The SQLPASS Community Summit is one of the most exciting annual conferences for the SQL Server team. Bringing together thousands of professionals to talk about SQL Server is simply amazing. Last year I had the honor of standing on stage with Ted Kummert (Senior Vice President for the Business Platform Division @ Microsoft) during his keynote to demo an early prototype build of Application and Multi-Server Management. Standing in front of 2,500+ SQL Server fans is truly exhilarating.
For the past few months we’ve been working on our content for this year’s conference. The focus on SQL Server 2008 R2 will be intense, to say the least. One of the overriding themes this year is consolidation. In the sessions on consolidation we will be emphasizing the investments we’re making in R2 and Hyper-V. We have another session focusing on developing data-tier applications using Visual Studio 2010.
In addition to the public break out sessions we conducting several private sessions. These private sessions are under NDA and include participants from the SQL Server MVP community as well as people representing companies part of the SQL Server Customer Advisory Network or SCAN. Over the past 5 years (my tenure with the SQL Server group) the emphasis on gathering customer feedback early in the development cycle has intensified.
These break out sessions provide a look into features on the plate for the next release. The sessions are a combination of PowerPoint slides and demos of early prototype builds. Participants are asked to fill out surveys to provide their input to our planning process. I can attest the feedback we receive in these sessions directly impacts the shape of features.
One of the absolute highlights for me, though, is interacting with you. Spending time hearing how you’re using the product, the challenges you face in your business, and how you see the industry changing are invaluable. Even though we may not be talking under NDA about future developments these conversations have a direct impact on the product. All of these data points are fed back into the planning process and impact the multitude of decisions we make throughout the development cycle.
This year I was asked again to participate in Ted’s keynote and I jumped at the opportunity to show off my team’s hard work. I’ll be demoing the latest (yet to be released CTP) build of SQL Server 2008 R2 along with the already release Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2. The demo is absolutely rocking. Ted’s keynote is packed with demos all of them extremely cool – although I think ours is the coolest of the lot. There’s one demo near the end that’s sure to bring the house down. I won’t give it away so you’ll just have to come to the keynote and see it for yourself. But I’m certain it’ll be picked up by the blogging & twitter communities.
If you see me @ the conference don’t hesitate to come up and say hi and bend my ear about what you do for a living, what you like about the product and what we can do to make you more efficient and effective in your job.
really in Vegas, for a couple of days. We stayed downtown on Fremont Street,
visiting with Alison's vacationing parents, just before the conference, then
shuffled up the strip to ritzier lodgings for the main event. It's not much of
a boundary to cross, perhaps a formality in some ways, but nevertheless
significant. Fremont street has its colourful fun, but it isn't the Strip: and
The Four Seasons is surely not the Lady Luck.
recently been crossing other boundaries too. For one thing, I have a new role
within Microsoft. Just like driving up from Las Vegas to the Strip, to the
casual observer you may not notice much difference, but difference there is.
Here's the change ...
always enjoyed being very close with customers, partners and the wider Business
Intelligence community. Since I first joined Microsoft, back in 2001, I have
been working in engineering teams, striving sometimes to keep up with the
deeply technical side, but still trying to keep in touch with what our
customers and partners needed in the real world. It has been a great role, but
a difficult one to balance. So now, rather than being in a single vertical
product team - Analysis Services, or Integration Services, for example - I'll
be working in a cross-team role. My focus will be to help Microsoft articulate
a vision for business intelligence, and to improving our technical engagement
with analysts, partners and other teams. As part of this role, I'll still need
to keep technically close to the development teams: still contributing to
engineering execution and vision as I can. (I still have some patents up my
sleeve!) Nevertheless, the role does change. I'll miss leading my group of
Program Managers - but I'll still be working with them daily. Maybe I'll even
miss the hassle of integrating trees of code, fighting bug fires, and juggling
development and test resources. However, I have much to look forward to,
especially as we enter a whole new area with our "managed self-service"
approach to business intelligence.
want to keep up with my new role, and the various technical and community
initiatives in which I'll be involved, please do read my blog here. It's a Microsoft
blog, for sure: in the sense that it is focused on our products, and our
issues. For example, my next post will cover our new PowerPivot product,
explaining some of the thinking behind our direction, and behind the name. You
can also read my other blog
where I'll be rather more expansive on issues of broader interest in the BI
community. And you can follow me on Twitter: donalddotfarmer.
going to be fun. For me, better than Vegas
November is the month of conferences. There are four pretty major conferences going on and we have SQL Server Manageability sessions @ all of them. Here’s the run down:
We also have a surprise in store @ SQLPASS during Ted Kummert’s keynote. Also @ PDC there’s a session on SQL Azure futures (“The future lifecycle of database development with SQL Azure”) that covers some of the future technology we’re exploring. If you’re @ PDC this is a must attend session. There is still space available @ all of these conferences. Unfortunately the only conference I’m going to make is SQLPASS. I was excited to go to SQL Connections but my schedule just won’t allow it. Each conference has a pretty amazing set of speakers with incredible knowledge in the area of managing SQL Server. If your schedule and budget permit you should pick a conference and go. I’m positive you’ll see a positive ROI.
As you may know we've announced that
Microsoft's cloud computing platform, Windows Azure, will have
commercial availability as of the first day of the upcoming Professional
Developer's Conference in Los
Angeles on November 17th, 2009. In addition to data storage via Windows
Azure, included in our offering will be SQL Azure. I've been following
the product team's progress with SQL Azure for quite some time now, given my
long-term interest in, and professional use of, SQL Server.
In fact, just this week the product group
announced on the the SQL Azure blog, that the current build is feature-complete for PDC09 now. The
product team's most recent blog details features that have been added to the
most current CTP, such as the ability to configure firewall (access) rules,
support for bulk copy (mostly for initial data load-in), and more. I've been
watching and waiting, eager to ask lots of detail questions of product group as
we start our first phase of commercial availability. Of course, the
paramount questions are around security of your data in our cloud. We
have a large number of sessions at the upcoming PDC in Los Angels, which runs
from November 17 to November 19. The announced schedule to date
already included 9 dedicated sessions on SQL Azure. These sessions are being
conducted by members of the SQL Azure product group team.
If you can't attend the PDC and want to
get started learning the capabilities of SQL Azure, then I recommend
downloading the October 2009 Windows Azure Platform Training Kit. It includes power point decks, demos, hands
on labs and more. Of course this kit will be updated to reflect changes
in the product as we add features. There will also be a good bit of SQL
Azure coverage at the upcoming SQL Pass Summit in Seattle from November 2 to 5th. In addition, there will be
sessions at TechEd, Europe in Berlin from November 9th to 13th.
An interesting new development is the
recent update to the SQL Azure management portal. The CTP access URL is
changing as of PDC (from https://ctpportal.database.windows.net to https://sql.azure.com)
and the portal itself has been updated to reflect the newly-added features of
Due to the level of interest in SQL Azure
(including my own interest), I have decided to write a technical book about the
topic. Readers of this blog will get to preview partial chapters, as I
plan to begin the writing in December. I intend to write about topics
thtat will have interest for developers, ITPros and architects. These
will include development of .NET and non .NET front-end solutions (i.e. PHP,
Java) which use SQL Azure as a partial or entire storage solutions, also
deployment and management considerations such as auditing and synchronization
between cloud and local copies of data stores. Of course there will be a
strong emphasis on security implementation best practices throughout the book.
I am quite interested in your feedback if
you have worked with any version of the SQL Azure CTP (beta). Take a
minute to drop me a mail via this blog to tell me what you've liked or not
liked about your experience so far.
Bosch, in Palma
de Mallorca, is one of my favourite places to hang out. It's hectic and noisy,
but still leaves space and time for endless discussions or reflection. It is
the perfect place to pretentiously pore over Žižek or Derrida. Yet in the
autumn of '98 I found myself sitting there, ordering carajillas and reading up
as much as I could about Oracle's Business Intelligence tools.
before I joined Microsoft, and I had just started a new job with a BI team
focused on Oracle products. I had to get up to speed quickly, but, fortunately,
I had some vacation already booked. So, one week after I joined, my wife and
son headed to the beaches of Cala Ferrera, and I headed to Bar Bosch with my
Oracle books under my arm. It was a long week of reading, and mostly in vain.
When we returned home, my CEO had news for me. "All that Oracle
stuff," he said. "Forget it. We're focussing 100% on SQL Server
now." The rest, as far as my personal story is concerned, is history. I've
never looked back.
happened? Some of the C-level team had attended the SQL Server 7 technical
preview at Microsoft's invitation in Redmond. On day one, during a break,
they phoned back to our office from the lobby and told the development team to
stop Oracle development. They found the Microsoft BI story, told then by Bill
Baker and Amir Netz, so compelling that they immediately changed direction.
Microsoft presented three irresistible messages: a vision of what BI is about,
a commitment to BI customers and partners, and a compelling pricing model.
wish all Oracle migrations were so easy. Some are, but I always maintain, as in
a recent discussion with Ted
Cuzillo, that migrating technologies is easier than migrating
people. When one has established a way of working, it's difficult to adapt to a
new way, even if it is technically equivalent or superior. It's just easier to
carry on with one's current practices. Software manufacturers know this, of
course. We all want our products to be, as the marketers say,
"sticky" - and all of us in the software business like features and
methodologies that build loyalty. That loyalty, once gained, is naturally a
most valuable asset.
recently, Oracle, appear to have taken a different approach: one that customers
increasingly resent. They are tying companies into the Oracle ecosystem
financially, especially by acquiring other strategic suppliers: writing checks,
not code, as Larry Ellison himself once said. Their customers are complaining
in stark terms, as they find themselves not only tied in, but subject to
ever-increasing prices and intransigent demands. Business Week headlined that "Oracle
has Customers Over a Barrel" quoting one customer as saying
"Once you've made a deal with the devil, it's hard to get away."
approach from Oracle is surely a deeply alienating move, and it tastes to me of
a certain desperation. Personally, I find it baffling. Here is a company with a
truly great database product, a broad range of applications and excellent
engineers, but they are driving their own customers to despair with licensing
practices that feel like extortion according to some. So, while there have
always been Oracle customers willing to make the effort to change, at Microsoft
we are expecting to see that number increase.
we're encouraging them, and why not? SQL Server is growing rapidly: over 11% in
2008 according to IDC.
In the past, much of our growth came from net new customers: we have always
been aware that we win many businesses choosing their first enterprise database
or BI implementation. Now, we are seeing a large number of switchers: customers
willing to make that migration from another technology. To win more of these
customers, we need to show that they need not be tied into the Oracle universe,
even when their existing commitments are substantial. This case
study of the Turkish appliance manufacturer Arçelik describes them
effectively moving a 5Tb SAP implementation from Oracle to SQL Server, and
gaining substantially in performance and lower costs. We also have a neat little
tool that TCO
calculator that has proved very popular. To be sure, you don't need
an animated tool to find significant TCO savings persuasive, but it's
fascinating and fun to play with the various combinations of servers and staff
course, I would not deny that Oracle are still growing. There's a lot to admire
in the efficiency with which they target and execute on acquisitions. Frankly,
they sometimes take the rest of us in the industry by surprise; which is partly
a sign that they are imaginative and bold, yet partly suggests that they are
chasing growth by acquisition at all costs, often seemingly at random. This
week they acquired Hyperroll.
That gives Oracle four OLAP products. It's little surprise that their
customers, and from what I hear, their internal teams, are puzzled and often
anxious about their direction. On a larger scale, their acquisition of Sun sent
many of the same confusing signals.
all this affect someone like me, making suggestions and decisions about our own
BI futures in Microsoft? In some ways, it affects my work remarkably little.
When Oracle buy a company like Hyperion, it may mean that there's a new flag on
the island, but it takes a much longer time to build bridges and integration.
As a result, we in Microsoft, especially in the product teams (rather than,
say, in marketing) may look at the Oracle applications and see relatively few
feature-for-feature challenges. In other cases, such as Oracle's own
in-database-OLAP features, we largely had to ignore their feature set when
considering their future direction because it seems so unclear.
integration remains an important priority for us, for several reasons. For one
thing, it helps our customers who are coming off Oracle to do so in a planned,
progressive manner. Supporting Oracle systems in our tools - such as Analysis
Services, Reporting Services and Integration Services also helps us to provide
BI features to those customers who do find themselves on the wrong side of the
devil's bargain and unable to extract themselves for it. For example, we see
many customers using Analysis Services, or Reporting Services or Integration
Services with Oracle systems. In fact, demand for Oracle support was so great,
that in SQL Server 2008 we introduced an Integration Services
high-performance data loader for Oracle. Yes, a "data loader" not an
extractor: we released a feature that makes it easier to get data into an
Seeing these customer satisfaction issues at another major
and successful vendor, and at the risk of sounding too much like a motivational
call, I am convinced that we, in the SQL Server team, must keep to our own core
value propositions: a persuasive vision, a commitment to our customers'
success, and a compelling pricing model. After all, these are the same key
points that were so signifcant to my old team over 10 years ago at that
technical preview in Redmond. For their part, our friends at Redwood Shores
appear to be doing their best to send customers our way. Is that what they call
synergy? I'll ponder that, although this autumn it will be over a latte in Third Place
Books rather than a carajilla at the Bar Bosch.
In early 2001 I worked @ a start-up company with about 150 people. I call it a start-up because it had no revenue but did have free breakfast, lunch and dinner. @ the company there were five people named Michelle and six named Dan (including yours truly). One day the VP of operations got confused about which Michelle and Dan he was talking about; he followed it with the following comment – you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a Dan or a Michelle. Ok, I apologize to all cat lovers – I’m one myself and I for sure don’t condone the swinging of dead animals, or live ones for that matter. But I feel the same way about virtualization and consolidation. Hardly a days goes past when I’m not in a conversation about these topics. It’s important to remember that while virtualization has a coolness factor I recommend you approach it as an enabler to meeting business objectives and not the silver bullet that’ll solve all your woes. Also, while virtualization and consolidation are often mentioned in the same breath they’re not the same thing. A couple of guys on my team put together the following graphic to discuss SQL Server consolidation options:
As you move left to right across the picture you move from Higher Isolation (which equates to higher cost) to Higher Density (which equates to lower costs). High isolation refers to resource and security isolation. Obviously you could take this to the extreme and have each application (instance of SQL Server) reside on its own hardware sitting in its own data center residing in its own building on its own power grid. But that’s crazy, right? Higher density means the greatest sharing of resources.
Here’s a brief explanation of each lane:
The main point here is there is no one size fits all solution or technology and virtualization is just one of the ways to meet consolidation needs. You will likely employ multiple solutions within your environment with the key being to chose the right technology to meet the business requirements of the application. As an IT professional it’s your job to understand the technology and how to apply that technology to solve business problems.
There are several different models out there for approaching consolidation. The high-level steps that resonate with me are:
Finally, I couldn’t end this article without mentioning my favorite virtualization related features in Win7 and Win2K8 R2:
Virtualization and consolidation are concepts that have been around for at least 30 years. With the ever increasing pressure on IT to do more with less they are realities that can no longer be ignored. As I mentioned in my opening blog post, one of the challenging aspects of my job is I’m always thinking one to two releases out and I’m talking these days a lot about consolidation and virtualization… The first of this wave of capabilities sees the light of day with SQL Server 2008 R2 Application and Multi-Server Management.