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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

SQLPass 2008: Thursday Keynote


So, it's a few minutes before the PASS Summit 2008 Thursday keynote, and I'm settled into the Press Table behind the sound board. Tony Davis is here. Steve Jones is here. And I'm seated beside Brent Ozar.

Rushabh Mehta

To complement Wayne Snyder's entrance on a bike yesterday, Rushabh Mehta showed up this morning on a cool-looking scooter - a scooter that Idera is giving away later today!

Rushabh engaged in a conversation with the disembodied (though intriguing) voice he called "Voice Over".

Rushabh: "I used to have such long, beautiful, and shampooed hair - like Donald Farmer!"
Voice Over: "Thanks Rushabh. Have a great keynote."
Rushabh: "Thanks Voice Over, I will!"

Rushabh is a great speaker. If you've never heard him speak, you've missed out.

So Far

It's been a great conference so far.

Summit updates for today: Women In Technology Luncheon. The Exhibition Hall closes today at 5:00 PST. The PASS Summit 2008 has a fantastic exhibition.

Q: Where else are vendors going to find 3,000 SQL Server geeks concentrated in one place?
A: Nowhere.


SQL Server Heroes Unite Party is tonight, starting at 6:00 PM. Rushabh warned us: "If you drink a bit too much, you might go home with a tattoo." A Flock Of SQLs is playing. I can't wait. I wonder if they'll allow an picker to sit in on a tune? Maybe a little Southern Rock?

The New SQLPass 

SQLPass finances are opening up. It's really cool to see PASS opening up about finances - this has been a consistent criticism and it's great to see the PASS Board responding. I won't bore you with the numbers. They're on the website.

Membership is now free!

More Announcements from Rushabh is no longer in beta! [Applause]

Key improvements: Community-focused content.
Technical Articles, PASS Tips, PASS Blog, 300 hours of recorded content!
Did I mention this is free?

 - Connect
 - Share
 - Learn
 - Be Recognized

You can find this new content at - under Community.

Among the cool announcements today, I paid particular attention to the Hosted SQL Server 2008 trial - very cool! This allows to try out some cool features of SQL Server 2008 without having to install and configure it.

PASSion Award - recognition. The 2008 PASSion Award goes to: Kathi Kellenberger, SQL Server MVP. Congratulations Kathi!

Tom Casey and Pervasive Business Intelligence

Tom's theme was moving Business Intelligence as a specialization to Business Intelligence for everyone by turning insight into action.

Bruno Aziza demonstrated a dashboard built with PerformancePoint Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, and SQL Server. It included Outlook integration, Excel docs, and lots of other cool stuff integrated into a personal portal. Collaborative integration was also featured. Pretty cool stuff

The BI stack integrates spatial data and leverages collaboration in this context. "Continuous" is a key concept here: Continuous communication, Continuous metrics, all in near real-time. Tom's point to the PASS Summit 2008 attendees: This is built on SQL Server.

Why upgrade to 2008?

 - Merge upsert
 - Data profiling
 - Resource governance
 - Data Compression
 - SSAS Design Guides
 - Data visualization
 - Scalability for DW
   - 100s of Terabytes (Project Madison)
   - 12T is the average for DWs now, about 5% are around / over 25T
   - DatAllegro is an opportunity to scale over time.
   - ETL Performance and improved SSIS Connectivity
    - 1.1T loaded in 30 minutes using SSIS. Compared to 45 minutes with Oracle and Informatica. Record set in February.
   - Reporting improvements. Report Builder 2.0 enables users to self-serve with ad hoc reporting.

Report Builder Demo - Carolyn Chau

Carolyn's demo or Report Builder 2.0 was really cool, but I believe a lot of folks missed an important point: She was dragging and dropping metrics onto the design surface from a 1.8TB Analysis Server cube. And the data preview was refreshing in milliseconds! Very impressive!

The editors are improved and interactive - which will facilitate a nice productivity boost for developers. Gauges in the table - very cool, and an impromptu Undo demo - also very cool! The mini-trends are a really slick "quick" visualization element.


There was some push-back from the relational folks to some comments (or interpretations of comments) from Tom about the importance of BI. Some of it is understandable. Some of it is not. The title of the keynote clearly identified the topic as Business Intelligence. That's what it was.

No one (no one I know of anyway), thinks BI is the end-all be-all. It's a tool in the toolbox. I mean, relational folks, you're not still in command-line, are you? Your tools have changed. BI actually builds on your systems. It's an application, pure and simple. To think of it in any other way is a mistake, in my opinion. It's an integrated app, mind you, and ever-more-coupled to your relational engine.

You can choose to ignore it. Personally, I don't think you'll need to know Business Intelligence to continue working in the database field. And you don't have to like it. Bashing it, though, is a mistake. In my opinion. Underestimating the value is a similar mistake. Just because you or I don't see all the value does not mean it's not there.

Me, I like to learn new stuff. You may not. That's cool. It's a big database world out there. Cool?

Insight into Action == More Productivity

Microsoft is leveraging Business Intelligence internally - from the Performance Warehouse to Enterprise Data Warehousing. The cool part? It all fits. This forms the basis of the new stuff. It's a constantly-evolving vision, somewhat realized as of 2008. But that's the way it will (and should) always be: the vision should evolve and ever be in a state of "partial realization".

Gemini and Donald Farmer

Under-the-desk apps can shut down companies. There is a widening gap between end users and IT needs. How to bridge the gap? Enter Gemini. Enlighten the application infrastructure; enable the end user to access data easily. The demo leverages SSAS as a service-provider for MOSS.

Donald demo'd a cool-looking Operations dashboard on the Gemini screen and drilled into some Sandbox portal visualizations. Very cool "chartlets" if you will. Nice drill-through into sub-dashboards.

There was an odd little bubble chart in the center of the demo screen. The odd part was the Play button beneath the visualization. And then Donald clicked it and wow - the bubbles (representing KPIs) went into motion! The animated graphs are awesome! Being able to visualize the data in this way added a depth to the data that's difficult to describe if you haven't seen it. The relationships between KPIs are clearly visible - and in a way I haven't seen before.

In addition, the security status report is a fantastic idea!

Once again, Donald Farmer has demonstrated landscape-changing technology for BI. ROI will come from gaining actionable insight in the context of the common user experience. MarketingSpeak? You bet. Accurate? You bet.

You can learn about all this by searching Kilimanjaro. I can't wait.

:{> Andy


Published Thursday, November 20, 2008 12:39 PM by andyleonard

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Brent Ozar said:

I heard some of the same grumblings about this release focusing so much on BI.  From what I'm hearing, it's from hard-core engine DBAs that manage a lot of instances and want to focus on engine performance, engine management and engine reliability.  One of my customers in particular was so pissed off that he rescheduled his flight to leave the conference early.

I think that's extreme, and I think the reality is that engine performance, management and reliability isn't job one anymore because it doesn't sell databases.  MSSQL isn't behind any of the other players in engine capabilities (with the possible exception of Oracle's RAC, depending on who you talk to).

And at the same time, MSSQL is way ahead of the other guys when it comes to the rest of the stack (ETL and BI) and I love that they're pouring on the coals.  They have a serious edge here in usability for both developers and end users.  I don't blame them for wanting to pursue that advantage.

November 21, 2008 8:39 AM

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