There's a lot of news coming out of SQL PASS Summit 2016, and the annual gathering only just begun. At the keynote, Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Microsoft's data group, gave a whirlwind tour of a number of key items, ranging from a new version (and new name) for Microsoft's Cognitive Toolkit and Azure Analysis Services to free month-long test drives of Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

There's a lot of noise, obviously, about all the cloud offerings, but one of the things that struck me was how much due on-premise advances were given. The key highlight of Microsoft's Cognitive Toolkit, for example, was not how smart Cortana was, but rather how well their toolkit ran across multiple machines. And Azure Analytics Services, about as cloudy an offering as you could get, seamlessly travels between cloud and on-premise data sources to deliver key stakeholders the information they need no matter where it lives, no matter how they want it.

I think this creates a lot of fascinating new opportunities for SQL professionals to drive new value within their organizations, which is increasingly the key between a flourishing IT career and one that stalls. Data professionals now have an opportunity to share their craft across their organizations, setting best practices and helping architect solutions that can find new opportunities, mitigate risk, and enable new lines of business.

Deciding when and where to store, analyze, and access that data is an increasingly complex challenge, and it takes understanding the nuances of each of the solutions now coming to market, as well as the hard-won experience to argue against plunging headlong into a solution that might sound great to an executive but would play havoc in the real world. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about what comes of SQL PASS this year, and if you have any session highlights or thoughts, leave them in the comments or shoot an email to michael.morisy@penton.com.