Around two weeks ago, I received an email from Mahendraprasad Dubey (Microsoft Senior Premier Field Engineer) announcing a community event on 17th December. I registered for this event immediately for two reasons. First – I had attended couple of community events in Pune, organized by ‘Pune IT Pro Community’ and led by Mahendra. It was wonderful learning experience with great knowledge sharing. And Second – Venue for this event was Microsoft Mumbai office 🙂
Yesterday I attended this event organized by ‘Microsoft Mumbai Tech Community’ @MumbaiTechGroup. If measured on my both the expectations mentioned earlier, the event was great success . First – Great learning with amazing community spirit and Second – Stunning Microsoft office, designed with ‘Ocean’ theme right from ceilings to coffee mugs! …Yes, my coffee mug had a picture of a starfish 🙂
The event was titled as ‘Envisioning Reality’ and it was divided into three sessions. This article is about my experience and learning from these sessions.
Session I – IoT – Connecting Everything
This session was presented by Gandhali Samant @s_gandhali (Microsoft Senior Technology Evangelist). I had attended Microsoft Azure Vidyapeeth Webinar presented by Gandhali before. I was looking forward for this session as it was an opportunity to listen to her in person.
To be honest, I knew very little about IoT before attending this session. I was doubtful about how much I can grasp from this session. But Gandhali started the session right from the definition of IoT and building it on top of it step-by-step; ending with a small live demo of IoT.
Gandhali explained that, though Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword today; the concept has been around for past few decades. What makes IoT a ‘next big thing’ is unlimited storage and unlimited computation ‘cloud’ has to offer. This combination will offer business insights like never before.
Following four components make IoT –
Things – This ‘T’ in IoT is has really vast stretch. It includes anything with intelligent chip inside and everything which can possibly connect to internet. In short, everything which is ‘Smart’!
Connectivity – In IoT, connectivity is not limited to mere http. Protocols like ZigBee, MQTT and AMQP power IoT.
Data – All the ‘things’ mentioned above generate data. One can imagine how vast the expanse can be! It can be all sorts of readings (temperature, pressure, humidity, medical parameters etc.) from sensors, images from surveillance cameras, maintenance records from appliances and even activities of cattle. List can go on and on…
Analytics – ‘Microsoft Azure IoT Suite’ gives you power to analyze data generated from various sources. This in turn offers new business insights and can even predict future. With Microsoft Power BI data visualization tools, one can bring all this data to life.
Azure IoT Hub is at the cente of IoT Suite. IoT Hub supports development on all the platforms and languages. One can start with Azure certified devices as well. Gartner has predicted that, 25 billion devices will be connected by 2020 generating $7.2 trillion I0T market.
Gandhali also explained Microsoft’s principles for investing in IoT. These are –
- Provide connectivity to existing and new devices.
- Facilitate new insights by harnessing power of untapped data.
- Enable fast solution development.
During this session, I got introduced to following Microsoft IoT products –
- ‘Windows 10 IoT Core’ is an OS built for IoT.
- ‘Windows 10 IoT Core Dashboard’ helps to setup and connect Windows 10 IoT core devices.
- ‘Azure Stream Analytics’ can ingest events from many data sources in real time.
- ‘Azure Stream Analytics Query Language’ (similar to T-SQL) is used for ‘Streaming Computations’.
It was exciting to watch Gandhali’s IoT demo generating real time visual data in the form of Power BI charts.
Session II – Bring your data to life with Microsoft Power BI
The second session was presented by Narendra Angane (Microsoft Senior Consultant). I had attended Narendra’s sessions on SQL Server during Pune community events and I liked them a lot. This time Narendra talked about Power BI. During this session Mahendra also joined Narendra to explain some of the points.
Power BI is an interactive data visualisation platform from Microsoft, which transforms data into business insights. It offers organization-wide analytics solution, sharable through various dashboards and reports.
Power BI is SaaS and its base version is free of cost. For advanced or ‘Pro’ features you need to pay nominal cost. Power BI Desktop is free to download tool. Power BI reports can be shared in form of .pbix file. Instead of sharing reports through email, we can use ‘Organizational Content Packs’ in Power BI to distribute reports and datasets. SQL server Reporting Services (SSRS) will soon have Power BI features integrated into it. Microsoft continuously works on improving Power BI and releases its updates each month.
Power BI report development life-cycle can be depicted as
During the session, Narendra explained about following cool features of Power BI-
- Power BI can connect to more than 60 on-premise, cloud and streaming data sources.
- There are various types and sub-types of charts available to bring data to life.
- You can ‘play’ scatter chart to see data in motion and how it has progressed over the time. I found this feature really exciting.
- You can write simple English queries to explore data. Also you can define synonyms to make queries more user friendly.
- You can defines schedules to refresh data.
- Use Q&A to explore data using natural language and to build FAQ section.
- Power BI app is free to download and can be installed on any device. You can access data anywhere, anytime. Narendra demonstrated Power BI charts on his mobile phone.
- In Power BI, you can connect to OData feed like any other data source.
- You can restrict access to particular data by defining parameters in Power BI.
- R scripts can be integrated in Power BI to visualise data. Also we can mix-match R and other visual controls.
- Power BI reports can be easily distributed through links or can be embedded as iframe tags.
- Narendra demonstrated a Word-cloud chart. I found this new chart type really wonderful.
During this session, audience asked many questions about Power BI features and Narendra answered all of them with a smiling face.
Session III – SQL Server on Linux
This third session was presented by Mahendraprasad Dubey (Senior Premier Field Engineer). Mahendra is quite active in Pune and Mumbai Microsoft Tech community and has led many such community events. He was the one who initiated, informed and followed up with other community members about this event.
Since Microsoft announced ‘SQL Server on Linux’ in March this year; there has been tremendous curiosity about it in IT community. Being a SQL Server DBA, I also wanted know more about ‘SQL Server v.Next’. This session answered many of my questions.
Mahendra demonstrated installation of ‘SQL Server v.Next’ on Linux. When we install SQL Server on Windows, we usually navigate through many screens; mentioning various installation parameters. That was not the case with the Linux installation. It was obviously done through command prompt and it finished surprisingly in less than a minute! He also demonstrated how SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 17.0 RC1 can be used to connect to SQL Server v.Next instance.
Following are few more points which I learnt about SQL Server v.Next –
- At present, only SQL Server database engine is available for Linux version. Other features like SQL Agent service etc. are not available. But as the product matures, we can expect new additions.
- Only SQL authentication is available. Windows authentication is not (yet) available as there is no AD integration.
- We can restore database backup taken from Windows SQL Server onto Linux SQL Server, and other way round.
- We cannot change data file paths in SQL Server v.Next due to inherent nature of Linux OS. When you try to do this through SSMS, it gives an error.
- There are no major changes in how SQL Server works, when installed on Linux.
- DBAs will need to learn about Linux OS scheduling, as it is different from Windows OS scheduling.
By offering SQL Server on Linux, Microsoft is definitely going to increase its customer base. Also it is an important step strengthening Microsoft and Red Hat hybrid cloud partnership.
Mahendra also demonstrated how we can use Visual Studio efficiently for some SQL Server tasks. One of them was to export SQL Server schema scripts for particular SQL version.
Mahendra conducted his session very interactively, with sprinkle of humour throughout.
A community spirit –
I cannot thank enough to all the presenters for the time and efforts they devoted for this event. All the hard work they had put together and their passion to share the knowledge is really commendable. They made sure audience remained engaged during the sessions. All of them had infectious enthusiasm. It was indeed a great example of camaraderie among Microsoft community.
…How will I survive?
This was the question I was asking myself, when all these new technology changes were unfolding in front of me during this session. So many new things to learn and so much ground to cover…How can I catch-up? To be honest, I was (and I am) really worried. Coincidentally a paragraph in a book, which I started reading few days ago, has the answer to my question. That book is ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport and that paragraph reads–
‘We have information economy that’s dependent on complex systems that change rapidly. Some of the computer languages (Jason) Benn learned didn’t exist ten years ago and will likely to be outdated ten years from now. ….To remain valuable in our economy, therefore, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work. If you don’t cultivate this ability, you’re likely to fall behind as technology advances.’