PASS Business Analytics Day, Jan 11, Chicago

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PASS’ first Business Analytics Day, which will be held in Chicago on January 11, 2017. You can choose one of two full-day, in-depth sessions for $595: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

These are unique learning opportunities to get more advanced in R or data visualization with Power BI. And as with other PASS events, the goal is to allow you to walk away with real-world analytics knowledge that you can use immediately!

PASS Business Analytics Day

You have two great choices: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016

With Microsoft SQL Server 2016, data scientists can run in-database analytics using R. This is a “best of both worlds” scenario: delegate database management to SQL Server whilst you create analytics and visualisations in R and Power BI. In this session, we will cover the overall architecture of SQL R Services and go over some best practices. We will look at best practices in analytics and visualisations with a focus on R, and then we delve more in-depth into some practical common use-cases.

Speakers:
David Smith, R Community Lead at Revolution Analytics, a Microsoft Company
Seth Mottaghinejad, Data Scientist, Microsoft

Mastering Power BI Solutions

In this Power BI hands-on Workshop, you will master the “power” of Power BI. Learn to use self-service and enterprise-scale Power BI capabilities; gain valuable skills to integrate, wrangle, shape and visualize data for analysis. Beginning and intermediate level users will learn to address data and reporting challenges with advanced design techniques.

Speaker:
Paul Turley, Mentor with SolidQ, BI Architect, and Microsoft Data Platform MVP

Date: January 11, 2017

Location: Microsoft Technology Center, #200 – 200 East Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL.

We hope you’ll join us!

Business Analytics Webinar Marathon announced!

31060117291_46e25da6d4_kJoin PASS on 14th December for our next bumper edition of the Business Analytics (BA) Marathon on Wednesday, December 14. We have six back-to-back sessions, all about analytics. Why not challenge yourself to attend all six?

If you want to learn R, predictive analytics, or learn about business analytics generally, then join our industry experts for six back-to-back webinars.

Each webinar lasts for an hour, and they start at 17:00 GMT. Check the time in your own timezone here

Webinar Date: Wed December 14, 2016

Start time: 17:00 GMT ¦ Check the time in your own timezone here

Session 1: Analyzing Healthcare Open Data with Power BI
Dan English, Senior Data Warehouse Architect, Constellation

Session 2: Big Data Analytics with SparkR
Jen Underwood, Founder of Impact Analytix, LLC

Session 3: Disrupt the Static Nature of BI with Predictive Anomaly Detection
Uri Maoz, Vice President of US business, Anodot

Session 4: Using R to Clean and Transform Small Data
Mark Wilcock, Technical Delivery Manager, ‎Credit Suisse

Session 5: Visualizing Multiple Time Series with R in Power BI
Bill McLellan, BI Team Lead and Sr. BI Solutions Specialist, TKC Holdings

Session 6: Real-World Predictive Analytics
Miguel Molina-Cosculluela, Managing Partner & Analytics Evangelist, Analytikus
Diwakar Rajagopal, Senior Director of Partnerships, Pyramid Analytics

See you there!

How Microsoft can help join the Open Data dots

In one of the industry’s best known volte-face, Microsoft have warmly embraced Open Source. As announced at Microsoft’s Connect() conference earlier this week, Microsoft is pleased to become a Linux Foundation Platinum Member. We also saw a quieter announcement; the Azure DataMarket is being decommissioned.

Now that Microsoft are ecstatically adopting Open Source Software, I’d love to see Microsoft adopt Open Data too. I’d love to see an Open Data platform on Azure, which is easy-to-use, aimed at business users, data scientists and even consumers in the form of data citizens.

If you look up Open Data, you’ll see that there are open data ‘puddles’ everywhere. So we have the London Data Store, SF Open Data, and the Azure DataMarket already has some Open Data, for example, the UK Met Office Weather Open Data. Why not have all of these data puddles joined up in a new, Azure-based, Open Data store?

There is no joined up thinking in the world that would constitute an Open Data Lake. I’d love Microsoft to adopt this on behalf of, and for, the data community worldwide.

30293196663_f55039a144I’d like to see the Azure DataMarket rebooted to be a home for an Open Data platform. Perhaps it could be called Azure Open Data, or even simply Azure Open, or something simple like that.

Microsoft can join the Open Data dots for the community, and that’s a real democratization of data for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s next after Azure DataMarket?

Microsoft are retiring Azure DataMarket due to a lack of sustained customer interest in DataMarket. Why is that, and where do we go from here?

High Hopes

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Credit: Stocksnap.io

I hoped the Azure DataMarket might become a cloud-based Master Data Solution for people building data warehouses. So, for example, people would download a Geography dimension, or a Date Dimension, which was pretty robust and clean. Users could then change it to meet their needs, and it would form a ‘Master’ within their organisation. Your single version of the truth.

 

 

If your data is in silos, so is your analytics

Organisations don’t seem to consider Master Data Management very much. What is Master Data Management, anyway? Master data management (MDM) provides a trusted view of critical business entities, in data, which are stored, probably duplicated, in siloed applications – customers, suppliers, partners, products, materials, accounts, etc.
Master Data Management (MDM) solutions provide a simple and trusted view of your data to allow you to think horizontally about your data, across your business. This is in contrast with thinking vertically about your data, in data silos which usually match LOBs. Horizontal and vertical thinking helps achieve customer centric objectives and business results.

Wrong Problem, Wrong Audience

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Credit: Stocksnap.io

Why did Azure DataMarket fail? It seemed to be aimed primarily at IT people, not business people. Now, IT folks are usually pretty good at searching. A contact of mine bemoaned a Kibana implementation I’d done for his organisation, stating that I’d taken grep away from him and he’d worked so hard to teach everyone grep for the last two years and now it was all visual fluffy stuff. (Suck it up, princess. Kibana rocks and everyone is using it.).

Business people don’t rock grep, regex or any other greppy like tool. They want easy-to-use, easy-to-find solutions.

A Solution Looking for a Problem

Let’s hope Microsoft will do a DataMarket again, which aimed at the right business people to find things quickly. I don’t want something that is a solution looking for a problem.

The right problem: make search easy for the folks who need it most. Not for the IT folks, but the less well defined Information Worker who actually struggles with data. Let them access it very simply, and soon you’ll have Azure data being mashed with other data sources and it’s a step in the journey of getting users familiar with Azure.

And if we can get folks to think about proper Master Data Management based in the cloud, that’s easy to navigate, then that’s got to be a good thing.

The Prodigal Developers Return: SQL Server 2016 SP1 brings consistent programming surface to Developers and ISVs

Big news from Microsoft Connect() 2016 online developer conference. SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 is dropping. Download SQL Server 2016 SP 1 here.

SQL Server 2016 SP1  means lots of wider features for lower editions. Most importantly, developers and partners can now build to a single application programming surface to create or upgrade new intelligent applications and use the edition which scales to the application’s needs.

The long version and my ‘take’ on this news:

I’m incredibly impressed with Microsoft right now. I think it’s incredibly smart, actually, because they are bringing developers and ISVs back into SQL Server Land again. So, developers, ISVs, go and grab yourself a coffee and let’s have a chat.

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Credit: stocksnap.io

SQL Server 2016 SP1 makes leading innovation available to any developer. Microsoft is making it easier for developers to benefit from the industry-leading innovations in SQL Server for more of their applications. With SQL Server 2016 SP1 is making key innovations more accessible to customers across editions. Developers and partners can now build to a single application programming surface to create or upgrade new intelligent applications and use the edition which scales to the application’s needs. SQL Server Enterprise continues to offer the highest levels of scale, performance and availability for enterprise workloads. For more information, please see the full press announcement on the SQL Server Blog. Visual Studio Code extension for SQL and updated connectors and tools are also exciting news, because it means that it’s easier to develop with other languages, in a more streamlined fashion.

What problem are Microsoft trying to fix?

stocksnap_vlhyvv3xu5Previously, the issue with developing applications for SQL Server is that there is a disparity across editions, which can affect how your application runs.  Until now, developers have used the SQL Server development version as it will allows them to develop with features that are available on all of the production versions.

Now, the problem is solved – developers can take advantage of the programmability feature by using the same code base, and things are simpler because the customer chooses which edition they use.

The problem was evident, when you use, say, an enterprise-only feature in development but have only a Standard-edition instance in Production. You can see the full list of features and editions published by Microsoft here ‘Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2016’

If you had an app that can manage Enterprise edition then it can, in principle, also manage every other edition.  However, now the application would scale to the customer’s edition, thereby streamlining the whole process.

New Tools for the Toolbox, No Pricing Changes

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So, developers wouldn’t have to build complexity, but they’d have to create their app the right way. For example, there’s not always a need to scale out. Let’s take Stack Overflow, one of the top 50 busiest sites in the world.  Stack Overflow runs on Microsoft SQL Server.

Not many people know it, but there is a StackOverflow Enterprise Edition. It means that companies like StackOverflow can take advantage of the new programmability features, if they so wished. I wonder what ISVs will do?

Freedom from Constraints

Let’s examine the issue in more detail. Let’s take a look at the SQL Server editions that are available to us:

  • Azure database + Amazon RDS
  • Containerized version of any edition
  • Developer Edition
  • Express Edition
  • Enterprise Edition
  • LocalDb
  • Standard Edition
  • Web Edition

You can see why it starts to get confusing, and developers might start to look at MySQL or Postgres as alternatives.

How can you get SQL Server 2016 SP1?

I believe that this will be a primary driver for SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1, Download SQL Server 2016 SP 1 here.

Why are Microsoft doing this?

stocksnap_kikhw5nc6yIt’s a huge benefit for ISVs. It’s my opinion that Microsoft had lost the way with their partners. Customers started to look sideways at other vendors to fulfil their needs, such as Tableau. In response, partners expanded their toolkit in order to include crème de la crème vendors such as Tableau in order to build solutions. I think that this move is a gesture to the ISVs, since it will remove friction when they choose to develop solutions.

Being pals with Open Source but better – you get what you pay for. With the advent of open source, developers have got  more choice than ever before. It’s good to bring them back to SQL Server. Postgres doesn’t have in-memory capability, for example – it has “running with scissors” mode whereby you switch off all the disk storage features. Sound scary? Yes… the clue is in the name. SQL Server brings this feature to the party, and more. ISVs can feel more confident developing on a robust solution.

Increased productivity – it removes an obstacle to development, support and deployment.

The Prodigal Developers Return

This solution means that Microsoft SQL Server is back on the table for many developers, who may have started eyeing MySQL and Postgres for this reason.

To summarise, I think that this is a smart move and I’m excited to see that the ‘voice of the developer’ has come back into SQL Server Land. It’s also a huge benefit for ISV partners, and let’s see how they democratize their data in new and exciting applications. Let’s look for more exciting things coming from Microsoft.

Top 5 Signposts to deep technical expertise at PASS Summit 2016

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How do you find deep technical expertise at PASS Summit 2016?

cuf9aznw8aarklgSignpost Number 1: Watch Joseph Sirosh’s Day One keynote.

Attend in person if you can, or watch the live stream on PASS TV if you can’t. The world around us – every business and nearly every industry – is being transformed by technology today, and SQL Server 2016 was built for this new world and to help businesses get ahead of today’s disruptions.
I am very excited about Joseph Sirosh’s keynote at PASS Summit since he will be making announcements… can’t say what… but you can be sure that there will be cutting-edge content around SQL Server 2016 to solve real-world problems. I’m in the PASS Summit 2016 keynote as well, helping with some things… to be announced! I’m extremely honoured.

 

Signpost Two: Want to learn in agile, small groups with the experts?  Microsoft have also added a new type of session called a Chalk Talk. These are Level 500 sessions with Microsoft senior program management hosting open Q&A in a collegiate style setting.  Seating is limited to 50 so you’ll want to get there early to claim your spot.

Signpost Three: Want in-depth, one-to-one help? SQL Clinic is the place to be. SQL Clinic is the hub of technical experts from SQLCAT, Tiger Team, CSS, and others. Whether you are looking for SQL Server deployment support, have a troublesome technical issue, or developing an application the experts at SQL Clinic will have the right advice for you.

Signpost Four: Want to know about anything SQL Server? Microsoft has also increased investment in sending employees onsite to talk with attendees.  They’ll be easy to spot – all 500 Microsoftees will be wearing bright fuchsia t-shirts.  You can find them in big numbers the Day 1 keynote, Microsoft booth, SQL Clinic, Wednesday’s Birds of a Feather luncheon, Thursday’s WIT luncheon, and of course in our big booth in the Expo Hall.

 

Signpost Five: Want Mobile Business Intelligence? SQL Server 2016 offers end-to-end mobile BI solutions on any device at a fraction of the cost of other vendors. Join me at my PASS Session on Wednesday 26th October at 1.30pm, called Mobile BI and Dataviz with SQL Server 2016, R, and PowerBI [Room BID-304] If you want a calendar entry for my session, please download here below.

Outlook Calendar Invite

That’s not all!  The full PASS Summit schedule is here. With SQL Server 2016 , Microsoft is positioned as an industry leader, and now packs an even bigger punch in the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems. SQL Server 2016 builds on this leadership, and is packed with powerful built-in features.

I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Guess who is appearing in Joseph Sirosh’s PASS Keynote?

This girl! I am super excited and please allow me to have one little SQUUEEEEEEE! before I tell you what’s happening. Now, this is a lifetime achievement for me, and I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely and deeply honoured I am. I am still in shock!

I am working really hard on my demo and….. I am not going to tell you what it is. You’ll have to watch it. Ok, enough about me and all I’ll say is two things: it’s something that’s never been done at PASS Summit before and secondly, watch the keynote because there may be some discussion about….. I can’t tell you what… only that, it’s a must-watch, must-see, must do keynote event.

We are in a new world of Data and Joseph Sirosh and the team are leading the way. Watching the keynote will mean that you get the news as it happens, and it will help you to keep up with the changes. I do have some news about Dr David DeWitt’s Day Two keynote… so keep watching this space. Today I’d like to talk about the Day One keynote with the brilliant Joseph Sirosh, CVP of Microsoft’s Data Group.

Now, if you haven’t seen Joseph Sirosh present before, then you should. I’ve put some of his earlier sessions here and I recommend that you watch them.

Ignite Conference Session

MLDS Atlanta 2016 Keynote

I hear you asking… what am I doing in it? I’m keeping it a surprise! Well, if you read my earlier blog, you’ll know I transitioned from Artificial Intelligence into Business Intelligence and now I do a hybrid of AI and BI. As a Business Intelligence professional, my customers will ask me for advice when they can’t get the data that they want. Over the past few years, the ‘answer’ to their question has gone far, far beyond the usual on-premise SQL Server, Analysis Services, SSRS combo.

We are now in a new world of data. Join in the fun!

Customers sense that there is a new world of data. The ‘answer’ to the question Can you please help me with my data?‘ is complex, varied and it’s very much aimed at cost sensitivities, too. Often, customers struggle with data because they now have a Big Data problem, or a storage problem, or a data visualisation access problem. Azure is very neat because it can cope with all of these issues. Now, my projects are Business Intelligence and Business Analytics projects… but they are also ‘move data to the cloud’ projects in disguise, and that’s in response to the customer need. So if you are Business Intelligence professional, get enthusiastic about the cloud because it really empowers you with a new generation of exciting things you can do to please your users and data consumers.

As a BI or an analytics professional, cloud makes data more interesting and exciting. It means you can have a lot more data, in more shapes and sizes and access it in different ways. It also means that you can focus on what you are good at, and make your data estate even more interesting by augmenting it with cool features in Azure. For example, you could add in more exciting things such as Apache Tika library as a worker role in Azure to crack through PDFs and do interesting things with the data in there. If you bring it into SSIS, then you can tear it up and down again when you don’t need it.

I’d go as far as to say that, if you are in Business Intelligence at the moment, you will need to learn about cloud sooner or later. Eventually, you’re going to run into Big Data issues. Alternatively, your end consumers are going to want their data on a mobile device, and you will want easy solutions to deliver it to them. Customers are interested in analytics and the new world of data and you will need to hop on the Azure bus to be a part of it.

The truth is; Joseph Sirosh’s keynotes always contain amazing demos. (No pressure, Jen, no pressure….. ) Now, it’s important to note that these demos are not ‘smoke and mirrors’….

The future is here, now. You can have this technology too.

It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s not too far removed from what you have in your organisation. AzureML and Power BI have literally hundreds of examples. I learned AzureML looking at the following book by Wee-Hyong Tok and others, so why not download a free book sample?

https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/card?asin=B00MBL261W&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_c54ayb2VHWST4

How do you proceed? Well, why not try a little homespun POC with some of your own data to learn about it, and then show your boss. I don’t know about you but I learn by breaking things, and I break things all the time when I’m  learning. You could download some Power BI workbooks, use the sample data and then try to recreate them, for example. Or, why not look at the community R Gallery and try to play with the scripts. you broke something? no problem! Just download a fresh copy and try again. You’ll get further next time.

I hope to see you at the PASS keynote! To register, click here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2016/Sessions/Keynotes.aspx