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Microsoft BI conference The keynote on the second day of Microsoft's BI conference was given by Ted Kummert – corporate vice president of the data storage and platform division at Microsoft.

As Jeff Raikes before him, he devoted considerable time to Katmai, the next version of SQL Server. He too stressed that the release date will be 2008 (so perhaps Microsoft is just a little sensitive about this after all). As Microsoft people are wont to do when discussing products, he talked a great deal about pillars. Not of society, but Katmai, which has four.

Enterprise Data Platform

Microsoft's belief is that any database engine that underpins a complete BI strategy must be capable of running at every level from the data warehouse, via the desktop, to the PDA in your hand. SQL Server can, of course.

Beyond Relational

The engine must be capable of storing and manipulating the wide variety of data types that businesses now collect. We have already seen XML capabilities in SQL Server and Katmai will introduce spatial. We saw a demo of storing location data of 12 million restaurants in the US and then displaying the data using Microsoft maps. Cool.

Dynamic development

Ted talked about a fascinating development in Katmai, the introduction of an ER modelling layer. This provides a logical layer which sits between application developers and the relational tables – allowing them to interact with the data more easily.

Fans of ER modelling will want to know that this is not (at least in Katmai) a design tool – you cannot develop an ER model and then generate the schema. However, Microsoft sees this as a first step and there is a strong possibility that design capabilities will appear in later versions. Database engines in general have been crying out for this kind of functionality for years so this first tentative step is very welcome.

Pervasive insight

Essentially, the adding of BI capabilities into Office. The audience was delighted when the amiable and hirsute Donald Farmer appeared on stage to demo this by using the data mining capabilities of Analysis Services from within Excel against data held in Excel. Delighted because Donald is an intelligent, articulate, and amusing techie whose presentations are guaranteed to leaven any keynote.

All in all, if you are a BI freak (and why attend the conference if you aren't?) the conference is excellent. Talking to the attendees suggests that by far the majority are very happy, the sessions are well presented and well attended. In our own sad way, we are all having fun (at least it keeps us all of the streets). ®

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