PASS Summit 2014 Recap

PASS Summit 2014Every autumn one can observe the pilgrimage of almost all Microsoft Data Platform specialists (SQL Server, Excel, Azure Platform) for one of the cities in the USA and most of the times to Seattle. The reason behind it is the biggest, the amazing and the most important event for the Microsoft Data Professionals – the annual PASS Summit.

This year was no exception and since the PASS Summit was back to Seattle, one could observe over 5000 people going to Washington State Convention Centre in Seattle to be a part of the PASS Summit, stretching over 5 amazing days.
At the same time in Redmond and Bellevue (cities that are around 30 min of car drive away) the anual Microsoft MVP Summit was taking place, where MVPs from all around the world was gathering to make better connections with Development & Program Teams, to share and learn a lot of new exciting things. This year Microsoft & PASS agreed to synchronise everything in order to make it possible for SQL Server MVP’s such as myself to take part in both events.

MVP ShowcaseThe only thing from the MVP Summit I can share is that my OH22 colleagues, Sascha Dittmann and me were selected to present our SSIS components that allow one to work with a number of Microsoft Cloud offerings such as DocumentDB & HDInsight between others. If you are interested in more information, check out the Channel 9 Podcast that we have recorded with Microsoft Cloud Evangelist and our good friend Scott Klein: Using SQL Server Integration Services to control the power of HDInsight.

For me personally, this year was marked by the first full presentation on PASS Summit I have delivered. Over the last 3 years I have making Lightning Talks, but only in 2014 I became one of the lucky presenters to be selected.

Bloggers_1 I was honoured to be invited as one of the bloggers to live blog about PASS Summit, which is always a honourable experience bearing in mind the likes of the truly well-established bloggers and specialists who were present there.

The bloggers are provided with a reserved place with great visibility to the stage as well as the table with a network cable connection to be able to write, tweet and share in all other possible ways with the world what was going on, making everyone far away feeling a little bit close to the centre of the Microsoft Data Platform prime event.

Bloggers_2It is an incredible possibility to be in the centre of the very event and to be provided with the right tools to share the events as they occur.

We were also given a great chance to meet and greet Rimma Nehme before she delivered the keynote, big thanks for that goes to the gallant gentleman Mark Souza.

I have not attended any of the precons since I was busy at the MVP Summit and so for me the 1st day of PASS Summit was the actual third one for those who like some of colleagues have attended the precons.

Day 1

Day_1_KickoffThe keynote kicked off with PASS president Thomas LaRock coming on stage and updating everyone on the current status and developments.
The very first PASS Summit was in Chicago in 1999 with 1200 attendees and 15 years later for PASS Summit 2014 there were 5899 registrations coming from 56 different countries – simply amazing! This was the biggest Summit ever, as we are already used to it.

PASS has grown to represent 285 chapters with 86 SQLSaturdays happening around the world in a matter of just 12 months, while in 1999 there just 39 chapters with no SQLSaturdays at all!

Keynote_RangaT.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, Joseph Sirosh and James Phillips were the Kenote speakers from Microsoft.

I loved some of the information revealed during this part of the keynote, even though the first part was very slow-passed and I even managed to get bored in some parts.

Important announcements:
New Update for Azure SQL Database is coming to preview before the end of the year and it includes Parallel queries, Extended Events, Large Index support (Rebuilds over 2GB), Columnstore Indexes and much more.

Day_1_DemoMike Zwilling gave an awesome demo of In-Memory Hekaton with updatable!!!, nonclustered ColumnStore Indexes. This leaves so much space for ideas and speculation, but just imagine a truly In-Memory Columnstore structures – that would be beyond awesome.

After that the feature called Stretched Tables was shown – this feature allows you to store parts of your tables on Azure, so you can have a separation on Hot & Cold Data, while storing active data on the premise at your local datacenter, you can store the the archive data at your leisure in the Cloud, thus lowering the maintenance and pressure on your local data.

Another key announcement was the next generation of PowerBI with support for the HTML5 browser-based solution that does not require construction of a PowerPivot Data Model – this is absolutely critical for the people who want to start exploring data but has no Data Modelling skills whatsoever.
The fact that PowerBI will be allowed to connect to on-premise SSAS Cubes and another sources (on-premise & in the cloud) was another key announcement. Bearing in mind that this will be done through browser interface is quite revealing that Microsoft is putting a lot of efforts into PowerBI offering.

Keynote_SiroshThe “one more thing” moment was reserved for the announcement that AzureML has become a free offering for anyone willing to try it out.

After the keynote I went to have a couple of conversation, stayed some time at the Community Zone and basically enjoyed myself without attending any sessions in particular.
It was so awesome to be able to see so many friends for the first time in a year – this is one of the reasons that I love PASS Summit.

ETL For ColumnstoreAt 3 PM I have delivered my session ETL for Clustered Columnstore, in a quite full room (I do not have any concrete numbers but right now until the numbers are revealed by PASS). I have got some amazing feedback back, but I am even more excited to get feedback from the attendees who feel out the questionnaire, I am looking very much forward into improving this session.

Big thanks goes to Pedro Simões who took the picture on the left, otherwise I would most probably be out of pictures for my session. I confess that it is always great to have known to you friendly faces in the crowd, it gives you an extra boost of morale.

PASS_Sunil_ColumnstoreAfter my session I went to Sunil Agarwal’s session on Columnstore Index, where I was expecting some new content to be revealed. Unfortunately not even a bit of the information about the upcoming updatable Nonclustered Columnstore Indexes for In-Memory OLTP was revealed.

A major highlight after Sunil’s session was the possibility to finally meet face to face with Lonny Niederstadt (K SQL_Handle) – one of the smartest people out there and definitely worth following on twitter.

After hanging out with some friends I went to the Sponsor’s reception party and then to SolidQ party where I had a lot of fun hanging with a lot of good funny friends 🙂

Day 2

Adam_Keynote_Day_2Day 2 kicked of with Adam Jorgensen updating everyone on the financial status of PASS. With over 1 Million $ in the bank, PASS is ready for not-so-good days, should they ever appear on the horizon.

Adam has made a number of great & important announcements such as the fact that the PASS Budget will be made more transparent with each portfolio’s spending being made public – I truly applaud this and hope that more steps in this direction shall be made in the nearest future.

Thomas Larock took a couple of minutes to thank the outgoing PASS Directors – Sri Sridharan & Olivier Matrat and welcomed the new PASS Directors: Grant Fritchey & Sanjay Mishra.

After Tom, Denise McInerney took over the stage to present the PASSion award to the most outstanding volunteer this year – Andrey Korshakov. In my personal opinion, a very well deserved award.

PASS Business Analytics Conference has been reconfirmed – in 2015 it will take place in Santa Clara between 20th and 22nd of April. I am quite disappointed that besides not opening a call for speakers, this year not even the invited speakers are revealed. I understand that the focus of this conference are the analysts, but excluding the current audience where enough people have the intention in evolving into Analysts, does not seems to be the right way.

Next year, PASS Summit will be held in Seattle and so the dates are 27-30 October 2015. The registration are already open.

Following this information it was the time to introduce Rima Neeme who would be delivering a technical keynote. If you have been to PASS Summit in the last years, you would be used to hear the name of Dr David Dewitt, who rocked everyone’s world with some amazing presentations, getting them even better & better – year after year.
You can imagine the amount of attention & pressure that Dra Rimma Nehme has faced before her keynote. Do not forget that our community is quite vocal whenever we see something that sucks or someone who lacks the skills. We want to be entertained, we want to learn, and most of all – we want to discover new stuff.

So without any pressure let me introduce who Dra Rimma Nehme is:

Rimma_Nehme_GreetingsDra Rimma Nehme is a a senior research engineer in Microsoft Gray Systems Lab (part of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group). Rimma is responsible for designing, building and evaluating new technologies for Microsoft database products. Since 2009, she has made critical contributions to Microsoft’s database products and technologies, including SQL Server PDW Query Optimizer, SQL Server Live Query Statistics, and Partial Results for Database Systems, and is one of the original founders of the PolyBase project.

With all that it would be tough to pull an awesome presentation, don’t you think ?

Well, let’s add that by the begin of her presentation Dra Rimma Nehme’s clicker died (happened to every presenter a couple of times), and that she calmly & flamboyantly said that he can solve the technical issue … and it did not work, no matter what she tried. (Maybe it was batteries or maybe the clicker itself simply has gone to a better world)

Scary ? Oh yes… I guess that in the same situation I would simply freak out, but Dra Rimma simply went forward with her presentation with all calm in the world. I think that it was THE moment that she has simply won over all technical hearts of the bloggers and presenters over the world.

Cloud and Blind MenRight in the beginning she has mentioned that she would talk about the Cloud and she made a very important statement assuming that between a couple of thousands of people sitting in the audience and watching PASS TV live, 1/3 were experts, 1/3 knew some stuff about Cloud and 1/3 were simply clueless.
How can you deliver a compelling Keynote on this terms ?
If you are presenter, imagine you have a session and you need to deliver value for this 3 distinct groups.
If you have not seen the presentation, simply go to PASS TV page and check it out – it is definitely worth your time !

I loved so many great visual images and comparisons that she has made during her presentations, such as Pizza as a Service (vs Cloud as a Service), Blind men and a cloud (the image I took a picture of), the explanation about Datacenter evolution and their actual focus, and most of all the message to all the DBA’s out there – do not worry, your profession is not at risk – it is simply evolving.

At the end of her presentation she has got a standing ovation and Dr Dewitt has made quite an emotional appearance on the stage. It is so beautiful to see 2 generations of scientists on the stage – but hey, I am just a sentimental guy.

At the end, I am looking for more of the bleeding edge for the next year, Dr Rimma!
Maybe you should do keynote on the first day, diving into the technicalities of the new technologies – I am sure everyone would LOVE that!

After the keynote I have spent some time with Sponsors, at the SQL Clinic with SQLCAT team, enjoying some high quality time at Community Zone, as usually.

IMG_5503I have also went to attend a couple presentations, such as one on the HDInsight from my friends and colleagues Tillmann Eitelberg & Oliver Engels.
I have also attended Davide Mauri’s session on Agile BI: Unit Testing and Continuos Integration, which was quite interesting, especially in the regard of some modern testing tools that Davide has mentioned.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 16.46.12At the later part of the day, I have went to Bob Ward’s brainwashing 500-level session on the SQL Server IO, which was amazing as usually. This session was one of the Summit highlights for me, especially since I was hanging out with a close friend of mine – the amazing Mark Broadbent. You can see the picture that Mark took during Bob Ward’s session.

Thursday evening was marked by the first The First PASS Summit Bloggers’ Meetup, organised by Pythian. It was nice to meet some new people and to enjoy some nice & thought-provoking conversations. I had a chance to meet some of the leaders from the Pythian, but since the biggest part of the attendees were people from Portugal & Brasil – I have shared a great time and a lot of laughs with good old friends.

The PASS attendee’s party this year, where I went to right after the Meetup’s finish, felt a little bit different, it felt empty – since there were much less people as 2 years ago, maybe because given the fact that the location was the same, some people decided to go to some different places.

Day 3

IMG_5505On Friday I have decided to spend more time at the sessions, and so I attended Dejan Sarka’s amazing 500-level dive into Data Quality, where I have learned quite a lot of stuff about the diverse CLR functions available inside the Master Data Services. Those functions are available for usage and the last demos that Dejan have shown were simply mind-blowing.

For the earliest session on Friday one would be quite surprised the number of people in attendance – this really shows the importance of the Data Quality and how professionals see it.

IMG_5507My next session was with Matthew Roche and Julie Strauss on the Data Catalogue, very nice information and Matthew absolutely rocks as a speaker. His knowledge, sense of humor & wit make me really appreciate every bit of the content that he delivers.

I have attended some parts of a number of sessions, seeking for more interesting and challenging content, unfortunately with a lot of sessions going only on the surface into the technology depth.

Ultimately after some quality time at Community Zone, I have attended the Speaker Idol contest organised by Denny Cherry. Very high quality presentations there, and please bear in mind that presenters were publicly judged which does not happen to the regular presenters – and so you should have a big respect for everyone who dare to try.
With a number of known people competing for the 1st place it was a very close call, but ultimately Pieter Vanhove nailing down the winning presentation.

After everything was closed and all conversations were done (putting face onto the picture people I have been following for some time) a big group of friends went into a Steak House for a good meal & a lot of laughs.

I love PASS Summit and in 2015 if nothing extraordinary happens I will be back for more.

4 thoughts on “PASS Summit 2014 Recap

  1. Kevin Kline

    Great blog post and recap, Niko! One of the things you highlight very well is human side of our interactions. So many people think of technologists as “loners”. But we know that’s not true, eh? =^) Well done!

    -Kev

    1. Niko Neugebauer Post author

      Hi Kevin,

      thank you for the kind commentary – I totally agree, it is the human side that makes us feel like one big SQLFamily. The technology itself is not that interesting, as discussing it with people who like it.

      I hope to see you around soon, maybe in the UK at the SQLBits ?

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