Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Recap of PASS Summit 2012

This PASS Summit was my second in attendance and by far the best I've been to. Big thanks to the PASS organization, volunteers, and speakers that made it all possible! Even though I knew some of what to expect this time around, it still held a lot of memorable moments and learning experiences. One of the most memorable moments was delivering my first PASS presentation to a group of 120! Being the first conference I had ever presented at, emotions ran high. Thankfully, I brought my family along with me who cheered me on and calmed my nerves. Some DesignMind colleagues were also at the Summit which made the experience feel complete: Mark Ginnebaugh (President and SQL Server MVP), Mark Gschwind (VP of BI), and Greg Larsen (SQL Server Lead and MVP). In the end, I came away learning from some of the best talent in the SQL Server community, making new connections, and reuniting with familiar faces from across the world. If you are a SQL professional, and you still haven't gotten plugged into the SQL Community, get to a SQL Saturday or SQL User Group near you and start networking. It will do wonders for your career.

I presented my Mobile BI presentation on Friday and added a new demo of Mobile BI using native apps on a smartphone. I used Mobi Reports Pro on iPhone which is the only full SSRS client on iOS in Apple's App store today. Even though I used iOS devices for this talk, I tried to be as device-agnostic as possible to show people that they could go mobile if they already had SQL Server and/or SharePoint via mobile web browser or native apps. To my surprise, David Magar, Program Manager of SQL BI Cloud Services, was there to inform all of us about the latest release of SQL Azure Reporting Services which is now ready for production. So everyone go out and try it out! It might just be the answer to your mobile BI implementation if your worried about hardware, network, and licensing costs. Big thanks to everyone that came to my session. It was a lot of fun putting it together over this last year and I plan on keeping up with the latest innovations that Microsoft is coming up with, including the Surface, Office apps for iOS, and SharePoint 2013.

The Summit key note presentations informed us of some very interesting things going on with the PASS organization and innovations going on with the SQL Server team at Microsoft. My favorite key note was on Day 1 with Bill Graziano and Ted Kummer. If you missed it live, catch it on demand at PASS TV. Here were some of the most memorable points from each of the key note presentations:
  • SQL Server 2012 SP1 is now available. The most important update for me is the SSRS Report Manager compatibility with iOS devices.
  • Business Analytics Conference is coming to Chicago April 10-12. This is one that I definitely want to attend! It promises more practical and use-case BI presentations. Hopefully we can see more customers putting SQL Server and SharePoint in action!
  • Ted Kummert announced Microsoft's Data Platform Project Hekaton, which is the next full release of SQL Server being developed as I write this. In-memory OLTP, Writeable/clustered columnstore indexes, and ability to query Hadoop with Polybase were just a few of the amazing features demonstrated during the Day 1 key note.
  • Excel 2013 has PowerPivot built into its DNA with the ability to visualize data using Power View all within the most widely used BI tool in the world.
  • Jen Stirrup was recognized with the PASSion award for outstanding volunteer work in the SQL Server international community. 
  • Amy Lewis was also given recognition for her dedication and support to the PASS Community.
When I wasn't preparing my mobile BI demos, I attended BI sessions throughout the conference. It's always great to see other BI consultants strut their stuff. You always learn something that you hadn't before. I enjoyed seeing Peter Myers and Matthew Roche comical display of the Top 10 Extraordinary Features in SSIS 2012, of which I especially liked seeing how the CDC components work inside of SSIS. I also caught Brian Knight and John Welch's session on Data Cleansing with SSIS 2012 where there was a lot of useful deduplication code I plan on studying soon. Also interesting was Marco Russo's session on Near-Realtime Performance with SSAS Tabular. I also got to see my friends Devin Knight show how to upgrade SSIS packages to 2012 and Melissa Coates expertise on managing PowerPivot models in SharePoint. Lots of good SQL BI learning from some of the best in the industry. The hardest part was choosing which sessions to go to. There were so many good ones. Thank goodness they are available online or for purchase.

What made the whole experience extra special this conference was bringing the whole family out to enjoy Seattle. The dog and fish had to stay home unfortunately, but they were safe and sound back home with the in-laws. The family enjoyed Seattle while I was busy at the conference. The kids had fun seeing King Tut at the Pacific Science Center and role-playing as fire fighters and grocery store clerks at Seattle's Childrens museum. Our family's main event was celebrating my 9-year old daughter's birthday at the Sky City Cafe at top of the Space Needle! We also got to hang out at Pikes Place Market and enjoyed fish and chips. The kids still can't stop talking about Seattle and we hope to visit again in the near future.

As always, the PASS Summit conference was a top-notch event and my family and I were very blessed to enjoy Seattle throughout the event. I look forward to the Business Analytics conference in April and PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte. Hope to see you all there!

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