ (non retina simply due to the excessive price and lack of user upgradeable options).

The best new feature with the mid 2012 refresh is the inclusion of USB 3. This is a super fast interface, much better than Firewire 800 and not far off Thunderbolt. Also, you can buy a very decent 320gb drive for under £60. I did a copy using CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner) from my SSD drive to the USB 3 drive of a 40gb Windows VM file. The first gigabyte was done in 20 seconds. it completed the 40gb in 10 minutes.

I have also tested running the Windows 7 VM machine straight off the USB 3 drive and it started up in an adequate time. Certainly not as fast as my onboard OCZ Vertex 4 SSD but very good when compared with a stock onboard 7200rpm HD. This is certainly and excellent option if you dont want to do any DIY work replacing your DVD drive with a HD / SSD caddy.

The biggest risk using Windows is Windows OS corruption. This is even more likely when using virtual machines. I have had instances where the VM has become corrupted and I have had to use a backup. However, beware if your VM is attached to a Windows domain as if the backup is too old, you can get a ‘untrusted’ error message and recovery from that wasn’t possible.

So I have two uses for Carbon Copy Cloner and external drives. I am now using a G-Tech Firewire 800 1tb external drive to contain a clone of my entire system drive. This is scheduled to run every night in the wee hours. So if I am at a customer site and I get the spinning wheel of death (the OS X equivalent of the Windows BSOD) then I can boot the system from the external drive. This means no loss of time diagnosing problems and rebuilding the system. This drive usually stays in my bag as this type of issue is a rare occurence.

Next installment – Integration and software options

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