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:

MDX Solutions Sample Chapter

You can now download chapter one of the second edition of ‘MDX Solutions’ (which I’m a co-author of), along with the table of contents and the index, here:
The book itself is coming very soon – place your order now! Although there are several other good Analysis Services 2005 books out there now, this is the only one which covers the new MDX features and functions in depth.
 
UPDATE: the sample chapter has been changed to chapter 6, which is rather more meaty in terms of content. And I believe that the book is now published! George at least has a copy, and I guess I’ll be getting one soon. Hurrah!

Analysis Services Book List (attempt #2)

Since I can’t get my links to Amazon working in an MSN Spaces list, I thought I’d just put my book list in a regular entry and then update it as necessary.
 
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services: Irina Gorbach, Alexander Berger, Py Bateman, Edward Melomed

 
Updates/News:
Teo Lachev has announced that ‘Applied Microsoft Analysis Services 2005’ has gone to the printers and will be available by the end of November. More details and resources can be found here.
 
Mosha has announced that the second edition of ‘Fast Track to MDX’ is on the verge of publication. He has more details and some comments on other books on this list here.
 
Nick Barclay has a review of ‘Data Mining with SQL2005’ on his blog here. I’ve also just bought a copy and will be reviewing it as soon as I’ve read it properly! First impressions are good though.
 
If anyone wants to send me a free copy of their book for review (cheeky idea for getting free books, I know, but it might just work!) then please drop me a line at the email address mentioned in my profile.
 
Thanks to Nick Barclay again for the fact that ‘The Microsoft DataWarehouse Toolkit’ book (what’s listed above as ‘Data Warehousing with SQL 2005’ – I’ll update the link when Amazon UK updates its page for the book) has its own web page with some content.
 
Nick Barclay has a positive review of ‘Applied Analysis Services 2005’ on his blog here. Mark Hill also reviews it favourably here.
 
I have a review of ‘Data Mining with Analysis Services 2005’ here.
 
Nick Barclay has a review of ‘MDX Solutions’ second edition here.
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