Guest blog post by: SQL Server MVP Denise McInerney – Vice President of Marketing for PASS and a Data Engineer at Intuit – began her career as a SQL Server DBA in 1998 and now applies her deep understanding of data to enable analytic solutions to business problems. She is founder of the PASS Women in Technology virtual chapter, a speaker at user group meetings and conferences, and blogs at select*from denisemc.views. You can follow her on Twitter at @denisemc06.

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The iconic Golden Gate Bridge was a great image for promoting last week’s live webcast celebrating the launch of SQL Server 2014. Of course, it represents San Francisco, where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, COO Kevin Turner, and Data Platform Group CVP Quentin Clark took the stage to highlight the new release’s features. But I think it’s also a metaphor for what the new capabilities foretell for SQL Server DBAs.

From the much-anticipated In-Memory OLTP engine (formerly code-named Hekaton) – with its promise of dramatically reducing I/O traffic jams and speeding application performance – to the new high-performance updateable columnstore index and enhanced scalability through improved Windows Server 2012 integration, much of the SQL Server 2014 message is about helping us build better, stronger, faster data-processing bridges.

But with the release’s integration of AlwaysOn Availability Groups with Windows Azure, smart SQL Server backup to a Windows Azure URL, and integration with the new Power BI for Office 365 cloud solution, we’re also talking about bridging our database capabilities – and technical skills – to the cloud and further into the data analytics world.

What does all this mean for us as SQL Server professionals? More than ever, our organizations need us to be an essential part of the team: bridging IT and business, better connecting data and the people who use it to make decisions, and adding value by building strong and flexible solutions custom-fit for our company’s needs.

As we prepare for this changing world of data, here are three areas to focus on:

  • Cloud and hybrid environments: On-premises SQL Server vs. the cloud isn’t the question anymore.  More and more, we’ll have data residing in both worlds. In Hybrid IT environments, we’ll play an important role in application architecture and design. We’ll also need to support on-premises and cloud-based performance tuning and monitoring, implement high availability and disaster recovery solutions, and more. The mission is still effective data management – wherever the data lives.
  • Relational and big data:As we gather and store increasingly more data and different types of data – including structured, unstructured, and streaming – we’ll be looking at another hybrid environment. This one will include SQL Server relational stores integrated with big data solutions such as Hadoop for storing and processing large data sets.
  • Data and business value: The purpose of collecting all this data is to use it to improve our products and services and better understand and serve customers. As data professionals, we need to be the champions of thinking end-to-end about how data can transform business – what Satya Nadella calls creating “a data culture.” It involves bringing business intelligence and analytics to everyone in our organizations, helping them understand the data they have, ask questions of it, and gain insights.

Change brings challenges but also the opportunity to learn and grow our careers. I encourage you to take advantage of the free resources available through PASS Virtual Chapters, your local user group, and PASS SQLSaturday events to learn how SQL Server 2014 and Microsoft’s data platform can help us get the most from our organizations’ data.

As SQL Server professionals, harnessing the power of data to solve business problems is really the heart of our job. We’re still guardians of data – but now we also need to be advocates for what data can do in our businesses.

Let’s go build some bridges.
– Denise