Over the past few weeks I have been making heavy use of the Database tools in Visual Studio 2010 (formerly known as datadude, DBPro, VSTS for Database Professionals or one of a plethora of other names that it has gone by over the past few years) and one of the features that has most impressed me has been database references.
Database references allow you to have stored procedures in your database project that refer to objects (tables, views, stored procedures etc…) that exist in other database projects and hence when you build your database project it is able to resolve those references. Gert Drapers has a useful introduction to them at his blog post Database References; in his words database references allow you to:
represent and resolve 3 and/or 4-part name usage inside a database project. Database references are conceptually the same as assembly references inside a C# or VB.NET projects; they allow you to reference objects from your database project that live inside another namespace (database).
It occurred to me that similar functionality would be incredibly useful for SQL Server Integration Services(SSIS), Analysis Services (SSAS) & Reporting Services (SSRS) projects. After all reports, packages and data source views are rife with references to database objects – why shouldn’t we be able to have design-time dependency checking in our BI projects the same way that database and .Net developers do?
Here are some examples of ways in which this would be useful:
If a SSRS report pulls data from a view, I firstly want to know (at design-time) that that view exists. Secondly, if the view definition changes I want to know that my report will still work.
Similarly for a SSAS cube, if a view referenced in the DSV changes or disappears I want my SSAS project build to fail or succeed accordingly
Similarly for a SSIS Execute SQL Task, if it executes a stored procedure I want to know that the named parameters that I am using actually exist in the stored procedure.
To this end I have submitted three identical suggestions to Connect, one each for SSIS, SSAS & SSRS:
[SSAS] Declare database object dependencies
[SSRS] Declare database object dependencies
[SSIS] Declare database object dependencies
I have said before in my blog post The SQL developer gap that we database and BI developers deserve as much love from Microsoft as our .Net counterparts do and I’m of the opinion that providing design-time dependency checking across the full gamut of BI projects would be a huge step in the right direction. The holy grail is an object dependency graph from database tables all the way up through database views, database functions, stored procedures, DAL, ORM layer & business logic layer all the way through to presentation – I don’t know how long it will take but we will get there one day I am sure, hopefully sooner rather than later!
UPDATE: This feature (i.e. the ability to define dependencies on database objects at build time) is coming to the Entity Framework as confirmed in this Connect submission: http://bit.ly/igmEiS. Let's hope the same comes to SSIS/SSAS/SSRS soon.