I recently attended SQL PASS Summit in Seattle, a conference focusing on Microsoft Data Platform users. The conference brings over 4000 people from around the world who all get excited about data to one place. This year, Microsoft unveiled a handful of new products and a slew of upgrades and new features to existing products. Over the four days of the conference that I attended, I noticed a few trends.
Emphasis on Speed
Microsoft has made big enhancements to SQL Server in their 2016 release. The keynote included a demo of SQL Server being able to handle 1,000,000 concurrent transactions in one second. This is incredibly powerful for organizations like banks who need to process payment transactions instantly. There was also lots of talk around Biml (Business Intelligence Markup Language), which provides a framework to speed up and operationalize SSIS development. Learn more about Biml here.
Emphasis on Cloud Offerings
Microsoft is rapidly expanding their Azure offerings and the connectedness of their offerings. While at the conference, they announced the public preview of Azure Analysis Services. If customers have their databases in Azure, they can take the next step in the process and build semantic models through Analysis Services, providing a more consistency in their cloud data stories. The Azure Data Warehouse was in the spotlight at day two’s keynote, which can be watched here. The Azure Data Warehouse can be quickly scaled up or down to fit the data needs of your business. Azure Machine Learning was a hot topic and discussed in a multitude of sessions – and a bonus it is free to use! Azure ML provides a user friendly GUI to import your data, choose a built in statistical algorithm, teach the machine to identify patterns with the algorithm, and predict output results.
Major Reporting Tool Updates
Microsoft has released a major, and long overdue, update to SQL Server Reporting Services. The reporting capabilities have gotten major facelifts. Not only in the look and feel of reports, but also in the report manager, where reports are accessed. In addition they made an exciting announcement about the future connectedness of their two major reporting offerings. Power BI will soon be embedded into SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), providing users the ability to leverage both reporting platforms and host their reports in one location.
R, a statistical programming language, is now embedded in many of Microsoft’s products. R can be used in SQL Server, SSRS, and Power BI. This opens the possibility for complex statistical models to be run through SQL and more customized visuals to be generated through the reporting tools. As mentioned before, Azure Machine Learning (Azure ML) was discussed frequently at SQL PASS. I watched a fascinating session from Patricio Cofre, who used Azure ML to predict the consumer price index. Azure ML is pre-loaded with data sets for users to explore its functionality.
If you want to learn more about all the Microsoft Data Platform offerings, PASS is a great organization, providing training and community events around the world and through many online virtual chapters. Did you attend SQL Pass Summit? Let me know what your favorite takeaways were in the comments.