Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)


Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., DF/NPA, CNP, MVP

Ilya Bukshteyn: Director of Communications, SQL Server, Microsoft Corp.

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, has an exclusive interview with Ilya Bukshteyn from Microsoft Corporation.

As the Director of Communications for SQL Server, Ilya Bukshteyn manages a team responsible for advertising, customer referencing, messaging, PR, and Web presence for the SQL Server products and technologies.

Ilya has been with Microsoft since 1994, originally joining Microsoft Canada as a Senior Consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services, and later moving to Microsoft’s corporate campus in Redmond as a Lead Program Manager within the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) group. In 2000, Ilya was a Group Program Manager with the .NET Developer Solutions Group at Microsoft Corp., managing a team responsible for delivering technical expertise and architectural guidance to Microsoft’s corporate customers. Ilya most recently worked as the Director of Product Management for Windows Server, focused on understanding the server infrastructure requirements of Microsoft’s IT customers.

Ilya is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, and Microsoft Certified Trainer.


Q: Ilya, you have a long remarkable proven history of successes and we are fortunate to have you do this interview. Thank you for taking the time out of your tight schedule.

A: Stephen, always a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with you.

Q: What significant corporation directions is Microsoft taking and what is the long-term strategic impact of this to businesses and IT professionals?

If you look at Microsoft’s history we have always focused on people. For the first few generations of computers and software we focused on making individuals more productive. For example, we helped people write letters more easily, perform quicker data analysis and create better presentations, faster. In the last 10 years, we’ve extended that focus from empowering the individual at their desktop to helping individuals work together within a connected organization, collaboratively driving business success.

For the past five years, we’ve been talking about the notion of connected software – pulling applications together into composite applications through Web services. Typically, this is easier said than done. Connecting disparate systems together is still very challenging. Extracting business insight from the connected systems is more difficult and yet critical for enhanced decision making. You can do it with what is currently available, however, we are committed to making  it easier for you.

Today, as part of helping individuals drive business success, we are working on how to enable them to make better decisions more quickly. Companies thrive or die based on the many daily decisions made across their organization.

These aren’t the big decisions that the CEO is making (which company to buy), but the decisions by which the company runs on every day. A recent survey in Business Week cited that 77% of IT managers believed employees had made poor decisions based on not having the right information. So while it might sound like common sense, truly enabling everyone across a company to make better decisions faster is not that easy. The better job we can do to help connect people to the information and processes they need to make those daily decisions, the more we can help organizations thrive.

Q: Rather than from a feature standpoint, but in terms of meaningful solutions to businesses and roadmaps for success, tell us more about the following new product releases:
SQL Server 2005
Visual Studio 2005
BizTalk Server 2006

As I mentioned, Microsoft has made significant investments to make it easier for our customers to connect disparate systems. BizTalk Server 2006, SQL Server 2005, and Visual Studio 2005 are key products delivering on the promise of simplifying how you build, deploy and manage connected systems for faster results. We’ve built these products so that they can integrate systems easily, capture information and process consistently, and provide a consistent, familiar user experience. We did this by adding a host of application adapters to BizTalk Server 2006, by adding deep, easy to use business analytics to SQL Server, and by enabling a mere-mortal developer to do the work.

From a technical standpoint, we focused on deep integration of these products into each other and into other Microsoft products such as Office and Windows Server 2003. What’s the business value of this technical achievement? Consistency— a consistent, familiar experience driving greater productivity. Developers need to see the different worlds in a similar way. Administrators need to learn one way to deploy and update applications. And users need the familiar UI of Windows and Office.

If you really believe that it’s the individuals who gain the insight, make the decisions, and take the actions, anything you can do to reduce the overhead of gaining access to the information is critical.

Consistency isn’t limited to a familiar user experience across your software solution. It is also important for your software to be built on a consistent, common infrastructure that is designed to work well together. No other vendor is working as hard as Microsoft at integration and consistency – most leave the “last-mile” work up to highly trained consultants and experts. The latter approach just doesn’t scale – there aren’t enough people in the world who understand how businesses work and how the technology works to take real business insight into the hands of every company. These three products – BizTalk Server 2006, SQL Server 2005, and Visual Studio 2005 – take a huge step in that direction.

Q: Can you provide case studies illustrating the real benefits of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006?

Certainly; below are just three examples of customers who are using these products in some of the world’s most demanding mission critical application scenarios:

  • Barclays Capital. Barclays PLC is a top global bank with 78K employees and 2850 branches in 60 countries, and Barclays Capital is the investment Division of Barclays Bank PLC, employing over 8300 staff in 22 locations around the world. Their mission critical fixed income core trading application (government bonds - handling all trades from simple to complex derivatives) needed to be rearchitected for higher performance and scale and chose to upgrade from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005 to enable this, and they required high transactional throughput over 200 inserted trades per sec and over 6000 retrieved trades per second and low latency – under 100ms per insert and under 15 ms per retrieval with 100% availability. Barclays chose to adopt SQL Server 2005 in order to achieve these performance gains and found a reduction in code as well.

  • Mediterranean Shipping Company. As the second largest container ship line in the world, Mediterranean Shipping Company is highly reliant on its database that tracks more than 15 billion transactions a year. Enjoying annual growth of 30 percent and an ever increasing level of data requests from its worldwide customers, MSC needed an enterprise solution that would scale with its growth and simplify database administration. The company upgraded its database to Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005 running on the Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003 Enterprise Edition operating system. MSC has found that the move from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005 has increased its agility to swiftly respond to customer needs, simplified database administration, provided faster query responses, and, in combination with Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005, given it an even better development platform.

  • Xerox. Xerox Office Services helps customers around the world manage the office equipment, software, supplies, and services that it takes to successfully compete in today’s global marketplace. One of the key services Xerox provides its customers is management of large numbers of printers, copiers, and faxes. By optimizing such “print fleets” through proprietary software, Xerox Office Services reduces the total cost of printing for its customers. To make it even easier and more cost effective for customers, Xerox developed a worldwide, centrally hosted, Web-based solution. Early adoption of Microsoft® Visual Studio® 2005 made development faster and easier, and reduced the complexity of the code base. In addition, Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 (64-bit) Beta contributes to the scalability and high performance of the back-end datacenter, which helps to deliver new levels of customer satisfaction.

Q: Which businesses are the best candidates for these new releases and for what reasons?

Organizations of all sizes who need to build and deliver connected systems, faster, will find a lot of value in these new product releases. Through their tight integration with each other, SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006, and Visual Studio 2005 will enable organizations to be more productive and deliver faster results.

Specifically, Visual Studio 2005 offers productive software lifecycle tools, visual designers, innovative programming languages, and a broad product line that enables development organizations to select tools best tailored for their skills, tasks, and circumstances. The Visual Studio 2005 Team System expands the Visual Studio product line to include tools that assist teams communicate and collaborate more efficiently, while the core Visual Studio product continues its industry leadership in delivering highly productive tools for individual developers.

Customers consistently find that Visual Studio and its deep integration with Windows Server, BizTalk Server, and SQL Server enables them to deliver their solutions more quickly and cost-effectively than competing solutions. For example:

  • Citigroup. This financial company is number 8 in the Fortune 100, with 200 million customers in more than 100 countries and chose the Microsoft application platform for its Syndicated Hub Certificate management system, which routes and mediates digitally-certificated messages between customers and Certification Authorities. This is a new business opportunity for Citigroup, which plans to leverage its experience on secure transactions and relationships to create new revenue opportunities and, in fact, Pfizer is its first major customer, using the service to comply with clinical trial regulations.

  • HMV. HMV is the largest music retailer in the UK, with more than 200 stores and a successful online company store – HMV was keen to take advantage of the growth in digital downloading as a music and entertainment channel and looked for a partner to build a digital offering on highly reliable, scalable, and easy-to-use software. After reviewing different options, HMV chose to work with Microsoft to build the infrastructure for its new service, HMV Digital. Developed in record time using the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 development tools, HMV Digital relies on Microsoft SQL Server 2005 for continuous availability to customers. Thanks to the Microsoft technology, HMV Digital users have more choice in compatible music players, subscription options, and music, than users of other digital download services. HMV’s proven understanding and experience in the music industry, combined with Microsoft technologies, has given it the potential to lead the digital market.

  • Siemens. Siemens, a large global manufacturer (number 21 on the Global 100) has some 430,000 employees worldwide and US$91B in revenue and it needed a new EAI application that would enable provisioning of IT services and management of internal workflow such as e-mail setup and network access via a portal interface. To do this, Siemens chose BizTalk Server 2006, SQL Server 2005, and Visual Studio 2005 so it could quickly deliver this new solution that integrated so many back-end systems. This portal now serves 35,000 internal customers generate 30k requests per month from a single portal interface and has reduced calls to Help Desk by 20%.

In addition to rapidly delivering connected systems, customers and partners have also told us that they need to extract business insight more broadly and deeply across their organizations. SQL Server 2005 offers a comprehensive business intelligence platform with integrated support for end-user reporting and data analysis, enabling organizations to make more effective business decisions. Coupled with the Business Activity Monitoring functionality in BizTalk Server 2006, organizations can take advantage of a single business intelligence platform that provides greater insight into business information, as well as proactive, real-time alerts and notification of important changes to the business.  For example:

  • Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest bookseller, operates 821 stores in 50 states. To help improve its business operations and respond better to customer needs, the company needed new business intelligence tools that could access information faster and provide more detailed reports to managers. The company, which runs Oracle databases for operational systems, decided to deploy a new data warehouse using Microsoft SQL Server running on an HP Integrity Superdome server. Today, daily transactional information is loaded faster, reports are available to managers quickly for more insightful business decisions, and the company has a long-term solution that is improving profitability and enhancing relationships with Barnes & Noble customers.

  • Hilton. Hilton International is best known for its operations of over 400 hotels in 70 countries. As you can imagine, Hilton depends deeply on its ability to forecast occupancy, and has a dedicated room and catering forecasting management system to do it. This application will be used by all the Hilton branch managers to plan and forecast the occupancy and food inventory for each of their locations. This system is a large, complex OLAP system with 400 users at any given time. So Hilton Chose SQL Server 2005 and ASP.NET 2.0 for the integrated business intelligence and because the deep integration between ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 enabled their developers to be incredibly productive.

  • Nestle. Nestle is the world's biggest food and beverage company with 250,000 employees and US$70B in annual revenue and chose the Microsoft application platform for two key projects: the Application reporting framework for all company non-SAP data world-wide to unify and consolidate reporting and analysis, and the registration (50GB) and content database on the backend of their customer facing web site. Again, the tight integration of Visual Studio 2005, BizTalk, and SQL Server 2005  proved not only a time saver, but also enabled them to use the integrated business intelligence capabilities of SQL Server to gather information about how their company works.

Q: How do you plan to engage the business and IT leaders to get their feedback?

Over the past few years, we have embraced a culture of transparency and openness with our customers. This transparency has given us tremendous insight into how our best and most vocal customers use our products and what they want us to deliver in terms of solutions now and well into the future.

Through our employee blogs, the Community Technology Preview process, and the Feedback Centers we’ve made available online, we’re able to engage in a vibrant dialogue with our customers and partners.

The end result is we were able to launch three very high quality products that were built with a tremendous amount of input from our customers, and these products would not be as compelling without the participation of many of your readers.

Q: For the future, which technology trends, do you find will have the greatest impact on history?

Well, there are really several key trends driving our industry. The Web services technologies are maturing enabling exciting new connected systems scenarios; Moore’s law is driving unprecedented computing power to the edge of the network, enabling amazing new peer-to-peer applications; and mobile devices are becoming more powerful and are truly always connected, making mobile application development a very exciting place to be.

Our goal at Microsoft is to offer a comprehensive application platform to enable businesses to take advantage of these trends and to help IT deliver more value for their business, by reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and enabling faster delivery of solutions – all of which drive greater business insight and innovation.

And we’re not done yet. We already know where we need to go – where our customers want us to go. Even as we’re launching these three new products, we’re already laying the groundwork for making it as simple to handle business process and information as it is to post a page to a Web site today.

This is why I think it’s truly a great time to be an IT professional, developer, or DBA!

Q: Ilya, thank you for talking with us – and for your many insightful comments. It’s always a real pleasure to have you do an interview.

A: Stephen, it’s been my pleasure. And on behalf of everyone at Microsoft who has worked on the development of these products, I want to finish up by thanking all of you who downloaded a beta or CTP, submitted a bug or suggestion, attended one of our events, and generally engaged with us to make these products better. Thank you for your passion and contributions.