Last February in Sun Valley, Idaho, no one knew we were attending ProClarity's “last-ever” Understanding conference. Legend has it that Microsoft decided to acquire ProClarity at that conference. I guess the only way to follow the “last-ever” ProClarity conference is with the “first-ever” Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) Conference. So if you “do BI,” whether you're a developer, a BI administrator, manager, or consultant, plan to be in Seattle May 9-11.

Personally, I think it's about time. Not only does Microsoft have truckloads of BI content to cover, but the company needs to clear up a lot of confusion about Microsoft's ever-expanding BI stack. Add up all the folks still new to BI in SQL Server 2005, everyone interested in BI features of the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and those waiting with bated breath for the release of PerformancePoint Server 2007, and you have a lot of people with a lot of questions about exactly what does what and how it all works together.

The conference agenda isn't finalized, but Microsoft ambitiously plans to offer in-depth education sessions and hands-on labs about all components of the Microsoft BI stack, along with best practices from customer experiences and, of course, awards. Just to show that Microsoft is really serious about BI (if having a separate conference wasn't enough), Steve Ballmer will be the keynote speaker on the final day.

I joke about truckloads of questions and truckloads of content, but it is caused by very specialized conferences and publications. In Microsoft-land, BI used to be a SQL Server topic area; you could use Microsoft Excel, Microsoft SharePoint Office Server as a front end, but at the end of the day, if you were talking about BI, you were talking about SQL Server. Of course, this paradigm of “BI is SQL Server” was reinforced further when Microsoft made Reporting Services part of SQL Server--even though it's a Web services-based reporting engine. But now, it has become apparent that SQL Server is just one of many Microsoft BI topic areas.

So the question is: Should we continue to expect coverage of topics such as Excel, SharePoint, Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, ProClarity, and PerformancePoint Server 2007 at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) summit, in SQL Server Magazine, and other similar delivery channels? Or are those topics outside of SQL Server and therefore out of scope for SQL Server-focused conferences and publications?

If you have thoughts about who (besides Microsoft) should be covering the Microsoft BI stack, please drop me a line at douglas@solidq.com. In the meantime, check out all the details about the “first-ever” Microsoft BI Conference.