Written By: Guy Glantser 31/10/2016
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. It’s time for the annual PASS Summit. Just like every year, I had the pleasure of attending Summit – as a data professional, as a speaker and as a volunteer. As always, it was a pleasure. You’ll be surprised to hear that this time the summit took place in Seattle. And they even picked a unique venue – Washington Convention Center. (I’m kidding, of course. It’s the same location every year).
I arrived to Seattle on Saturday, October 22. The conference itself started with the welcome reception on Tuesday, and then the main conference took place between Wednesday and Friday. Here is my summary of this week…
Saturday, October 22
I arrived at noon after a long flight from Bangkok with a connection in Tokyo. I delivered a course to a customer in Bangkok in the previous week, and spent some great time with my family in Ko Samui before that. The time difference between Seattle and Bangkok is 10 hours, and between Seattle and Israel it’s also 10 hours, but to the other direction. So I was jet-lagged from every angle. Nevertheless, I decided to spend the day somehow and go to sleep only in the evening. So I rented a car at the airport and went to do some shopping, so that I can get rid of that part of the trip.
I had a short connection in Tokyo, but enough time to do this:
Sunday, October 23
I managed to sleep around 5 hours, and woke up at 2am. So I had enough time for a long run in the streets of Seattle, and then a long breakfast at some diner outside of the city. After that, I wanted to see some nature, and there is a lot of that in Washington. A dear friend who lives in Seattle recommended the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail. I was there with the first sunlight, and I climbed the mountain up to the first viewpoint and back. It’s a beautiful trail in the woods, approximately 4 miles. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera, and my phone was dead. So no photos from that trip.
I also met some old friends that day, and it was fun. I had a great day!
Monday, October 24
Monday was a working day. I managed to wake up only at 04:30 in the morning (yay). I spent most of the day in my hotel room, preparing for my sessions (I had two of them this year, more details later) and doing other work. Not much to say about that day, except maybe for the great steak I had at Miller’s Guild.
Tuesday, October 25
As the leader of the Israeli PASS chapter, I attended the chapter leaders meeting that day. It was great to meet fellow chapter leaders from all over the world. Like every year, we discussed ways to improve our chapters’ experience, e.g. how to get more speakers, how to get more sponsors, how to increase members’ engagement, etc. I went out from the meeting with some new ideas, which I am going to try soon.
The welcome reception marked the beginning of the conference. As usual, it was a great opportunity to meet the entire SQL family, eat some food and drink some beer. From there I went to the volunteers’ party for some more networking, food and drinks. I returned to the hotel late at night, and managed to sleep a few hours before the first day of the conference.
Wednesday, October 26
The day started with the first keynote, which was delivered by Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Data Group – Joseph Sirosh. Joseph talked about the intelligence revolution. He explained how the cloud, data and intelligence are combined together in order to provide modern business solutions. He also discussed the three intelligence layers: the intelligent DB, the intelligent lake and deep intelligence.
At lunch, I had the honor to join Joseph and other PASS attendees. I was invited to an executive lunch with Joseph. Together with me there were some other MVPs and first-timers. We had an interesting discussion about Microsoft’s vision and roadmap. We talked about Analysis Services in the cloud, Azure SQL Data Warehouse and more.
From there I went to Matan’s session – MongoDB for the SQL Server Professional. It was a double session (2.5 hours). Matan introduced MongoDB, and discussed the environment, the syntax, the use cases and the best practices. He also covered important topics, such as availability, consistency and performance. It was a great session.
From Matan’s session, I went to the first round of Speaker Idol. If you’re not familiar with Speaker Idol, then you should. It’s a contest between 12 speakers, who compete for a guaranteed session at the next PASS Summit. Each speaker has only 5 minutes, and then they are judged by an expert panel. It’s one of the best shows in town.
Similar to the welcome reception in the previous day, this day ended with the exhibitor reception. Same concept – eat, drink and network – but this time in the exhibitor hall. There were several parties in the evening organized by vendors and sponsors, but I was too tired, so I went to sleep early this time.
Thursday, October 27
The second day of the conference began with the second keynote, this time delivered by Dr. David DeWitt, who talked about data warehousing in the cloud. David explained why the cloud data warehouse is much more cost-efficient than its on-prem counterparts. He compared between some of the leading cloud data warehouses in the world today – Amazon Redshift, Snowflake and Azure SQL Data Warehouse.
Right after the keynote, I presented my first session – Introduction to Azure Machine Learning. I explained what machine learning is, how it works and what the use cases are (there are so many). I then demonstrated a machine learning experiment using Azure Machine Learning Studio. I had a wonderful audience (around 200 people) who laughed at my jokes and asked a lot of questions, which generated an interesting discussion. It was fun. To download the complete presentation, click here.
After lunch I attended Paul Turley’s session – Reporting Services 2016: The Force Awakens. Paul described all the new features and enhancements in the new version of Reporting Services, including the new web portal, the integration with mobile reports, PowerPoint rendering and parameters layout. It was a very good overview of the new version along with some demos. Good session.
I ended the day with Speaker Idol round 2. Four new speakers, four new sessions. Lots of fun.
Friday, October 28
I managed to wake up on time for the first session at 08:00. I chose Eduardo Castro’s session – Microsoft Data Science Toolset. Eduardo demonstrated how easy it is to integrate the various Microsoft tools – such as the R server, Visual Studio, Azure Machine Learning and Power BI – in order to produce a data science solution.
After that came my second session in the conference – From XML to JSON. I introduced XML and JSON, as well as the support within SQL Server 2016, and I also talked about the use cases for using XML or JSON in a relational database. I spent most of the session on a demo, showing all the functionality in SQL Server to support both data formats. You can download the presentation and the demo here.
My last session in PASS Summit 2016 was Introduction to SQL Server R Services in SQL 2016 by Chris Hyde. I wanted to learn more about the R language, and this was a good introduction with a lot of code examples. I believe I will be playing some more with R in the near future.
I had to leave right after this session in order to catch the flight back home. Unfortunately, I missed the third round as well as the finals of Speaker Idol. Congratulations to Peter Kral for winning this year’s competition.
All in all, it was a good conference, with lots of learning and networking opportunities, as always.
See you in PASS Summit 2017…