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Microsoft releases new parallel data warehouse, previews Denali

Barney Beal

SEATTLE – Microsoft today released its latest high-performance parallel data warehouse (PDW) product and previewed a new cloud-based support offering to help customers identify and solve SQL Server configuration problems. But the news that drew the most interest was a preview of the next SQL Server release,

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code-named "Denali."

At the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit 2010, Ted Kummert, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Business Platform Division, said the SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse has now been released to manufacturing.

Microsoft detailed its new parallel data warehouse capabilities and a cloud-based support offering, and also provided a glimpse of what's to come in the next SQL Server release.

"This takes SQL server to the highest levels of scale in data warehouses -- to hundreds of terabytes," Kummert said.

Two years after Project Madison, Microsoft's efforts to integrate the spoils of its acquisition of DatAllegro, executives here demonstrated the ability for PDW to scan 800 billion rows of data in 19 seconds.

Paulo Resende, chief architect of Global Wealth Information Management at Bank of America, which used the data warehouse as part of a technology preview, said he's been able to cut query times from three or four hours down to minutes and is looking to reduce his data warehousing costs by five times their current total cost of ownership.

Dave Mariani, vice president of development for user data and analytics at Yahoo, said the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company used SQL Analysis Services to build a 12-terabyte cube loaded with 3.5 billion events (ad impressions) per day. End users then run analysis to mine insight and deliver value to Yahoo! advertisers.

"It has to be speed of thought because of the rapidness they need to explore the data," Mariani said. "If it takes any longer than that it's just not useful."

Yahoo is seeking to extend the program to all of its internal advertising group and create a 40TB cube. It's also hoping to use the program to extend it to its advertiser customers and allow them to run their own ad hoc queries.

The PDW appliance will be available on HP machines in December and will be available on hardware from other providers later on, Kummert said.

Along with it, Microsoft is launching the Mission Critical Advantage program, which provides appliance customers with pre-tested hardware and software configuration, 30-minute response times, an escalation manager and a dedicated support engineer.

"Atlanta" comes to Seattle

Microsoft also launched a beta program of a new support service code-named "Atlanta."

A cloud-based system, Atlanta securely uploads a company's SQL Server configuration information on a nightly basis.

"You have the history, so if you do have a support incident the conversation with support does start in a different place," Kummert said.

Simplifying the Microsoft support experience was welcome news for some.

"That is exactly the sort of thing I would have liked to have had in my career," said Dawid Jordaan, a database administrator with Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, citing an SSPI connection scenario demoed during the presentation.

For Svetlana Latinsky, senior software developer, with New World Systems in Troy, Mich., a company that sells software to customers who can't afford their own database managers, Atlanta offers some potential.

"It saves me time," she said. "It will be very nice if [our customers] purchase this product."

Beta testers can sign up at www.microsoftatlanta.com.

What's coming next in SQL Server

Saving the best for last, or at least what attendees seemed most interested in, Kummert provided a glimpse into what features Microsoft is developing in the next release of SQL Server. The first Community Technology Preview of the release, code-named Denali, is now available.

It will focus on high availability with lower total cost of ownership. "Project Apollo" will provide column-store database technology to speed queries and new development tools.

"We've made a big investment in developer tools, in Visual Studio and standalone tools," Kummert said. "Denali will be the largest release in SQL Server Integration Services ever. There will be a server environment that will make it easy to manage SSIS across the full lifecycle."

It will also include built-in data quality tools and a new Web-based data visualization and presentation application, code-named "Crescent."

Crescent is built upon what Microsoft has already done with Office 2010, providing self-service business intelligence capabilities from within applications like Excel and PowerPivot. Crescent will be a web-based reporting tool that allows end users to build and share reports of large data sets at high speeds. One demo showed how a user could access live data queries from within a PowerPoint presentation.

"It's just sci-fi," Latinsky said. "It's unbelievable. If it's that fast and that easy, that would be great."

It had Les Dye, a DBA manager with PepsiCo excited for what it could do to convince the business side to adopt Microsoft. It's the business side that controls the budget for something like an upgrade to the next version of SQL Server.

"We have a BI group using other tools and we're slowly trying to convince them to move to Microsoft," Dye said. "We need to speed up their expertise."


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