I'm back at the PASS Summit. Another year – my sixth now. And I'm sitting at the bloggers' table, next to Mark Broadbent (@retracement).
The PASS Summit is by far the best SQL Server event in the world each year – even better than the Adelaide SQL Server User Group sessions, and the first keynote is always full of announcements.
It always starts with a bunch of information about how the reach of the SQL community has grown over the years, and it's an amazing thing to see the impact that the community has these days. Tom La Rock has given the announcements about this, as the current PASS President.
Joseph Sirosh is up now. He's the newly appointed Corporate VP for the Data Group now. He's speaking to the changing face of data. I feel like this is a regular spot at keynotes – data has been changing so fast for years now, and the things that people are using data for becomes more and more impressive. Last year there it was about analysing shopping patterns for people who move through a department store – this year it's looking at huge quantities of medical information to predict current and future medical conditions. This lets people save lives with data now, because early intervention becomes even more possible.
Eric Flesichman is a Chief Architect and is a VP in Platform Engineering at DocuSign. He's talking about how SQL Server was the right fit for them, and this fits in with what I hear at customers too. Microsoft is the leader in both Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision in the latest the Magic Quadrant by Gartner (as has just been pointed out by Joseph), and people are finding that SQL Server continues to become the sensible choice for even the largest of organisations.
Shawn Bice up now – General Manager of the Database Systems Group. He's showing the new features of SQL Server 2016, and pointing out it's all built-in. It's not about Add-Ons – everything is part of the product. He talks about how it's the leader in Mission Critical, the least vulnerable, the highest performing, cheapest cost for BI, and the Advanced Analytics that has come with R's integration within the platform. R is the biggest language amongst data scientists, whether they are solving problems in space, or marketing, or wherever. To make SQL Server the most significant data platform for data scientists, this R integration is critical.
HA and DR has been improved with better algorithms for data transfer. I see this as incredibly important. Every improvement in compression and parallelism is an improvement in moving data around, whether between servers within an on-prem system, a hybrid system, or pure Azure.
PolyBase comes into SQL Server 2016 to let people use T-SQL over Hadoop. I'm used to having PolyBase through APS, and the idea of being able to hook into Hadoop data stores from "regular SQL" provides numerous opportunities. This is going to lower the barrier for people who want to leverage Hadoop into their current environments. This is really exciting.
The columnstore improvements in SQL 2014 meant that columnstore data could be updated, but in SQL 2016 we get updateable non-clustered columnstore indexes. For people who redesigned tables to leverage columnstore, or rather, saw changes that they would want to make to leverage columnstore and decided against columnstore – these people can now put an updateable columnstore index on a subset of the columns in a table, and leverage the technology much more easily. Again, lowering the barrier.
Rohan Kumar, a Partner Director in Engineering, is showing the impact of this, with a live dashboard, using a non-clustered columnstore index to explore data. He's looking at how the R integration and the columnstore improvements provide a platform to discover anomalies in data in much quicker time than ever. I know that fraud analysis happens in close-to-real time within banks, but these changes make this kind of work available to many more organisations.
Sadly, Rohan then opens Profiler to show what's happening behind the scenes with AlwaysEncrypted. But it's Profiler, and everyone has been trying to move off Profiler for some years now. AlwaysEncrypted is impressive, but Profiler???
Stretched Databases make up the last main demo, and the keynote wraps up. The mood in the place is that these are exciting times.