I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at and attending the PASS Summit in Seattle this year. CapTech Consulting sponsored my trip to participate in the event, where I presented on two topics: creating a healthcare payer data model and administering SQL Server Reporting Services.

The PASS Summit is an annual conference put on by the Professional Association for SQL Server. The conference brings together a mix of community speakers, Microsoft employees, and many eager-to-learn attendees. Located at the Seattle Convention Center, there were two days of pre-conference sessions and three days of community and spotlight sessions. The 2011 Summit drew a record 5000 registrations.

The summit was even more exciting than usual this year due to many announcements made by both Microsoft and PASS. Some of the business intelligence highlights are listed here:

  • The next version of SQL Server, code-named Denali, will release in the first half of 2012 and will be named SQL Server 2012.
  • The ad-hoc reporting tool that will be included in the next version of Reporting Services, code-named Crescent, will be released with the name Power View and will include interactive export to PowerPoint and multiple views of the same window.
  • Microsoft will support mobile business intelligence, including availability on iOS devices, within 2012.
  • PASS Summit 2012 will be in Seattle on November 6-9, 2012, and PASS SQLRally will be in Dallas on May 10-11, 2012.

In addition to these announcements, I was able to attend some of the more technical sessions to learn about the current and next version of SQL Server. One of the standout sessions for me was on Power View, which covered the new features introduced since the latest CTP. The presenters used an interactive survey tool to gather information from those attending. In real time, they were able to show the answers, trends, and insights from the data. Talk about a way to engage the audience!

One of my favorite parts of the Summit was the networking aspect. I reconnected with old friends and met new people. I was able to talk with Microsoft Customer Advisory Team members and Microsoft product team managers and developers. We discussed the growth of self-service business intelligence and how best to share training and knowledge of the products. It's amazing how much you can learn by attending a conference like this.

Based on the announcements, sessions, and discussions I had, I believe that Microsoft's new focus is "self-service BI". This is a paradigm shift from the classic enterprise business intelligence, in which having "one version of the truth" is the paramount goal of a technology organization. In classic BI, an enterprise data warehouse, and possibly departmental datamarts, was created on a regular basis. Reports used the enterprise data stores to provide information to their analysts and users. Self-service BI, already promoted by other technologies, such as Tableau and QlikView, will allow analysts to look at the information in the way that they want to see it. This true ad-hoc analysis of data gives the ability to determine insights into data immediately. In fact, a use case that I heard reiterated several times is the ability to perform analysis and provide direction during a meeting, right after a question was asked, rather than have to wait until after the meeting.

Overall, the conference was an educational and informative experience. I'm already looking forward to next year!