Consistent Design Patterns and SSIS Frameworks

Question: How do I make sure everyone at my company is using the same SSIS framework and design patterns?

SSIS Design Patterns and frameworks are one of my favorite things to talk (and write) about. A recent search on SSIS frameworks highlighted just how many different frameworks there are out there, and making sure that everyone at your company is following what you consider to be best practices can be a challenge.

In an ideal scenario, before you do any SSIS development, your team has an experienced SSIS consultant/trainer come in. They provide you with a framework that works for your environment and establishes a set of best practices that your team sticks to for all future package development, until the end of time.

This rarely happens.

It’s Too Easy

SSIS has a learning curve, but is fairly easy to get started with. You can throw together a simple workflow & ETL running on your local machine in a short amount of time. It starts to get a bit more complicated when you need to deploy that solution to another machine, and even more so when you start adding multiple developers to the mix. This is where the best practices start to be required.

The downside to SSIS being easy enough for people to learn on their own is many people come up with their own way of doing things. Given that there are usually multiple ways to accomplish common ETL tasks, your company can end up with a mix of “best practices”, “frameworks” and ways of using SSIS.

Did you know there are at least 5 different SSIS frameworks used internally at Microsoft? Each one has its own take on how to do configuration, dynamic package execution/generation, and logging. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a number of others that I’m not aware of.

We improved this in SQL 2012 with the addition of the SSIS Catalog (SSISDB). In 2005/2008, the biggest differences between SSIS projects would typically be the way they do deployment & configuration. The Catalog was meant to provide a “default” best practice, and remove the need to rely on their own custom frameworks. There’s still more we could do here, but given the adoption rates we’re seeing, it was definitely a step in the right direction.

When we asked our MVPs to create whitepapers for SQL 2008, we ended up with four configuration related articles. Each one does things in a slightly different way.

So the question becomes, how do I make sure that the SSIS developers in my company are following best practices and using the framework we have in place?

Training plays a big role, here. If you show your developers that there is a better way of doing things, they should be willing to adopt it. That said, many times you’ll find consistency is more important than doing things in a slightly better way. I know this sounds ironic coming from someone who worked on the product (*COUGH*three separate data type systems*COUGH*), but I give this advice to other people, speaking from experience.

Tools to Help Apply Best Practices

Tools can really help here, as well. There are two third party tools that comes to mind:

BI xPress from Pragmatic Works has many different features that help here. The Auditing Framework helps with consistent logging, and their Templates, Snippets and Data Flow Nuggets functionality lets you apply and reuse patterns across your packages. They also recently added a Best Practices Analyzer that helps you maintain some consistency.

If you’re looking to apply design patterns and/or you require dynamic package generation, then Biml from Varigence is a great solution. It’s a powerful markup language/compiler that makes it really easy to create your SSIS packages in a consistent way. There is a free version of Biml integrated into BIDS Helper, and a more advanced version (and separate designer – Mist) available from Varigence. There is also a Biml repository site that is great for examples.

3 thoughts on “Consistent Design Patterns and SSIS Frameworks

  1. Trying to get information about 'Metadata-driven ETL Platform' (mETaL / Vulcan). Can you provide any help? Thanks

  2. Hi Matt – aside from BIxPress, are there any other 3rd party Frameworks you’d recommend for evaluation? I’m in the research phase now and still deciding between homegrown or 3rd party but I’m not finding much out there that would compete with BIxPress.
    Thanks, – kate

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