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Charlotte, NC – Your intrepid reporter is onsite at the convention center, settling in at the Blogger’s Table. At 8:15AM Eastern time, PASS President Bill Graziano will take the stage, discuss PASS, and then hand things over to Microsoft’s Quentin Clark for product announcements.

Some of the things I’m looking for include:

  • Attendance numbers on the Summit (was a record-setting 3,894 last year)
  • Graziano recapping his last year as PASS president and introducing the new president
  • SQL Server 2014′s release date, pricing, and edition restrictions (will this be the year Standard Edition is cut down to 4 cores and 32GB of RAM, or will our outcries finally be heard?)
  • A couple of customer stories about how SQL 2014 is already helping them out
  • The next Community Technology Preview (CTP2) download of SQL 2014
  • A strategic vision for Microsoft’s business intelligence products (I wouldn’t expect in-depth BI talk here because that’s where the PASS Business Analytics conference comes in)
  • A Metro-looking PowerPoint slide deck with multiple “pillars” of “synergy” that “surprise and delight” you with “big data” on your “smart devices”

I don’t expect this to be a year of surprises for the core SQL Server product. At this point, the feature set of SQL 2014 is pretty well baked and publicized (Hekaton, buffer pool extensions, better column store indexes, better AlwaysOn AG management, etc). It’s too late in 2014′s development cycle to pull a “one more thing” moment with the engine, and it’s too early to start talking about vNext.

For live updates, refresh this page every few minutes. The latest stuff will be at the bottom. To follow the live stream on Twitter, use http://tweetchat.com and follow hash tag #sqlpass or #summit13. I’ll be using #sqlpass just because it’s been used heavily in the past. You can also watch the live stream here.

8:18 – The room is filled up and the lights are still bright. Stay tuned.

8:21 – Showing a video with attendees discussing what they’re interested in. Hilarious energy from Jes Schultz Borland, Stacia Misner, Christina Leo.

8:24 – Bill Graziano took the stage and he’s introducing the PASS Board. “Please reach out to any of us during the Summit with ideas and questions.” They’re serious about that – they take a lot of notes with your ideas.

8:26 – 700K technical training hours, 227 chapters, 22 virtual chapters, 81 SQLSaturday events, 5 24 Hours of PASS, 2 SQL Rally events – all in the most recent fiscal year.

8:30 – The winner of the PASSion Award this year for outstanding volunteerism is Amy Lewis, and the runner up was Ryan Adams.

2013 PASSion Award Winner Amy Lewis

2013 PASSion Award Winner Amy Lewis

8:33 – Bill has an “ask” for you to sign up as a PASS volunteer.

8:36 – Video intro for Microsoft’s Quentin Clark showing a bunch of statistics about SQL Server. Folksy guitar music in the background. I’m not sure if this is a protest song or what this is.

Microsoft's Quentin Clark

Microsoft’s Quentin Clark

8:40 – When talking to the community and users, he’s heard us say that we want a complete story end to end for our databases. He’s covering the transformation from brick and mortar to e-commerce. The old fear was that retail was going to die and e-commerce was going to take over. As an Amazon Prime member who rarely steps foot in stores, I’m curious to how he’s going to disprove that.

8:42 – OH, I see what he did there. He’s saying that retail and e-commerce is merging – you can buy stuff online and return it to the store. Now, IT is undergoing a similar transformation where we need both on-premise and cloud. This is quite a change from Microsoft’s screaming “WE’RE ALL IN THE CLOUD” in times past.

8:44 – Saying that in the past, Microsoft has done keynotes that were all over the place with software that never actually came out and wasn’t tied together. Today is about stuff that is either generally available now, or will available really soon, and will all tie together.

8:47 - The next Community Technology Preview (CTP2) download of SQL 2014 is available. This is the final public CTP before release.

8:48 – Quentin says Microsoft is “pushing the boundaries” of in-memory performance, better availability, redefining mission critical in the cloud, bringing BI to everyone, etc. I think that’s true for historical SQL Server implementations, but not necessarily other platforms. He’s focusing on Oracle’s columnar in-memory keynote a couple of weeks. Is Oracle really the big competitor in the in-memory database space?

8:50 – Regarding Hekaton’s in-memory OLTP, he says, “We’re not asking you to rebuild your application.”  This just isn’t true – I still haven’t seen a single application that could take the move to Hekaton’s full benefits (compiled SQL and in-memory tables) without schema changes, and schema changes are serious business for existing applications.

8:52 – Demoing an online store with 1mm users, and 20k simultaneous transactions. I gotta be honest: if you’re querying the database live in an online store, you are doing it completely and utterly wrong. Meet Mr. Cache.

Demoing Hekaton

Demoing Hekaton

8:55 – Oh, this demo fills me with rage and sadness. Everything about the tables and the queries is worst practices. This has absolutely no business in a production database and an online store. If your site and your code is this bad, and you refuse to use a cache, then sure, Hekaton is for you.

9:00 – Talking about “breakthroughs in availability in recovery” by allowing AlwaysOn secondaries in Windows Azure, backup to Windows Azure, and data files in Windows Azure. Already covered my very skeptical take on those features.

9:03 – Announcing the Backup to Azure Tool for all supported SQL Server versions. You get encrypted, automated backups to Windows Azure file storage.

9:09 – IT’S A FREAKIN’ FILE SYNC TOOL. You have got to be kidding me. This is disgusting. What a joke. You back up locally and the tool uploads your files to Windows Azure file storage. Golf clap. Across the face.

UPDATE 4PM – turns out this is a filter driver. Your backup goes directly to Windows Azure file storage, and doesn’t reside on local storage. If your Internet connection blips, your backup breaks. This also means you have no local copy of your backups. It’s not designed to be your primary backup method, but more designed to be a quarterly archive of offsite backups. Thing is, I think you’re much better off just copying an existing already-done backup to Windows Azure rather than setting up yet another product to take yet another backup and monitor yet another job. Use one tool to manage offsite backups of all kinds of products, whether they’re SQL or Oracle. However, the MS folks I’ve talked to are really taking that opinion hard – they really believe small businesses will install this tool to get offsite backups. They talk about how small businesses want something simple – but remember, small businesses can’t even handle maintenance plans, much less add yet another backup tool into their environment and configure it correctly.

9:10 – And the Azure demo failed due to network problems. But I’m sure that’ll never happen to you, buddy. You’re much better at networking than Microsoft.

9:16 – Recapping Windows Azure HDInsight, DW Virtual Machine in Windows Azure, PDW with PolyBase. Older announcements.

Quentin-Onstage

Microsoft’s Quentin Clark recapping customer stories at PASS Summit 2013

9:22 – Customer testimonial video from Barcelona. Has a nice beat to it. Evidently people in Barcelona walk through the streets taking pictures with Microsoft Surfaces. I’m sure there’s no propaganda in that video at all.

9:25 – Power* product listing.

9:28 – Excel demo using Skype data. 35TB of data per day. “Let me show you what a typical Skype analyst does.” And then: “We take your privacy seriously, so we’ll show fake data.” If you care about privacy, why do you have Skype analysts and gather 35TB of data per day? Seriously, this is awful given the NSA paranoia, don’t demo this.

9:32 – Merging Skype data with country sources. This is exactly what NSA does. Ugh, what a tasteless demo. Who approves this stuff?

9:33 – “Now I can bring in the locations of the nearest prisons, call in a black helicopter, and track it live with PowerMap.” Wait, they didn’t actually say that. But they should.

9:36 – Demoing on a Surface. Although…not actually clicking anything.

Demoing on a Surface 2

Demoing on a Surface 2

9:39 – Showing Power BI for Office 365 Preview with an equivalent of English Query back from SQL Server 2000. You can put in something like “calls per capita by country” and it figures out the right query to run.

Power BI Mapping demo

Power BI Mapping demo

9:42 – They’re asking for data over and over in different ways, and it automatically interprets how to query the data, and more interestingly, how to render it. Uses Bing maps, bar charts, scatter plots.

9:43 – You can sign up for it now at PowerBI.com.

9:45 – Power BI Contest at http://www.facebook.com/microsoftbi where you can submit BI solutions with Power BI and vote on submissions from others. Top 5 finalists get Surface Pros, top 10 get Xbox Ones.

9:47 – And that’s a wrap. Off to the sessions! Total letdown in terms of what we didn’t hear: release date, pricing on SQL 2014.

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  1. Thanks for live blogging this Brent

  2. I love your insights on how the real world works in regards to ‘marketed’ database solutions.

  3. I hear you saying that using Hekaton is not the right solution to speeding up queries against online stores (or is it just this demo’s particular example of an online store?)

    If you were showing off what Hekaton can do, what scenario would you pick as a good candidate for Hekaton? Online poker or something?

    • I’ve been thinking long and hard about Hekaton use cases and if it were 1998 I’d have a ton of ‘em. But it’s 2014. It’s really tough to come up with anything that makes sense given the huge number of alternative technologies on the market. For example previously I might have said realtime monitoring of sensors, but Microsoft’s own StreamInsight product can handle that much better (as can several open source products). Session state, as was discussed at PASS last year? Why bother? I can use a distributed open source key/value database for that. A stock exchange, maybe? But I think I could do that, again, with some sort of distributed system…

    • That’s actually a great question! My ideal use case scenario would involve real time sales and inventory of a highly valuable and highly limited commodity where you can’t cache the inventory, and writes must get done. Concert ticket sales, for example.

  4. I love reading this Blog when I’m at the Summit, but it’s even better when I’m not there. Thanks Brent!

  5. Thanks for the updates. I wasn’t there, sounds like I didn’t miss much. The backup to Azure I like, but as you mentioned, not as a filter driver that can fail. That’s a mistake.

    I agree with you on Hekaton. From what I’ve seen, with restrictions and functionality, it’s definitely changing your code. This isn’t Transparent In Memory Tables.

  6. I always look forward to your live blog at the Summit, Brent. I like the critical commentary without all of the MS Kool-Aid. Thanks for doing this!

  7. Great live blog!!! IT sounds like one big dog and pony show…guess I didn’t miss much!!

  8. Pingback: (SFTW) SQL Server Links 18/10/13 • John Sansom

  9. Q&A is so not an equivalent of English Query though – English query worked on the relational engine, while Q&A uses the PowerPivot model with a linguistic model, primarily based on, but not limited to the data types, categorizations in the model, by analyzing relations and enhancements such as synonyms. On the majority of demos we’ll take it as easy as “just” uploading the workbook to Q&A and things work. Which was the point of showing this demo. — which is – totally different from English Query.

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