Tech Ed 2007 – Day 1 : Business Intelligence and SharePoint

So today started off a little slow after the keynote – at least for me. While I had a lot of sessions that interested me – none brought the “I can’t wait for this” feeling. I spent a fair amount of the data in sessions talking about SharePoint, Excel, and BI in general. This is a hot topic at work as of late as is reporting in general. The best part of the day so far surprisingly is the Hands-On lab I did where I published an Excel workbook to Excel Server. It was interesting to see what MOSS gives you. It exposed named elements in Excel and in the sample I had two named tables, a chart, and a named range (which was actually just one column). So put an Excel Viewer on top of it in the browser and I could see those items (with the visualizations as well). You can also create a filter that links different web parts together so that they can be parameterized together (kind of like having an area parameter that governs all the data displaying on the page when they are on different web parts). Couple that with a better connection between SharePoint and ASP.NET with ASP.NET 2.0 and SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint as a platform may be coming of age.

I am in a session covering the upcoming features in SQL Server 2008 or “Katmai” (I think I spelled the codename right). They talked about ADO.NET entities which is interesting to hear them plugged into that effort – that feature got pushed out from release with Orcas to lag Orcas by a few months to align the strategy there – I wonder if aligning with the SQL team was part of that? Now the presenter is talking about storing “beyond relational” data in SQL Server.

I closed up the sessions for the day by going to Scott Guthrie’s Silverlight session – I had seen most of the demos in a recent webcast, but it was still really cool. When you see the ease of creating an RIA (Rich Internet Application – perhaps RIE would be better – Rich Internet Experience) that connects to web services and leverages the investment that many shops already have in .NET it is easy to see how really remarkable websites can be in the future. I ran into a friend that works for JetBlue who was in the same Silverlight session and I told him that I would fly JetBlue if they made it as easy to fly and book routes as it was in the Silverlight Demo that Scott showed (you drag and drop your flight plan and your dates). One of the other demos that was just incredible was the Video Editing one. You could cut videos, splice them together, break them down into frame components, and all in the browser. They also had one that mimicked the recent Microsoft Surface Computing experience to a degree (with a mouse of course).

The evening was the reception in the Exhibitor Hall the food was good. I talked with Infragistics, Dundas, DevExpress, and BusinessObjects – there may have been a couple of others in their as well. Dundas really stuck out to me in the charting space – they have a rich set of functionality for Reporting Services, ASP.NET, WinForms, and now for SharePoint – very, very nice and definitely worth a look. Infragistics also was pretty impressive as they talked about the work that they are doing in the Silverlight control space. I was glad to hear that as MS will likely ship some controls, but is no doubt counting on partners to fill in the control gap there. They already had charting components up there (I thought they were real demo components anyway) which is key as we have been bouncing Flash around as a platform and part of the reason is the charting interactivity that you get.

All in all a good day – it got better as the day went on – time to take some of the capability I saw for a spin and get some sleep as well!


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