Working with Hive in HDInsight

Brad Llewellyn takes us through building an HDInsight cluster and writing Hive queries against it:

Hive is a “SQL on Hadoop” technology that combines the scalable processing framework of the ecosystem with the coding simplicity of SQL.  Hive is very useful for performant batch processing on relational data, as it leverages all of the skills that most organizations already possess.  Hive LLAP (Low Latency Analytical Processing or Live Long and Process) is an extension of Hive that is designed to handle low latency queries over massive amounts of EXTERNAL data.  One of this coolest things about the Hadoop SQL ecosystem is that the technologies allow us to create SQL tables directly on top of structured and semi-structured data without having to import it into a proprietary format.  That’s exactly what we’re going to do in this post.  You can read more about Hive here and here and Hive LLAP here.

We understand that SQL queries don’t typically constitute traditional data science functionality.  However, the Hadoop ecosystem has a number of unique and interesting data science features that we can explore.  Hive happens to be one of the best starting points on that journey.

Click through for the screenshot-laden demonstration.

The Costs of Specialization within Data Science

Eric Colson argues in favor of data science generalists rather than specialists:

But the goal of data science is not to execute. Rather, the goal is to learn and develop profound new business capabilities. Algorithmic products and services like recommendations systemsclient engagement banditsstyle preference classificationsize matchingfashion design systemslogistics optimizersseasonal trend detection, and more can’t be designed up-front. They need to be learned. There are no blueprints to follow; these are novel capabilities with inherent uncertainty. Coefficients, models, model types, hyper parameters, all the elements you’ll need must be learned through experimentation, trial and error, and iteration. With pins, the learning and design are done up-front, before you produce them. With data science, you learn as you go, not before you go.

In the pin factory, when learning comes first we do not expect, nor do we want, the workers to improvise on any aspect the product, except to produce it more efficiently. Organizing by function makes sense since task specialization leads to process efficiencies and production consistency (no variations in the end product).

I think this article captures the downside risk of specialization, but not the downside risks of generalization: some people simply aren’t very good at some things, leading to huge amounts of technical debt down the road or failing a project due to the lack of requisite knowledge or skills. To give a personal example, I have a generalist team, but I still control the data flows (at the very least doing thorough code reviews of any database changes), my application specialist controls app architecture, my statistician reviews algorithms, etc. I don’t claim that this is the best strategy, but a group of pure generalists will have their own set of problems too.

Deploying SQL Server Versions with Kubernetes

Anthony Nocentino shows how we can upgrade or even downgrade our SQL Server containers using Kubernetes deployment scripts:

There’s a few things I want to point out in our YAML file. First, we’re using a Deployment Controller. This will implement a Replica Set of the desired number of replicas using the container imaged defined. In this case, we’ll have 1 replica using the SQL Server 2017 CU11 Image. A Replica Set will guarantee that a defined set of Pods are running at any given time, here we’ll have exactly one Pod. We’re using a Deployment Controller, which gives us move between versions of Replica Sets based off different container images in a controlled fashion…more on that in a second.

Read the whole thing.

Parameterized Direct Query In Power BI

Gerhard Brueckl shows how you can parameterize your SQL queries in Power BI, letting you switch server or database names and easily target a different location altogether:

I frequently work on projects where we have multiple tiers on which our solution is deployed to using continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI / CD) pipelines in Azure DevOps. Once everything is deployed, you also need to monitor these different environments and check the status of the data or ETL pipelines. My tool of choice is usually Power BI desktop as it allows me to connect to e.g. SQL databases very easily. However, I always ended up creating a multiple Power BI files – one for each environment.

Having multiple files results in a lot of overhead when it comes to maintenance and also managing these files. Fortunately, I came across this little trick when I was investigating in composite models and aggregations that I am going to explain in this blog post.

I have had to do exactly this same thing, so I’m going to have to try it out myself.

Performance Testing Simple Scalar UDF Functions

Wayne Sheffield tries out a simple scalar UDF in SQL Server 2019 to see how it performs:

I recently published a post detailing the new Scalar UDF Inlining feature in SQL 2019 here. That post introduced the new feature in a way that I used to compare performance to the other function types, continuing the performance evaluation of functions that I had previously posted here and here. In the Scalar UDF Inlining post, I used a function to strip all non-numeral values from a string, and to return the result. This used the FOR XML output option.

In thinking about how scalar functions are commonly used, I’ve decided to revisit this feature with a simpler function. I will still compare it to all the other types of functions to see how Scalar UDF Inlining compares to the others.

Wayne’s results are music to the product team’s ears, I’m sure.

SqlServer Module Now with Invoke-Sqlcmd

Aaron Nelson alerts us to a new preview of the SqlServer Powershell module:

If you’re still on an earlier version of PSCore and are unable to install PSCore 6.2 right now, you can still download preview of the SqlServer module to get the latest fixes and new features.  You just won’t be able to use the Invoke-Sqlcmd cmdlet.

Another quick thing to note is that this is like a v.0.0.1 of Invoke-SqlCmd on PSCore; it does not have all the bells & whistles of the version of Invoke-Sqlcmd for [full blown] Windows PowerShell.  Obviously, more features will be added over time, but the basic functionality was ready to for customers to start “kicking the tires”.

Read on for more notes and the link to check this all out.

Comparing STRING_AGG Performance Against FOR XML PATH

Jeffry Schwartz compares the performance of STRING_AGG in SQL Server 2017 versus the tried and true method of FOR XML PATH for string concatenation:

Two different T-SQL methods were used for testing.  The FOR XML PATH solution incorporates the reverse and stuff functions along with FOR XML PATH.  The String_agg solution is much simpler, but is only available on SQL Server 2017 currently.

The FOR XML PATH method has been documented thoroughly over the years in many articles, so these explanations will not be repeated here.  However, two points are worth mentioning.  The first one is that the @strSeparator (in this case ‘ or  ’) string will reside at the end of the constructed string (in this case @strFilter).  Since the last occurrence of @strSeparator must be removed to prevent a syntax error, characters must be dropped from the end of the string.  Although it may seem obvious that four characters (the length of @strSeparator) should be removed, actually only three need be removed because the end of the constructed string is “r” not “ “.  Therefore, the length argument of the left function specification is the length of @strFilter minus three.

I like STRING_AGG a lot, primarily because I can remember it and I can explain it to people relatively new to SQL Server. Read on to see how they both compare in terms of performance.

Showing Totals on Power BI Stacked Column Charts

Reza Rad shows us how to add a totals figure to Power BI stacked column charts:

As you can see, there are data labels for each subcategory (means gender and education), but no data label showing the total of each education category. for example, we want to know how much was the total sales in the High School category. Now that you know the problem, let’s see a way to fix it.

Read on for Reza’s solution to the problem. In general, if people might care about the total, do them a favor and show the total.

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