Kilimanjaro, Gemini and Madison - Get the lowdown

December 22, 2008

You probably have already heard some news about the next release of SQL Server code name Kilimanjaro. Microsoft started sharing information about Kilimanjaro with attendees of the BI and PASS conferences. During the first week of December, I had the pleasure to interview Herain Oberoi of Microsoft. He is the group project manager for the SQL Server Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse product. This article will share the questions I asked Mr. Oberoi and what I learned about Kilimanjaro during this interview.

Would you please provide a high level overview of Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro is the next release for SQL Server that will be shipping the first half of 2010. It will contain some new functionality that Microsoft determined couldn’t wait until the next major release of SQL Server. Kilimanjaro is considered only a minor release of SQL Server. This release will mainly contain Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehouse (DW) functionality, but there will also be a few SQL Server management features included.

What are of some of the exciting new enhancements and features that will be introduced in Kilimanjaro?
There will be two key pillars of functionality released with Kilimanjaro. The first pillar is “end user empowerment”. The second pillar is “IT Compliance”.

End user empowerment is allowing people to do more self service analysis and reporting without having to involve Information Technology (IT) staff to accomplish this analysis and reporting. The self service analysis piece of the first pillar is what we are calling project “Gemini”. Project Gemini will provide the user with tools that will have an intuitive user interface, similar to Excel. Gemini allows users to work with very large volumes of information. It will support up to at least 100 million rows if necessary. This is able to happen by exploiting in memory storage.

Project Gemini allows users to model their data and build reports in Excel and then eventually publish them out to something like SharePoint. This allows the end user to build a report that they can share with others. This SharePoint integration with Gemini provides the end users more incentive to share reports, as well has helps IT manage these reports by placing them into a managed SharePoint environment.

Publishing reports into SharePoint via Gemini feeds the second pillar, which is IT compliance. Once reports are in SharePoint, IT can determine which end user reports are the most popular and then determine how best to incorporate these reports into IT solutions, therefore helping with compliance.

There is also Report Builder. Report Builder 2.0 came out with SQL Server 2008, which gave Report Builder an Office look and feel. With Kilimanjaro Microsoft is going to expand on Report Builder. With the next release, they plan to add more templates and wizards to make Report Builder an even easier product to use. These additional features will give end users more tools to build their own reports. These additional features will make them even more self-sufficient in building reports for business needs.

What's new in Kilimanjaro for the DBA?
There will be no engine changes expected with Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro release is mainly targeting BI solutions. That is not to say there will be no DBA related functionality included. With Kilimanjaro Microsoft will be providing the DBA with a multi-server automation tool. This will allow DBAs and developers to identify metadata around how applications should be deployed. For instance, you can tell Visual Studio that one part of the application requires a schema, while another part requires encryption. The metadata information populated by the developer can then be reviewed by the DBA to help communicate deployment requirements.

Another aspect of Kilimanjaro will be multi-server administration. This functionality will give DBAs the tools necessary to discover how many SQL Server instances they have in their environment, and the resources those instances are using. DBAs can then use this information to deploy policy based management principles to better administer their instances.

I’ve heard there is another project going on called “Project Madison”. Is this part of Kilimanjaro or will it be a new tool?
Product Madison comes out of the Microsoft Data Allegro acquisition. It will not be shipped with Kilimanjaro, but instead will be a separate release that will ship in the same timeframe as Kilimanjaro. Project Madison will be taking all the capabilities of SQL Server 2008 and Data Allegro to provide a scaled out implementation for Large Data Warehouses. By scaling out, Project Madison will allow a single query run in parallel against many different SQL Server instances to quickly return a result set.

Is there a specific audience that will benefit the most from Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro functionality will be focused on BI solutions and providing end user empowerment tools. Therefore, Kilimanjaro is targeted to shops that want or have BI solutions. It will be great for organizations that want to provide more self service reporting to their end users. Also the multi-server administration tools will be a benefit to DBAs in the large organizations.

Will Microsoft be providing Community Technical Previews (CTP) every so often for Kilimanjaro just like was done with Katmai (SQL Server 2008)?
Yes CTPs will be provided. The CTP program was very successful for SQL Server 2008 so we plan to continue supporting this deployment model for Kilimanjaro. Right now, we expect the first publicly available CTP to be delivery sometime around the October 2009 timeframe. At this time we can’t predict the exact quarter in 2009 it will come out in. Once CTPs are released, they will be released on a regular schedule.

People are still trying to migrate to SQL Server 2005, and now Microsoft has announced the next release of SQL Server. How do you feel companies will react to Microsoft releasing new versions of SQL Server every 2 to 3 years?
People who bought software assurance expect a predictable timeline for releases. Without this predictable release, they might not be able to take advantage of their software assurance purchase. Because of this Microsoft is committed to releasing a new version of SQL Server every 2 to 3 years to meet the predictable release schedule people expect.

What will be the migration paths available from prior releases of SQL Server to Kilimanjaro?
Since there will be no database engine changes that will be coming out with Kilimanjaro the migration paths that are available today to get to SQL Server 2008 should also be available to get you to Kilimanjaro. Since the new BI functionality is truly new stuff these shouldn’t affect any migration since there isn’t anything to migrate from. As far as the rest of the BI and Analysis Services functionality, Microsoft will adhere to strict design principles to provide backwards capability. Because of our design philosophy, the effort to migrate your current BI solution to Kilimanjaro should be minimized.

What are your recommendations for how people should prepare for Kilimanjaro? Are there specific things people should do to take advantage of Kilimanjaro shortly after it is released?
If they migrate to SQL Server 2008 it would help. Doing this will allow them to get familiar with the different capabilities of SQL Server 2008 that will be further leveraged as part of the Kilimanjaro releases, like Policy Management and multi-server management. You might also want to get to Office 2007. I say this because Project Gemini is leveraging the Excel 2007 functionality. Getting your customer use to Office 2007 Excel version prior to them working with the tools that come out of Project Gemini will reduce the learning curve they will need to exploit the power of Kilimanjaro.

How can customers get more information about Kilimanjaro?
There is a blog that the SQL Server marketing team owns : http://blogs.technet.com/dataplatforminsider/default.aspx. This blog site will be updated with new information about Kilimanjaro as it becomes available. Also through the development phase, more material related to Kilimanjaro will be available on the SQL Server site at http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/default.aspx.

Conclusion

With all the Kilimanjaro information Microsoft provides, they are trying to educate us that the next release of SQL Server will become a people business ready environment that provides end user empowerment. Kilimanjaro is focused on providing BI tools for end users and IT, to allow them to exploit end user empowerment. By providing an Excel like tool with Project Gemini, Microsoft provides end users with a tool that should have a minimal learning curve. Leveraging the use of SharePoint encourages users to share their reports. It also provides IT the knowledge of the popular reports that are providing users the information they need to make good business decisions. For the DBAs, there is multi-server management that will help them to minimize the time it takes to manage large number of SQL Servers. My suggestion is to review what the next release of SQL Server has to offer so you can chart your organizations SQL Server implementation road map.

» See All Articles by Columnist Gregory A. Larsen








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