Friday, March 13, 2009

The foothills of Kilimanjaro

Up to Noordwijkwerhout today for the Microsoft Application Platform Congress, during which Microsoft and its partners outlined their vision for the current and next generation of tools and technologies developers and solution providers will use to create and provide applications for customers.

Sometimes these events can be a little wearisome, if truth be told, but today's session was fascinating. We got a look at some of the features of the next version of SQL Server, code-named Kilimanjaro. It's tightly integrated with Excel in a way that Microsoft have been promising for years now but have never quite seemed to deliver. Today, though, we saw a 20-million row Excel table populated from SQL and sorted and auto-filtered in the blink of an eye. The new BI features include a sort of pivot table on steroids, with the ability to slice up and drill down in every conceivable way. Possibly the most impressive thing was that this was all taking place natively in Excel, just running in memory, but a button-click revealed the star schema thus created, ready for saving out to SQL Analysis Services.

They also talked about support for databases of 150 terabytes, if you can imagine such a thing, and how one goes about making such a database perform. It's hard to have patience with slow-performing apps and queries on 5 Gb datasets once you've seen 150 terabytes of data return a result set in a few seconds.

This is a little in the future, for now - release is scheduled for early next year - but my personal epiphany concerned a feature available right now in SQL Server 2008: spatial data. After the demo I saw today, I suddenly realise the potential of this feature and can't wait to put it to good use.

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