The 2007 PASS Community Summit was held this week in Denver, so a number of SQL Magazine and Windows IT Pro Magazine editors attended the show. While attendance at PASS has waxed and waned as of late, this year's event was well-populated with sessions, exhibitors and attendees. Roughly 2500 people made the trek to Denver this year, and more than three dozen vendors exhibited at the event. With the upcoming release of SQL Server 2008 just months away, Microsoft had a large presence at the show, both to promote the launch of their new product and to discuss recent market share gains by SQL Server 2005.

The Mystery of the Giant Blue Bear
The PASS Summit was held at the Denver Convention center, which is situated near the heart of Denver. As we approached the center, a few of us noticed a towering, 40'-tall blue bear that seemed poised to crash through the lobby. Perhaps IBM was embracing their "Big Blue" nickname and unveiling a new product? Or perhaps the gargantuan grizzly had an urgent tech support question regarding his SQL Server 2005 install and came to get some answers?

After I overhead a few people at the conference discussing the statue, I decided to get some answers. I asked Convention Concierge Jeanne W. Wilde for help, who explained that all new capital improvement projects in Denver costing more than $1 million are required to allocate 1% of the project cost toward the creation of public artwork. The structure was designed by artist Lawrence Argent and is entitled "I See What You Mean", explained Wilde. The phrase refers to the curious bear gazing into the convention center, then having an "A-Ha!" moment (if bears have such things) when he realizes what all the tiny scurrying humans are up to. Or maybe he's just looking for some honey. Whatever the reason for his existence, find out more about this giant PASS attendee by visiting the City of Denver art project site. You can also check out this time-lapse QuickTime video showing the big blue guy getting built.

Quest Software: Refocusing on SQL Server
After solving the bear mystery, our next stop was a meeting with Quest Software. According to Vice President and General Manager Billy Bosworth, Quest had begun to move much more aggressively into the SQL Server space than they have in the past, with an increasing focus on improving existing products and developing new ones with SQL Server in mind. "Some of our existing enterprise products have been designed with heterogeneity as the main objective," explained Bosworth. "While working across multiple DBMS platforms becomes more important the higher you go in an organization, we'd like to start focusing on our SQL Server business a bit more." Bosworth also explained that they're seeing SQL Server make inroads into very large enterprises and hosting more mission critical applications. With all of these developments, Bosworth sees a renewed focus on SQL Server as a good way to better serve their current and future customers. "Heterogeneity is important, but in our SQL business having a best of breed product just for SQL Server is more important than having an application working across multiple DBMS platforms."

Idera Software: The Color Orange and SQL Diaganostic Manager 5.0
My next appointment was with Idera Software, which would have easily won an award for the most attention-grabbing booth attire: every Idera employee was clad in a retina-searing flourescent orange vest, a clothing choice that would have likely made their booth visible from the space shuttle. I sat down with Idera President Rick Pleczko, who discussed the launch of their SQL diagnostic manager 5.0 product and explained Idera's "rule of threes" development concept.

According to Idera, SQL diagnostic manager 5.0 introduces a number of new features of interest to DBAs. A new management console allows users to keep tabs on hundreds of definable performance metrics, ranging from high CPU usage monitoring to keeping tabs on poorly-performing scipts and code. DBAs can also customize the software to alert them when certain conditions (perhaps related to SLA requirements) are met. Custom reports and alerts can also be developed, which allows messages to be sent to stakeholders whenever predefined conditions are met.

I found the interface to be well-organized and intuitive, a design decision that Pleckzo attributes to their development philosophy. "We worked to ensure that what the software does can be clearly communicated in 30 seconds or less," says Pleckzo. "DBAs can also install and configure the software in less than 30 minutes." Pricing for SQL diagnostic manager 5.0 starts at $1595.00 per SQL Server instance, and users can download a free 14-day evaluation version of the software at www.idera.com.

I'll post more about PASS shortly, including recaps of our meetings with Dell, Microsoft, AMD, and DBA 24 Hours. We'll also have a recap of what a panel of industry experts had to say about SQL Server and virtualization.