This past week was the PASS Summit in Seattle. It’s an annual conference that attracts thousands of SQL Server and data platform professionals. I am lucky in that I usually get to attend, and this year was no different, although it was a short summit for me. There are some live blogs of the keynotes from Kendra for Day 1, 2, and 3 if you want to catch up.
Microsoft was there with a large presence, and as always, they delivered a keynote and had plenty of demos that showcase new changes and enhancements for the data platform. In this case, center stage is really SQL Server 2019, though there were plenty of other items shown as well. I was surprised to see the Azure Managed Instance get so many mentions. I suspect this is an easy for for many companies to transition away from an expensive local data center, or to find ways to use less staff and continue to run a SQL Server outside of their existing infrastructure. I don’t know if this is a good fit for most customers, but Microsoft certainly wants you to try it. The Business Critical edition (with business critical pricing) will release as generally available on December 1.
There were a few releases as well, which you might want to play around with in your lab. First, Azure Data Studio (ADS) got it’s November release. I’m still not certain I love the tool, but Microsoft is working hard to improve it and add features. There aren’t a lot of changes this month, but there are a few more extensions and a number of bug fixes. The paradigm for ADS is just a little off for me, and I’m not quite sure why. I find VS Code to work well for C#, Python, and PowerShell, so why is ADS off for me? Not sure, but let me know in the discussion if you like the tool.
We also have our second release of SQL Server 2019 with CTP 2.1 being announced. It’s supposed to be available Friday for download, at least as a container, but we’ll see. There aren’t a lot of changes, but there are some. What’s more impressive is Microsoft being able to release a second version a month after the first one. They hope to get to a monthly cadence, which I think is amazing for a large product like SQL Server, especially as Windows struggles with their cadence.
There is one amazing new feature, which I think will really improve SQL Server performance for many systems: Scalar UDF Inlining. It’s not a panacea, but it should dramatically improve the use of functions in many workloads. There are restrictions, and it’s only SQL 2019, but I look forward to testing a few demos to see how well things perform with this enhancement to the query processor. You should give it a try as well, testing workloads before and enabling compatibility level 150. If you see improvement, maybe there’s a good case to upgrade your instances that might be using lots of functions.
There are more announcements, especially in the BI area. We get some cool SSRS enhancements, and you might want to watch my friend, Patrick LeBlanc, demo the changes in Power BI. I love Power BI and I think this is going to be the de facto reporting tool for most organizations moving forward. Maybe it will even displace Excel for visuals.
There are a lot of moving parts in the Microsoft Data Platform right now, which may feel overwhelming to many of us. That’s fine. We don’t have to learn everything, but we can pick something that looks interesting and spend a few hours playing. You never know what you might get inspired to learn more about.