BimlExpress Keyboard Shortcuts

Cathrine Wilhelmsen shows how to create keyboard shortcuts for the BimlExpress extension for Visual Studio:

Are you tired of right-clicking on your Biml files to Check Biml for Errors or to Generate SSIS Packages? Did you know that you can create your own BimlExpress Keyboard Shortcuts? 🙂

Read on to see how to do this.

Biml And ADF, Part 2

Meagan Longoria builds Azure Data Factory pipelines using BimlScript:

The great thing about Biml is that I can use it as much or as little as I feel is helpful. That T-SQL statement to get column lists could have been Biml, but it didn’t have to be. The client can maintain and enhance these pipelines with or without Biml as they see fit. There is no vendor lock-in here. Just as with Biml-generated SSIS projects, there is no difference between a hand-written ADF solution and a Biml-generated ADF solution, other than the Biml-generated solution is probably more consistent.

And have I mentioned the time savings? There is a reason why Varigence gives out shirts that say “It’s Monday and I’m done for the week.”

Click through for the script.

Using Azure Data Factory With Biml

Meagan Longoria has a multi-part series on using Biml to script Azure Data Factory tasks to migrate data from an on-prem SQL Server instance to Azure Data Lake Store.  Here’s part 1:

My Azure Data Factory is made up of the following components:

  • Gateway – Allows ADF to retrieve data from an on premises data source

  • Linked Services – define the connection string and other connection properties for each source and destination

  • Datasets – Define a pointer to the data you want to process, sometimes defining the schema of the input and output data

  • Pipelines – combine the data sets and activities and define an execution schedule

Click through for the Biml.

Understanding Biml Table Definitions

Kevin Feasel



Bill Fellows explains the Biml output for a single table:

Wow, that’s a lot! Let’s break it down.


Our Connections collection has a single entity in it, an OLE DB Connection named Adventureworks (remember, all of this is case sensitive so this Adventureworks is a different beast from AdventureWorks, ADVENTUREWOKRS, etc). This provides enough information to make a database connection. Of note, we have the server and catalog/database name defined in there. Depending on the type of connection used will determine the specific name used i.e. Initial Catalog & Data Source; Server & Database, etc. Look at if you are really wanting to see how rich (horrible) this becomes.

There’s a lot of XML to describe a single table, but a key benefit to Biml is that you write templates and scripts to generate this stuff rather than typing it out.

Biml-Based Audio

Kevin Feasel



Bill Fellows shows the most unique usage of Biml I’ve seen yet:

How often do you need to play audio while you’re compiling your Biml packages? Never? Really? Huh, just me then. Very well, chalk this blog post as one to show you that you really can do *anything* in Biml that you can do in C#.

When I first learned how I can play audio in .NET, I would hook the Windows Media Player dll and use that. The first thing I then did was create an SSIS package that had a script task which played the A-Team theme song while it ran. That was useless but a fun demo. Fast forward to using Biml and I could not for the life of me get the Windows Media Player to correctly embed in a Biml Script Task. I suspect it’s something to do with the COM bindings that Biml doesn’t yet support. Does this mean you shouldn’t use Biml – Hell no. It just means I’ve wandered far into a corner case that doesn’t yet have support.

Read on because it will make you a better person.

Breaking Out Result Sets With Biml

Kevin Feasel



Ben Weissman uses OFFSET-FETCH to split out large tables into separate files:

This post uses objects and annotations from our previous post “Export to Flatfiles with Biml”. Please use the code from that post as a prerequisit.

In the previous post, we’ve exported the whole database to flatfiles with one file per table. But what if we want to split large tables into multiple files? One easy way to do that would be to retrieve the data using OFFSET-FETCH NEXT from SQL Server.

Read on for more.

Exporting To Flat Files

Kevin Feasel


Biml, ETL

Ben Weissman shows how to dump tables to flat files:

In our next step, we loop through all tables in that database (feel free to limit the results by playing with GetDatabaseSchema) and create a FlatFileFormat for each of them. We will include all columns except those with datatype Binary or Object. As flatfiles don’t really care about actual data formats, we will just define every column as a string with maximum length. We will also add an annotation with the table’s original name, the list of columns as well as a list of primary keys (we’ll need the latter for a later step :)):

Like most Biml-related things, it’s not that many lines of code, so check it out.

Building Metadata With Biml

Kevin Feasel



Ben Weissman provides a set of Biml scripts to load a metadata table based off of existing tables and columns:

For each member of that collection, we follow some simple rules:

– Our table’s original name is the name of the table in the staging area without our connectionname prefix
– If our tablename still includes an underscore, we will split the name and assign the table- and schemaname respectively. Otherwise, our schema will be DBO.
– Create a DELETE statement towards our metadata store
– Create an INSERT statement towards our metadata store

Admittedly, I would have seen this as a one-time process and would have just written some scripts against sys.tables and sys.columns to generate this metadata, but “one-time processes” tend to happen over and over.

Finding Duplicate Indexes With Biml

Ben Weissman shows how to find duplicate indexes using Biml:

This little piece of Biml will check all your tables for indices sharing the same columns.
It does not generate any SSIS tasks etc. but might be a good starting point to build your own Index-Monitoring or Index-Clinic – because Biml is NOT just for SSIS

Depending upon your definition of a duplicate index, this might generate false positives.  Regardless, it’s a nice way of showing that Biml is about more than SSIS.

Debugging Biml

Kevin Feasel



Bill Fellows shows how to write out your intermediate Biml for debugging purposes:

Using tooling is always a trade-off between time/frustration and monetary cost. BIDS Helper/BimlExpress are free so you’re prioritizing cost over all others. And that’s ok, there’s no judgement here. I know what it’s like to be in places where you can’t buy the tools you really need. One of the hard parts about debugging the expanded Biml from BimlScript is you can’t see the intermediate or flat Biml. You’ve got your Metadata, Biml and BimlScript and a lot of imagination to think through how the code is being generated and where it might be going wrong. That’s tough. Even at this point where I’ve been working with it for four years, I can still spend hours trying to track down just where the heck things went wrong. SPOILER ALERT It’s the metadata, it’s always the metadata (except when it’s not). I end up with NULLs where I don’t expect it or some goofball put the wrong values in a field. But how can you get to a place where you can see the result? That’s what this post is about.

It’s a trivial bit of code but it’s important. You need to add a single Biml file to your project and whenever you want to see the expanded Biml, prior to it being translated into SSIS packages, right click on the file and you’ll get all that Biml dumped to a file. This recipe calls for N steps.

This is a good tip and has helped me a few times in the past.


April 2017
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