Did you join the Mile High on BI club in Denver two weeks ago? Don't worry, this editorial should sail right through any adult content filters your email platform might have in place. I'm not talking about "that" kind of club. I'm talking about the fun BI buttons that PASS handed out in Denver, the mile-high city. Alas, I wasn't able to snag one of these eventual collector items. But the event was chock-full of high-quality SQL Server content with more than 130 sessions delivered by top speakers from Microsoft and the SQL Server community.

Here are some highlights and key announcements from PASS. PASS's new "partnership" with the SQL Server Development Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) was a big addition to the show. I mentioned this partnership a few weeks ago, and have discussed SQLCAT numerous times over the years. SQLCAT is an elite group within Microsoft that works on the "biggest of the big and hardest of the hard" SQL Server problems. I'll be sharing a few tidbits from meetings I had with SQLCAT during the show in an upcoming commentary, but for now I just wanted to reiterate that the SQLCAT track was excellent, and I hope PASS is able to entice the team back next year. Although I wasn't able to join the Mile High on BI club, I did snag one of the nifty SQLCAT lavender teddy bears. Oddly enough, my 6-year-old daughter wasn't as impressed by a cute Microsoft bear as I had anticipated. However, I'm man enough to be proud of my purple, lavender-scented bear. Perhaps SQLCAT can do a fierce-looking saber-toothed tiger for next year.

Another PASS highlight was that Ted Kummert gave the keynote. Ted is the new "Grand Poobah" of SQL Server. I think Ted's actual title is Microsoft corporate vice president of the data storage and platform division. Either way, he's the top SQL Server executive. There weren't too many "big" announcements during PASS; however, Ted did go on record saying that there won't be a price increase for SQL Server 2008. Ted didn't say, "read my lips," but hopefully the "no price increase" will stick.

Ted also announced a new joint BI reference platform from Microsoft and Dell. You can find out more about this offering at http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/sitelets/solutions/software/db/microsoft_sql_2005?c=us&cs=555&l=en&link_number=5551&s=biz&~section=004. This offering provides a simple and effective way to acquire Dell hardware with Microsoft BI software preinstalled and configured. There's nothing brand-new or earth shattering about this announcement. Well, sort of. You get a box and it has all the tools in it. But there's no genie in the bottle who is going to design your extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) and cubes. I'm thinking that "a Box of BI" might be a fitting moniker. The value proposition is that Dell and Microsoft have pretested certain combinations of hardware to make it supposedly easy for customers to know what type of server, including I/O subsystems, they need for a particular type of BI/data warehousing workload. I suspect mature enterprise customers won't need, or even want, this handholding. However, it could make it easy for BI novices to get started.