The second guest post in our PASS Summit recap series is from MVP Dan English.  Dan is a Business Intelligence Consultant for Superior Consulting Services.  In addition, Dan is a member of the Minnesota Microsoft BI User Group and is an active blogger on BI-related topics.

Just this month I was fortunate to attend my second PASS Summit which is the largest national conference for SQL Server professionals bringing in around 5000 in attendance this year which is more than double what it was when I last attended in 2009. I was very excited to go to Seattle to hear and see all of the new announcements with the next release of SQL Server which has been officially named SQL Server 2012 (formerly known as ‘Denali’) and will be coming out in the first half of next year.

So besides the SQL Server product getting the official name, what else was I interested in? Well the next thing on my list was Power View (formerly known as project ‘Crescent’). This is the new feature that will be included with Reporting Services running in Integrated Mode in SharePoint 2010. This is a web based report authoring tool that attaches to BI Semantic Models (Tabular for the RTM release of the product) that provides a highly interactive data exploration experience. Creating reports with tool is an incredible experience and the product team has removed all of the complexities and greatly simplified the process. The Reporting Services team has done some major development since the last Community Technology Preview release such as being able to provide multiple views in a report (like a briefing book), new sorting and filtering options on charts, and even the option to export the report to a PowerPoint slide deck (which by the way the just completed the week of the conference). Amir Netz, Microsoft Technical Fellow, did a wonderful presentation on Power View that you can check out here.

In addition to show casing the new Power View, Amir also demoed some new mobile BI capabilities that will be coming out starting in the first half of next year as well (unrelated to the SQL Server 2012 release) and you can also check out that video here. In this Amir shows Power View reports running on Windows mobile phone, iPad 2, Samsung Android Galaxy tablet, and a Windows touch device also showing of some future features like active backgrounds. Along with Amir’s awesome demos I also some lots of demos of the new Reporting Services features and Power View by the product team and they showed a demo of Xbox Kinect with a Power View report. I wish I had a video of that demo, but there is a demo of Kinect working at the database level for DBAs that you can check out here. It was great to see all of these technologies working together and fun to see some cool demos, even if they might not be quite practical in today’s world (keeps things interesting).

One of the more interesting items that I saw and need to look into more is the Data Explorer tool that is currently in Microsoft labs. There isn’t anything to download now, but it is generating a lot of excitement in the Microsoft BI space. They demoed during the keynote the ability to upload data into the cloud and then integrate additional data creating mashups and enhancing data in the cloud. As you bring data into Azure it semantically classifies your data and provides suggestions and recommendations on other data sets that might be of interest. You will even be able to leverage Bing services to pull in additional data to help enrich your data.

Another great demo that I saw was by Lara Rubbelke on day 2 during the keynote. She did a fabulous demonstration showing off ColumnStore Indexes and Data Quality Services (which are both new features in SQL Server 2012!) which allowed her to improve the performance of a report along with cleaning up the data that was being displayed on the map. She just nailed the demo and used the proper amount of ZoomIt to get lots of cheers from the SQL community.

It is clear that Microsoft is focused on continuing their investment on the self-service story with delivering BI to the masses. We can see that with the improvements in PowerPivot, the new Tabular version of SSAS, and Power View. We also see that they are going to be bringing this story to the mobile world as well next year and that is great news to all of the Microsoft BI community.

All-in-all there was lots of good items discussed and great opportunities to network with the SQL community. If you have not been to a PASS Summit before you just got to go and the sooner you register the better savings you get.