Data Warehouse and Information Asset Experts

MicroStrategy World 2015

By on January 19, 2015 in Conference Highlights with 0 Comments

As a MicroStrategy partner company, DataFusion Technologies attends and blogs the annual MicroStrategy World conference.  Below is the event summary as we saw it. We try to be fair and balanced. As with all things, different perspectives exist.

If you want to watch any of the conference keynotes for yourself, you can find them all at the MicroStrategy World 2015 site.

 Monday – Welcome Reception

Guests arrived throughout the day and the registration line seemed to be busy from about 3pm onward.  There was the typical excitement in the air as old friends and co-workers ran into one another by chance.  At  6:30pm the Welcome Reception officially kicked off with a variety of beer and wine available.  A few folks sat out on the outdoor patio, but the weather was cold and it was raining in the desert!

MSTR World 2015 Welcome Reception

The exhibit hall was filled with people excited to be at another great event!

That moved most people inside to the exhibit hall area.  This years exhibit hall is more spacious than in past years, in part due to what seems like less vendor booths.  That’s a qualitative, not quantitative measurement.  We don’t have any hard numbers – it was just a feeling.  But in our opinion it actually worked out nicely.  The room was filled with people and yet there was plenty of room to move from one side of the room to the other without problem.  That hasn’t always been the case at past events.  One whole side of the room was set up with tables and chairs so there was opportunity to sit and chat with friends as well.  It was a nice touch and people took advantage of it.  As is typical, the event went well past it’s scheduled 8:30pm end, and when things finally shut down many people moved straight to the Wynn’s bars to continue catching up.

 Tuesday – General Session 1

Mark Gambill opened the Tuesday morning General Session and it was immediately clear that the focus of this year’s conference was going to be the Usher security product. Mark quickly yielded the stage to Michael Saylor, who spoke about 3 products – MicroStrategy 9s, Usher and Secure Cloud. In reality, it was about 1 product – Usher. MicroStrategy 9s (aka 9.5) is generally available today and is essentially the core BI product with built in Usher integration. It will be included for free as part of maintenance agreements. The Usher portion of Saylor’s talk focused on 2014’s data security breaches and the fact that in a mobile world, ‘security isn’t just a better idea, it’s an essential one’. He talked about the enhancements to Usher and their work with companies like Honeywell that make Usher a tool for far more than just data security. As typically happens, Mike was running long and so the Secure Cloud portion was quick, but basically touted the virtues of Secure Cloud, which is the 9s core product (now with Usher) in Amazon’s highly elastic services environment. Hugh Owen and Guy Levy followed with more on Usher and demonstrations of how easy it would be to upgrade a 9.4 environment to a 9s environment.

To be honest, the reception from the crowd to all the Usher content was lukewarm at best. Whether because attendees were hoping to see more core product/MicroStrategy 10 features or just a lack of understanding of what Usher integration will do for their companies, attendees just didn’t seem that enthused. Most time applause during the keynote were very tough to come by. When CTO Timothy Lang finally gave a little MicroStrategy 10 teaser, the room seemed to engage a little bit more. People using the #mstrworld hashtag on Twitter let their feelings be known about the situation:

The general session ended with John Edgar of the US Postal service speaking about the global delivery ecosystem that USPS deals with and how data is key to the USPS ability to reduce costs and work toward profitability. He presented one telling slide that showed the # employees versus mail volumes over the past 50 years or so. Since 2001 when their data driven changes began, the USPS now has 200,000 fewer employees while making almost historically high number of deliveries. These gains in efficiency have saved USPS 16 Billion dollars.

Tuesday – Tracks, Lunch, Exhibit Hall

Midday lunch was sit where you please – no industry or region based tables to help attendees find common interests. While that disappointed some, in reality everyone was talking about the morning session anyway. Feedback on the track sessions throughout the day was mixed. A few standouts and a few clunkers. The evening mixer in the exhibit hall was less crowded than the prior night as many attendees attended offsite dinners. It became obvious with the smaller crowd that less exhibitors were participating. Notable exceptions from prior years included Delloite and AT&T. We’ll see if today’s feedback on the over emphasis of Usher results in any changes with tomorrows keynotes.

 Wednesday – General Session 2

The question of whether Usher would be a part of the Wednesday session was immediately answered when Guy Levy began the day by demonstrating Usher. The crowd was palpably annoyed but remained courteous. Frankly, it was a very strange General Session throughout, as at seemed like there was so little to talk about that the morning was filled with speaker handoffs. At times it seemed like a tag team wrestling match there were so many swap outs during the 2 hours.

Following the Usher presentation, Harpreet Geekee from Cisco spoke on Connecting the Unconnected. The talk discussed the common themes in BI today – big data, the internet of things and tying it all together. It was well received.

Paul Zolfaghari then took the stage to introduce MicroStrategy and the Cloud. This was really an extended handoff to Brian Matsubara from Amazon Web Services to talk about the partnership with MicroStrategy and how Amazon leads in the virtualized server space. Brian provided interesting facts like ‘AWS has 5 times the customer machines as the top 14 other cloud vendors combined’. But in the end, this was clearly time spent trying to sell MicroStrategy in the cloud, and even included a free 30 day offer. For the vast majority of attendees yearning for information on the core BI product at this point, it was another topic they simply had to tolerate.

Hugh Owen took the stage the introduce Data Discovery and Visualization. This would have been great, but he deferred most of the content to Thursday’s Futures Presentation. He handed off to Jill Young of NHS Scotland. Jill was friendly, well spoken and prepared. But the vast majority of her talk centered on the hospital quest for increased quality. She barely mentioned information technology or business intelligence at all.

Near the end of her talk she stated that they had purchased an off the shelf dashboard product that worked for 2 years before they outgrew its capabilities. They chose MicroStrategy as the replacement and she presented a slide showing their first few dashboards, which she said was impressive since they had only been working with MicroStrategy since Christmas. We, along with many attendees, wondered if we had heard correctly (we did – 13:10 here). The hospital had only begun working with MicroStrategy tools weeks earlier…no wonder the content was light on MicroStrategy. Clearly their warehouse was built earlier with the quality concepts she had discussed.

Emily Shorter then took the stage to talk about MSTR Mobile. Her content was light and her presentation a bit erratic. Emily handed off to Sal Paolozza from IMS Health who spoke about their dashboard efforts using MicroStrategy mobile. Sal gave a solid, but short presentation.

VJ Anand took the stage to discuss pricing and packaging, just in case anyone had missed the big announcements a few months back when the changes took effect. For the most part this was 20 minutes of filler.

Lost track of all the speakers yet? You aren’t alone. We’re not done yet – two more to go. VJ introduced Cisco Skanson from Target who showed off some of their MicroStrategy BI solutions. Then Val Sribar from Gartner gave a well recieved talk about Moments of Truth. It was great for those just getting into BI, while reminding the seasoned of the little things that can make a good solution great. He spoke about the “data dabbler” on the business side, and the ways to handle their short term analysis needs. He suggested bi-modal capability – the data warehouse team as the tractor trailor and a racecar like team that can stand up to the day to day demands of the data dabbler.

During the session, one customer turned and asked aloud, “They really miss the polish of Sanju (Bansal) and Jeff (Bedell), don’t they?” Yes. Yes they do.

Wednesday – Tracks, Lunch, Exhibit Hall

Similar to Tuesday, the track sessions were hit or miss, but the customer presentations and analytics features focused seemed to be the best attended. We checked in on the Usher tracks several times and found single digit attendees in the room. We wonder if these would have been better attended if not for the hard sell earlier in the conference.

Regional receptions were held in the Encore hotel Wednesday evening, and gave the attendees a short opportunity to gather, meet and share stories and a few drinks. A few vendors invited attendees out to various parties and like the track sessions, some hit and some missed. One well advertised after-party turned out to be nothing more than a pay-your-own way gathering at a bar. Another much smaller party was still being talked about Thursday morning for its success.

 Thursday – Futures Presentation

This years Futures did not require an NDA, and the session was live-streamed as well. Bala Chandran demonstrated the new “data wrangling” features in the Desktop (VI) tool, which also runs on Apple machines. The big hit with the crowd was the ability to return to where you were in an analysis if your web session accidentally timed out.

Jose Nocedal presented improvements in Mobile, where the biggest news was object prompt support in v10 and the mention of new visualizations.

Scott Capiello presented features of the core product. PRIME is now built in and allows in memory partitioning across processing cores.  Cube processing speeds were shown to be about 12 times faster in preliminary testing.

V10 speed claims

Preliminary testing shows a twelve-fold improvement in cube processing.

Operations manager has built in dashboards including a heat map for showing which report caches are providing the most value. Enterprise Manager will have rearchitected data loads and better indexing to address performance. For the most part, each of these presentations was a re-hash of last year’s Futures content.

The final Futures presentation was Guy Levy talking about Usher in version 10. When Guy and the topic was introduced, literally half of the room got up and walked out (likely the customer half – there were many MSTR employees and partners at the conference). This took several minutes and was quite noisy with such a large crowd. It was certainly a rude display by the attendees, but it underscored the fact that the customer crowd had simply not come for a security product and couldn’t or wouldn’t take any more.

 Final Thoughts

We’d love to say this was the biggest and best MicroStrategy World ever. But we can’t say anything close to that – we’ve been to many MSTR World conferences over the past 15 years, and this was by far the poorest execution and most disappointing. Instead of amping the user base with excitement, many people left disappointed with everything from the keynotes and track quality, to the number of exhibitors, to the Usher hard sell. That is not the outcome you are looking for from such an event. MicroStrategy has a great opportunity over the next year to finish version 10, learn from the mistakes of the 2015 event, and put on a highly polished, content-rich conference around the core product for next year. If they do, this year will become a distant memory.


About the Author

About the Author: John Frank is the Pricipal Consultant and Founder of DataFusion Technologies. John holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. .


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