PASS Summit 2015: The Age of the Data Professional is NOW

The PASS Summit 2015, the largest conference in the Microsoft SQL Server world, was held in October in Seattle, WA. The event provided a look at key initiatives that Microsoft’s SQL Server group has been working on and a glimpse of what’s ahead for the future.

Before an exuberant audience of nearly 6,000 SQL Server and data management professionals, Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft corporate vice president, Data Group, delivered an outstanding technical keynote entitled Accelerate Your Business with a Modern Data Strategy. (More details at

Joseph Sirosh and the Modern Data Strategy

Sirosh introduced the attendees to IT life 30 years ago. Of course, back then, all of the world’s data was analog. LPs on vinyl gave way to CDs and DVDs starting in the late 1990s and 2000s. We got IP addresses back in 2005. Fast-forward to today, where all data is connected and in the cloud and, in aggregate, is heading towards a world-wide total of 50 zettabytes of data! Now, we are in the age of data and intelligence extracted from data.

Today, data underpins everything. IoT (Internet of Things) flows into the cloud. The hospitals of yesterday, for example, are all about treating emergencies that already happened. But today, many hospitals are implementing analytics and business intelligence to enable predictive and preventive medicine. Sirosh then invited Eric Fleischman, chief architect and vice president, Platform Engineering, at DocuSign, onto the stage to demonstrate some of their radically better performing SQL Server 2016 pre-RTM feature implementations. My favorite quote from Fleischman was “We considered using open source technologies instead of SQL Server, but thought of it as a hiring decision, not a tech decision. We just couldn’t find the people we needed.”

Big Bets from Microsoft on SQL Server 2016

Next, Shawn Bice, general manager of the Microsoft Database Systems Group, and Rohan Kumar, Microsoft partner director engineering in the Database Systems Group, outlined several significant goals for the SQL Server team:

  1. Become the industry leader in mission-critical OLTP workloads
  2. Continue as the most secure database platform, already a position it has  held for the past 6 years
  3. Achieve the highest performing database warehousing TPC benchmarks scores
  4. Grow to become an industry-leading mobile BI platform at a fraction of the cost of Tableau, Oracle, and other competitors
  5. Build out the in-database advanced analytics using the R statistical programming language in combination with in-memory OLTP features

Microsoftthen demonstrated new features in support of seven big bets in their new R&D efforts:

  1. Dramatically simplify HA & DR including a very easy setup even in hybrid environments (those spanning both cloud and earth servers), load balancing, fast failover on-site or to cloud, and availability groups (AGs) on SQL Server Standard Edition
  2. Remove the complexity of big data like enabling Transact-SQL over Hadoop
  3. Enable real-time operational analytics facilitating machine learning and “adjust on-the-fly” as things are happening
  4. Support n-database advanced analytics centering on the R statistical programming language, running in-line with Transact-SQL code and no need to extract data to an analytics server
  5. Improve security, with a cool feature to audit activity called Advanced Threat Analytics and controlling access with Always Encrypted
  6. Cut cold storage costs with Stretch Database, cutting the need for off-site tape storage, and get rid of those tapes while gaining the ability to query all of that cold data at cut-rate costs
  7. Achieve end-to-end mobile BI on any device via big refreshes to the SSAS OLAP engine and SSIS ETL engine, while also developing major improvements on PowerBI, Microsoft’s innovative front-end data visualization tool

These are significant new development initiatives. Microsoft is already in a prime position to continue to lead its competitors in the wider market, as evidenced by Gartner’s giving it top billing in the latest Magic Quadrant analysis. As Sirosh said, "Our industry doesn't respect tradition. It respects innovation. The age of the data professional is NOW."