PreCon: Cortana Intelligence Suite
It is easy to get distracted in the massive landscape called business intelligence. One of the latest new tools is Cortana intelligence suite. You may know Cortana as the Siri of Microsoft (“Hi Cortana”). Cortana Intelligence Suite is a collection of services available in Microsoft Azure (cloud). The services offered are from beginning (data storage) to end (visualisation and intelligence). Because all products are available in Azure it is easy to scale up or down according to your needs. In the pre-con workshop we mostly learned on what the possibilities are — and believe me, they are endless — and how you can apply them. At the end of the day, we had some hands-on experience on data storage and we have seen some machine learning. I cannot wait to work more with the advanced analytics tools offered by Cortana Intelligence Suite.
Day 1: Conference
What a way to start the day off with a keynote by the inventor of U-SQL: Michael Rys. He gave us a short history of this new language, designed to handle big data. Moreover, he gave us some examples on how to use U-SQL. From the first slide on, I was a big fan of the new language and could not wait to learn more about it. “Unfortunately”, there were more sessions to attend that day and I had to wait a whole day to find out more about it. This day had two sessions that lingered the most. First, the session of Niko Neugebauer (pro column store) and Gabi Münster (pro OLAP) in which they battled over the question whether OLAP is going to disappear or not. It was nice to see a different presentation approach, which made it fun to attend. In the end, the conclusion was that OLAP will be around for a while and that it is actually teaming up with column store to make it work more quick. The second session I would like to mention is the one of Adam Saxton (who delivers cool content on Power BI, seriously, take a look here https://guyinacube.com/). He gave a smooth presentation about Power BI, with some useful tips and tricks. For example on how to log what queries are sent to SQL Server by Power BI.
The day ended with a BI Power hour in which fun applications of Power BI were shown (like mapping snake incidents in the USA) and a nice cold (local) beer.
Day 2: Conference
I woke up excitedly this day, because it I was going to learn more about U-SQL! Of course there were other sessions that day, but I mostly wanted to find out whether my newly found love for U-SQL was a one session fling or something that could live forever (as if there is such a thing in business intelligence). Although there were multiple sessions that day that took my mind of U-SQL for some time, the one that impressed me most was one about data modelling using Power BI, by Kasper de Jonge. The most fun part was, that he actually solved a problem Adam Saxton (guy in a cube) had in his PreCon about Power BI (attended by some of my colleagues). The session gave me some useful insights on how to model data in Power BI in such a way that filters are applied correctly. But the main event of the day, for me, was the session on U-SQL. It was extensive, and a bit overwhelming, but what possibilities! One of the things that sounds simple, but was not possible before is that it enables you to query directly on (csv) files. I was impressed by how languages like C#, R and Python are integrated in the language, which makes it very flexible. For now, I am going to play around with it in Azure, but I would love to see this language coming to SQL Server (on premises).
In all, I had three wonderful days in Darmstadt. I came home with many new ideas (and too little time to try them all), good tips and tricks, and a whole lot of new energy to keep on evolving.