PASS Summit Evaluations

January 6, 2010 at 8:43 am (PASS) (, , )

The big day has arrived and all the speakers are poring over their PASS Summit 2009 evaluations, me included. These things are always a mixed bag. On the one hand you get nice positive reinforcement. On the other, you wonder how you may have fallen short to not get even higher marks. I’d say I take them as guides and move on, but I don’t. I really sweat them and worry about lower marks and ways I could improve… makes me a bit crazy. Be that as it may, here are the evals from my two sessions.

Best Practices for Working With Execution Plans (AD-419-S), 59 evaluations

Usefulness of Session

Speaker’s Presentation Skills

Speakers’s Knowledge

Accuracy of Session Description, etc.

Amount of Time for Session
Poor: 2
Average: 7
Good: 22
Excellent: 28

Quality of Materials
Poor: 0
Average: 8
Good: 14
Excellent: 36

I didn’t get any comments about this session. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the rating. I think I need to improve the quality of my slides somewhat and it shows. I’m very happy that my knowledge level was rated high. I’m assuming the Poor ratings on time for the session are because people wanted more (well, that’s my reason for putting down Poor on time for a session).

DMV’s as a Shortcut to Procedure Tuning (AD-393)  88 evaluations

Usefulness of Session

Speaker’s Presentation Skills

Speakers’s Knowledge

Accuracy of Session Description, etc.

Amount of Time for Session
Poor: 1
Good: 36
Excellent: 46

Quality of Materials
Poor: 0
Average: 7
Good: 29
Excellent: 52


AWESOME!! [that’s as it was written, promise]

Wish we had some explanation of stats

It would be nice if PASS let the presenters put up their sample code online before the session. Many of us take laptops. It’s easier for me to take notes around the code itself.

If Tony Robbins were a DBA he might be as enthusiastic and energetic as Grant Fritchey! This guy had his own cheering section in the audience!

Again, I’m pretty happy with this session, especially because I didn’t get to rehearse it at all before the conference. I thought I was a little bit short on material, but it seems to have worked out OK. I’m assuming the Tony Robbins thing is a compliment since I don’t know who he is. I could have put my sample code up before the session, but didn’t. That’s one on me, not on the PASS organization. As far as the statistics goes, I didn’t spend tons of time talking about the things we were measuring as I did ways to measure them. An area for improvement.

From all this I have a few ideas for places to improve. I wish more people put down comments and that they were more constructively critical. I truly appreciate the nice things, but to improve I need the critical stuff.

Hopefully I can get invited back next year.

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Dr. DeWitt’s Key Note at the PASS Summit

December 2, 2009 at 10:42 am (PASS) (, , )

If you missed this, here’s your chance to make it up. If you were there, and like me, you need to rewatch it about six to eight times to try to understand everything that was presented, here’s your chance. Dr. DeWitt’s key note was probably the high point of the Summit or at least in the top 5. It’s not to be missed.

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PASS Summit 2009 Day 3

November 6, 2009 at 1:47 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , )

The day started off with a mixed bag. First we had an honestly tearful farewell with Wayne Snyder saying goodbye to Kevin Kline, leaving the board for the first time since PASS was founded. This was followed by a painfully dull session with Dell all about their commitment to bread & butter DBA concerns. That was followed by Dr. DeWitt doing a deep dive into the history and the future of computing, showing and teaching in ways that only the very best can achieve. It was a fantastic performance, entertaining, enlightening, amazing… Just flat out incredible. It’s the kind of understanding that you wish you could get about most things, most of the time. Unfortunately, it came to an end.

Today I finally got to hit a lot of sessions. First I saw Andrew Kelly give a session on “Capturing and Analyzing File & Wait Stats.” It was great. Andrew Kelly is a good presenter and he knows this topic forwards and backwards. That makes it very easy to sit and learn from him. It’s the kind of useful information you can really take advantage of in your job. For lunch I went to a book signing to find out that both my books were sold out. A few people, including @sqlbelle, stopped by to get books signed. It was a real honor and privilege for them to do that. After that I went to two Buck Woody sessions, back-to-back. After the session yesterday I couldn’t have missed them. The first session was on “SQL Server Automation on Steroids.” The slide deck was laid out to look like a Zune. It was great stuff on fundamentals like how to configure SQL Agent, and drill downs on mechanisms for working with PowerShell, or POSH as Buck calls it. He showed several different scripts and I’m pretty jazzed to continue my pursuit of POSH skills after his session and Allen White’s earlier in the week. Yes, this sort of reinforcement of session on session with different people giving different views of the same tools used in varying ways is something you can only get at the PASS Summit. His second session was on “Performance Tuning with SQL Server 2008.” While I didn’t find it as technically useful as the previous two sessions I’d seen him do, it was every bit as entertaining and enlightening. He made my list of must see presenters. I finished out the day, and the PASS Summit, at Gail Shaw’s “Lies, damned lies and statistics.” Gail presented fantastic information in her clear, informative style. If you needed to know something about statistics, she laid them out for you in this session. Things were a bit subdued, this being the end of the Summit (not counting the post-conference) but Gail got the audience up and awake with some great demo’s and explanations of how statistics works inside SQL Server.

After hours it was off to the Friends of Red Gate party. I’m a friend of Red Gate because I sing the praises of their products, which are absolutely praiseworthy. But, I’ll tell you, I might be inspired to sing at least one praise more because of the meal we had. Nice food at a nice resteraunt with great, impassioned people, excited about what they do. It’s hard to enjoy things more.

So that’s the end of the Summit proper for me. I’ll be staying in Seattle through Friday because of a series of events that Microsoft is holding, but I won’t be blogging about them here. This has been one of the best PASS conferences I’ve been to, out of the five that I’ve attended.

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PASS Summit 2009 Key Note 3

November 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, )

Dr. David DeWitt

“I’m not a doctor.” This is going to be good. “From 1 to 1000 MIPS” He’s doing great. He was a fantastic last year and I knew this was going to be good. 32 years in academia and only in MS for 1.5 years. He’s the blue sky guy, and beleive me when I tell you, you get smarter from being in the room with him. And a huge ovation because he told us that he’s going technical and not covering a marketing pitch.

Right. This one is going to be hard to blog. He’s going through information quick. It’s all good. He’s giving an academic talk about the 30 years of technology trends in databases. He’s going over how the trends have affected OLTP and why the trends are forcing DBMS to evolve and some future trends to keep an eye on.

Back in 1980 we had a Digital VAX with a 1MIP CPU, 8mb of memory, 80mb disk drive… all for $250K. Yeah, the “good old days” Not. More or less 1000 times better for Cache & memory, 2000 times better for CPU and 10000 times for disks. But transfer rates have only increased by 65X. And for seeks there has only been a 10x improvement. 1985, 100TPS & 400 I/O/second. Today, 25,000 TPS & 100,000 I/O/second. His key point is that it took 14 drives to keep a single processor busy in 1985 but it takes 300 drives to keep a cpu busy today. He believes that SSD and phase change memory are the only things that are going to make a difference here.

His comparison of the problem is that today we’re in the situation where we have a gigantic water tank to feed water to the hole town, but only a garden hose to drain it. That’s scary to think about. When thinking about it, he compared the disk to cpu ratio and came to the conclusion that drives are 150x SLOWER today than they were 30 years ago.

So his basic conclusion is that we need to avoid random I/O in our database applications…. uh, yeah, good advice, I guess, but how the heck do we do that? Obviously we don’t and that’s not what he’s saying. He’s making a great point. This is just flat out fantastic.

In the old days it was 6 cycles to access memory. Now it’s 200 cycles to access memory. Despite all these improvements, we’re really messing up our scalability on the hardware because of limitations in the design. Hard to believe when you consider that everything is, in fact, faster, but it’s just not faster the right way. It’s scaling too hard.

He’s showing how the queries work within the system, what happens, literally, what is waiting on what, all the way down at the lowest level of the process. Scan queries vs. join queries. So why so many stalls? It’s the L2 data cache stalls, an artifact of the last 30 years of design within systems. Why? Well, you’d need to be here to really understand. I’m not going to repeat it correctly. For each record, there’s an L2 & L1 cache miss from each page as it reads from the disk, row-by-flipping-row. So basically, we’re getting RBAR within the CPU when it has to read from the disk.

There is a new memory configuration called a column store where the columns are broken down instead of rows. The columns are stored on files/pages. He’s showing how ID would be one page, Name on 2, City on 12, etc. because otherwise the rows are stored across pages. Without compression, it changes the amount of data on a page. If they also add compression. It’s going to make a huge difference. BUT, it’s not updateable. They’re going to make the DB a perfect decision support engine. Showing some drill down on the details, he showed about a 7x improvement in speed, without compression.

Then, you put compression on top of it and stuff really takes off. But remember, this is a read win. It’s write lose.

Really, I’m going to stop trying to keep up. I’m starting to lose track of everything anyway. I think this might be available online or on the DVD. I sure hope it is. If you were at the Summit and you didn’t attend this… you messed up, big time.

The key to compression is to remember that you need to get more data onto the disk because the CPU is 1000x faster but the disk is only 65x faster. That’s why you compress. Not because you’re saving space, but because you’re saving READS. I’m going back to the office to turn on compression on everything (after testing & verification).

I can’t describe it all, but the early/late materialization performance differences are amazing.

Key points for the quiz. yes, I’m giving out the quiz answers, call Bluto and D-Day:

  • At first glance hardware folks would appear to be our friends
  • Huge inexpensive disks have enabled us to cod-effectively store vast quantities of data
  • On the other hand ONLY a 10x improvement in random disk access and 65x improvement in through point
  • Two pronged solution for “read” intesnsive data waroehouse workloads – parallel db technology & column stores
  • Column stores, minimize transfer, facilitate compression, minimize memory stalls
  • But column stores don’t work for OLTP, AT ALL
  • Hardware trends and demands are forcing DB systems to evolve through specialization

But, I missed to two bullets because I couldn’t type fast enough. So you might still fail the quiz.

This will be on the DVD. Thank you PASS. Thank you Dr. DeWitt.

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PASS Summit 2009 Key Note 1

November 5, 2009 at 11:50 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , )

Wow, the bloggers table is empty today!

Nice intro! Good photo’s. I love the Summit!

Bill Graziano is introducing Day 3. He acknowledged Twitter and the bloggers. We rock! Outgoing board members are Greg Low and Pat Wright. These are great guys who’ve busted their butts for the community. Kevin Kline is completely off the board now, finishing his time as the immediate past-president. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time he won’t be on the board. Yep, I’m right, he’s never been off the board since PASS was a organization. He really has done a lot for the organization. Thanks for your time Kevin. A review of all the other board members including the new president Rushabh Mehta and Wayne Snyder as the immediate past president.

April 21-23,2010 the European Conference will be in Neuss Germany. Next years conference will be in Seattle (again…. blech!… I understand why, I do, but it’s a ROYAL pain to fly across the whole continent every year). A thanks to the headquarters staff too. These guys are great and they work some odd hours. You’d think they were DBA’s. Nice work guys.

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PASS Summit 2009 – Day 2

November 5, 2009 at 8:53 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , )

Day 2 of the Summit was extremely busy. I missed a breakfast on DMV’s that evidently was one of the hits of the show. Day 2 was kilt day. I wore mine and there were two others, Steve Jones and Bill Fellows. They were a hit. Next year I’d like to see more. There are pictures all over the place. Track one down on your own.

I set up at the bloggers table and blogged & tweeted my way through the key note. Except for the hyper-sexy Windows 7 touch screen computer, it wasn’t the most exciting key note I’ve ever seen. The new technologies coming out for data manipulation on the client machines in Office 2010 are impressive, no doubt, but something seemed lacking and I’m not sure what it was. During the key note they gave out awards to the outstanding volunteers of the year and they gave the PASSion award to best of the volunteers. I won one of the outstanding volunteer awards for the work I did with the Editorial Committee & SQL Server Standard. Allen Kinsel was the winner of the PASSion award. I wanted Allen to win. I had put in a nomination for him and I knew others that did as well. Congrats Allen. You earned it.

My first session was completely personal for me, and I doubt most people would be as excited about it as I was, but I was very excited to see Michael Rys of Microsoft talk about spatial indexes. It was a very useful session. I took a lot of notes, but I’m going to have to go back and watch it again on the DVD because there was stuff I missed. If you are working with spatial data, you should check this one out.

Lunch today was just lunch, but during it, many of the MVP’s that took part in the MVP book project, SQL Server MVP Deep Dives, all proceeds of which go to War Child International, were signing their chapters in the book. I bought the book, but only went over afterwards to get it signed by the last four or five that were still there. I told Paul Randal how disappointed I was that he didn’t wear a kilt. But, during his session he did put up a picture of himself in a kilt. He doesn’t own one. I hit on MVP’s for the rest of the day to get their signature. I’ll be carrying it with me today (and breaking my back, it’s huge) to get some more. Buy the book. You’ll get good information and help an important charity.

After lunch I went to Ben Nevarez’s session on How the Query Optimizer Works. It was very good. I took some notes and got some ideas for future research. I really like the way he did simple, direct examples that illustrated his point. He also reminded me of a DMV that I should have included in my session (and will next week). This is useful stuff and it’s definitely worth checking out on the DVD.

I skipped the next session to go and do a video interview with the Midnight DBA. For those that don’t know, the Midnight DBA is actually two people Jenn and Sean McCown. It was a blast. We talked about books, TSQL, Kenpo and sexual harassment of men by men. Yeah, it was pretty fun and not entirely appropriate (although, probably only PG in rating and completely work safe).

After that I did a thing with Microsoft, completely unrelated to being an MVP, but still NDA. Done.

To finish out my time at the Summit proper I went to Buck Woody’s session on using Policy Based Management, Data Collector and Central Management Servers. I’d met Buck in the hall and he asked me to come down. I’ve never seen Buck Woody speak before. For those who know, why didn’t anyone tell me? All I can say is, what have I been doing with my time at these conferences? I should have been going to see everything the man says. Not only was it useful information, but it was hilarious. We were laughing our butts off through the whole thing. He picked on people in the audience (especially poor Aaron Bertrand, although I took some hits when I showed up late, wearing a kilt), cracked jokes, and gave out useful information in a clear, engaging manner. I’d suggest you watch the DVD, but you’re not going to get the full kick in the britches that being there will give you. However, you will still see some good stuff. I’ve already sent off a message to my team lead to suggest we get started with some of this right away.

After the show was over it was party time. I had two to go to, but I only made one, the Microsoft hosted party at GameWorks. Good food, free alcohol, video games. I rode the Hummer with Wendy, @wendy_dancer, driving. She drove better than I would have. It was fun, but I went home early because I’d had a nasty cough and runny nose all day and my voice was completely shot. I needed rest.

Another great day at the PASS Summit 2009.

EDIT: Updated Bill Fellows name.

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PASS Summit Wednesday Key Note 3

November 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , )

More demos using Analysis Services from R2. They’re showing how you can refresh data & reports without having to write a bunch of SSIS packages. That’s pretty cool too. You can actually connect to Excel now and pull data into SSAS to manage the data like it was a database. You’re going to have to spend time managing these files like they were servers.

Analysis services is starting to manage itself? I hate to say this, but I’ve heard that kind of statement before from MS. It wasn’t true then. Is it true now? No idea yet, but the small part of me that doubts these things just fired up.

The reports can be animated. Data in motion is pretty darn slick to watch.

Powerpivot is a freebie that runs in Office 2010. You can put it to work in SharePoint through shared documents and it all runs on top of  SQL Server 2008 R2. It’s going to require a pretty major set of upgrades in peoples offices to get this stuff running. It’s going to be difficult when most of us are still running SQL Server 2000 systems.

And Microsoft is giving away an XBox. Go here.

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PASS Summit Wednesday Key Note 2

November 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm (PASS) (, , )

Tom Casey of Microsoft on BI.

20% of people that are decision makers within organizations have the tools and information they need. That means that 80% don’t have it. I believe those numbers. Microsoft is very focused on getting BI built into the information platform. You can tell from the stuff released in SQL Server 2008.

Part of the proof he’s putting out is the PASS Summit itself. There’s 2 dedicated BI trackes, 50+ sessions, and 30% of attendees said they were interested in that track.

For some information Ron Vanzanten. He’s sporting identical clothing to Tom Casey. 4 million card holders and 3200 employees. They’ll be working through 600,000 credit card applications in a month. Woof. 24tb of customer data in a SQL Server BI environment. Woof X2.

Unfortunately, while all this information is accurate, it’s still just marketing. It’s true that there are people in the organization that are building data access through Excel & Access, unsupported by IT. I’d love to find those people and support them within our company, but how do you find them? MS isn’t letting us know that.

Amir Netz comes out for the demo’s of the new Excel 2010 utility, PowerPivot. It’s basically the old pivot tables, but they’ve pumped it up… a lot. It’s not on steroids, it’s on pure rage. We’re seeing structured and unstructured data coming in. That’s great. The differences in Excel are pretty amazing. 100,000,000 rows. That’s going to be tough to manage desktops when they’re getting that much data. It’s all live, connected directly to the database, but it’s doing SQL queries in the background. I wonder what that TSQL looks like when it hits the server? But they can really go to town with the data, putting together pretty amazing  reports right out of box, easy & quick.

In the demo they showed the new Windows 7 Touch screen computer. Sweet! Very pretty! But best of all, there was some excellent stuff from Sharepoint using PowerPivot. He showed how you can gesture your way through sets of reports and data using the touch screen. It’s really slick. It’s almost like the computers in Minority Report. I’m digging this new technology.

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PASS Summit Wednesday Key Note 1

November 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm (PASS) (, , )

Nice phot montage, included so many friends. I love PASS.

Rushab Mehta launching the Wednesday key note. Unfortunately, this is the DULL, but important, stuff about finances. PASS is a non-profit, volunteer run organization. I’m not going to track this stuff. You can find the full financials on the PASS web site.

Celebrating volunteers. You do need to thank the people that make this thing run. I’m especially amazed by the work done by the Program Committee. The outstanding volunteers for the year are:

  • Tim Ford – Program Committe, Quizbowl
  • Me – SQL Server Standard, Editorial Committee
  • Amy Lewis – Co-leader & Volunteer Coordinator for BI Virtual
  • Jacob Sebastian – Chapter Regional Mentor

The PASSion Award is going to two people this year:

  • Charley Hanania – International Recipient
  • Allen Kinsel

I nominated Allen and I know several other people who nominated him as well. He’s one of the hardest working guys in this organization. That was well earned.


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PASS Summit 2009 – Day 1

November 4, 2009 at 11:03 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , )


The PASS Summit is pretty amazing. Yesterday I sat through the key notes from Microsoft. I was at the bloggers table where I could hear the speaker and lots of typing. I used to consider myself a blogger, but then I watched Brent Ozar doing and learned that I was doing it all wrong. Anyway, the key note was pretty interesting. They talked about future plans and directions of the information platform (note, not data).

Right after I presented my first session, Execution Plan Best Practices.  The room was darned full and I only had one, very minor, glitch. After that I RAN to the Birds of a Feather lunch to host a table discussing developing databases on a team. It went all right. I don’t think my table mates were quite as excited about the topic as I was, but we had fun.

I then looked around the vendor floor, more than a little shrunken from last year it seemed. There just wasn’t quite as much excitement. I think the economy is hurting people. After lunch I hung out in the Speaker’s room for a bit, and I don’t mind saying, that’s a great place to meet the people I’ve been learning from for years.

I presented my second session of the conference, DMV’s for Performance Tuning. The session went fairly well, but I was glad as hell that Tim Ford, who’s writing a book on DMV’s was in the room to answer questions when I got stumped (which happened a couple of times). The best part was when Jenn McCown (Midnight DBA) tweeted one of the things I said and Paul Randall tweeted back, commenting on it. Jenn announced what Paul said in the session and I was able to comment on that. GREAT STUFF. Twitter may or may not be useful in day to day life, but in a conference like this, having the experts like Paul hooked in… what a difference in the quality and flow of information. Again, great stuff.

I then went to Allen White’s magnificent session on using PowerShell to collect performance metrics. Unfortunately, I got a little ill and had to leave part way through. It was a great session and I’m going to watch what I missed on the DVD’s.

Then, it was off to parties. First the reception for the vendors at the Summit. It wasn’t as exciting as last year, although I got to meet and talk with Michael Rys of Microsoft about some issues I was having with spatial data. Opportunities like that are what this summit is all about. After that it was off to the Microsoft Insiders party where I could hob nob with my betters, the other MVP’s. What a privilege. The party then moved to the Tap House, hosted by SQL Server Sentry (thanks guys).

What a day! I’m going to mostly hit sessions today.

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