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?

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: 

Note to Self: A roundup of the latest Azure blog posts and whitepapers on polybase, network security, cloud services, Hadoop and Virtual Machines

Here is a roundup of Azure blogs and whitepapers which I will be reading this month.

This is the latest as at June 2014, and there is a focus on cloud security in the latest whitepapers, which you can find below..

·         PolyBase in APS – Yet another SQL over Hadoop solution?
·         Desktop virtualization deployment overview
·         Microsoft updates its Hadoop cloud solution
·         LG CNS build a B2B virtual computer service in the cloud
·         Deploying desktop virtualization
·         Microsoft updates its Hadoop cloud solution
·         Accessing desktop virtualization
·         The visualization that changed the world of data
·         Access and Information Protection: Setting up the environment
·         Access and Information Protection: Making resources available to users
·         Access and Information Protection: Simple registration for BYOD devices
·         Success with Hybrid Cloud webinar series
·         Power BI May round-up
·         Access and Information Protection: Syncing and protecting corporate information

Here are the latest whitepapers, which focus on security:

Windows Azure Security: Technical Insights. Update to the Security Overview whitepaper which provides a detailed description of security features and controls.
  • Security Best Practices for Windows Azure Solutions. Updated guidance on designing and developing secure solutions.
  • Windows Azure Network Security. Recommendations for securing network communications for applications deployed in Windows Azure.
  • Microsoft Antimalware for Azure Cloud Services and Virtual Machines This paper details how to use Microsoft Antimalware to help identify and remove viruses, spyware, and other malicious software in Azure Cloud Services and Virtual Machines.
  • Note to Self: Here is a group of cloud videos to watch

    Happy Viewing!

    Here is a group of Cloud OS videos for your viewing. Enjoy! I’m particularly looking forward to ‘pants versus shorts’, for example!

    ·        Introducing the Master of Mobility from Microsoft
    ·        Hybrid Identity:  Master of Mobility, Part 2
    ·        Mobile Device Management: Master of Mobility, Part 3
    ·        Sliding Window Data Partitioning on Microsoft Azure HDInsight
    ·        Bringing In-Memory OLTP to the Masses: GigaOM In-Memory Webinar
    ·        Information Protection: Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite
    ·        Mobile Device Management: Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite
    ·        Hybrid Identity Management: Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite
    ·         Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite Overview
    ·         Introduction to forecasting capabilities in Power View for Office 365
    ·         I Can’t Wait to Retire – Power BI for Office 365 Surfaces Insights for the Finance Industry
    ·         Pants vs. Shorts – Power BI for Office 365 Surfaces Insights for the Manufacturing Industry
    ·         Joint Private Cloud Fast Track Solutions by Microsoft and HDS
    ·         Making data more accessible

    Power BI Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI Now Generally Available

    Now available is the Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI, a joint business intelligence interoperability solution delivered with SAP in Microsoft Excel, Power BI for Office 365, and SAP BusinessObjects BI. With this solution, users can connect to SAP BusinessObjects BI Universes as another supported data source in Power Query for Excel, enabling them to access and analyze data across the enterprise and share their data and insights in the cloud and any device through Power BI.   

    Microsoft currently offers multiple ways to interoperate with SAP. The BI connectivity is another option customers have using Excel and the latest version of SAP BusinessObjects BI. Users can rely on the latest, accurate, and trusted enterprise data directly in Excel through an SAP BusinessObjects BI Universe without having to wrestle with copying and pasting or manually importing data. Companies that have made investments in both BI stacks can now effectively leverage their technology investments to maximize ROI. IT can also use the connectivity to continue to manage critical company data sources while giving business users access to trusted enterprise data in familiar tools they use every day without requiring them to learn new skills.

    Got Azure Questions? Ask Dear Azure

    Like that crazy uncle who bailed you out of a jam without saying a word to your parents, Dear Azure is here to help.   Dear Azure supplies unique answers to all of your cloud questions. Want to host your Java application in the cloud? Need to scale resources dynamically? Answers to these and many more are featured on So go ahead, ask away!

    Joining the Digital Dots: Windows Azure SQL Reporting ends, replaced with Windows Azure VMs running SSRS – ringed with the Azure world

    Apologies to Lord Tennyson for misquoting his wonderful poem “The Eagle”!
    In the technical community, we do need to be ‘eagle eyed’ because there are a lot of infrastructure changes and people will need to keep watching out for them! If you like an in-person event, please take a look at SQLRelay and the Cloud OS CommunityRelay for news and technically-oriented sessions on SQL Server 2014, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Systems Center 2012 R2.
    What’s the news here? On the October 31, 2013, notification went out to current Windows Azure SQL Reporting customers that the service will be discontinued in 12 months.  What was Windows Azure SQL Reporting? It was is a cloud-based reporting service for the Windows Azure Platform built on SQL Server Reporting Services technologies. As a big SSRS fan, who has presented on SSRS and Azure together, I was disappointed that the service was going. So what about the move to Windows Azure Virtual Machines for SSRS?
    So, what’s the alternative? Welcome to SSRS on Windows Azure Virtual Machines

    However, my disappointment was quickly dissipated when I realised that the Microsoft vision is users will have VMs with SSRS for their Azure reporting instances. My belief is that people will probably find it pretty easy to move their Windows Azure SQL Reporting solutions towards SSRS on Windows Azure VMs.
    IT departments are used to VMs, and I see an increasing trend towards virtualisation amongst many of my customers already. Using a VM, you can deploy an operational reporting solution in the cloud that supports either the Native or SharePoint mode feature set.
    Will I get the same features that I had before? Fortunately, a VM with SQL Server 2008 R2 or 2012 supports all Reporting Services features, including all supported data sources, customization and extensibility, and scheduled report execution and delivery. This means that users should see no change from their perspective, and that is a good thing.
    What’s the benefits?

    Performance – It was well known that Windows Azure SQL Reporting report execution was slower than SSRS running on premises. Moving to a VM makes sense, because performance of SSRS on a Windows Azure Virtual Machine corresponds to an on-premises SSRS instance. Faster reports is always good news! Side by side testing has shown that performance gains are attributed to having the report server catalog reside on a local disk in the VM.
    What about my custom code? SSRS on an Azure VM supports custom code and assembly references in a report. Similarly, developers can replace or supplement report server operations by adding custom extensions. See Custom Code and Assembly References in Expressions and Reporting Services Extensions for details.
    Mobility – this was my favourite feature of Windows Azure SQL Reporting but all is not lost with the new vision. If it is in the cloud, then you can look at mobilising the SSRS report from the VM as you did previously with SSRS as a service.
    Scheduled report execution and delivery yes! See Schedules and Subscription and Delivery.
    Integration with hybrid solutions – yes! You can join a Windows Azure VM to your corporate network. This is particularly useful for small to medium businesses who prefer an operational cost (OPEX) than a capital expenditure (CAPEX) cost. This means that SMEs can add capacity quickly, without making large hardware costs. You can get more information here Windows Azure Virtual Network Overview
    Considering a new Reporting Solution on Windows Azure?
    Here are some points to note:
    A Windows Azure VM can use Windows authentication to support single sign on. The configuration depends on your setup and your requirements e.g. whether you require validation at the report server or the backend, for example. 
    In order to help you to get started, take a look at the table below to help you evaluate a cloud-based Azure VM reporting solution for new software development projects:
    Before you start, learn about the basic capabilities of a Windows Azure VM by watching the videos and clicking the Explore links on the Virtual Machine page on the web site.
    Compare licensing costs between a predefined image and Windows Server VM running a licensed copy of SQL Server that you purchase and install separately on the VM. Depending on which SQL Server features you require, you might find it more cost-effective to purchase a Windows VM and SQL Server (Enterprise, Standard or Web edition) separately. In that case, you might want create a .vhd in-house using the installation media of the licensed copy of SQL Server, and then attach the disk to your Windows VM.
    As alternative to SQL Reporting, you can use the Standard edition of SQL Server, but you might choose other editions depending on the feature requirements and workloads.
    Choose the report server mode and features that best satisfy business requirements. The report server mode will determine which authentication subsystems and authorization models are available. While Native mode is closest to SQL Reporting, SharePoint mode provides out-of-box support for claims authentication, multi-tenancy, and load balancing.
    Note that claims identity cannot be flowed to most backend data sources that exist outside of the SharePoint environment, so if you use claims, realize that stored credentials of a single user identity will most likely be required for backend data access.
    Confirm your decisions about deployment, provisioning, report server mode, and features through proof-of-concept testing. Proof-of-concept testing includes building and publishing simple reports that allow you to validate connections from client applications so that you can test configuration, authentication, and authorization behaviors. During preliminary testing, retrieve enough data in each report to understand the expected latency for data retrieval and rendering, especially if you are testing a hybrid solution that combines cloud and on-premises services.
    Finally, evaluation should include a review of high availability and scalable architectures that might be necessary to support a large volume of users or report executions.
    Existing Projects using SQL Reporting on Windows Azure?

    IT teams are accustomed to VMs, so this already leverages the skills in-house in order to make the transition. Here is some guidance below to help you to move existing SQL Reporting over to Azure VMs. Here are a few take-away points:
    ·         You will need to replace it with an alternative technology by October 2014.
    ·         Microsoft recommend a Windows Azure VM running SSRS in Native mode.
    ·         Choosing an SSRS VM preserves your existing investment in report design, so no real changes made to the reports themselves.
    You are not charged for VMs that are turned off. This saves you money! If you only use reports at scheduled times, for example, month end reporting, you can export a report to a static format, such as PDF. You could then stop the VM when the report server is inactive.
    How do you migrate to a VM? Simple! You can deploy a report server project to SSRS on a VM, setting the target server to the VM endpoint. For instructions on how to configure SSRS, set endpoints, configure the firewall, and publish and test reports, see SQL Server Business Intelligence in Windows Azure Virtual Machines.
    Other aspects of a transition will require replacement functionality or manual changes, such as replacing report server authentication, or changes in how client applications connect to a report server. At a minimum, you will need to update the endpoint used on the connection. 
    SSRS Native Mode on a VM versus SQL Reporting

    SQL Reporting customers who are unfamiliar with SSRS can use the following table to compare the two platforms.
    SSRS Native Mode on a Windows Azure VM
    SQL Reporting
    No feature restrictions for Reporting Services instances on a VM, except for features that vary by report server mode or by SQL Server edition. On a VM, reports can retrieve data from any supported data source. See Data Sources Supported by SSRS for details. For feature comparison by mode or edition, see Reporting Services Report Server and Features by Edition SQL Server 2012.
    SQL Reporting is limited to un-federated Windows Azure SQL Databases that are part of the same Windows Azure subscription. On-demand report execution and rendering is supported, but scheduling and subscription delivery is not available.
    Billing model
    Billing is based on the compute resources required to support a VM in the data center.
    Microsoft recommends Medium or Large VMs for SQL Server BI server applications, depending on report volume and number of SQL Server features you plan to use. For operational reporting, you will need both Reporting Services and a Database Engine instance for the report server database.
    Different rates apply depending on the size of the VM, as VM size determines how much CPU, memory, and disk storage are allocated. See Pricing Details for SQL Server for more information.
    Note that you are not charged for VMs that are turned off, so if you only use reports at certain times, you can export a report to a static format, such as PDF, and then stop the VM when the report server is inactive.
    Billing is based on the number of report executions rather than compute resources. If additional capacity is required, an additional instance is added dynamically in the background. Your bill goes up incrementally, in response to the higher number of report executions.
    Authentication and Authorization
    Users can authenticate to SSRS on VM using Windows authentication or Forms authentication. Support for commonly used authentication subsystems allows for greater software integration opportunities and supports identity delegation across multiple applications.
    For database platforms that support Windows authentication, you can take advantage of identity delegation to flow a user identity from the calling application, to the report server, to the backend database. See Authenticate to a report server and Microsoft BI Authentication and Identity Delegation for more information.
    A report server on a VM uses a role-based authorization model. See Granting Permissions on a Native Mode Report Server.
    SQL Reporting has a proprietary report server authentication subsystem, limited to defining report user identities used for sign in and role assignments. User identity cannot be deleted to other server applications.
    SQL Reporting uses Native mode Reporting Services roles.
    Software integration and architecture
    Reporting Services is a middle tier service that sits between backend data sources and front-end clients, such as a browser or custom web page hosting a report. When evaluating Reporting Services on a VM as your operational reporting solution, your design should position Reporting Services as a middle tier service accordingly.
    Architecturally and programmatically, a report server VM is equivalent to an on-premises server. Parity between cloud and on premises architecture is best achieved when other applications, such as backend data sources or front-end applications providing embedded reports, also run within the same Cloud service as the report server VM. In most cases, an end-to-end solution designed to run on-premises can be duplicated using a collection of VMs in a Cloud service. See Developer’s Guide (Reporting Services) for more information about SSRS programmability.
    In SQL Reporting, report access is primarily through the HTTP endpoint for URL access, or the SOAP management endpoint, often using the ReportViewer control embedded in a form or web page.
    Note that on SQL Reporting, the ASP.NET MVC Web Application templates do not support the ReportViewer control.
    More information
    ·         Sign up for Windows Azure<!–[if mso & !supportInlineShapes & supportFields]> SHAPE  \* MERGEFORMAT <![endif]–><!–[if mso & !supportInlineShapes & supportFields]> <![endif]–>

     I hope that helps someone!
    Kind Regards,

    Joining the Digital Dots: What’s your worst data storage story?

    What’s your worst data storage nightmare? Feel free to comment, I’ve got a few, but I do have a personal favourite.
    A few years ago, I visited a company who wanted to talk Business Intelligence to me. In order to get an idea of the quality of their technical estate, I started to ask about their existing processes about the data. For example, how do they back up their SQL Server databases? What do they have in place for storing data now, and what’s their future plans for SQL Server.

    Well, it turned out that they had a very mysterious plan for storage. They placed backup on on a USB hard drive, which was located on their premises – but that was their only data storage facility for backup. The killer for me was that, when the USB drive was full, they started to back up data to the receptionist’s computer because ‘it wasn’t busy during the day’.

    I am sure, dear reader, I don’t need to tell you what’s wrong with this storage ‘strategy’, but let’s list a few ideas out…

    Simply put, having everything on the premises was a bad idea since the data was business critical. Further, if their premises were ever burgled, the first thing that would disappear would be the receptionist’s computer given its proximity the front door. Given that the USB Hard drive was being shunted from desk to desk and easily accessible (and pinchable!) this could only be considered a temporary dumping place for data at best.

    The resolution was simply to offer the customer a cloud storage strategy, which they could easily afford and put in place quite simply. This was a nimble solution for a small to medium enterprise, who can’t afford the data centres and other facilities of larger organisations.  This is what happened, and the organisation was quite happy once they’d been advised properly, and understood the cheapness of the cloud solution versus losing all their data due to critical loss, theft or simple plain bad luck.

    Looking at data is no longer about looking at only one technology, a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Knowing about the storage is a critical part of looking after data, and there are plenty of options to help organisations to sort themselves out with a strategy on storage.

    Since I run into these horror stories SQL Server customer scenarios quite often, I was happy to see that there are plenty of solutions around that will help.  Azure offer a Windows Azure Backupthat helps organisations to protect important server data off-site with automated backup to Windows Azure.  Another option to consider is Cloud Integrated Storage is something that organisations can leverage so that they get ‘the best of both worlds’ – a balance of cloud and on-premise storage. Microsoft have a spin-off company, called StorSimple, who can help you to achieve cloud integrated storage.

    As a technical influencer in your organisation, you’ll need to know about the options available to you. If you like an in-person event, please take a look at the Cloud OS Community Relay, which is holding free training days on Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. These are the ‘latest and greatest’ from Microsoft, and you can find more information here about the Cloud OS Community Relay. It’s organised by MVPs for the community, and I’m one of the UK MVPs helping to organise SQLRelay.

    You might be interested to know about the SQLRelay events, which are more SQL Server focused and run alongside the Cloud OS Community Relay. You can find out more here, or if you’d like to come to the Hertfordshire event on 15th November, please take a look hereIn the meantime, I’ve put some information about StorSimple below in case you’d like to take a look.

    Cloud Integrated Storage: StorSimple
    StorSimple cloud-integrated storage provides primary storage, backup, archive, and disaster recovery, combined with Windows Azure. This allows you to optimize total storage costs and increase data protection and service agility. With StorSimple, you can integrate the public cloud with on-premises storage to reduce datacenter infrastructure complexity, maximize data protection, reduce overall storage total cost of ownership (TCO) by 60-80%, and provision storage more rapidly to reclaim IT time cycles