At this recent PASS Community Summit in Seattle I had the opportunity to meet with Tom Casey General Manager of Microsoft Business Intelligence. We discussed a number of topics including the next release of SQL Server, codenamed Kilimanjaro, as well as the new Gemini and Madison projects and future SQL Server Services.

Tom, who presented Wednesday’s keynote, started with Kilimanjaro. In addressing the question about whether Kilimanjaro may be too soon for many organizations Tom said that readers should think of Kilimanjaro as a minor release and that not every SQL Server installation may need what it offers. Tom pointed out that Kilimanjaro is in keeping with Microsoft’s plan to provide a new release every 36 months with an R2 release somewhere in the middle. Kilimanjaro will offer scalability enhancements with support for up to 256 logical processors. The Kilimanjaro release will be focused on self service BI and will be released in conjunction with a project code named Gemini. Gemini is focused on changing and simplifying the end user experience for access BI data. Excel is unquestionably the end user tool of choice for data analysis. Gemini will extend Microsoft Excel with Add-ins enabling BI data access and end-user collaboration. End users can create BI data access workbooks in Excel and then share them with other users via SharePoint. In addition to enhancing end user data analysis and collaboration Gemini will also help IT professionals to end Excel hell where end users create a number of spreadsheets that are vital to the organization but there’s no visibility or manageability. Gemini will track all the data access reports published using the Excel BI add-in enabling IT to better manage these important Excel workbooks.  Tom stated that Microsoft’s plan is to have the first CTP of Kilimanjaro available in 2009.

Tom also discussed Microsoft’s Madison project. Madison is essentially the resurfacing of Microsoft’s earlier acquisition of DATAllegro. Madison will essentially be a Data Warehousing appliance that Microsoft will provide in conjunction with hardware partners like HP and DELL. Using massively parallel processing (MPP) Madison will be able to support multi-terabyte data warehouses using up to 24 node scale-out technology.

Another topic we touched on was SQL Data Services (formerly known as SQL Server Data Services). SQL Data Services (SDS) is Microsoft’s cloud-based database offering.  SQL Data Services offers a subset of the capabilities of SQL Server and it is hosted by Microsoft’s global infrastructure. SDS can provide a database backend for global ISV applications. Developer’s will use the REST protocol for SDS data access. Tom mentioned that a CTP of SQL Services is currently available. You can sign up for the public CTP at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/dataservices/default.aspx