October 2008 - Posts
So after a slight delay, here's a quick note on Day 3 and the conference in general.
We only caught the second half of the Keynote from Kurt DelBene of the Office group - investing in Excel - making it more rich - and what a great reporting tool Access is? errr Ok. You can imagine the fun and games that goes on between the Office and SQL teams, with the PPS team stuck somewhere in the middle :) More ridiculous staged customer Q&A style discussion followed about how great Office is - which saw a good chunk of the audience leaving again - seriously guys!
The first session of the day - Avoiding Common Mistakes with Analysis Services - nothing ground breaking here but the session was really well presented by Craig Utley, who in particular explained the concept of attribute relationships really well. Plus a reminder of the extremely useful ignoreunrelateddimension property which stops users from seeing data where they've selected a dimension that doesn't link to the measure group (think AdventureWorks, Reseller Sales with the customer dimension).
I ducked out of the last session to take a look round the shop - I nearly got myself a Microsoft embroidered denim shirt but I knew how envious the guys back at the Adatis office would be and they didn't have enough for the whole company. I settled for two Microsoft golf shoe bags - Martyn and Sacha are gonna be so pleased on their birthdays!
So highlights for me:
- Getting to meet some very cool people, particularly some of the PPS product team who took time out of their schedule to chat to us and were genuinely interested in what we had to say.
- The BI power hour was great - some genius use of PPS as I reported in Day 2 - I hope we can get our hands on the "Perfoply" and "Girlfriend Management" Planning models. They could be deal clinchers with certain potential customers just to show how varied the possible uses of PPS Planning are.
- Some very average sessions (mixed in with some very good ones mind). The chalk talks were particularly bad logistically; over-subscribed, overcrowded and poor AV;
- As reported by Dan English and others there was a serious lack of any PPS v2 (or even SP2) information - you'd think with Gemini being announced they'd want to at least hint about what was coming (particularly from a M&A perspective). However, the "Upgrade to PerformancePoint" button in Gemini might suggest it's going to play a good part. I have a feeling M&A V2 will be a huge step up.
Generally pretty good - I'll be back next year for sure. But for now time to get back to the important business of day 5...
Day 3 review coming soon - unfortunately I'm busy right now. He he
First of all a quick correction following my post on day one where I had a bit of code name confusion. Project "Madison" is the evolution of the DatAllegro acquisition, Project "Gemini" is the self service BI and "Kilimanjaro" is the code name for the (interim?) release in the first half of 2010 that will include "Madison" and "Gemini"
So what of day two? The Ben Stein keynote was interesting, though not a patch on the Michael Treacy's from last year. This was followed by an extremely cheesy and completely staged "Q&A" session with the platinum sponsors about where BI will be in 2020. I didn't stay to hear the answers! I know they have to keep these sponsors happy but do MS really think people take any notice of this stuff?
I went for the MDM session next which was very heavy going and disappointing in that we still didn't get to see the product - though we may see it at next year's BI conference (same time next year)!
Got to meet Patrick Husting and a number of other PPS experts over lunch, and in the afternoon we got a chance to quiz some of the Gemini team on a few of the points mentioned yesterday. I raised the topic of "AS hell" where users are creating random cubes all over the place and they had a good response: People are always going to do self service reporting in some way whether we like it or not, no matter how good the underlying data is, so why not do it in a controlled manner where everything is audited and logged and the IT team has full visibility of what is going. There was a "Gemini" breakout session which showed the operations dashboard behind the scenes - very cool. "Gemini" really looks impressive and has obviously already had a lot of effort put in, I have a feeling the usual version 1 worries may not be surfacing too much here - people are going to be desperate to get their hands on it!
Last session of the day for me was the BI power hour which was very entertaining. A working Monopoly game in PPS with full analytics and Profit and Loss for each player, a girlfriend management Planning model (looking at how the seriousness of your relationship affects your future cashflow - ha ha) and two player battleships in Reporting Services - I want these guy's jobs! Also a chance too briefly see MDM in action - it looks pretty good! Why they couldn't show it in the MDM session I don't understand...
Finally the conference party which was held at the the impressive QWest stadium, home of the Seattle Seahawks, with casino games, lots of x-box and Football and American Football out on the pitch.
Here's Jereminho scoring an absolute peach - back of the net!
So here we are in Seattle at the BI conference. Day 1 and it's been great to catch up with some old faces and meet some new ones. We were promised some big news today and as is being reported by Chris, Mosha, Marco and all, we weren't disappointed. Both "Kilimanjaro" and "Gemini" look super-exciting for all of us in the MS BI world. The former is the evolution of the DatAllegro acquisition - we saw an SSRS report that ran in 10-15 seconds against (hold little finger to corner of mouth) one trillion relational records in a 150 terabyte database - impressive.
Equally impressive is 20 million rows sorting and filtering in the blink of an eye! The Gemini project (self-service BI) had two key features for me; Firstly the in-memory storage (think TM1) that allows that sort of performance and secondly, and something that hasn't been widely commented on so far, the ability to publish your Excel reports to SharePoint/web (as XLCubed Web does now) at the click of a button. The interface looked really good already and of course it's generating AS cubes behind the scenes. It did raise the question of how it's all going to fit in with PPS V2 - hopefully the Office and SQL teams have been talking!
I think that a lot of BI professionals were probably initially thinking (like me) that this could be bad news for their careers but having taken it all in, I don't think that's the case. Although it's going to have data cleansing abilities, this isn't going to be a replacement for data warehouses/marts. In fact for the whole self-service BI thing to really take off, it's going to need really good data underneath it. Microsoft's intention with the Gemini release is to "democratise" BI; The more people who get to use this type of concept, the better the data quality will have to be - you can't expect every department to have to clean their own data.
Allowing users to create and publish their own cubes and reports has a few warning signs as well - isn't this just excel hell without excel? Every department can create their own calculations, reports, cubes etc; We've been telling our clients for years that they really need one version of the truth - but now we're going to let each user make his own truth? It will certainly need some thought.
As Chris W mentions, it's likely to also still need technical resource to help users create complex calculations so we won't be out of a job just yet ;)
As for the rest of the day, some interesting sessions around PPS and SSRS were the order of the day for me. Though disappointment in one respect as I found out that the PPS monitoring SDK would definitely not allow you to build a custom cascading filter - something that I was going to investigate.
More later this week....