Yet Another PASS Summit Recap & Thoughts on PDW

The SQL blogosphere has been lit up with PASS Summit recaps.

I debated about whether or not to write my own post, until I remembered that this blog serves as a mini-journal for me too. I have a notoriously poor memory–my husband likes to say that my CPU and memory are good, but I must have an unusual clustering strategy–so maybe this blog post will be a good pointer for me when I start prepping for next year’s Summit. ;)

This was definitely the best PASS Summit conference ever. While there will always be opportunities to do things better–improvement is a never-ending process–it was clear that the organizers of this event listened to the feedback they had received the previous year. One of the best changes? Backpacks. These were very useful, as evidenced by their presence everywhere. Nice job, organizers!

My absolute favorite thing about Summit is the chance to meet and reconnect with so many amazing SQL folks. There were entirely too many people to list out, but some highlights include meeting Crys Manson, Jorge Segarra, and Karen Lopez for the first time. I also had a chance encounter with Ola Hallengren in the Sheraton elevator. Apparently we were only staying a few rooms apart this year. We ended up having a couple of really great discussions about index fragmentation, the differences between our scripts, and things we’d like to see changed in future releases of SQL Server.

I had the opportunity to sit on the panel at the WIT luncheon. All of the women on the panel were amazing, and I was honored just to be sitting at the same table as them. I was especially pleased to meet Nora Denzel, a Senior Vice President at Intuit. Intelligent, confident, and witty, she is a great role model for young technical women, myself included. I can only hope that some of her gumption rubbed off on me due to our close proximity. :) After the event, I was pleasantly surprised by how many folks–men and women both–came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Thanks to the WIT VC for organizing another great event!

The lightning talk sessions were a new feature this year, and I think I like it. The format of the lightning session is 7 speakers presenting on a topic for 5 quick minutes. Watching these sessions is kind of like skipping right to the center of a tootsie pop: all content and no fluff. The standout lightning talk presentation for me was Adam Machanic’s. It was beautifully rehearsed and choreographed. Nice job, Adam!

Another of the many highlights of the week was meeting the Microsoft execs. In addition to meeting Ted Kummert, Mark Souza, and Donald Farmer–all very nice gentlemen–I had the opportunity to speak at length with Jose Blakely about Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW). PDW, formerly codenamed Madison, was officially launched at Summit. Jose was kind enough to explain the PDW architecture, both where it came from and the vision for where it’s going. I’d attempt to regurgitate it here, but I think the probability of me misquoting would be high.

Suffice it to say, this technology has me excited. Why? Quite frankly, I think PDW will do for data warehousing what SQL Server did for databases, and what Analysis Services did for BI: make it affordable. With a compelling cost-per-terabyte, an attractive scale-out approach, and an entry point at under $1 million, we’ll see more small-to-midsized companies implementing data warehousing and business intelligence. This is good news for those of us looking for an affordable data warehouse solution and for those of us who make our living with SQL Server. And for those of you who might suggest that few companies need a datawarehouse that can support multi-terabyte data, I’d like to point out that just 3 or 4 years ago, 100 GB was considered a lot of data.

I spent most of my week digging into the PDW architecture. It’s not all roses–it’s a first release and, as such, is immature compared to the much older and more established data warehouse systems–but again, it has a lot going for it, not least of all it’s easy integration within a SQL Server environment and the relatively low cost. We’re currently investigating this as a possible data warehouse solution for our business intelligence environment, so expect to see more from me about PDW as I learn more about it.