We knew we were in some serious trouble from the time the plane set down in New Orleans. Instantly, the wings grew a lush layer of moss as we taxied to the gate. "Welcome to New Orleans. The current temperature is 140 degrees. That's 284 degrees Fahrenheit." Were you down there for TechEd? What was that weather, anyway? We turned on the local news one morning: "Today's temperature will be a record high. We're expecting highs approaching 100, with 80% humidity. Stay inside, don't exert yourself, and drink plenty of fluids. This is a severe health alert! And when we get back, Chef Ebert will be in the studio, showing us how to cook double pork chops in bacon grease and onions!"
Along with 9,000 other attendees, we survived the sauna of TechEd in New Orleans. We credit this to our nightly ablutions in the chill, sparkling waters of the mighty Mississip'.
Next to the air conditioning, the most popular feature of TechEd was Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who delighted attendees with individual keynotes. There were over 270 exhibitors and 275 breakout sessions, covering practically every technology coming out of Redmond. Among other things, we had the opportunity to work with the latest build of Windows NT 5.0. Sure, at MSJ we could do this every day, but not sweating side by side with our readers and Microsoft engineers.
The list of cool technologies and products covered at TechEd is huge. We got the latest on upcoming development tools, including Visual J++ 6.0, Visual C++ 6.0, Visual Basic 6.0, and the rest of the Visual Studio suite. One product in particular that captured our attention was the upcoming Microsoft SQL Server 7.0.
SQL Server's Query Processor now supports intraquery parallelism for individual query execution. In previous releases the smallest unit of I/O and the default level of locking was the 2KB page; every read and write was based on this storage structure. This has been changed to 8KB, and as a result almost every access method has either been rewritten or eliminated.
TechEd speakers also drilled down on the features and capabilities of SQL's Data Transformation Services (DTS). DTS imports, exports ,and transforms data between SQL Server 7.0 and any OLE DB, ODBC, or text file format.
Visual Basic users learned how to optimize for the SQL Relational Engine and how to take advantage of new SQL features such as array handling and stored procedure creation. Visual J++ users saw the new data objects from WFC put through their paces. These classes utilize ADO 2.0 to provide access to data sources including SQL Server, Jet, and Oracle.
Another interesting session described the English Query authoring process. Starting from an empty model, using the methods and properties of the English Query engine object, all of the entities and relationships necessary to construct a fully functioning natural language interface for searching your database were constructed. This allowed the embedding of the English Query domain into any application or ASP page.
Check out http://www.microsoft.com/sql for more details on SQL Server 7.0. And if you didn't make it to the Big Easy this time, never fear; the highlights are available at http://events.microsoft.com. With over 4,000 people having been waitlisted for this year's TechEd, next year's has been planned for a locale that is bigger and more climate-controlled than New OrleansDallas. Be sure to pack that extra sweater.