Highlights from the PASS Summit 2017

This year's PASS Summit packed more than 5,000 data professionals into the Washington State Convention Center for hardcore technical sessions covering all aspects of the Microsoft data platform.

Sessions spanned all configurations—from on-premises computing to cloud computing—and hybrid applications using both—and addressed all subject areas, including standard relational computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, business intelligence, and data visualization.

Keynote Highlights

This year, Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s general manager, Database Systems Engineering, led the Day One keynote (video at The Day Two keynote was a real treat for NoSQL database fans, featuring a deep-dive into Cosmos DB presented by Rimma Nehme, a perennial favorite speaker and Microsoft’s group product manager for Azure Cosmos DB and Azure HDInsight (video at

Here are some highlights:

  • Microsoft stalwarts and rockstars in the SQL Server community, Bob Ward and Connor Cunningham, discussed the massive performance improvements in SQL Server 2017. They also demonstrated a new HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen 10 Server with scalable persistent memory running SQL Server 2017 on SUSE Enterprise Linux Server (yes, you heard that right), which ran queries more than five times faster than a fast SSD drive array at 50% of the cost. This makes it the world’s first enterprise-grade diskless database server.
  • Tobias Ternstrom and Mihaela Blendea demonstrated some new deployment options for Windows and Linux containers in what were perhaps the fastest installation and configuration processes I’ve ever seen.
  • Microsoft also gave a demonstration of the free, lightweight database development tool called Microsoft SQL Operations Studio. The new developer and administrative tool runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac computers. The tool connects to SQL Servers, Azure SQL Databases, and Azure SQL Data Warehouses, while also providing an Integrated Terminal window so that you can run all kinds of command-line tools such as PowerShell, Bash, bcp, sqlcmd, and ssh. Furthermore, devs are invited to enrich the tool via pull requests from Github.
  • Danielle Dean demonstrated new features for Azure SQL Database to deliver built-in AI capabilities and extract useful insights from huge IoT datasets.
  • Microsoft also announced two new private previews, Azure SQL Database Managed Instances and Azure Database Migration Service. These services make it very easy to airlift an on-premises SQL Server database into the cloud with few, if any, changes. There is also a new licensing program called the Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server so that customers can use on-premises SQL Server licenses in the Azure cloud. And, in a joint announcement with Attunity, Microsoft announced a free service, Attunity Replicate for Microsoft Migrations, to accelerate migrations from Oracle, PostgreSQL, and Amazon Redshift into the Microsoft Data Platform.
  • Scott Currie, the CEO of Microsoft partner Varigence and creator of BIML, demonstrated the latest advances in Azure Data Factory for automated data movement and ETL with the cloud. In addition, Microsoft program manager Julie Strauss showed how fast and powerful the new compute-optimized tiers are within Azure SQL Data Warehouse. If you want more video highlights, be sure to check out the PASS Summit 2017 collection at

 Community Highlights

One of the elements that I really like about the PASS community is its commitment to inclusion, diversity, and women’s issues. First-time attendees are given a yellow conference ribbon to put on their conference badges embossed with “First Time.” This is a signal to all of the alumni attendees to greet them, encourage them, and include them in their activities.

PASS also has long been a strong supporter of the Women in Technology movement. Not only is there a consciously constructed anti-harassment policy, it’s also backed by a “red card” policy that enables attendees to discreetly bring attention to any issues of harassment at the conference.

Finally, PASS has a fantastic and energized Women in Technology organization. If you’d like a hint of what the PASS WIT group does, take a look at the presentation delivered by Heather Ritchie at the annual PASS WIT Luncheon on Day Two of the PASS Summit at

Your Own Little Preview

If you’re considering attending the PASS Summit in the future, make sure to attend a SQL Saturday event near you ( There are more than 100 SQL Saturdays presented each year, featuring speakers from the local community as well as top-rated international speakers.