Master Data Services in SQL Server 2019

I have a very special relationship with MDS (Master Data Services), and even though for some reason I have never blogged about it, I feel like SQL Server 2019 is bringing a good reason to blog about.
To define my kind of relationship with the MDS, let’s put it to the perspective, that for a couple of months in 2017 I was spending with it many more months that I would spend with Columnstore Indexes. :) And let’s add to that, that I have had to learn the internals of the functioning of MDS way to much that I have wished to. :)

Before we continue, let me ask you one question, have you heard about Silverlight?
Or in other words, and with a kind of evil voice “DID YOU EVER INSTALLED SILVERLIGHT ON A PRODUCTION SERVER”?.
If you have worked with MDS oh yes, you did! At least in order to check if everything is configured/upgraded correctly and nothing is broke, I will do a wild guess and claim that you did! So am I … :s
Because in order to make things work in MDS correctly, one needs this old, for a very long time deprecated framework, that is supported only in deprecated browser that is called Internet Explorer v.11, and that pain-in-the-neck framework is called Silverlight and if you dare to work with any SQL Server versions before SQL Server 2019, the picture on the left will appear in front of you at the moment you will try to explore the master data in the MDS Explorer – ensuring that unless you install a totally abandoned (and obviously unnecessary product, that represents another risk on your server) is a necessary thing. That is alone is the reason for some people would use some development VM in order to work with MDS, but that is not a good excuse to include that product in SQL Server 2016 or in SQL Server 2017.

MDS in SQL Server 2019

As you can see on the picture above, this is pretty much a functional HTML interface for working with Entities, Entity Dependencies, Hierarchies, Collections and Changesets! This is a major step forward and I am so glad to be alive during this moment, because quite honest I tended to believe that this would take a good 10 years and a death of a product to change. Giving us now a choice of using any other browser besides the Internet Explorer 11 and allowing to work from different platforms or formats (even though not now, but hopefully in the future). For what it is worth, i have successfully tested a good number of functionalities in Firefox.
No more Silverlight – Yahoo!

Do not think that by the initial public CTP 2.0 the interface would be bugless (and do not get me started on the bugs with silverlight, they were reported to the team enough times), but it is a start and if you are into the MDS – you should definitely try it out and deliver the feedback to the SQL Server development team, so we all can get a better product by the RTM. On the picture on the left you can see a full screen (!) of my notebook which is very from being friendly or editable for that part – and just think what would happened if there would be more than just 1 additional attribute assigned to the entity … Or if there would be a hundred … Yeah, I know – that is why we all love Excel (unless you are on Linux or Mac or using a tablet).

I do not like the look and feel of the implemented buttons – instead of going for a good modern look, a decision of Silverlight emulation was probably taken – making sure that the interface will keep on presenting itself as some old software from the last century.

There are no clear interactions showing that some elements does not exist yet (such as the hierarchies, showing a kind of submenu item, when there are none – and the interface should be clear on that. And yes, I totally understand that it was like this before, but 2 wrongs does not make 1 right. :)

The lack of the horizontal scrollbars for the Master Data Management is still as irritating as it was many years ago.

In the basic tests of the Integration Management I was happy with what I saw, especially given that this is a pretty early release.

The version management bugs (lock a version and try to copy it) are still here – the screen changes its design completely …

Do not take this feedback as a negative one, I am critical because I really would love this product to grow and to succeed, because right now anyone who is truly serious about Master Data Management is looking towards other vendors, such as Profisee.

Is this a promise of a brighter future for the Business Intelligence people working with Data on the Enterprise?
I do not think so, but I think it is a very first step on ensuring that not everything is lost.

Final Thoughts

I wish this would mean that MDS is not really dead. (and not like in maintenance mode, cleaning up the bugs from 2008)
I wish that there would be someone in the leadership position Microsoft who love Business Intelligence and more specifically Data Quality. (Those people would have to be from the leadership, cause I know enough great specialists who truly care, but they are not given decision rights, hopefully just yet)
I wish that the elimination of the Silverlight is not some kind of Windows Server requirement and that we soon can see a presence of the Linux version of the MDs (on the Apache, for example) and eventually (or even before) a PaaS (Platform As A Service).

I will be looking and testing the new MDS, with no public blog posts anticipated – but I will be closely watching where the MDS team will be taking the product forward.

11 thoughts on “Master Data Services in SQL Server 2019

  1. SqlShannon

    Thanks, Niko! I was wondering when Microsoft would get around to addressing the Silverlight issue! Good to know! Agree heartily on the PAAS option!

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi SqlShannon,

      you are very welcome!
      The conversion of Silverlight started in SQL Server 2016 to my knowledge, but it seems that finally we shall be able to get rid out of Servers & VMs after migrating to SQL Server 2019 … Fingers Crossed …

      Best regards,

  2. David

    The company I work for (Profisee) was a big contributor to MDS and we currently know it. Many of the original MDS developers actually work here now, and are putting everything they wish they included in the original product in the Profisee platform.

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi David,

      Indeed – the company I worked for previously is a Profisee partner in Germany …
      Your company has a vastly better platform for MDM, no doubts about that – the problem was/is the licensing, that would prevent any middle tier company for its usage – in my opinion.
      From the other side, the hidden costs of the Data Quality might make it well worth it, but hey – I am not a manager or director in the charge of the decision.

      Best regards,

  3. Adrian Chodkowski

    Great information, MDS is very needed and I hope Microsoft will not kill this software. Migration to HTML5 is huge step forward and maybe we will see some other improvements? I hope so! Fingers crossed.

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi Adrian,

      another thing that is improved in MDS that I know off is that MDS is supporting the Managed Instances.
      I do not have extremely high hopes for the MDS future as a feature and believe that a whole new cloud-based rewrite will be needed to keep the interest of the MDM community.

      Best regards,
      Niko Neugebauer

  4. Gary

    I like to hear of someone else who loves the product!

    I’ve used much worse for master data purposes which cost a lot of money and are even more clunky than MDS. I’m not ignoring its issues but, for those of us that don’t need the sophistication of Profisee (or the price tag), I really really hope that it sticks around for a long time. It gets the job done if you only need it for reference data and not CDI type of functionality. My only confidence in its longevity is that I’ve heard its built into Dynamics AX. Unfortunately given its free with enterprise SQL, unless they started charging for it I doubt there’s much incentive to put resources into it as a standalone product.

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi Gary,

      Another thing to consider is that MDS is finally compatible with Azure SQL Database Managed Instance.
      I would love to see the product evolution, but it looks to me pretty much to be just managed instead of the further developed.

      Best regards,

  5. Tom Miwa

    Hi Niko,

    We have just upgraded our MDS Server from 2017 to 2019.
    Noticing that MDS app site is not working as expected.
    When you open the MDS site, no images, no icons, very ugly frame.
    The site is not functional.

    Do you have any idea on how to fix it?

    thank you


    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi Tom,

      First I suggest to see how successfull the upgrade process was by looking into the SQL Server and eventually MDS logs.
      After checking IIS logs and verifying everything else, maybe you should open a support case.

      Best regards,

  6. Ricardo Silva

    Master Data Services is the perfect addition to the SQL Server BI stack. Any serious company worried about data governance should know that this product can interact and handle integrations with almost any other platform. There is so much potential if they improve the product adding more functionality and keep evolving it.
    (Quick question tough: is there a way to change the CSS used by MDS website?)
    Purview has a different approach and it is not (and doesn’t look it will ever be) a replacement for MDS. It is really a waste the lack of investment from Microsoft in this product that genuinelly aggregates value to SQL Server Enterprise Edition.
    Profisee may have an amazing product (the one we wanted MDS could evolve to) but license costs are too high to consider it a viable alternative.

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