What Monthly Updates For SQL Server Management Studio And SSDT Mean For SSAS Developers

Last month I upgraded the laptop I use for teaching to SQL Server 2016 and, as is always the way, not long afterwards I ran into a problem while I was doing a demo during a course: the SSAS Deployment Wizard didn’t work for SSAS 2016 Tabular projects created at the new 1200 compatibility level. I made some enquiries and was told that the tooling team hadn’t had time to do the necessary dev work before RTM but had finished it soon after, and that the new update would be in the July release of SQL Server Management Studio.

This reminded me of something I had heard about but forgotten, thinking it wasn’t all that relevant to me: SQL Server Management Studio is now no longer bundled with SQL Server but is instead a free, separate download that is updated monthly. This official blog post from May has all the important details; Aaron Bertrand’s blog post from April is a great summary of what this means for SQL Server in general (his interview with Kent van Hyning, the Engineering Manager for SQL Server Client Tools is also worth reading); and the SQL Server Release Services blog is the place to look for new update announcements. To get back to my story, when the July update for SSMS was released a few days ago I hit the Check For Updates menu option in SSMS, it updated, and I got a working version of the Deployment Wizard (the Changelog has a complete list of all of the fixes/improvements in this version). The moral of this story is that even though all of the publicity around the new direction for SQL Server Management Studio is directed at the SQL Server relational engine community, it’s equally important for us BI developers – and we are going to have to make the effort to update SSMS regularly from now on.

Of course a similar change has happened with SQL Server Data Tools, which is also now getting monthly updates. I’ve heard a few complaints around bugs and instability in SSDT recently and it looks like these issues are being fixed fairly rapidly: check out the list of SSAS-related fixes in the July update for SSDT in the post on the SSDT team blog and the associated Changelog. Again, as BI developers we’re going to have to get into the habit of updating SSDT on a regular basis.

While getting bugs fixed quickly is great, I really hope that this new focus on tooling means that we get new BI-related features in SSMS and SSDT. SSMS has, in particular, been shockingly bad at supporting BI developers: for example, I find it unbelievable that we still don’t have a DAX query window in SSMS when the language has been in SSAS Tabular since SQL Server 2012 (I know the community have filled the gap with DAX Studio, but that’s not the point). Aaron Nelson recently announced a Trello board where ideas for new features in SSMS can be debated but there’s very little BI-related stuff there at the time of writing.

Finally, a recent Reddit AMA with the SQL Server Tooling Team gave away a few interesting titbits about what might be happening in the future for BI:

  • In response to a question about version control for SSIS/SSAS/SSRS:
    In regards to AS and RS version control. We are considering improvements to AS model where we actually break up the single model file into independent objects (tables, measure, roles, etc…).
  • Regarding MSBuild support for SSAS and SSRS:
    At least for SSAS and SSRS, we have MSBuild support on the backlog, but it isn’t the highest priority at the moment.
    The SSIS team has plans for MSBuild support and are considering to support this in a future release of SSDT. Stay tuned!
  • Regarding tooling support for the new SSAS 2016 1200 compatibility level:
    The plan is to gradually improve the Tabular experiences in SSDT and SSMS, particularly for the new compat level 1200. We now have a better scripting language (TMSL) and a way better object model (TOM) and this sets us up for introducing improvements with the upcoming monthly releases. If everything goes to plan, you will see a significant new capability in the SSDT Tabular August release, and it will give you an idea where things are going. Sorry for not giving more details at this time. Let’s count the chickens when they hatch.
  • On the question of why there’s no support for DAX in SSMS:
    These things simply didn’t fit into the SQL Server 2016 release timeframe. You’ll see improvements in future versions of the tools.

5 thoughts on “What Monthly Updates For SQL Server Management Studio And SSDT Mean For SSAS Developers

  1. There should definitely be more B/I requests on the SSMS Trello board! We are happy to add anyone to the board so they can add cards themselves (commenting & Up-Voting is open to the public).

    I have added Chris to the board, if anyone would like added to the board please give me a shout on twitter ( @SQLvariant ) or on the Slack channel (which anyone is welcome to ‘invite’ themselves to) http://sqlps.io/slack

  2. Yeah, not having a DAX editor in SSMS (or SSRS) is laughable… then again, the MDX editor in SSMS is pretty crappy and most folks who are working with MDX on a regular basis would be much better served using MDXStudio (even if it hasn’t been updated in nearly a decade).

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