SEATTLE — Nov. 19, 2008 — Protecting the privacy and security of patient information — including auditing who has accessed patient records — is a top priority for healthcare providers. One such enterprise, Boston’s CareGroup Healthcare System, shared its experiences with this data-management challenge at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Community Summit, underway this week in Seattle.
Ted Kummert, corporate vice president, Data and Storage Platform Division
Until recently, CareGroup struggled to keep up with the challenge of auditing its 3.5 million patient records, which constitute about 2 terabytes of information. When the company heard about the new auditing, security and management features of SQL Server 2008, it decided to begin upgrading its nearly 400 databases — even before the product was formally released.
“The enhanced auditing tools in SQL Server 2008 enable us to track all changes to tables and other data elements in our system,” Ayad Shammout, lead technical database administrator at CareGroup, told the PASS Summit attendees. “With electronic medical records, we can’t be down for even a second; physicians and nurses need the ability to immediately access the database at all times. SQL Server has proven itself able to meet these demands.”
Like so many enterprises, CareGroup has discovered that upgrading to SQL Server 2008 is a smart IT investment… In fact, since the debut of SQL Server 2008 in August, customers have downloaded more than 1 million copies of the software platform. Thousands of customers and partners across a wide range of industries are already using it to build mission-critical applications.
Cost Savings Are Just the Beginning
A September 2008 study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Forrester Consulting, “Total Economic Impact of SQL Server 2008 Upgrade,” discusses the potential financial benefits that enterprises might realize by upgrading to SQL Server 2008. The study concludes: “SQL Server 2008 offers many features that improve the performance, administration, integration, security and availability of SQL Server databases. In addition, it increases the productivity of Database Administrators and developers.”
Looking at one customer’s experience, Forrester finds that the benefits of upgrading to SQL Server 2008 included eliminating the need for additional storage, third-party software and additional IT employees. Users also benefitted from better user productivity, higher database performance and, and enhanced data security. Based on data supplied by the customer, Forrester determines that upgrading has delivered a risk-adjusted return on investment of 162 percent.
Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft, reinforced this point during his address to the PASS community on Wednesday. Kummert noted that no other vendor offers a fully integrated data platform with rich functionality out of the box for such a low price. “In a difficult economic climate like ours, software purchasing decisions can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to get better results, optimize existing infrastructure, maximize efficiency, increase productivity and cut costs,” Kummert said. “The enhancements and new capabilities engineered into SQL Server 2008 enable applications to run better and reduce the amount of time IT pros need to spend managing them.”
SQL Server 2008 is an integrated data management and business intelligence (BI) platform. This means that data is integrated, cleansed, aggregated, stored, made accessible to a suite of enterprise reporting and analytics tools, and delivered through Microsoft Office.
“We think of it as SQL Server 2008 turbocharging your data, converting it from a commodity into a powerful driver of business decisions,” said Kummert.
Kummert explained that Microsoft’s goal is to deliver a data platform that meets the needs of database administrators, developers and end users today and tomorrow. He said the company’s continuing development work is focused on four main areas: enterprise data platform, platform for all data, dynamic development and pervasive insight. In an overview of Microsoft’s current and future data platform investments, Kummert highlighted new features and releases customers can expect over the next 24 to 36 months.
Enterprise data platform. Microsoft completed the acquisition of DATAllegro in September, and is currently working on a project, code-named “Madison,” that will enable massively parallel processing for SQL Server. “Madison” will allow customers to scale out their data warehouses to hundreds of terabytes. Microsoft will begin previewing “Madison” within the next 12 months, with full product availability scheduled for the first half of 2010. In addition, in conjunction with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2, the company is working with hardware vendors HP, IBM Corp., and Intel Corp. to support up to 256 logical processors. The goal is to take advantage of hardware innovations for greater scalability. At PASS, Microsoft previewed new investments in application and multi-server management. The ability to centrally manage applications and instances, and have greater insights into resource utilization, will enable organizations to optimize hardware investments and manage more efficiently at scale. This collection of investments will give customers the ability to consolidate more data sources while maintaining similar or improved performance and scalability, and is targeted for release as part of SQL Server, code-named “Kilimanjaro,” in the first half of 2010.
Platform for all data. As application data begins to include not only “words and numbers” but also “sights and sounds,” Microsoft is evolving its data platform to go beyond relational data, beyond online analytical processing (OLAP), to truly support all of the data types of the future, including spatial (geographic) data.
Dynamic development. In October, Microsoft announced the second community technology preview (CTP) of a distributed, in-memory application caching platform, code-named “Velocity,” that increases the performance of applications by moving the data out of the data store and closer to the application in the middle tier. “Velocity” will be shipped for free as an out-of-band release in the summer of 2009. Microsoft also announced last month the availability of the first CTP of Sync Framework v2. This version of the Sync Framework makes it even easier to add synchronization capabilities to custom stores or applications, improves support for filtering and other complex synchronization problems, and includes built-in support for synchronizing applications with Live Mesh, Microsoft SQL Data Services and all devices that plug into Windows 7.
Pervasive insight. Microsoft is creating tools and an integrated infrastructure that enable more employees to make better, faster decisions by unlocking the power of BI. As revealed during the October Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference, the new “Kilimanjaro” release will be a big step toward that goal. “Kilimanjaro” will deliver BI-focused capabilities designed to empower the end user, such as a set of self-service analysis and reporting tools code-named “Gemini.” “Gemini” will allow users to access, aggregate, slice, dice and report on data — without having to learn specialized BI skills. By reducing users’ dependence on IT, “Gemini” will enable more employees to create and share user-generated BI content and will give IT professionals more time to provide strategic value to their businesses. “Kilimanjaro” and “Gemini” will be available in the first half of 2010, with previews starting within the next year.
A Scale-Out Distributed Database in the Cloud
As the database continues to evolve, Microsoft is extending its data platform vision to the cloud to make users’ data available and accessible, any place, and any time. One of Microsoft’s newest approaches to data management in the cloud is Microsoft SQL Services, a set of Web-based services that extends the capabilities of SQL Server to the cloud. Part of Microsoft’s recently announced Azure Services Platform, SQL Services includes capabilities that will let users perform relational database queries, reporting, analytics and integration, and synchronize data with mobile users, remote offices and business partners.
The first such service is SQL Data Services (SDS), a relational data service designed for enterprise developers and service providers that need a highly scalable, easily programmable and cost-effective database as a service with robust relational query processing capabilities. SDS is built on SQL Server technologies for security, availability and manageability. Microsoft announced at the PASS Summit that a public CTP of SDS is now available, and that users no longer need an invitation code to access the service; they can simply go to the SQL Data Services MSDN site to get login credentials.
Some customers are already using the beta version of SDS. One of these is NeoGeo, a developer of database systems and other storage solutions based in Germany. One of its products is the neoMediaCenter, a .NET application for storing and managing digital media assets. NeoGeo was looking for the most scalable and cost-effective storage solutions for its customers and decided on cloud-based relational storage using SDS. “We like how easy it is to scale storage capacity up or down depending on the needs of our customers,” said Marc Hoeppner, managing director of NeoGeo. “In addition, we’re able to develop storage solutions 50 percent faster than we could before, and our deployment and operational costs are much lower, a savings we can pass along to our customers.”
Another enterprise making use of SDS is Infosys Technologies Ltd., a consulting and information technology services company with offices around the world. Infosys was developing a service that would let automobile dealers share information on inventories and other resources via the Web, and chose to build it on the SQL Data Services platform. “Going with an Internet-based database made it much easier to deploy our new service and add new auto dealers later, and means zero maintenance for our customers,” said Jitendra Pal Thethi, principal architect, Infosys. “Plus, we can easily replicate the same sort of solution for other vertical industries.”
Microsoft plans to share these customer stories and many more at the PASS Community Summit over the next three days. In addition, 300 SQL Server database development engineers will be on hand to hear attendee stories, answer questions, and provide expert insight into customers’ most challenging data management issues. Said Kummert, “The voices of our customers and partners guide our development strategy. We want to know what issues you’re facing so we can provide the solutions that solve the business problems you’re facing today and those you’ll face tomorrow. PASS is our opportunity to connect with every customer, face to face, to listen and learn so we can develop solutions together as partners.”