SQL Server Standard: Volume 7, Issue 3

April 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm (sql server standard) (, , , )

FINALLY!

It’s not like Don Gabor had the article done in January or anything…oh wait. He did have the article done in January. However, it looks like we might be breaking the log jam and we’ll be publishing a number of SQL Server Standard issues.

Anyway, do you want to learn how to talk techie to non-techies? You do? That’s excellent because I’ve got a fantatic article by Don Gabor (blog), just for you. Please go and read it.

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The SQL Server Community

April 14, 2010 at 8:53 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , , )

I attended, and spoke at, the inaugural meeting of the Seacoast SQL Server User’s group last night. There were about 60 people in attendance. An excellent turn-out and congratulations go out to Mike Walsh (blog | twitter) and the other organizers.

I was curious about something after watching Mike present the PASS monthly slide-deck. He asked how many people were PASS members. Approximately a third of the audience raised their hands. When it was my turn to speak, I asked how many people had heard of Buck Woody (blog | twitter). I was honestly shocked when only about 6 people raised their hands. Then I asked how many had heard of Paul Randal (blog | twitter). This time I had about 9-12 people. Finally, I asked about Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) and only had about 4-6 people raise their hands.

Today I was reading the minutes from the PASS Board meeting from March. Oh, as an aside, well done, thank you, and hearty congratulations to the board for performing this act of openness. In it, they were talking about, what else, the SQL Server Community.

It got me thinking. When I say “community” in referring to the people that use SQL Server, a lot of the times, I’m talking about the vocal and visible people, the PASS board, Brent Ozar, Buck Woody, Paul Randal, Denny Cherry (blog | twitter), I can keep going, all the bloggers I read, all the tweeters/twitterers/whatever that I follow, all the posters at SQL Server Central (especially those on The Thread) and at Ask.SQLServerCentral.com… You get the point. Even with that little list there, I’m leaving out people that I like and admire and learn from. But you know what, most of those people, know who Buck Woody is. Most of those people know who Paul Randal is. Yeah, most of them even know who Brent Ozar is (probably). But, based on my completely un-scientific survey, that’s only about 10-15% of all the SQL Server users out there, at the most 20%.

On the one hand, you can say, “Oh crud. We’re only hitting 10-15% of the users despite busting our behinds writing blog posts, tweeting, answering questions on forums, presenting at user groups, SQL Saturday events, PASS Summits, Connections. I might as well get a case of botulism.” And it could be disheartening. On the other hand, you could say, “Holy crud, we can grow this community three or four times and still not even be hitting half of all the SQL Server users out there. Oh boy, I’m going to blog more, tweet more, write more books…” because our growth potential is HUGE!

So, to the board of PASS I say, again, thanks for posting the minutes, and thank you for your hard work. You guys have fantastic opportunities in front of you. Good luck. To all the bloggers, tweeters, posters, presenters & authors, and my friends that fit many or all those categories, what are you doing right now? We’ve got a market to penetrate. Stop lolly-gagging and get to work.

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24 Hours of PASS v2.0

April 6, 2010 at 10:29 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , )

The kids over at the Professional Association of SQL Server Users have done it again. They’re hosting 24 Hours of PASS: Celebrating SQL Server 2008 R2. That’s 24 hours of free training by top names in the business, providing you with the information you want and need. I’m not presenting this year (I may cry), but who cares. This is going to be a great chance to get some serious learning. I’m sure going to attend as many sessions as I can. First one that I’ve already got marked is Andy Leonard’s on database development patterns. That’s a topic that’s near & dear to my heart.

So follow the link, look the offerings over, and register right away.

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Location of the PASS Summit Follow-up

March 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm (PASS) (, , )

I got a little distracted after lunch and was reading through some of the various bloggers reactions to the decision to keep the Summit in Seattle for the forseeable future. I enjoyed Brent Ozar’s take on the situation, but the thing that struck me square in the eyes and inspired me to add one more post of my own, was a comment on Brent’s post by Aaron. Scroll down and read it. Here’s the part that really made an impact:

This whole situation is making me less interested in supporting the organization. As a relative newcomer to PASS and having never attended a Summit, I’m turned off by the “come talk to Microsoft employees” stance. I’d rather them say come and talk to (or sing Karaoke with?) cool guys like Brent Ozar and others in the community who deal with real world issues day to day.

The arguments for keeping the Summit in Seattle largely boiled down to cost & access to Microsoft. Cost has been beat about the face & neck by me & others, and I can’t add anything else even marginally intelligent to the conversation, so I’ll shut up on that. Microsoft. Yeah, having access to Microsoft makes the Summit pretty cool (not to mention useful, a couple of my favorite sessions were from Microsoft presenters). PASS stands for the Professional Association of SQL Server users. The summit is produced by PASS in order to meet it’s own goals which are “dedicated to supporting, educating, and promoting the Microsoft SQL Server community.” (Yeah, silly me, I go and read the organization’s web site).

So here’s my comment. Is the community PASS is trying to support, educate and promote better represented by a bunch of Microsoft developers, or, to quote Aaron, “Brent Ozar and others in the community who deal with real world issues day to day?”

And, lest I take an inappropriate beating, I’m neither knocking Microsoft developers, nor saying that they’re not a part of the community. My job and, to a small degree, my life, wouldn’t be the same without those people. I just want to make sure any rocks tossed my way are thrown for the right reasons.

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Location of the PASS Summit

March 10, 2010 at 12:12 pm (PASS) (, , )

There has been some discussion recently around the location of the PASS Summit. The debate was centered on the results from a recent survey hosted by PASS. Today’s Community Connector has an editorial by the PASS President, Rushabh Mehta, explaining why those of us on the East Coast will be flying to the other side of the continent for the next two years, and supplying the results of the survey

I get why they’re doing this. Microsoft really will commit more resources to an event that is in their back yard. I get it. I also understand, that those of us who consider the PASS Summit a big part of our “community” are actually in the minority. Most people attending the Summit aren’t involved in the community, aren’t interested in networking, and go to the conference to learn something and then go back to their hotel room. They want to see Microsoft developers, not community members. I understand. I also know that the excellent support team provided through the management company is also headquartered out there. We might see fewer of them at the conference, and those few will cost more to fly in. I get it.

But…

With the economy shrinking, and no end in sight, budgets are getting tightened. Travel expenses are being examined closely where I work and justification for a trip is more difficult than it was previously. Cutting a few corners here & there, including reducing the cost of a plane flight,  might make a difference. For example, doing a quick search on Travelocity, no details, accepting defaults, meeting half-way, in Dallas, would cost $216 instead of $399. That’s almost $200 in savings. Even if Rushabh is right and we’d have to increase the cost, let’s say $150/attendee, that’s still offset by the flight.

Still, those are savings at the margins, would that offset it enough to prevent people from travelling? Maybe, some people. But, there’s also the flight itself to consider. Not everyone is Gail Shaw, prepared to cross continents, oceans, raging rivers, burning deserts, and French strike lines to get to the Summit. For some people, that hike out to Seattle, ignore the cost, Microsoft, the community, is too much. Would moving it to Atlanta or Dallas or wherever guarantee a larger percentage of attendee’s? Nope, probably not, but I’ll bet you you’d see a different set of attendee’s and I’ll bet you the attendance wouldn’t drop. Because remember, it’s not just the flying time or the travel costs or the time away from work (yay). It’s time away from the family. Based on the results of the survey, 800 (51%) of the 1500 plus think a short flight is very or somewhat important, where as only about 380 (25%) thought it wasn’t. The vast majority of people responding to the survey are in the Eastern & Central time zones (585 & 458 compared to 331 in the Western zone). I could actually be wrong about the number of attendees.

And let’s just mention, Microsoft is holding some sort of get together in June. It seems to be fairly well attended by Microsoft people and, oh, look at that, it’s in New Orleans, not Seattle. I guess it is possible to get some Microsoft involvement in other places if Microsoft wants to.

I’m not on the board, so it’s easy for me to snipe from the sidelines, but based on the noise level, and the fact that 588 people thought having a conference on the east coast would make it more likely that they would attend, with only 405 making it less likely, and the fact that that number goes up to 639 more likely if the Summit was in the center of the country, I’m not alone in thinking that the PASS Community Summit should move around a bit more than we’ve been doing lately.

On another note, the release of the survey results was… poorly handled. The board, probably for good reasons, tends to play things very close to the vest. I think, at least in this case, too close. I appreciate the need to keep valuable information away from the competition. However, since this is a community organization, and one that is largely run by volunteers, I think the board really ought to err on too much communication instead of too little.

Finally, assuming anyone has made it this far, I want to thank the board and Rushabh for releasing this information. I think explaining how they made their decision and providing the basis for that in the results is absolutely the right thing to do. Did it apparently, or even evidently, require poking from people outside the board? Maybe, but they still did it and deserve the credit for taking the right action.

That’s it. End of the pointless, wandering diatribe. Go about your lives citizens. Hopefully, I’ll get another session or two accepted this year and I’ll see you all Seattle (again).

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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
Poor:0
Average:2
Good:19
Excellent:38

Speaker’s Presentation Skills
Poor:0
Average:2
Good:18
Excellent:39

Speakers’s Knowledge
Poor:0
Average:1
Good:12
Excellent:45

Accuracy of Session Description, etc.
Poor:0
Average:3
Good:10
Excellent:45

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
Poor:0
Average:3
Good:25
Excellent:60

Speaker’s Presentation Skills
Poor:0
Average:5
Good:19
Excellent:64

Speakers’s Knowledge
Poor:0
Average:1
Good:23
Excellent:64

Accuracy of Session Description, etc.
Poor:0
Average:3
Good:22
Excellent:63

Amount of Time for Session
Poor: 1
Average:5
Good: 36
Excellent: 46

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

Comments:

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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A Lack of Excitement

December 23, 2009 at 9:16 am (PASS, PowerShell, SCOM, SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008, SQLServerPedia Syndication, TSQL) (, , , , , , , )

I usually use all the problems, crashes, and issues that I run into at work as grist for my mill, aka, material to blog about. But lately, we haven’t been crashing & burning much <knock wood, turn three times, throw salt over my left shoulder, spit>. But it was suggested that may be I should mention why that is.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve been spending a lot more time working on methods for monitoring our systems so that we avoid more of the stupid stuff, full disks, failed backups, long running agent jobs, etc.. I’ve blogged before about our use of Microsoft’s Operations Manager for monitoring our servers and how we’ve built custom rules and monitors to keep an eye on things. I’ve also mentioned how we use Idera’s Diagnostic Manager as a drill-down mechanism to keep on eye on SQL Server internals that OM just didn’t do as nifty a job on. What I haven’t mentioned is, that after attending the PASS Summit (and if you didn’t go, you sure missed out) and sitting through Buck Woody’s session on monitoring using Policy Based Management, “More Servers Less Control,” I’ve implemented PBM within our organization.

If you have yet to explore Policy Based Management, PBM, get on it. I know that others have blogged about their experiences with it, and there’s a reason that people are excited. Track down Buck Woody’s session over at the PASS site (it’s worth paying for it, trust me).  You too can get this stuff up and running in no time. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news, PBM only works with SQL Server 2008. But, I’ve got some good news about that too. There’s a great utility published over at CodePlex (and isn’t that a great place to browse on occasion) called the Enterprise Policy Management Framework, EPM (you can never have enough acronyms, especially with three letters). The EPM Framework allows you to run policies against 2000 and 2005 servers. Sweet!

All of this is work has been part of a concerted effort within our organization to get really and truly proactive, to prevent errors before they occur. Between the modifications I’ve made to OM and the implementation of PBM through EPM and reports against the OM data through SSRS, SQL just isn’t having as many problems these days (I love talking through acronyms sometimes just to watch peoples toes curl). I’ve been busy as all get out, but it’s on pretty mundane, non-exciting stuff. Hence fewer blog posts.

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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 2009 – Day 1

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

YAAAAAH!

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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