As a leading technology guru, Microsoft has given the world the best of technologies to accelerate their businesses. A popular one amongst the many, Microsoft SQL Server offers multiple tools for effective data management and utilization. As its relational database engine, SQL Server along with its addon services handles a variety of aspects like business intelligence, data integration, analysis, and reporting.
The three value-added services, SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), being one of them, are highly competent to augment the capability of SQL Server, to its finest, and are an integral part of Microsoft SQL Server. The other two are the SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). Each one of the three has its own significant service areas to offer and holds its own importance in the world of business intelligence.
In this article, let us have a look at SSIS and everything pertaining to its working, benefits, features, architecture, etc.
“SQL Server Integration Services is a platform for building enterprise-level data integration and data transformations solutions. Use Integration Services to solve complex business problems by copying or downloading files, loading data warehouses, cleansing and mining data, and managing SQL Server objects and data.” – Microsoft
SSIS is an important component of the SQL Server family with which professionals can design and implement multiple workflows, modernizing the progression of data consolidation from disparate data sources. The main USP of SSIS is its competence to efficient data transformation and migration. Yes, a good knowledge of SQL Server is required and so are relevant SQL Server data tools. Microsoft’s SQL Server Management Studio is also integrated into SSIS for better management and monitoring.
While a data warehouse/data mart is being constructed, data must undergo Extraction, Transformation, Loading (ETL) from various data sources/files/systems. The ETL process is what forms the crux of the data warehousing aspect of SSIS.
It was all about ‘Data Transformation Services (DTS)’ earlier, a component of the SQL Server 7. After this, Microsoft came up with SSIS to replace DTS. SSIS came with Microsoft SQL Server 2005. DTS was a part of all versions of SSIS whereas SSIS is present in the standard, BI, and enterprise editions only.
The commons sources that are utilized in the SSIS package implementation, for establishing connections between SSIS and the varied data sources are Source Assistant, ADO .NET source, Excel source, OLE DB source, FTP/File/SMO/Cache connection manager and Flat file source.
A package is an organized collection of connections, control flow elements, data flow elements, event handlers, variables, parameters, and configurations, that you assemble using either the graphical design tools that SQL Server Integration Services provides, or build programmatically. – Microsoft
As essential blocks of coding and designing in SSIS, the three major components/packages in SSIS are the
Of the three, the most significant one is the SSIS Designer, which further includes the following components:
Considered to the brain behind SSIS, it comprises workflows, tasks, containers, structure, and preference restrictions that are performed during execution. It assists in arranging the order of execution for all involved components.
Considered the heart of SSIS, it extracts and transforms data from disparate sources, transforms it, and carries it forward to its relevant destination/server’s memory. There are certain tasks that can execute without data flow, with the help of database connections.
Creates tasks as against event at actual runtime in the form of containers. Facilitates users declare variables and event handlers that lie in the scope of the relevant container. These containers could be a sequence container, For loop container, or Foreach loop container.
Offers a complete view of package components
Creates a link between the main data source and the package, connecting all defined components and data sources of the entire setup.
The SSIS Architecture can be represented as below:
SSIS developers will need certain additional tools installed on their devices to execute/install SSIS via routine SQL Server install.
SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) is one such tool that is a lighter version of Microsoft Visual Studio and is mostly encountered while creating or testing SSIS packages. As you setup your SSIS development environment, it is vital to have the SSDT version of Visual Studio installed. SSDT utilizes the logic of multiple document interface (MDI) to open/close packages individually, open multiple ones, and use them as required.
Yet another addition to the toolset is SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). It is widely used for testing deploying ETL processes that are created in the SSIS cycle. It may not be needed while creating the packages but at a later stage, it is an essential toolset.
There are certain important components for the SSIS work environment. Here is a glimpse of those:
The different tasks that can be configured in the control flow are:
If you are wondering why is SSIS so popular amongst the Microsoft BI services family, the following reasons would be sharp enough to assure of its key benefits:
SSIS is of most use when
There is a single step program for the installation of SSIS and its components. It is easy and well directed but you must ensure setting up of necessary hardware and software requirements as well as security considerations. You can install SSIS independently or along with an earlier version of the same
Though SSIS has been a proven, robust technology, certain points come up as a limitation and need to be handled with care. Here are they:
Well in advance, it is best to have proper planning for capacity by studying and realizing the resource consumption. Developers must ensure important transformations happen in memory since SSIS is an in-memory pipeline. There must be appropriate scheduling and distribution, with thorough optimization of SQL lookup data sources and transformation.
An Interesting Read: All About SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) In An Easy Manner
Here is a sneak peek into certain straight forward questions and answers on SSIS:
SSIS architecture consists of the following key components:
Control Flow, Data Flow, Event Handler, Package Explorer, Connection Manager
SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is for movement and transformation of data while SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is for reporting of information in different formats.
SSIS is an ETL tool but there is a lot more to it than mere ETL process. It also takes of various data integration services and workflow functionalities pertaining to data.
Yes, it is easy to learn, especially if you have a basic knowledge of SQL Server.
No, it is not free. It comes with the paid versions of SQL Server – the Developer, Enterprise and Standard versions.
An SSIS package consists of an arranged assembling of parameters, configurations, connections, event handlers, data/control flow elements.
On A Parting Note
Microsoft SSIS is an indispensable ingredient in the world of data and business intelligence and analytics services. This wonderful technology is apt for organizations looking to integrate a single data source or many, be it any type or size of data.
SSIS comes up as a handy solution when you want to have your data in your own way, at your own desired time. Yes, it does need some groundwork learning to be done but offers a lot more benefits in return. Worth the time and effort investment isn’t it!
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