Nov 05 2015

Speaker of the Month for November 2015

A great benefit that I get with my job is that I get to travel all over the place to see people present. This means I can expand out beyond my own country to see good speakers. That’s the case this month. My Speaker of the Month, with all the glory it entails, is Rob Sewell and his session “Using PowerBI With My DBA Database” delivered at SQL Relay Cardiff.

Rob delivered a very interesting, useful and entertaining session. It was all about how to gather data about your databases and their behavior and then put it into different types of reports in order to be proactive about stuff within your managed environment. I loved the way he put his slides together, the graphics and the lack of bullet points. His presentation style was awesome. He used Zoomit well enough (more on that in a moment). Some of his comments were fun too, “Sing Merry Christmas backwards” was one of my favorites. I also liked how, despite showing us a great set of scripts, he said, right out, “If you run these scripts without testing, it’s your fault.” Excellent stuff. I also appreciate his practical advice on setting up this type of monitoring, “Do what you need to do.” It was just an excellent presentation.

I talked to Rob about the one piece of advice I had for him. He asked repeatedly if we could see, and then would zoom in. He was clearly concerned, and did a good job. But after he asked a couple of times, I thought he should just assume that things were in fact a little hard to see and should just zoom. It’s a safe assumption a lot of the time. Nothing wrong with asking, but if you ask more than once, you have your answer.

This session was very useful. I strongly recommend it and Rob.


Nov 02 2015

PASS Summit 2015: Wrap-up


Another PASS Summit is complete. This one was amazing. It’s my first time ever as a member of the Board of Directors of the PASS organization to attend the Summit and take part in the full process of making the sausage. It was hard. It was exhausting (more so than usual). It was one the most exhilarating, fascinating and wonderful experiences of my life.

First the sad news, Rimma Nehme and Dr. DeWitt have delivered their last presentation at the PASS Summit. It’s the end of an era. I was at the first session delivered by Dr. DeWitt. It was one of the most amazing technical keynotes I’d ever seen until the next one that he gave. The two of them became absolute rock stars in the SQL Server and PASS community because of their deep technical, hilarious, informative sessions. They will be missed. I think the Board has a challenge next year to attempt to match them. Just saying. Personally, I’m ecstatic that I’ve been lucky enough to attend every one of their keynotes. Just in case the two of you read this, thank you!

Thursday I attended my first Board Q&A. It was interesting. The recording of it will be published. I even got to answer a question on stage. I spent a lot of time in the Community Zone, any time I could between meetings, talking to people, anyone who would come up. I also had duties at the Redgate booth, but I was able to talk to people there as well about PASS. It was a great day.

Friday I spent even more time at the Community Zone. I’ve really tried to make every effort to be available to anyone who has anything to discuss about the organization. I took notes from a bunch of the conversations about issues people were having, suggestions for improvements and just general stuff about the organization, Chapters and SQL Saturday. I arrived late to the Speaker Idol finale (in a meeting), but I was able to see a session and see the winner crowned.

My biggest takeaways from the Summit were, first, that Christianson & Company, the management company for PASS, who runs the Summit (among a few thousand other things), does a fantastic job. It was pretty amazing watching them work. Second, my fellow board members are wonderful people. I’m learning so much from being able to work with them. Thomas LaRock… Hi Tom… is a rock (no pun intended, but hey) of stability. Adam Jorgensen, is a font of knowledge on technical topics and leadership that I wish I could just bring with me everywhere I go. James Rowland-Jones is the man who convinced me that I needed to run for the board and he continues to be an inspiration. Denise McInerney is gloriously brilliant, hilarious and fun to be around, and is helping me learn absolutely tons about the proper way to do marketing (and I want this information badly). Wendy Pastrick is a bundle of joy and passion who helps keep me in line and on target. Jenn Stirrup has a very quiet voice, but has huge ideas wrapped inside of it. Tim Ford is a great source of ideas and direction who can slice to the heart of a situation like a surgeon. Bill Graziano, our outgoing past-president, is not only a great guy, but acts as an excellent source of history and guidance.

Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to get to sit in a room with these people and we do what’s necessary to create a space in which the SQL Family can realize the amazing results that it is capable of. I had a couple of moments this week where I just stopped for a second and looked around in amazement that I was able to be counted among them.

Oct 29 2015

PASS Summit 2015: So Far

It’s Kilt Day!

I want to give a quick assessment on how the Summit has been for me so far. Monday, as is true for the rest of the week, I served two masters. In the morning I went to the Redgate SQL in the City event. In the afternoon I attended our in-person board meeting. The minutes for the meeting will come out after they’re approved. The meeting largely consisted of reporting on how we had done this year and starting the process of getting going for next year. I left that meeting and went back to SQL in the City. Yeah, I’ve been running all week.

Tuesday was my community day. It’s been announced that I’m moving from the Chapters portfolio to the SQL Saturday portfolio. I went to the two hour meeting we had with all the organizers of SQL Saturday events from all over the world. It was a celebration and a chance for feedback. What things do we need to stop, start or continue. Here are a few of the notes I took during the meeting:

  • We need a better way to share sponsor info, a report or forum
  • Regional Mentors (RMs) could be a clearing house for sponsors in regions
  • We need to promote having people bring a friend (actually, this is something I’d like to find a way to formalize or reward somehow)
  • We need a better way to automate lead generation for the sponsors
  • Sponsors would like to get the layout ahead of time
  • If you want to get sponsor money, get them a list of topics and speakers as soon as possible

There was more discussion around improvements in the web site and speedpass. Overall, it seemed like a successful meeting.

Next I met with your Regional Mentors. We had a private discussion that I sort of stirred up (maybe even on purpose a little). I started the discussion by saying, “So, let’s disband this program.” We went from there. The feedback we generated for improving the program is great. A few items I’ll share are:

  • We need to ensure that the RMs are involved in Chapter communications from the org
  • RMs need a way to easily send emails to their org
  • RMs have to communicate better with the board

Finally, I met with the Chapter Leaders. It was, again, a celebration of everything they do for the organization. Also, I reported on my progress on their behalf. I set three goals, increase the number of chapters, find a way to use the PASS email list to market for the chapters, get the chapters access to our extensive speaker list. We’re succeeding in the first goal, easily. You guys form community easily and well. The second goal we’re meeting because marketing has started generating regionalized emails and we’re supplying chapters links in those emails. We’ll continue to work on this. Getting access to the speaker lists is not yet complete. We have a couple of legal hurdles that we have to clear and it’s going to require a few technical changes. The plans are to finish this before the end of the year which means I’ll have met my goals for my tenure as the leader of Chapters.

Tuesday… woof. I spent a lot of time in the Community Zone talking to anyone that wanted to provide feedback on Chapters, RMs, or SQL Saturday or any other thing related to the PASS organization or the Board.

It’s been an exciting Summit so far. It’s very different doing this from the Board. I hope these reports about my perspective of how things are going there are useful.

Oct 23 2015

Talk to Me at PASS Summit

If you’re going to PASS and you want to have a chat, I want to talk to you. If it’s about the Board of Directors for PASS, PASS Chapters, execution plans, crossfit or something else, here are a few places where I’ll be doing my best to make myself available:

Redgate Booth – I’ll be here quite a bunch all next week. Swing by and don’t just talk to me, get a demo of one of our fine products.
Community Zone – I’ll make a point of going here to hang out when I can so you can track me down.
Board of Directors Q&A – Thursday in 307/308 at 3:30 PM, I know exactly where I’ll be.
Receptions – Tuesday night is the welcome reception for Summit. I’ll be somewhere. Wednesday is the Exhibitor reception. Look for me at or near the Redgate booth. Thursday night is the party at the EMP. You’re welcome to try to find me there.

Summit is a crazy busy time. I’d love to say that if you see me in the halls stop me, but if you see me in the halls, I’ll probably be running because I’m already late to the next event or session, so don’t stop me there.

As a member of the PASS Board, in order for me to deliver what you need, you have to let me know. Please, take the opportunities above to get in touch and provide me with the feedback on how we’re doing with PASS.

Oct 22 2015



I’m at least one of the people who yelled Zoomit during a keynote at PASS Summit.

I want to take a moment and explain why I did it and why it was wrong.

I was frustrated. I’m watching a presentation on a HUGE screen, from about mid-way in the room and the presenter is earnestly showing off a cool new feature of SQL Server in about 3 point font and saying “… As you can see …”.

No. No I couldn’t. After a little while of staring at the blur on the screen and hearing the person say I could see this or see that, I popped. I was interested. I was paying attention. I really and truly wanted to see what was on the screen and I honestly could not. So, I yelled at the stage.

I was wrong.

The person on stage probably didn’t have Zoomit installed. Nor did they know how to use it. They probably also didn’t know that Windows has a magnification utility built in (don’t like it, but it’s there). My yelling didn’t help them at all to discover this information. Further, it probably made them even more nervous. Neither of these improved the experience for anyone in the audience. Finally, it was unprofessional behavior. That’s the important one.

What should I have done? Find a positive solution. Get a hold of someone, anyone, from PASS, from Microsoft, and let them know that we can’t see. Nothing is going to get fixed at the moment, but the feedback has to be delivered. It can just be delivered in a way that’s helpful, not hurtful. Write a blog post? Sure, but try to make it a positive and helpful one. Tweet about it at the time? Yeah, why not? Just make the tweets informative as opposed to negative. Communicate the necessary information (and yeah, it was necessary) in a way that does two things 1) It gets heard and 2) It provides help to those who need it.

I seem to frequently serve as a negative example. “Don’t do what I’ve done. It hurts” is a repetitive message I deliver. Please remember. PASS Summit is a blast. It is. The event has changed my life in a positive way and I’ve grown to truly love the giving community that built and continues to improve the PASS organization. So don’t do what I’ve done. Have fun at PASS, yes. SQUEE and hug your friends. Wear a kilt. Go to the parties and imbibe. Just remember, through it all, you’re still expected to behave as a professional. Don’t follow my bad example. Instead, build on the positive aspects of PASS and the community in a positive fashion.

See you next week!

Oct 20 2015

Statistics for the New Data Pro

Next week at the PASS Summit I’ll be presenting a session called Statistics for the New Data Pro.

You can read the abstract at the link. I just want to emphasize that this is a beginner level session. I think way too many people who are just starting out with SQL Server don’t understand the role that statistics play in determining how your queries are going to behave. What’s more, too many people don’t know how to get and read statistics to understand how it is that the optimizer thinks you have X number of rows in your database that match a given value. I’m going to make darned sure that the people who attend this session come out with a full understanding of how to read the statistics. This includes the good information available in the header, how the density graph is used, and a complete understanding of the monstrosity that is the histogram (it’s not that bad).

We’re also going to talk about statistics maintenance. You need to know how stats get updated because they absolutely impact how your queries are going to behave. There are a couple of ways that statistics are automatically maintained and I really want to be sure that you know what those are. We’ll also talk about manual maintenance, which must be done.

Overall, this is meant as a session for those who have stumbled into a position at work that requires them to be a Data Professional. You can call it accidental DBA, or reluctant database programmer, or just the poor individual who was left standing when everyone else stepped backwards one pace. If you already feel you have a firm grasp of statistics, awesome. You might not want to attend this session. It’s Summit. There are others during the same time slot. But, I have a request. Could you please direct your junior DBA to this? If you know someone who’s just getting started writing T-SQL code, maintaining a server, developing applications and reports, I think this session would do them good, so please send them on over.

Also, on the topic of statistics, I’d like to suggest that you go to Erin Stellato’s session, Statistics and Query Plans. That’s going to add a bunch of information in addition to what I’m covering. Plus, she’s a great speaker. It takes place the day before my session, but that’s OK. We’re covering different information. They’re very complementary sessions.

Oct 14 2015

Getting Started With DocumentDB

I’ve put this off for too long. It’s time to get my feet wet with some new tech.

Step 1 is easy. Go to the Azure portal and start the process for creating a DocumentDB:


While that’s running, let’s see what’s on the interwebs about getting started in DocumentDB…

Nice. I know I’m going to have write a little code to exercise this thing. Here’s a great run-through on exactly how to do it. Actually, the first hit when I searched on “Getting Started With DocumentDB.” Microsoft has a start page on DocumentDB, but it was clearly put together by someone from marketing. Scroll down to the bottom. There are a couple of interesting links including SQL Query Within DocumentDB. Now we’re talking. Here’s a Curah! or (which is it? do I care?) on DocumentDB with some of the above links and a few others. I spot a theme on this one. Here’s a more thorough how-to on querying DocumentDB.

Plenty to read, lots to do. And look, I have a DocumentDB database ready and waiting:


I’ll report back as I get things going.

Oct 12 2015

Argenis Without Borders: Fun For a Good Cause

This is the second year of Argenis Without Borders and the second year that I’m taking part. Last year we hit the fund-raising goal and I wore the rainbow fuzzy leggings at the PASS Summit. This year, it feels like we’re a little behind the goal. We need you to get your wallet and fork over a little cash to help out this worthy charity, Doctors Without Borders.

This year, the goal will be to get me into a funny hat. But, well, I already wear funny hats all the time:


So I’m a little at a loss as to what to do:


I mean seriously, where do I go from here?


Any suggestions for a good funny hat? Only make them after you’ve donated though.

Oct 05 2015

Trace Flags in Azure SQL Database

One of the ways that you take more direct control over your SQL Server instances is through the use of trace flags. There are a number that people recommend you enable by default. Prior to Extended Events for example, I’d say you should turn on trace flag 1222 in order to capture deadlock information on your server (now I just recommend you use the system_health session). I absolutely think you should turn on trace flag 2371 to get better behavior out of your automated statistics updates. There are others that I’ll leave to all the systems experts to advise you on.

What about Azure SQL Database?

I doubt you’ll be shocked, but if I try this:

DBCC TRACEON (2371,-1);

I get the following error:

Msg 2571, Level 14, State 3, Line 1
User ‘xxx’ does not have permission to run DBCC TRACEON.


This error makes sense right? We’re talking about a Platform as a Service (PaaS). You’re only managing the database, not the server, so you don’t have access to control underlying server behavior.

How about if we want to just modify the behavior of a query? You can use the query hint QUERYTRACEON to adjust behavior. For example, the new statistics cardinality estimation engine in 2014 and better is just marvelous. It’s in use in Azure SQL Database. However, there are edge cases where the old way can work better for certain queries. If you want to go to the old cardinality estimation engine in SQL Server 2014/2016, you use traceflag 9481 in a query hint like this:

FROM    Sales.SalesOrderHeader AS soh
JOIN    Sales.SalesOrderDetail AS sod
        ON sod.SalesOrderID = soh.SalesOrderID
WHERE   sod.OrderQty > 30
AND sod.ProductID = 867

Bad news. The error message is the same.

Working within Azure SQL Database, trace flags are not a part of your tool set.

Oct 02 2015

Speaker of the Month: October 2015

Working on my third year of “Speaker of the Month” posts now. The good news, I haven’t run out of people to award it to. Most months, if I’ve been able to go to a community event or two, I have three or four candidates.  Same this month.

Speaker of the Month for October 2015 is Rob Volk and his presentation, Revenge: THE SQL, at SQL Saturday Las Vegas.

What can I say about this presentation? Let me start by saying that you never, ever want to make Rob angry. Next, I think Rob needs a hobby that will help him turn his mind away from EVIL. Next, Rob has to be one of the smarter people that I know. Next, Rob is very funny. Oh yeah, and there was a presentation about all sorts of evil things you can do with SQL Server and SQL Server Management Studio. Rob’s delivery is excellent. Actually, I wish we had recorded that session for several reasons. It was good. More than that though, Rob had a room full of MVPs and presenters and… well, we kind of went after him. It was like it didn’t matter. He worked it right into his presentation and went through everything. I learned tons of stuff, much of it not necessarily useful for my production servers. All the things Rob presented did give you great illustrations about some of the internal workings of SSMS, SQL Server and Robs twisted imagination.

The only critique I can offer Rob is that he has so much material to deliver that he might want to trim it just a little. We drilled down on a couple of questions which seriously impacted how much he could get out. Is having too much material a really bad thing? Not necessarily. You just want to make sure that you hit the most important stuff and that you have time to reemphasize what the most important stuff is. That’s it though. It really was a masters class on how to do sessions right.

Thanks, Rob. Oh, and by the way, stay away from my machine.