Developers don't come to the Dev Connections conference for big announcements about major new products from Microsoft. They come for intense hands on sessions with experts in various Microsoft technologies. Some of the expert speakers are from Microsoft and many are not. Their candor about the products gives the conference its unique appeal.

Even the keynote speakers don't waste much time getting down to the code. In his keynote outlining how SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition GDR (General Distribution Release) RC 1 together give developers a comprehensive platform for building applications that manage data, Britt Johnston, a Microsoft product unit manager in the data programmability tools group, often pulled up the code to walk the audience through the new features and enhancements he covered.

The talk didn't break new ground, rather it drilled into the proposition that the SQL Server 2008/Visual Studio 2008 combo can help developers write deeper, data-driven business applications highlighting what Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition GDR RC brings to the table, including support for all of new SQL Server data types, the intrinsic types as well as the built-in SQL CLR types (geography, geometry, and hierarchyid) and support for the new DML (data manipulation language).For more on building database projects with Team System and SQL Server, see Gert Draper's blog. Drapers is Principal Development Manager for the Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals; he announced the RC of the product at the PDC a couple of weeks ago.

Johnston covered SQL Server 2008's support for business intelligence (BI). For an in-depth look at this coverage see Derek Comingore's article, SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence Enhancements.

Johnston reviewed the new Tablix feature, which combines tables and matrices without additional coding.

Other topics included a look at how SQL Server delivers cloud data storage with SQL Data Services and how to extend SQL Server data to the Web with ADO.NET Data Services (project Astoria).

For background on SQL Server 2008, go to the Microsoft site.

To download Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition GDR (General Distribution Release) RC 1 go here.