Book Review: Data Mining with SQL Server 2005, by Jamie MacLennan and ZhaoHui Tang

Data mining has been one of the most widely touted of the new BI features of SQL 2005. Anyone who’s been in this industry for any length of time (and I haven’t been for all that long, really, only about 8 years now) will know that it’s been ‘the next big thing’ for ages but has never seemed to break through into the mainstream – whether Microsoft will succeed now will be in part down to whether they can make it easy enough for developers to understand what is a quite difficult technology, and having a good book available to educate us developers is an important step on the road to doing that.
 
So is ‘Data Mining with SQL Server 2005’ any good? Overall, yes: I’ve been reading through it very slowly since I got it late last year, and I certainly feel like I’m much closer to being able to do a real data mining project than I was before. It provides very readable explanations of how each of the algorithms available in AS data mining work (with one exception – see below), managing to give just enough detail on the theory behind them without being too dry and academic. It also covers the wider issues such as the lifecycle of a data mining project and other data mining tools and standards on the market, and it’s especially strong on the programming side too with plenty of examples of DMX and how to integrate data mining into your own .NET apps.
 
There are some criticisms to make though. Text mining is not covered in anywhere near enough detail, getting only two or three pages where it probably deserved its own chapter; if you’re looking for an explanation of how Term Extraction actually works I recommend you go to chapter 6 of "Professional SQL Server Integration Services" instead. It also has a somewhat uncritical tone, which is probably to be expected given that it was written by two of the lead developers of the product: it doesn’t point out any bugs or quirks, and doesn’t pre-empt any of the mistakes that novice users are likely to make in the way that good tech books do.
 
To sum up, this book is definitely worth buying if you’re interested in SQL2005 data mining – but don’t expect to have mastered the subject just by reading it!
 
If you’re in the UK, you can buy ‘Data Mining with SQL Server 2005’ here.
 
 UPDATE: I’ve just had a mail from Sean McCown, pointing me to his site where he’s also reviewed this book:

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