Last week two of my colleagues and I visited the largest SQL Server conference of the world. This conference is called “SQL PASS SUMMIT 2011” with numerous sessions in 5 different tracks presented by a lot of MVP’s and MCM’s and a lot of Microsoft program managers and experts on site. The conference was held in Seattle and next year will be the last time the conference is in Seattle. Because it was announced that the year after (so 2013) the conference will be held in Charlotte.
In the rest of this blog post I will shortly describe some of the interesting information I have heard/seen. In the upcoming weeks I will try to dive a little deeper into some of the topics of this post.
One of my colleagues already wrote an interesting blog about several subjects and can be found here (blog post is in Dutch).
The key notes could again be followed live and most of the time the big announcements are during the key notes. If the time did not permit you of seeing the key notes they are still available online. This year there were no real mayor announcements. But of course one of the biggest announcements was one that we all (or at least a lot of us) already expected and that was that Denali will be released in the first part of 2012 and will be named SQL Server 2012.
About the Key note I would like to do a recombination for the key note of day 3. This is a must see if you are interested in Big Data and HADOOP or you just want to see a great presentation by David J. DeWitt. (for the people who do not know who he is, he is as they call a Technical Fellow of the Data and Storage Platform Division of Microsoft Corp) If you liked the presentation as much as I did here you can find the slides of this year and previous PASS presentations of David J. DeWitt.
Managing unstructured Data with “FileTable” and the new Semantic Search
The new FileTable functionality in combination with the new “Semantic Search” will be a great way on managing and gaining insight into your unstructured data. But at the same time you can combine the unstructured data with your structured data that is also stored in the SQL Server database.
The FileTable offers the ability to store files and documents in special tables in SQL Server called as you can imagine “FileTables”. But you can access them from Windows applications as if they were stored in the file system. A FileTable is a specialized user table with a pre-defined schema (which cannot be changed at least for now) that stores FILESTREAM data, as well as file and directory hierarchy information and file attributes.
“Semantic Search” is a new way of search with which Microsoft “as mentioned during presentation” can par or be better than the other big DBMS players. This new way of searching is based on existing technologies like the Fulltext search (which is also greatly improved in 2012). The semantic search provides statistically prominent key phrases with potential tag recommendations. It can provide potentially related content based on extracted key phrases and keywords. (Examples like similar products, similar support incidents etc.) One important prerequisite that was not mentioned a lot during the sessions according to me is that you will need the Semantic Language Database for this new search. More information on this new way of searching your data can be found here.
Master Data Services (MDS)
MDS has been given a new extra GUI which is Excel. The Excel add-in which can be downloaded here offers multiple users the ability to work with the data in MDS via a familiar tool. Besides the new Excel add-in the web interface is also improved and you can easily switch between the two interfaces. This is because the data is stored managed on the server while the users are working with it in Excel. You can now create and manage business rules on the data in MDS and see what data violates the business rule and you can decide to make changes on the data with annotations. (individually or in Bulk) After changing the data it can be published back into the system. The datasheet of MDS of October 2011 with information about MDS can be found here.
SQL Azure Reporting
The team of SQL Azure Reporting has done a lot of improvements. For instance the reports can now be developed with SQL Server Data Tools or from within BIDS as if you are building reports for your on premise solution. Another important improvement is the new portal on which you can do the report and user management. (Creating folders, granting rights etc.) Some of the other improvements are the support of Rich Data visualizations, render to different formats, URL access directly to a report and easy integration of the SQL Azure report in your own application. This and more of the improvements can now be previewed and the GA release will be at the end of 2011.
Something not provided at this moment but talked about during the session is SQL Azure Analysis and SQL Azure and that they are thinking/talking about these functionalities. Looking forward on reading or seeing more about these interesting topics.
Data Quality Services
The Data Quality Services (DQS) is an interesting solution with a nice GUI to find and correct data to improve your data quality. The description given about DQS is that “DQS is a knowledge-driven data quality solution enabling IT Pros and data stewards to easily improve the quality of their data”. Important part of this description is that it is knowledge-driven, so the more data you put in the better it will provide you with the recommendations of the data quality and updates for your data. It can be time consuming to build up such knowledge therefore it will be possible to use 3rd party knowledge via the Windows Azure Marketplace. This kind of service is referred as “Reference Data Services (RDS)”.
Other interesting features are the:
- Integrated office spellings check
- Term Based Relations (TBR)
- Matching rules for de-duplication of data>
- DQS integration with SSIS.
Want to read more?
As you can read in this and a lot of other blogs there are a lot of interesting new features and improvements. Because of the large amount of interesting sessions I could keep writing about all these new features and improvements. But I think it would be too much for one post so expect more posts later on with general descriptions of the new features/improvements but also posts with more detail on specific features.