Monday, September 18, 2017

CONCAT different Rows into a single attribute value


Using T-SQL, you need to concatenate values from different rows into a single attribute value.  The ideal solution would a function that allows you to CONCAT the values from a GROUP BY, much like a SUM(0) function might perform.


Let's say we want a single row, that lists out all the distinct Titles in the person.person table in the AdventureWorks2012 database. All we need is a string SUM() or CONCAT() command for a group.  We could imagine the command might look something like this:

with t as 
( select Title = isnull(p.Title,'n/a'), count(*) as TitleCnt
 from [Person].[Person] as p 
 group by p.Title
Select AllTitles = MYROWCONCATFUNCTION(t.Title), sum(TitleCnt) as TitleCount from t

SQL Server 2017?
If you are using SQL Serer 2017 or Azure SQL Database, you can use the STRING_AGG function.

Not using the latest version?
For now, the most straight forward approach is to use FOR XML PATH. One key downside might be that for some, this command is considered a blackbox that might not be reliable in the longer term. So, if you are not comfortable using FOR XML PATH, go to the ProjectMX write-up on all the ways you can approach row concatenation using T-SQL:  ProjectMX: Concatenating row values in Transact-SQL.


For a simple approach to concatenate the values from multiple rows is to setup a SubQuery using FOR XML PATH .
with t as 
( select Title = isnull(p.Title,'n/a'), count(*) as TitleCnt
 from [Person].[Person] as p 
 group by p.Title
 sum(TitleCnt) as TitleCount
,(SELECT ',' + t.title + ' ' FROM t where (t.Title = t.Title) FOR XML PATH ('')) AS AllTitles
 from t;

With the output looking like this:

         TitleCount AllTitles
         ----------          ---------
         19972 ,Sr. ,Mrs. ,n/a ,Sra. ,Ms. ,Ms ,Mr.

To remove the leading comma, we can add a SUBSTRING function:

with t as 
( select Title = isnull(p.Title,'n/a'), count(*) as TitleCnt
 from [Person].[Person] as p 
 group by p.Title
Select  sum(TitleCnt) as TitleCount
  ,SUBSTRING((SELECT  ',' + t.title + ' ' from t where (t.Title = t.Title)
  FOR XML PATH ('')),2,9999) AS AllTitles
  from t;

With the output looking like this:

         TitleCount AllTitles
         ----------          ---------
         19972 Sr. ,Mrs. ,n/a ,Sra. ,Ms. ,Ms ,Mr.

Need more information on FOR XML? See: m FOR XML (

Monday, August 14, 2017

Expert Beginner a.k.a "Sophomore" or the "wise fool"

Erik Dietrich has an excellent write-up of what he calls the "Expert Beginner."  As you read it, I'm sure you'll recognize the situation in a current or former organization. In the broadest terms, the academic phrase "sophomore" is well suited.

You can find it here: How Developers Stop Learning: Rise of the Expert Beginner

Another interesting post:  How to hire a senior developer

Using the definition provided by Wikipedia, would get:

The term is derived from Greek σόφισμα (sophisma), 'acquired skill, clever device, method', altered to resemble a compound of the Greek words σοφός (sophos), 'wise' and μωρός (moros), 'foolish, dull'.

AI and the demise of the DBA

Are DBA's soon to be the way of the buggy whip?

I've long held that the need for a full time DBA to tune a database was past its prime. In an age where database vendors like Microsoft hire brilliant database theorists, it makes far more sense for them to work out the algorithms to manage the database than having a full-time database mechanic (DBA) on staff to monitor and adjust the system.

With the release of SQL Server 2017, a new feature, called Automatic Tuning (SQL Server 2017) has been introduced.

While SQL Server has made progress in this area, the open source world has made advances as well. OtterTune has made some initial advances tuning and optimizing two open source database flatforms:  MySQL and Postgres.

Here are key links to learn more:

AI topics - OtterTune

A detailed look into OtterTune by Adrian Colyer

Research Paper - Automatic Database Management System Tuning Through Large-scale Machine Learning

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Forecast vs. Predict - what's the difference?

We get ask this frequently.

Fortunately, the team at PowerPivotPro has provided a nice write-up. So, rather than re-create the wheel, here it is:

The Difference Between Forecasting & Predictive Analytics

Thursday, May 25, 2017

SSRS support for Power BI Desktop - preview download available!

A preview of the on-premises SSRS with support for Power BI is now in preview.  We'll technically, it's called "Power BI Report Server" preview.  But under the covers, as far as we know, it is an enhanced version of SSRS.  For the SQL Server 2016 release, Microsoft completely rebuilt the SSRS engine, with full support for HTML5, and now Power BI Desktop reports.

About a year ago, we reported that both the SSRS and Power BI teams indicated future Power BI support as part of SSRS. And earlier in the year, we did an initial review of the Azure based VM that included the enhanced SSRS engine. That review found that SSRS did indeed do a nice job with Power BI Desktop reports.

The preview download is available here:  Microsoft Power BI Report Server - May 2017 Preview.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Power BI Desktop to SSRS -

Back on November 10, 2016, we wrote about the coming support for Power BI Desktop reports by SSRS.  See Upload Power BI Desktop .pbix to SSRS 2016.  We'll a few days ago, on May 3, 2017, the SSRS Team Blog posted an announcement that it was almost ready.  Almost.

It's called Power BI Report Server, and as of May 8, 2017, it is still in the "...coming soon." status. The sort-of good news is that if you have an Enterprise Edition, per-core license, with Active Software Assurance (SA), it is included. Or if you have Power BI Premium licenses.  For all the rest of us, we'll not so much.  If you have looked over our earlier review, it seamlessly worked with SSRS's rebuild engine. So, we are hoping that this is still the case.

You can review the official Power BI Report Server introduction here: Introducing Power BI Report Server  , along with the SSRS Team Blog here:  Introducing Power BI Report Server for on-premises Power BI report publishing.

Getting to ISO format 'yyyyMMdd' with a single function?

The Goal:

Convert a date in SQL Server into the ISO format 'yyyyMMdd' with a single function, and without having to CAST a character value into an integer.  Alas, we have yet to find such an approach.

Before the FORMAT command, the most expedient approach was to use the CONVERT function, combined with a second convert function, or CAST the value to an integer value.  For example:

 declare @adate date = '2017-05-01';
 ISOdate_CONVERT = cast(convert(varchar(12), @adate,112) as int);


Starting with SQL Server 2012, we were introduced to the FORMAT statement. It had promise, but like the CONVERT statement, we still had to issue a second CAST statement. Output from FORMAT is nvarchar. Sure, we could skip the second CAST function, and just rely on the implicit conversion from nvarchar to integer, but that would be poor form.  SQL Server still has to make the conversion, and we have to believe that an implicit conversion is not only sloppy, but perhaps a bit slower. So, with FORMAT, we now have two options to convert a date, or datetime into an ISO formatted date - yyyyMMdd.

 declare @adate date = '2017-05-01';
 ISOdate_CONVERT = cast(convert(varchar(12), @adate,112) as int)
,ISOdate_FORMAT  = cast(format(@adate,'yyyyMMdd','en-US')as int); 

Which to use?

Since have not done any performance testing, either one would suffice. What we would all like is a method of converting a date directly into an ISO format, with a single function.