Against the backdrop of a a cool autumn rain, the second annual Business Intelligence (BI) Conference got under way this morning in Seattle. Making the long journey from the east side of town, SQL Server executives and marketers unpacked a kit full of goodies for conference attendees. Not just the backpack and the breakfast, but announcements about two interim SQL Server releases of particular interest to business decision -makers and BI professionals.

In 2010 the company plans to release Kilimanjaro, a BI-focused post-SQL Server 2008 product. This is not the next full-blown version of SQL Server, rather it's a version designed to build excitement for BI. Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division wondered aloud before the more than 2500 conference attendees at today's keynote address, why there was such a delta between actual usage of BI (maybe 10 or 20 percent) versus the number of people who could really benefit from using BI (which he put at 90 percent). The way to stand up BI in organizations, he said, is to enable self-service analysis capabilities.

This, in a nutshell, is what is planned in Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro will incorporate the self service analysis capabilities of Project Gemini, announced earlier this year, with self-service reporting. "Microsoft's goal is to transform the way companies think of BI through familiar and intuitive business-friendly tools that help them unlock the power of BI across their organizations," Elop said. "If you know how to use Word and Excel, then you'll be able to use our BI." Look for the community technology preview (CTP) of Kilimanjaro within the next 12 months.

The availability of the "Madison" solution in the first half of 2010 was also announced at the keynotes this morning. Madison, Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Data and Platform Storage Division, pointed out isn't a product release, it's a solution, still under development, designed to deliver "massively increased scalability capable of supporting the very largest data warehousing deployments." Madison was demoed at the keynote and looked impressive, rapidly producing reports with information culled from 24 SQL Server databases. The solution will integrate technology from DATAllegro, a database warehouse vendor recently acquired by Microsoft. Microsoft will team with server and storage hardware providers including Bull, Dell, EMC, HP, and Unisys to build an "appliance-like" solution consisting of an appliance and support. Look for a CTP of Madison within 12 months.