Ben Stein’s keynote address wrapped up just a few minutes ago and I am sitting and waiting for my specific session to start, so I wanted to follow up and echo one of the messages Microsoft is really trying to get across to everyone; I think it is best wrapped in Stephen Elop of Microsoft’s statement yesterday: "democratization of information".

There are a lot of my service industry peers in the non-Microsoft side who love to point to faults or inabilities in the Microsoft stack, particularly in the database and business intelligence arena. I am thinking of this point as I posted yesterday on Microsoft’s claim to an ETL world record, and a simple search on reactions came up with this article posted in by a Deloitte manager.

McBurney is pretty scathing in his response to Len’s post; having had experience with Informatica and clients who have implemented Informatica, I want to add my observation and hopefully underscore one of the reasons I am a consultant dealing exclusively with Microsoft products and technologies and why I will remain so: there is a strong desire to make the tools easy to use, but allow for a maturity path even within the same tool that makes possible mastery.

It is democratization of information supported by the ability for anyone to walk in and learn to use the tools (some of you are probably screaming in pain a bit here – let’s set aside the issue of spread marts that get created by this concept and focus on the issue of getting clients, peers and those coming behind us that need to learn these concepts, master them, and keep the engine running after we have architected the solution!).

I have to share a story from one of my clients (to remain unnamed); Informatica was, and still is, the ETL tool of choice for their company. The team I supported had gone through a week of training, had three books and a manual that they could proudly display on their desk and a depleted training budget all to prove the effort. Yet when it came to development, time and time again, they dropped Informatica and would bribe their I/T co-workers into getting SQL 2005 installations here and there, access, logins and then run SSIS packages.

Why? They could use the tool with little to no training, complete their packages and transformations faster and easier. Disparate team members were able to follow and understand the developed packages more readily. Overall, the team was more productive and happier with development in SSIS.

A lot of Informatic proponents will point to the advanced meta-data features, data lineage components, and so on that Power Center will bring to bear in any solution, proposed or actual – and as a Microsoft partner, I am well aware of the features and abilities that SSIS may fall short on when compared on paper.

But it doesn’t keep me from recommending it nor using it. For a first, and most recently, second generation ETL framework, SSIS is absolutely amazing and it will continue to grow and eventually include out of the box the features and functions that some of the more mature ETL frameworks have now.

I want to emphasize out of the box though – it is important to point out that SSIS is an immensely extendable framework, something that is underscored by the number of components that you can find on CodePlex, through independent software vendors, or, like us, through internal developed IP.

We will see a lot from Microsoft in the near future focused on making it easier for the end user to consume your hard work on warehousing and business intelligence projects, but what is more exciting to me is that we will definitely see a lot from individuals, internal Microsoft teams (unofficial releases) and the partner community in best practice, custom extensions and plug ins for SSIS. It is a very active and vibrant community to be a part of, something that I do not see with the same level of passion and innovation on the other side of the fence.