A short while back Mosha wrote an interesting blog entry putting together a comparison between the upcoming MS BI conference and the 2008 PASS Summit. This comparison was based on the information that was publicly available at the time.  It got me thinking about the upcoming 2008 PASS Summit and the attendee experience planned. I realize that there is a lot of the summit experience that is still under planning or not fully confirmed and so, not communicated out. So, I am going to try in this blog.

When I look at my own reasons for attending conferences in the past, 3 things come to mind - Networking, experience and education, in that order, although, I can see why most companies tend to decide on which conference to send employees to based on mainly the education aspect of a conference. So, I will talk about that aspect of the PASS summit first.

The Education

The PASS summit has over 150 deep technical session (including 14 deep dive pre-conference seminars) dedicated to SQL Server. There is something (or a lot) for everyone to learn. You will have a chance to learn from the experience of your peers in the community based on real facts and implementations – not the marketing spin. You will learn what works and what doesn’t work in a real-life implementation and you will learn best-practices. No other conference can claim to offer that depth of technical training. The summit also features a complete track (12 sessions) dedicated to best practices and implementation that is being delivered by the SQL CAT team. The PASS summit is also quite unique from any other conference that you may attend, in the diversity of speakers. Most other conferences generally have just a few expert speakers delivering multiple sessions. PASS has, at last count, 104 speakers delivering over 150 sessions! These speakers are not only industry experts and Microsoft product group members, but also our peers who have learnt in the trenches and are willing to share their experiences. This is one summit where you can come in and not only learn from others, but share your own experiences.

Speaking of education, the PASS summit also features a Lounge which will contain a theater where experts will conduct chalk-talks in an interactive environment. Additionally, there will be hands-on labs where you will be able to learn how to use new features in SQL Server 2008, including Business Intelligence.

All this great educational opportunity at the PASS summit certainly begs the question for Business Intelligence professionals about which conference to attend. If Mosha’s full day pre-conference session on Deep dive into MDX is not enough of a reason to attend the PASS summit, you should make PASS your summit choice if you are a BI professional that interacts with the SQL Server product stack or manages and administers Business Intelligence components in your organization. Some of the sessions we have include “Building a 100TB+ Scientific Data Warehouse” by Michael Thomassy, “Collecting Analysis Services Performance Data by using Management Data Warehouse, SQL Profiler, and AS DMVs in SSAS 2008” by Carl Rabeler, “Integrating Predictive Analysis throughout the Data Lifecycle” by Donald Farmer and “High Performance Data Warehouses in SQL Server 2008” by Erin Welker. I have in the past 2 weeks spoken to a number of Business Intelligence professionals and colleagues and a large number of them are planning on attending the PASS summit and many have also indicated interest in Mosha’s pre conference seminar! So, register before space fills up.

The Experience

This is the official Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Re-Launch Event! A target attendance of over 3000 professionals makes the upcoming PASS summit the largest global gathering of SQL Server professionals under one roof and a high-energy event you wouldn’t want to miss. Attendees will include a few hundred members of the SQL Server product development team from Microsoft who will not only be interacting and speaking with attendees, but also attending the sessions and in some cases providing perspective on the design aspects of certain features. More importantly they will be listening to your experiences and pain points so that they can enhance the product.

Also attending will be top experts from the community including SQL Server MVP’s who will be delighted to spend time answering your technical questions and helping solve those problems that have been plaguing you, at our Ask the Experts lounge. In fact, I am sure that many of your favorite bloggers will be at the summit looking forward to meeting you in person. One of the frequent feedbacks we have received from attendees in the past is that a few minutes of face-to-face time with one of the experts helping them solve their persistent problems have paid for the summit costs many times over. How’s that for value! We are also expecting over 200 Microsoft employees who design, build and manage SQL Server solutions and databases within Microsoft. So, this is an opportunity to find out how they “eat their own dog food”!

Speaking of designing, building and managing solutions and databases, the summit will also feature the largest gathering of vendors dedicated to making products and solutions that allow you to extend your investments in the SQL Server product. You can learn about all these different (and some new) offerings and also compare them under one roof! One of our Platinum Sponsor this year is DELL and I am certain that you will hear about some of their Database solutions for SQL Server. This year, PASS will also (potentially) feature a new and exciting Lounge experience which I cannot talk about yet as details are not finalized – but you can expect to hear about it soon. You surely don’t want to miss finding out all about them!

Part of the summit experience also includes discounted onsite certification exams where you can get certified in SQL Server 2008 product, participate in Microsoft focus groups and buy books at a discount from the book store.

There will also be some very exciting announcements from Microsoft during keynotes featuring top Microsoft SQL Server Management executives, Ted Kummert, Tom Casey and David DeWitt. Ted will provide a sneak peek at the future of SQL Server and Microsoft’s data platform and discuss the latest release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and new technologies debuting in the short-term, as well as reveal plans for long-term technology developments that will change the data platform landscape. Tom will discuss the overall strategy, design, development and delivery of the Microsoft business intelligence platform with SQL Server 2008 and beyond, while David is expected to discuss his vision for the evolution of the database and Microsoft’s role in changing the face of data management.

For many of us, who are managing mission critical systems back at work, being disconnected from the office is not an option, the venue features a number of internet stations and free wireless connectivity throughout the summit venue so that you can check on your emails and the health of your servers while on-site.

This PASS summit also provides you some opportunity for relaxation and fun. Starting from our Heroes Unite theme, which will enhance your onsite experience, to the parties that we have planned for you (the Welcome reception on Tuesday, Expo Hall reception on Wednesday and a “signature” evening event on Thursday that you don’t want to miss), you are sure to have a blast! We are also hosting the SQL Heroes contest that you have an opportunity to participate in. Additionally, there might be opportunities to attend other vendor sponsored parties. Be sure to walk through the Expo hall and talk to vendors to find out more.

The Networking

Now, this is why I attend the PASS summit. This is my opportunity to get to meet and know my peers and make friends, getting to know people who I can reach out to long after the summit. PASS is where I first met Kevin Kline, Wayne Snyder, Peter DeBetta, Fernando Guerrero, Kirk Haselden and a host of other community leaders who I now consider good friends. These networking opportunities are everywhere at the PASS summit starting from the welcome reception and stretching all throughout the summit, whether at the Lounge, trade-show floor, at one of the various parties or just out in the halls. I encourage all of you to take maximum advantage of this great opportunity to get to know your peers.

It all adds up to real Value!

The education and experience I described above is just a small part of the overall summit experience. The value that this summit provides you reaches far beyond the on-site experience. For example, many of the break-out sessions are recorded and available to all attendees online after the summit. This allows you to review those sessions that you could not personally attend because of the sheer amount of session choices in each time slot. You also have the opportunity to purchase a DVD of the sessions so that you can watch it at your leisure. Many of our speakers are also readily accessible to you. So, you can contact them with specific questions on their sessions even after the summit.

You should register now to reserve your seat at the summit before it potentially sells out due to on-site capacity constraints this year. To make your registration even more valuable, you should be able to find discount codes on some of the community sites that you regularly visit, like SQLBlog.com or SQLTeam.com. Check this link to find even more valuable discount offers from Solid Quality Mentors that you can take advantage of. They will certainly extend the value of your registration $’s.

I would love to hear from you, if you are planning to attend. If you are a speaker or an MVP, please consider writing a short blog about what you are planning on speaking about at PASS or what you are most looking forward to at the PASS Summit.

Consider this your call to action to register now! And oh – be sure to make on-site plans ahead of time using our online scheduler (going live in a couple of weeks) to make the most of your summit experience. See you in Seattle this November!