At the time of writing this post, I can see yellow leaves falling to the pavements and feel the cold breeze kissing my cheeks. No matter how hard I try to resist it, reality is dawning on me that the summer has gone by and that the winter is finally settling in (yeah, I know some of you might argue that we never had a summer. After all, it’s been the coldest summer in 18 years). Can’t believe that it was only a week before many of us were sweating in the big halls of the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. Oh sheesh, I did it again! I tried to avoid it but just like the winter, here comes the familiar feeling of hangover.
This was my third SQLBits and like always, I had been counting down the days from the time SQLBits was announced. Well, this time I had an additional reason – I was presenting a session at SQLBits. More than that, I had also got a free entry on Friday because I was a speaker (now that calls for a big HURRAY!). Even a loss of pay on Friday couldn’t deter me from attending the conference on Friday (I had already exhausted my annual leaves for my wedding in July) and I reached there right in time for the keynote. Even though the agenda suggested that I would be seeing cloned versions of Steve Tramack in both the Aintree and Lancaster halls using the latest Microsoft & HP technologies (check the agenda here), all I got to see was a bigger room with the wall removed and one Steve Tramack. Or wait, I thought I saw two people on the stage and it definitely wasn’t two Steves. Being a victim of the hardships involved in installing and configuring SharePoint myself, I totally appreciated the idea and thought behind the HP Fast Track Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server. The best part is that you can configure a system within a couple of hours what would have definitely taken some weeks. Overall, it was a brilliant start to SQLBits. After that, I went to Matt Masson’s (twitter | blog) session on ‘What’s New in SQL Server Denali for SSIS’. The Facebook social life manager demo was really cool and unique, and also had a peek at many of the new features of SSIS. Next on my list was ‘Basic BISM’ by Chris Webb (blog). This was an introductory session on Business Intelligence Semantic Model and was extremely helpful to people like me who were more or less on the start of the learning curve. Chris also touched upon the advantages and disadvantages of the tabular mode in this session. Then I went for the ‘Myths and Monster of Flash’ session by Fusion-IO where Steve Wharton (twitter | blog) presented some of the characteristics and mechanics of the NAND flash. Later I spent some time walking around the stalls and talking with the exhibitors. It was so interesting and informative at the same time that I actually spent a lot more time than I intended to and missed the next session as a result. The next session was one of my most awaited ones – ‘iPad and Powerpivot-Mobile Business Intelligence in action’ by Jennifer Stirrup (twitter | blog). I had been planning to catch hold of Jen’s sessions for a long time and finally made it this time. Not to say, I had a great time learning about mobile BI and some of the best practices in visualizations. One of the other things I was really looking forward to was meeting Hrvoje (twitter | blog) and Tomislav Piasevoli (twitter | blog) who were coming down to SQLBIts all the way from Croatia. So after the sessions, I met up with the Piasevoli brothers and we headed to the Cavern Pub for washing down our throats. Had an extremely great time with them as is evident from all the photographs. We were keeping a tab on the time as we did not want to be late for the much anticipated event of the night – James Bond Casino Night. It really was a great experience walking in to the hall which had now transformed into a casino and we started gambling with the fake money provided to us. Most of the people were appropriately dressed in their James Bond attires also, which made the experience even better. I am sure all of us would have left the place declaring this as the best post event party in SQLBits till date. The next day, I had to wake up at an unearthly hour as I had to rush for my 8.10 am session on ‘Fast Track to Spatial Reporting’. The demo material for my session are available for download here. Got a few pics of my session too, thanks to Tomislav. The next three sessions I attended was definitely the highlight for many in this version of SQLBits. The first of the series was ‘Building Great Models for Crescent’ by Kasper Jonge (twitter | blog). His session was jam packed with demos and being a reporting person myself, it was really nice to watch all the new features in Crescent. The next of the series was ‘Vertipaq vs. OLAP: Change your Data Modelling Approach’ by Marco Russo (twitter | blog). Most of the perceptions that I had built about data-modelling was challenged and I was forced to see them in a new light when I am modelling in Vertipaq. Alberto Ferrari (twitter | blog) was next on the stage with ‘Many-to-Many Relationships in DAX’ and I was seriously amazed at how he presented such a complex topic in such an easily understandable format. This was one of the moments where I wished if only I had such people as my professors when I was studying in my University. I checked in to the ‘Lightning Talks’ soon after, something which I wanted to do in last time’s SQLBits itself but couldn’t because it was clashing with another session. It was great to see the likes of Kasper Jonge, Martin Newman, Andrew Fryer, Richard Douglas, Ed Vassie, Neil Hambly and Tobiasz Koprowski share the same stage. The last session of the day was kept aside for Duncan Sutcliffe’s (twitter | blog) session on ‘Kerberos-All You Need to Know in One Hour’. As usual, Duncan just blew everyone apart with his unique presentation style and all in all, it was one of the most comprehensive sessions on Kerberos that I have seen. Soon we had the customary post event party and lots of prizes were announced from Kindles to Xboxes. A big thanks to all the sponsors without whom SQLBits would not have been possible. Also a moment thanking all the guys behind this – Simon Sabin, Christian Bolton, James Rowland-Jones, Martin Bell, Darren Green, Chris Webb, Allan Mitchell, Tim Kent, Chris Testa-O’Neill and all the helpers. A big, BIG, BIG thanks to all of you guys. Once the party was over, all that was left for us to do was to reminisce the last two three days and wait eagerly for the next version of SQLBits. Well, myself, Hrvoje, Tomislav and Kasper also found something else to do while reminiscing , see below for a hint. As for the winter, I would like to borrow a few lines from Percy Shelley – If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?