Book: The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit : Joy Mundy and Warren Thornthwaite

There are a number of key books that I've missed reading over the years, in areas that interest me. Recently, I've been fixing that. One that is always discussed is The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit by Joy Mundy and Warren Thornthwaite from the Kimball Group.

I would have to say I enjoyed reading it. It is a large book at over 700 pages and a couple of inches thick so it took a while to get through.

I found the chapter "Designing the Business Process Dimensional Model" to be the most compelling part of the book. I can't say I totally agreed with all the advice in there but it does touch the key topics that need to be considered.

I did find the constant references throughout the book that provided mappings from the Microsoft technologies to the Kimball Method terminology quite irritating. The assumption is that you've already bought into the Kimball Method and are now moving to the Microsoft BI stack. While I'm sure that's valid for many, it's certainly not the case for many others that would be the target audience for the book. For those who aren't into the Kimball Method, the dual terminology adds an extra (and unnecessary) burden while reading the material.

The parts of the book I most struggled with were the areas where advice was given on relational database aspects of SQL Server and on hardware and system configuration. While I'm sure they felt it important to include information on this, it clearly isn't an area of expertise for the authors. I suspect it would have been better to have left this material out and referred instead to more targeted books on the topics.

While the "not-totally-Microsoft-oriented" approach of the book might be seen as a benefit, it's also a bit of a downside. I find that with quite a few books that I'm reading at present. I'm not sure if the authors would have written the same ideas and recommendations if their opinions weren't somewhat colored by their experience with other toolsets beforehand ie: if they were coming to the Microsoft BI toolset with fresh eyes.

Regardless, it is a classic book that's worth a look by anyone working in this area. The section on dimensional modelling and its terminology would make a good starting point for many wanting to get a handle on the most common concepts.

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