When I Was Born for the 7th Time (Thoughts from TechEd)

Last week I attended TechEd in Orlando, Florida. Here are my thoughts on the event.

This year was TechEd's 15th anniversary. I realized on the way down that I was attending my 10th consecutive TechEd. When I started attending, TechEd was about 2,000 or so people. This year, TechEd had over 13,000 people attending 480 Breakout Sessions, 200 Chalk talks, and 190 Hands-on Labs.

In general, this TechEd was much more low key for Reporting Services than last year. I think this is because many of people decided to attend the MS BI Conference in May instead of TechEd. The second reason is that we didn’t have a new release finished like we did last year. While customers are definitely interested in SQL 2008, they are still in the midst of deploying SQL 2005.

On Monday, Bob Muglia’s keynote included the Dundas acquisition announcement and a demo that included a Dundas Map based SSRS report. You can also view Dundas' Ed Worsfold discussing the acquisition. This was followed by Dave Campbell’s Katmai overview where Jason Carlson showed some advanced charting features. Unfortunately, his demo was marred by some A/V glitches.

On Wednesday, I showed the SQL 2008 Report Designer in Bill Baker’s “Third Annual BI Power Hour” session. My demo was building a game of Mastermind using a stored procedure and a nested Tablix report. Other demos included Data Mining on Outlook calendars, a “Deal or No Deal” game show built in Performance Point, and a mobile BI from Hitachi showing results from a Muppet popularity contest.

On Wednesday, Jason did an Advanced Report authoring session that was about 50/50 Yukon and Katmai. Based on attendee feedback, I adjusted the Yukon / Katmai content to 75/25 for the repeat of the session I did on Friday. I showed a demo of report localization through hidden parameters and a few other cool parameter tricks. I got spontaneous applause during my session for the Dundas announcement. I'll post some of the sample reports over the next couple of weeks.

On Thursday, Chris Baldwin did a session on Report Authoring Futures for Information workers. His session was very well received and people are eager to get their hands on OfficeWriter functionality. Our two chalk talks (Rendering Tips and Tricks and Programmability) also went over very well.

Reaction to the SQL 2008 features, which I showed in my Power Hour demo and the two report authoring sessions, was very positive. People are excited about Tablix and the new designer. When I told people that we didn’t have anything new in CTP3 (which was given out at the show), they weren’t too disappointed but they are looking forward to CTP4.

Much of the time between sessions was spent fielding questions from customers and taking product suggestions in the Technical Learning Center (the booth). Our booth was located in the Business Intelligence section along with AS, IS and PerformancePoint. Again, traffic was steady over but not as heavy as in past years.

The #1 top request that I got from customers was to provide a data extension and designer for SharePoint lists. I couldn’t go more than an hour in the booth without getting this request. Other requests included:

  • Style sheets
  • RDL Object Model
  • Show the values of textboxes in the visibility toggle dropdown
  • Heterogeneous join
  • Use C# code blocks and expressions
  • Horizontal CanGrow
  • Multi-Zone support in SharePoint
  • Be able to specify filenames on export
  • Make toggles work in MHTML
  • Allow user to control the parameter dependency refresh
  • Cross dataset join
  • Fix "Select All" (make it optional)
  • Fields in page header and footer

I want to thank everyone for stopping by the booth and saying hello. It's always good to meet people in person that you have worked with over e-mail for years.