Day 2 at SQL PASS Summit – SQL Server and the Private Cloud

Second day in Seattle gets into deep dive mode

After yesterday’s news with SQL Server 2012, what could we expect on Day 2 at the SQL PASS Summit 2011? How about SQL Server and the Private Cloud? Or SQL Azure and the Public Cloud? More real-life details on the AlwaysOn HA/DR solution? Deeper Dive into SSAS BISM Tabular Model Support? SSIS 2012 top 10 enhancements? I only have so many brain cells left so I am ordering the DVDs… One great feature of the PASS Summit is the conference DVD set. All 189 sessions including slides, audio, demos etc on DVD. It’s a no brainer. The question is: will I have enough time over the coming year to view all the sessions? No worries, I’ll share them with my Tri-PASS Chapter colleagues back home. Day 2 at PASS is traditionally Kilt Day. Bill Graziano, Executive VP of Finance at PASS, sported a classic Scottish Kilt as he showed us the financial growth of PASS as a not-for-profit organization. The guys at SQLSentry assured me that their Kilts had specially made pockets that could hold up to 18 beers. Funny, I don’t remember that from Brave Heart. The Key Note today was given by Quentin Clark, Corporate VP at Microsoft as he proceeded to show us the “Fantastic 12” new features of SQL Server 2012 with a little help from his friends. More demos of AlwaysOn, Power View (Crescent), ColumnStore Indexes, Data Quality Services, Data Alerts, SQL Azure Federations, SQL Data Tools (Juneau), FileTable, Semantic Search etc. All good stuff. Then an announcement of a new product offering from Microsoft and HP – enabling SQL Server in the Private Cloud using “Consolidation Appliances”. Pre-configured appliance servers ready to go with SQL Server 2008 R2 installed; 192 cores, 400 disks, redundant hot-spares. Don’t worry, you can start off with a half-rack and upgrade to a full-rack later. Just add power and network and you could be loading data within an hour, we are told. Also announced: an ODBC Driver for Linux, Change Data Capture within SSIS for both SQL and Oracle. Once again, the SQL Server 2012 sessions were full to the brim with standing room only. I attended “Top 10 Things you didn’t know about SSIS 2012” by Matt Masson, who made the session informative and entertaining. Features like Undo/Redo and Script Debugging are great but you have to ask why we had to wait till now. The new SSIS Catalog is impressive for central management. Projects are easier to track after deployment using .ispac (“icepack”) files. Parameters are easier to implement with a new tab in SSIS Designer. SSMS has built-in SSIS Reports for performance analysis and management. SSIS can now be implemented as a true server with the packages actually running server-side. Attunity has helped Microsoft implement Change Data Capture tasks available for both SQL and Oracle Data Sources. The Cache Connection Manager can now be shared across multiple packages. Data Taps can give Data Viewer capability in production without changing the package. SSIS 2012 now has three interfaces: .Net, T-SQL and PowerShell – you choose your favorite. Finally, we were given a glimpse of Project Barcelona with its Metadata Discovery capability. It uses “crawlers” to discover data lineage and dependencies with “zero touch”. Useful for Impact Analysis for application and data changes. “Data Quality Services in SQL Server 2012” with Elad Ziklik and Yossi Malka started off my triple-header after lunch in Room 612. It sure is easier at such a well-attended event to be able to stay put for three straight sessions; especially when you have a front-row seat. We were shown how DQS can provide a knowledge-based approach to data cleansing, matching and de-duplication. This solution is much more sophisticated and customizable than what we had previously, such as the SSIS Fuzzy Lookup and Fuzzy Grouping transforms. “Developing and Managing a BISM in SSAS 2012” with Cathy Dumas provided a more in-depth look at Tabular Models, VertiPaq and DAX within BIDS 2012. Cathy did a good job of starting off with the basics then diving deep into DAX code and Partitioning strategies for the new Tabular Models based on the BI Semantic Model. Finally, I sat through a great session from the SQL Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) where Microsoft consultants report back from real customer implementations using the latest technology in the most challenging environments. “SQL Server HA and DR Design Architectures and Best Practices” with Sanjay Mishra, Justin Erickson and Mike Weiner. Much time was spent highlighting strategies for the AlwaysOn feature of SQL Server 2012, making the distinction between AlwaysOn FCI (Failover Cluster Instance) and AlwaysOn AG (Availability Group), where to use each and where to combine the technologies. The real-life information was based on early adopters of this technology. One thing I have noticed about this year’s conference is that it is greener than ever. The conference agenda is distributed in the form of a phone app. Up to date with changes and all. The slides are available for download. Evaluations can be done online. I have taken all my notes using my phone. No more paper and pen. I have also used my phone to take photos of demos without worrying about looking like an Oracle Spy. Even SQL Server Magazine is going digital-only starting in January. This is all good progress. One final note: I came into this conference not especially impressed with Denali CTP3. Now, like most people I have talked to, I cannot wait for SQL Server 2012 ! Cheers Brian

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