Dec 19 2011

PASS Summit 2012 Evaluation Results

I say it all the time because it’s worth repeating, feedback is a gift. Good, bad or indifferent (well, not indifferent), feedback is a wonderful gift. Any time you appreciate a speaker, give them feedback. Any time you think a speaker could improve, give them feedback. Any time you hate a speaker, give them feedback. It’s really the best thing you can do.

With that in mind, I have a huge stack of gifts in front of me here, the evaluations from the PASS Summit.Thank you very much to each and every one of the 160 different evaluations I received. I presented three times at the summit, once on a pre-con with Gail Shaw called “All About Execution Plans,” one time in a spotlight session called “DMOs as a Shortcut for Performance Tuning,” and a 5 minute lightning talk called “Testing Your Backups, The Rant.”

All About Execution Plans

I worked hard prepping the pre-con. It’s my first one at the PASS Summit (and I hope not my last). Gail also worked hard. The two of us did all this work in opposite hemisphere’s on the planet. That means we didn’t really get to walk through the session until the day before. Our timing was off, and some of the advanced stuff was a little rushed late in the day. I think that might account for some of the scores. Regardless, that’s an explanation, not an excuse. Here’s how things broke down for us, 5 is good, 1 is bad:

Evaluation Question Rating
How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? 4.53
How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 4.80
How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session? 4.48
How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? 4.25
Did you learn what you expected to learn? 4.28

Gail and I had a blast presenting this session. Maybe we were having too much fun. I’m very happy that our knowledge rating was good and high. Everything else, well, we missed the mark. I’m especially troubled by the low rating on the question of “Did you learn what you expected to learn?” I think that one shows that we didn’t deliver what we should have. If we were to do this again (and I think we should), I’d cut down the basics information quite a lot. We had almost 3 hours worth of introductory material. I suspect taking that down to about 90 minutes would help a lot. Then we’d have an additional 90 minutes on the other side to get into what the audience seemed to expect. Here are some of the comments (my responses are in parenthesis and typos outside of parenthesis are not mine):

  • I expected more from th performance solving demoes
  • Demo of what to look for in live systems with a high focus on “prevention” would have been very useful
  • Would have loved a deeper dive
  • Could have used little lower level but am happy anyway (there are only a few of these. Everything else was focused on the fact that the afternoon was rushed and the morning was basic)
  • It might have been better to spend less time on the mornig topics and get into disection of execution plans earlier. (see)
  • Explaining the properties was helpful (Yay! hit one of my keywords, everyone drink)
  • I was expected more on reding exectuion plans and tuning ex. plans
  • Way too academic. Don’t feel like I am translating anything back to work situations (that one hurts, seriously, it does. I thought I was bringing real world examples in, but must not have made enough of a point. Thank you)
  • Would have liked access to demo material before hand. Also, real life scenarios and troubleshooting techniques would have been useful (and another. Ouch)
  • Would have been nice to have screenshots of the demos (uh, no)
  • The combined knowledge of these two is amazing (The plan was, I say something Gail corrects me. That part worked)
  • You both have deep knowledge of the subject. You make a fantastic team. (lots like this)
  • Good flow, great at repeating questions out loud. Good at zooming in.
  • 1. Parse/algebraize/optimize
    2. The optimizer can lie, but usually doesn’t
    3. Look at selectt and properties in ssms, didn’t know about properties (another yay. That’s one thing I wanted to get across)
  • Go to a real trainer next time (And see, that’s not feedback. That’s snark. That’s commentary. But it’s not feedback)
  • Too much info so the speakers had to move swiftly and skip some basic concepts and made assumptions about the knowledge and skill levels of the students (see, hard to reconcile everything, but the consensus was, too many basics, not enough advanced stuff)

You get the idea. I think we’ve got some excellent and actionable material to build and improve this presentation. I’d present it again with Gail in a New York second.

DMOs as a Shortcut for Performance Tuning

This is the third year I gave this spotlight session. I was less than pleased with myself, the slides and the demos during the presentation (and I received some good feedback, that day, about it), but I tried hard. Evidently, trying hard paid off. I’m ranked 28th with this session in the conference over all. Yeah, hardly something to write home about unless the highest you’d ever been ranked before was 32nd. Improvement is improvement. There were 58 evals turned in out of 120 people attending.

Evaluation Question Rating
How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? 4.67
How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 4.86
How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session? 4.69
How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? 4.62
Did you learn what you expected to learn? 4.59

With these levels of evals, I have nothing to complain about… I really need to get better at writing my abstracts. I’m hitting low on the actual session and expectations, so I’m clearly not communicating well. Oh yeah, I can find things to critique myself over any time I want. However, hit nice and high with the knowledge score and high enough with the presentation skills (although higher would be better). Lots of room for improvement, which is great. Here are a few of the comments:

  • That I’m missing a lot of valuable information and wasting a whole lot of time hunting the whumpus when users whinge! (Win!)
  • Should be serious!!! (really? I can’t. I try, but I can’t. I’m having fun with the technology and I’m going to smile and joke while I work, just because, sorry.)
  • Would have rated this at a 300 level but the pre-req listing was useful. Only reason I rate this as 300 is the underlying need to understand the various terms and columns within the DMO’s. To rate at 200, perhaps a slide at the start stating the things tha (interesting. I still think it’s 200, but I hate the thought that I’m leaving someone. What do you rate it if it’s 232?)
  • Big brain (that’s not all that’s big, if you know what I’m saying…What? I’m talking about my belly… what did you think? See, humor, can’t help it).
  • Great presentation. Clear, very easy to understand, seeks audience input which is good as it keeps the interest levels high. (Another Win! I do go for audience input. It’s vital to me as a presenter. I’m just not a “stand in front of the hall & lecture” kind of person).
  • I can use this info tomorrow.
  • Apply the material immediately! Thanks!
  • Dude; can’t you leave the results window up (not go back to query window) and just hit execute/F5 to re-execute? (interesting. The last several presentations, prior to this year, one of the complaints was that everything went to the bottom of the screen in the results. So now I output to the tab & more stuff is visible, but I can’t leave it on the screen… something to practice, leaving the results in place a beat or three longer… thank you, thank you. See, this is what feedback is all about)
  • We pay $$$ for this!!! (very unhappy person. Same guy that didn’t like the humor. I’m sorry. I do feel back for this person. I let them down, but I’m not sure how to improve from this one. I’m not going to joke less. Maybe a warning at the beginning, “I’m going to laugh at myself, our technologies, and other things while I present”)
  • The demos (script/execution capture) were boggy; this presentation was possibly an outlier.(great point. I did have some troubles with a script I’ve been running for, literally, years during this presentation. Weird. Thanks for the feedback)

You get the idea. Except for the guy upset at my attempts at humor (again, I am truly sorry), decent ratings and a few areas where I can try to improve. This is so useful. Thank you all.

Backup Testing: The Rant

Further proof of my inability to take things completely seriously, I communicated several ways to test your backups, but at a full throated roar. I hope it was useful as well as fun. A couple of comments:

  • SOME PRESENTERS ARE A LITTLE CRAZY BUT AWESOME (That could be for anyone, but I’m claiming it)
  • A CLOCK IN FRONT OF GRANT (the guy doing the timing was off, not me)
  • next time, make sure these LTs are recorded for YouTube ! (agreed)

That’s it. To everyone who filled out a sheet, thank you. I hope I can do better by you all next year.

Oct 17 2011

PASS Summit 2011: Wrap-Up

DSC06049Another Summit done gone by and I’m exhausted. You know you did the Summit correctly if you’re crawling onto the plane to leave because you can no longer stand. That’s where I was on Saturday.

I’m going to go ahead and write down a few thoughts about the Summit, but I want to point you over to Andy Leonard’s (blog|twitter) blog for what is a truly great summary. I won’t blame you if you read that & skip this.

Still here?

This year the Summit was amazing. I think it’s probably the best run Summit I’ve attended. From registration on Sunday night, to the final sessions on Friday, everything was dealt with in a timely and professional fashion that made the place a joy to attend. Huge kudos to the staff and the volunteers who organized and ran it.

Want to know what PASS is about? Connect, Share, Learn. Yeah, that’s the new SQL Chuck Norris at the end. More on that in another blog post. But that’s it. It’s the people. You make connections with marvelous individuals at the Summit. Then, you share with them. They talk to you. You talk to them. You both learn. It’s a glory. If you’re not meeting people at the PASS Summit, you’re doing it wrong. Other conventions may be all about the vendor floor or the sessions, but PASS is all about the people (and the vendor floor and the sessions).

My own experience started with presenting a pre-con with Gail Shaw (blog|twitter). All I’ll say is, Gail & I had glorious fun. The MVP party was Monday night and… wow! Thanks Microsoft. Tuesday I attended some sessions away from the Summit. Tuesday night I went to the First Timer’s event because I wanted to see what Tom LaRock (blog|twitter) had cooked up. It was great. The big sister/brother program at the beginning was slightly rocky, but from there it took off. The reception was great and the Quiz Bowl rocked, again (although I missed half of it because I was sent off to get beers for people on stage, proof of my love for them, Chuck, Andy…) Then it was down to the Red Gate/SQL Server Central party to see a dear friend receive the Exceptional DBA of the Year award. Jeff Moden should probably get an award for the Decade, but that hasn’t been invented yet.

I was invited to sit at the bloggers table (which I’ve now dubbed “the problem children’s table” we’ll see if the moniker sticks) for all three key notes. I live-blogged every one and you can read about them here. Dr. Dewitt (blog) stole the show… again. It actually sounds like he might be back next year too. Very exciting. And yes, that’s a picture of me with Dr. Dewitt. The restraining order hasn’t been issued yet.

Over the week I only attended a few sessions, two-three a day. It’s just hard to stop talking to people. Plus, this year, I worked the Red Gate booth as a vendor as much as possible (I had to leave several times to do other things, like attend the Women In Technology lunch for the first time). That was incredibly hard work. My hat’s off to all the vendors. You guys have no clue just how much they’re busting their humps in there. We announced a little contest on Wednesday. Looks like fun.

I want to point out one individual who just, for want of a better term, assaulted the Summit. This was her first PASS Summit. She organized and led the first ever #sqlrun (a bunch of people got together at 7AM and ran two miles, although I cut out early to shower before the key note… you’re welcome), presented a session at her first Summit, was the host for Women in Technology, met just about every single person at the Summit, and was just a glorious little bundle of energy through the whole thing. Jes Borland (blog|twitter) is one to watch.

During the week, the book SQL Server Deep Dives 2 was released. All proceeds from the book are going to Operation Smile. If you attended the summit you can download a free sample of this book and Volume 1 from Manning.

Taken as a whole, the Summit was just simply wonderful. This community just doesn’t stop giving, and sharing. I’m so glad I get to take part in it.

Oct 14 2011

PASS Keynote Day #3: Dr. Dewitt

And we’re off. We opened with a video of people saying “Connect, Share, Learn” and “This, is Community”

Rob Farley & Buck Woody came out with a song about long running queries.

[8:20]Wayne Snyder has been working with the PASS organization since 1999. He spoke at the first PASS Summit and he’s been on the board forever. He has finally hit the point as immediate-past president where he has to leave the board. We’ve got a great little thank you for him from all sorts of people. Wayne is a magnificent guy, seriously. If you see him, thank him for his service.

[8:28]We have a new executive committee, Bill Graziano as President, WHOOP, Douglas McDowell is Executive Vice-President and Thomas LaRock is VP of Marketing and finally, Rushabh Mehta is now the immediate past president.

SQL Rally Nordic is taking place in Sweden and has completely sold out. SQL Rally Dallas will be in May. We have tons of SQL Saturday’s coming up.

You can get a registration, including 2 full days of Pre-Con between now & Nov 15, for $1395.

[8:33]Dr. David Dewitt, Big Data, What’s the Big Deal?

I got to meet Dr. Dewitt earlier in the week. I’m very excited about this presentation.

He’s going to be presenting with a co-presenter, Rimma Nehme is going to be on stage helping out. His presentations are magnificent.

[8:38]Dr. Dewitt, despite being smarter than the whole room, is really funny. He’s opening up with some great slides and some good humor.

And then we’re off. We’re talking big data. Petabytes. Typically housed on large clusters of low-cost commodity hardware. He’s also talking Zetabytes. Uh, wow.

Why are things growing so much? More and more things are picking up data. There are sensors from phone location & others. There are web clicks and page views. Data has been determined to be too valuable to delete. Cost of storage has dropped.

[8:42]Managing “Big Data” The old system is to use a parallel database system. like Ebay with 10PB on 256 nodes. New stuff is a NoSQL System like Facebook, 20PB on 2700 nodes. Bing is 150PB on 40K nodes. Wow!

NoSQL is not meant to be that SQL is dead, but that there are things in addition to SQL.

Why do people love NoSQL? There is more data model flexibility. Relaxed consistency models such as eventual consistency. Low upfront software costs. Never learned anything but C/Java in school, so maybe they’re not smart enough. Finally, introducing time to insight.

[8:45]Time to insight. The idea is not to load data into a system, but instead of schema first, they just want to get it. No cleansing, No ETL, No load, analyze data where it stands. Schema first, vs. Schema later.

Major Types of NoSQL Systems. Key/Value Stores like MongoDB or Cassandra, Usually have a data model such as JSON, records are sharded across nodes in a cluster by hashing on key, single record retrieval. The other kind is Hadoop, scalable fault tolerant framework for storing and processing massive data sets, no data model, records are stored in a file system. The first is NOSQL OLTP and the second is NOSQL Datawarehouse.

[8:50]The new reality is that we’re really going to see two universes as the new reality, Structures and Unstructured data or relational systems and NoSQL systems. Relational databsae systems provide maturity, stability, consistency. The noSQL systems are all about flexibility.

Why is Dr. Dewit talking? Because the world has changed. Relational db systems no longer the only game in town. As SQL people we must accept this new reality and understand how best to deploy technologies. This is not a paradigm shift. RDBMS will continjue to dominate transactoin processing and all small to medium sized data warehouse. But many Businesses will end up with data in both universes.

[8:52] Hadoop all started at Google. They needed to manage massive amounts of click stream data. It had to e scalable, fault tolerant, easy to program against.

What does Hadoop Offer? Ability to analyze massive amounts of data. Scalable. Easy to program, low upfront costs, think big data warehousing

The stack is a HDFS at the bottom, then MapReduce, then Hive & Pig, on the size is Sqoop and then there are other management parts.

[8:55] Underpinnings of the entire Hadoop ecosystem. HDFS. Traditional hierarchical file system. Written in Java so it’s highly portable.

File splits are done through 64mb chunks and then the blocks are stored around the cluster. Each block is stored as a separate file.

Disk placement. A replication factor is set. Assuming a set of 3, it uses triple replication. Then you can survive two failures.

There is a name node, which is one instance per cluster, which is a single point of failure. There’s a backup node, which backs up the name node? And then there’s a series of data nodes.

Giant file comes in, a bunch of blocks are created, then the namenode receives messages with the blocks and the namenode moves it into appropriate datanodes, but the client does the writes, the namenode just balances and replicates.

[9:02]Reads go the other way, the namenode tells the client where the data is stored and reads it back out that way.

Failures can occur through disk errors, datanode failures, switch/rack failures, namenode failures, data center failures.

Datanode failures is handled by the namenode which always manages the datanodes, tracking what’s stored where and which datanodes are available and which are not. When there’s a failure of a datanode, the namenode will identify which blocks were stored on that datanode and will replicate them to other nodes. Further, it will balance stuff out as datanodes come back online.

[9:07]This means you get something that is highly scalable. No use of mirroring or RAID, which reduces cost. It uses a single mechanism (triply replicated blocks) t deal with a variety of failure types rathern thatn multiple different mechanisms. Negatives, block locations and record placement invisible to higher level software. Makes it impossible to employ many optimizations successfully employed by parallel DB systems.

So to improve performance they use MapReduce. Takes a large problem and divides it into small problems. Perform the same function on all sub-problems. Combine the output from all sub-problems. The first is the map, the last is the reduce.

MapReduce is done by a Master, JobTracker, and a set of Slaves, TestTracker. The JobTracker watches failures, etc.

It all works with HDFS. On each node there is a TaskTracker and a DataNode and the JobTracker is on the server with the NameNode.

[9:15]Seeing the data come out of the MapReduce mechanism, but then you see that the data can’t be grouped in mechanisms other than how they’re stored.

Reduce Phase basically takes each mapper and reads from them to get the information out of the reducer. Each reducer works with a mapper and the reducer is the thing that applies the function that actually fixes the data coming out of the mappers.

Yeah, I’m starting to get a bit lost.

Actual number of Map tasks, M is generally much larger than the number of nodes used. This heps deal with data skew and failure. Skew with reducers is still aproblem.

Failures, like HDFS, MapReduce framework is fault tolerant & other stuff.

Beauty of this stuff is that it is highly fault tolerant, relativey easy to write arbitrary distributed computations, mr framework removes burden of dealing with failures from programmer.

Cons are Schema embedded in application code, which means that sharing data between apps is really hard. Also, performance tuning is difficult.

Keeping up with this stuff as fast as I can. We’re drinking from a really big fire hose in here.

[9:24]Hive and Pig. MapReduce can’t really do joins. Developers can spend days writing apps to analyze data like what we can do with a query in the relational systems (although I know people that take days to write a TSQL query). Declarative query languages are not going away. It’s still efficient for what it does.

Hive and HiveQL s the mechanism used to put in a query language. Hive has tables. Richer column types than in SQL. You get the primitive types, but you also get stuff like associative arrays, lists, structs.Hive tables have to be partitioned. It’s still using HDFS files.

[9:28]All the files are stored in chunks. If there’s no filtering, it will go against all files. This thing could seriously thrash disks, especially when you consider the fact that data is not relational at all.

HiveQL Optimization and Execution. There is very little statistics. Uses simple heuristics of pushing sections below joins, output of … something. slide went by too quick.

PDW vs. Hive. Testing using 600gb from TPC benchmarks. On small data sets, for straight forward queries, it was pretty radically different. Then when you complicate it, hive was about 4000 seconds, pdw is about 1000, and then pdw-p is a factor of 10 faster. That’s because of how parallel data systems can work.

Hive vs. PDW. Partitioning the hive tables provides no benefit since there is no way t control where HDFS places the blocks. Different for PDW.

We’re going to have to connect the two universes. Increasingly the data first lands in unstructured universe. MapReduce is an excellent big data ETL tool. Sqoop provides a command line load utility.

Some analyses are easier to do in a procedural language. Sqoop provides querycapability to pull data from RDBMS using SQL, but you can’t get good performance.

Some applications need data from both universes. Only option is unstructured universe as unstructured data can’t go into structured. Sqoop moves it over to there.

This means that there are some types of queries that are never going to perform well with this data.

[9:40]And I just got lost. Sqoop is really complicated. It basically moves the data in & out of the two universes, which scans the entire table (yes, scans) a table N+1 times.

There has to be a better way!

Moving data is so 20th Century. Why not build a database system that understands both systems. It can have the expressive power of a language like HiveQL. He’s trying to build an “Enterprise Data Manager” which his partner hates (name, open to suggestions).

Dr. Dewitt asserts that SQL Server PDW just needs to understand unstructured data. It needs improved scalability.

Jenn McCown of Midnight DBA suggested TARDIS because it can move between universes. I like that. Let’s lobby.

Remember, this is not a paradigm shift. These things are designed to meet different problems. RDBMS only or HADOOP only is not going to be the default.

Send ideas for next year to [email protected] We want this man to come back guys.

This was another great presentation from Dr. Dewitt!

[9:48]And now for the Q&A.Bing David Dewitt and you can get a link to the PASS Talks. The slide deck is available.

What features can we expect to see in SQL Server that manage private cloud. He can’t answer.

What are impacts of big data on scientific community? Dr. Dewitt talks about how the Sloan digital sky survey data was managed by Jim Gray (before he was lost at sea). They are working on building database systems for scientific data that allows for declarative languages. he says that the science community just doesn’t use anything but files. They’re trying.

Here are his slide decks

[9:55]Can you elaborate more on the importance of supporting Hadoop? he does believe that there are two universes, so hadoop is out there and running next to SQL Server, today. The world has spoken. The two things are being used. We need to embrace it. We should not bury our heads in the sand.

As a DBA working primarily with relational databases, what should I do to be better prepared for this new universe? Dr. Dewitt says download and play with the code. Get started.

Oct 13 2011

PASS Summit Day 2–Key Notes

Bill Graziano has come out on stage, looking marvelous, in a traditional kilt and stockings. Thanks Bill.

For those who don’t know, Day 2 at the Summit every year is Kilt Day.

[8:19]Outstanding volunteers being recognized are Tim Radney and Jack Corbett. These are some outstanding people who work their bottoms off for the PASS Community. If you meet them, thank them.

The 2011 PASSion Award goes to Lori Edwards. She’s simply amazing. Congratulations Lori and thank you for all the work you’ve done!

[8:23]Time to eat our vegetables. We’re looking at the financials. It’s a slightly painful process, but important to understand where the money goes since this is a non-profit organization managed by volunteers. You should understand where the money comes from and where it goes.

[8:25]Quentin Clark is the keynote speaker from Microsoft. We’re seeing a bunch of people talk about the new functions about SQL Server 2012 (nee Denali). There really is a lot of new functionality coming up. Some of it is quite exciting. Some of it is probably edge-case stuff for really big systems. Regardless, there’s lots to learn.

[8:31]SQL Server 2012 is the biggest release ever, especially when you take into account that SQL Azure is part of the common code base. Quentin Clark is going through his “Fantastic 12”. First up is Required 9’s & Protection. Integrations services is a server, they’re introducing HA for StreamInsight and there’s AlwaysOn. We’re getting a testimonial from the Mediterranean Shipping Company. I’m just not a fan of testimonials. Show me demos or teach me stuff, all the rest is marketing.

[8:41]Testimonial done, we’re getting some demonstrations of AlwaysOn. They’re showing how the wizard can be used to build out a true topology of mirroring servers. It really is cool to watch this happen live. I’m going to be spending some time with it myself.

It’s great how they’ve set up a single listener to manage connections so that code is no longer necessary to manage the capabilities.

[8:45]The blogger table got a little rambunctious during the demo because the guy doing it had very small font sizes and didn’t use zoom it at all. When he occasionally used zoomit people started cheering. Big tip, just because the screen is large doesn’t mean people in the back of a large room can see what’s there.

Seriously, the demo was good, but you need to make sure your presentation skills are up to snuff.

[8:48]Blazing fast performance is set up off Performance Enhancements. But the big one is ColumnStore Index. #3 is Rapid Data Exploration, which is some of the stuff from yesterday. #4 is Managed Self-Service BI, in short PowerView and PowerPivot. But there’s also expanded management from Sharepoint and they’re adding Reporting Alerts, which is really huge.

[8:51]#5 is Credible and Consistent Data. They’re working off the BI Semantic Model, cloud data through shared information, mentioned yesterday. They’re also expanding out Data Quality Services and Master Data Services.

[8:53]Lara Rubbelke is showing how to manage the data. She got a quick dig in at using Excel for everything, which was funny if a little subtle. She’s using SharePoint and TSQL. Better still, she used Zoomit and large fonts so not only did we get a great demo, but we could see it. I’m excited about this stuff in ways that I wasn’t before the demo, which is the purpose of these demos. Well done Lara. Thanks.

And yes, there is more cloud stuff in here. We’re going to the cloud people.

This is some snazzy stuff and Lara is making it look great. I’m excited about the concept of business people being able to set up alerts on reports that they work from.

[9:02] #6 is Organizational Compliance. They’ve expaned Audit and added user-defined auditing and filtering. They’ve added User-Defined Server Roles (already wrote that up in my new SQL Server In a Month of Lunches book).

#7 is Piece of Mind. That breaks down to production-simulated Application Testing (WHOOP!). They’re expanding System Center Advisor & Management Packs for SCOM. They’re expanding critical support to a Premier Mission Critical level.

[9:06] #8 is Scalable Data Warehousing. #9 is Fast Time to Solution, in short, appliances. They are releasing an Optimized and pre-tuned appliance. They’re working with vendors to have hardware & software ready for plugging in instantly to your system. Better still, they’re providing your choice of hardware.

They’re working at with, based on the logos, HP & Dell, to create these things. These are very nice ways to get yourself a major system in pretty much no time.

[9:19]#10 is Extend Any Data, Anywhere. They’[re working with PHP, Java & Hadoop as mentioned yesterday. But they’re announcing a LINUX driver in order to convert from “something” to SQL Server (huh, wonder what “something” is, not). Finally they’re expanding file table, 2d spatial and semantic search.

And a demo from Michael Rys. The room just got smarter. Although now, we’re looking at a screen that is unreadable. Same thing with the new app, which sounds cool. Then he zoomed, with a comment “For the Zoomit Fans” and we got to actually see his app working. Huge applause from the bad kids at the bloggers table.

This is pretty neat stuff. I love seeing new code at work. This is slick and very powerful. We’ll put that stuff to work. EXCELLENT demo. Exciting stuff.

[9:28]#11 is Optimized Productivity. IN short, Juneau, or the new SQL Server Data Tools. It’s still Visual Studio… enough said. they’re talking about changes that make things unified across Database & BI. They’re creating a deployment & Targeting Freedom too. The main thing is a new embedded express version that doesn’t require an actual install to have a database ready to go. That sounds great!

#12 is Scale on Demand. AlwaysOn, of course. Deployment across Public & Private combined deployments, and Deployment & Targeting Freedom.

The demo is going to be good. We started with an example of adaptive learning when the presenter came out on stage and said he’d been reading the tweets and immediately used zoomit so we could see the screen. Yay!

We got to see the dacpac at work with Azure and the bacpac (god I hate that name) at work as well. It’s really cool. Oh, and now they’re setting up a method to connect from SSMS to the Azure Storage so you can restore your bacpac files locally. Nice work.

[9:40] And a second Demo! Cool. Cihan Biyikoglu is showing Elastic Scale.

Oooh, just saw an execution plan in Azure. I’m excited.

[9:50] That was actually a really decent key note. I wasn’t bored. I got enough technical information that I’m leaving feeling a bit excited about what’s coming out. Well done guys!

Oct 13 2011

PASS Summit So Far

This is Day 2 of the Summit proper. But for me, this is the fifth day of the Summit and my sixth in Seattle. Sunday was the opening of registration and it was like a high school reunion with people that you really love. Registration itself only takes about three minutes, but I was there for almost two hours talking to people, friends from previous PASS Summits, SQL Saturday’s, SQL Cruise, and SQL In The City.

Monday I put on a pre-conference seminar with Gail Shaw. We had 120 attendees. Despite our worries and multiple contingency plans, we had more than enough material for the time (you try coordinating 7 hours of material with someone from South Africa who has less band width than my phone). It went off wonderfully. Gail and I had a blast.

Tuesday I did some learning of  my own and then attended the new First Timer’s session at the conference. It was fantastic. Much better than last year. If you were part of the First Timer’s program this year, I’ll bet you felt the love. Everyone involved with putting this on, from the Big Sisters/Brothers to the PASS Staff, well done. Don Gabor’s lightening networking was amazing to see. The Quiz Bowl was wonderful, thanks Tim Ford & Louis Davidson. After the reception it was time to go down to the SQL Server Central Party that’s put on every year by Steve Jones and Red Gate Software. It was a little different to work the party instead of attend it.

Wednesday I live-blogged and tweeted the keynote sitting next to one of my favorite people Jen McCown, 1/2 of the Midnight DBA team, and another of my favorite people, Denny Cherry. We heard the official name for Denali will be SQL Server 2012 and we heard a bunch of marketing talk (except for a very short demo from Denny Lee of Microsoft that was interesting).

The big moment for me came at 10:05AM Seattle time when Red Gate Software announced the contest to actually, literally, send a DBA (or data professional) on a rocket, into space. Go to to check it out.

Then I got my learn on. I went to Buck Woody’s cloud session and got some good insights from Buck (and a couple of laughs). Next, I went to see another of my favorite people, Jes Borland, present for the first time ever at the Pass Summit. She absolutely rocked. Then it was my turn to present to 120 people on Dynamic Management Objects. I thought it went well, including dropping in a joke slide for Paul Randal, 55 Ways to Safely Shrink Your Database, which will be on the final recording (lordy I hope they let me talk again at the Summit).

It’s been a great Summit so far.

Oct 12 2011

PASS Summit 2011 Day #1 Post #1

Hello again. The PASS Organization has once more allowed me to sit at the bloggers table for the key note. I’ll be posting updates as the information unfolds.

[8:06] The crowd is filling in. this looks like one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at the summit. The organizers have done a great job so far. Thanks for all the hard work guys.

[8:10] SQUEEEEE! I just met Dr. David Dewitt and got a picture with him. I’ll post it after I get home and find the cable.

[8:22] Watching the videos of different people on the big screen talking about what they like about the PASS Summit is really cool.

[8:26] Rushahb Mehta is introducing the board and the Partners of the PASS board. We now have a new additional structure which is three people from different regions of the world, Rob Farley Raoul Illyes and James Rowland-Jones.

[8:28] The organization is up to 430k training hours this year if you count up all the various ways the organization reaches out to people through the Summit, 24 Hours of PASS, Rally, Virtual Chapters, SQL Saturday and the PASS Chapters. The organization really has grown a lot. Plus, they’re working with SQLBits and SQL Relay in the UK.

[8:32] They have a bunch of the bloggers and twitterers up on the screen. Nice to see everyone. It’s also nice to say that I know most of them and I’m friends with most of them. This is an amazing community.

[8:36] The different ways that we have for networking are excellent. The First Timers method for introducing people to each other has really taken off from last year. Then there are all the receptions and the Women in Technology lunch. There are just some great ways to make connections within this community and those connections really will help you in your job and your live.

[8:41] Yes, please visit the vendors and thank them, even if you don’t buy anything. And fill out your eval forms, it’s the one give you can give back to your speaker. If they did something wrong, let them know what it was. If you didn’t like their presentation, let them know why.

[8:42] Key note speaker is Ted Kummert from Microsoft. His topic is The New World of Data

[8:44] No other way to describe this, but we’re going down the marketing path now. The appliance choices in SQL Server are expanding and becoming more and more attractive to the enterprise, no question. SQL Server has a number of versions and service packs released over the last year. Azure is still a choice that Microsoft is making. Whether or not others are making that choice is still very much up in the air. Marketing or not, Microsoft is clearly committing 100% to this. Reporting and cubes are being set out there too.

[8:49]Denali: It’s coming. There are lots of new mechanisms and structures, especially supporting BI and knowledge management.

[8:52]First bit of news, Project Crescent will be released as Power View.

[8:53] We have a new name people, no longer referred to as Denali, but now referred to as SQL Server 2012. It’s official. Further, the release date is the “first half of 2012”

[8:55]Microsoft’s plan is all about “any data, any size, anywhere.” Concept is fine. Implementation is the question though isn’t it. Microsoft is starting to talk about Big Data. No definition yet on what that means. Ah, they’re going to support Hadoop as part of the product suite. Cool.

[9:00] Announcements, they’re going to support hadoop, odb driver & add-in in Excel for Apache Hive and a JavaScript framework for Hadoop. They’re going to partner up with HortonWorks as part of getting Apache Hadoop going.

[9:02] Now talking Eric Baldeschwieler, the CEO of hortonworks.

[9:04] Denny Lee, Microsoft developer is now coming out to show us how to move hundreds of millions of rows using Hadoop and Azure. Now, I’m excited. Denny Lee is a good, excited, informed presenter. This is what we like. Nerds excited about technology sharing the knowledge and passion.

He’s starting with the Hive ODBC driver in PowerPivot to connect to over 300 files. The ODBC driver will be available next month, so PowerPivot and Hadoop are connecting.

He’s pulling from a multi-node hadoop cluster to an excel workbook. He’s showing reports through Excel into hadoop data. It’s nice. No question.

[9:16] They’re working on capturing everyone’s data that is going to allow people explore everyone’s data. It’s called Data Explorer and will be part of Azure labs later.

[9:18]Introducing Contoso Frozen Yogurts, the self-service yogurt company… Anyway, it’s a sample set of data showing locations & performance scores of the various stores. They’re using that to relate to other global data available. So the machine is going to start learning what data might be interesting to you.

[9:28]Unfortunately, these demos, while somewhat interesting, were pretty dull, that, and the fact that I’m sitting with a bunch of witty people with ADD, we’re suddenly paying no attention.

Look, it’s interesting, but there is a TON of code behind the scenes to make this stuff happen. And, all that code has to be on Azure, and once it’s put together, you can pull it down to Excel.

[9:34] Power View is all about getting data out to the business people. That’s good. Amir Netz, Technical Fellow at Microsoft, is up to do a demo.

[9:36] I’m taking off a little early today. There’s a big announcement down in the expo hall from Red Gate Software at 10:05 this morning. please keep an eye out for it. It’s going to be HUGE!

Oct 03 2011


No, I’m not talking about hubs and switches. I’m talking about people. Networking is a major component of an event like the PASS Summit. Whether you’re networking with individuals or with organizations, this is an opportunity to build direct, personal connections with people that can, and will, help you in your professional career. With the economy behaving as it is, having a better network gives you an edge over your peers. You’re going to be better and faster at solving the tough problems, not because you’re smarter, but because you have contacts that have already solved that problem (which, actually, means you are smarter) and you can go to them for the solution.

I’ve been “that guy.” (I can’t be be “that gal” even if I tried). You know the person. They show up having flown in the morning of the event, they hit sessions all day, sit in a corner at lunch not making eye contact, repeat for 3 full days with time off in the hotel room, then fly home. Afterwards, they talk about, “Well, it was OK, but I didn’t get that much out of it.” Really? No kidding? Maybe it’s because you didn’t put anything into it. Just a guess.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve spent a lot more time trying to figure out how to work on computer than you have people. Not a problem. I’ve got the solution for you. Don Gabor (blog) is back at the PASS Summit for his third year in a row. He has a two hour mini-seminar called Networking to Build Business Contacts. If that doesn’t sound perfect for the Summit, then you’re not paying attention.

I’ve taken the class with Don two years ago and it was really worth it to me. Further, I’ve read one of Don’s books and I was privileged to publish an article he wrote for our short-lived attempt at reviving the SQL Standard. His subject matter is serious and important, but Don’s approach is light, fun, approachable and incredibly useful.

If you’re that guy/gal, stop. You don’t have to be. If you need that leg-up on how to get involved, then you’re absolutely in luck. Take Don’s session. You won’t be disappointed. Then network your behind off at the Summit and get that extra edge you need for your career.

Sep 22 2011

SQL Server Execution Plans

PASS_2011_SpeakingButton_180x180-blackI write quite frequently about SQL Server Execution Plans. I started in that area just because that’s how you figure out what a query is doing and sooner or later, we all have to tune a query. I found I was doing it sooner and more frequently. When the opportunity came up to write a book , I jumped on it. Now I find myself presenting, rather frequently, on execution plans.

One of the people I’ve learned from over the last several years is Gail Shaw (blog|twitter). I first saw Gail on stage at the PASS Summit, I think it was 2007. A co-worker of mine was picked, along with Gail, to go on stage for the Quiz Bowl. Gail was answering all the questions. If you go over to SQL Server Central, Gail doesn’t answer all the questions, but she’s involved most of the important discussions. If you read her blog and articles, Gail has also been deeply involved in query tuning and execution plans for a long time.

Why am I telling you all this?

In just a little over three weeks, Gail and I will be presenting an all day seminar on SQL Server Execution Plans. We’re going to cover the optimizer and the plan cache and we’re going to show you how to read a ton of execution plans. We’re going to go over how to spot problems and how to fix them. We’ll be examining plans from people in the audience (yeah, bring your problem plans) live on stage. You’ll get the chance not just to hear us talk, but to ask us questions, to get clarification on topics and meet other people who are learning the same stuff you are.

In short, we’re going to be having a really good time and talking a lot about Execution Plans. This is your chance. Register for the Summit and, please, register for our pre-conference seminar. You won’t be disappointed.

Sep 06 2011

Meme Monday: Favorite PASS Memory

Have to complete my assignment from the Rockstar this month since I’ve missed the last several (he gets all weepy, it’s not pretty). The question this time is to describe your favorite PASS moment… Wow! And this is Tom’s idea of an easy assignment. How do you choose? Lots of stuff flashes through my head, a football helmet with antlers & the song Funky Cold Medina, learning Policy Based Management from Buck Woody (blog|twitter) while simultaneously laughing my ass off, a pile of neatly folded clothes in a bush, friends old & new, speaking for the first time and running out of material 15 minutes early, sessions with great information from really smart and helpful people, Dr. Dewitt nuff said, sitting down to breakfast with people that wrote books I’d read, a couch in the Men’s room, kilts, showing my boss a solution that I picked up at the Summit… I could keep going. I love the PASS Summit. It’s fun and educational and inspirational.

My favorite memory is rather long & involved. I went to the PASS Summit for the first time in 2005 in Dallas. I was not any kind of insider. I didn’t know anyone there except the guy from my company that attended with me. We did the usual for the first two days, hit the sessions, hit the vendors, collect swag, head back to the hotel room (and no, you should not do this). But, we scored an invite to a vendor party, my first. It was OK. Free food and free beer was the reason I went, but then I saw these people that all knew each other. They were laughing and clearly having a good time. I asked who they were, thinking a company or MVP’s or something, and got the word PASS volunteers. Hmmm…

I volunteered.

I spent the next year on phone calls and exchanging emails in my first volunteer assignment with PASS on the Book Review Committee. It was some extra work for me during the year, but nothing horrible. Plus, I got to get a couple of free books as long as I wrote reviews. It was good and I made friends with a couple of other volunteers. Then, time came around for the Summit. I went. But this year, it was different. I started getting introduced to people because of the contacts I had already made. I didn’t go back to my hotel right after the last session the first night. Instead I was out with the volunteers and I was meeting other people, MVP’s, vendors, authors, speakers. And it kept going. It was the best conference I had ever been to. Yes, the sessions were great, but so was all the time spent talking to people.

I made contacts that I still treasure to this day. I made friends that I treasure even more. I’ve gone on to volunteer multiple times with PASS in several different roles (although I’ve been off the volunteer grid mostly this year, I need to change that next year). I’ve spoken at  the Summit the last three years and I’m speaking again this year. I helped organize a local user group. I got involved.

That involvement, that’s my favorite memory from PASS. I learned a lot, kind of late in life let’s be honest, and gained a lot just by staying out of my hotel room for one evening in Dallas.

Aug 03 2011

All About Execution Plans

If you’re attending the PASS Summit this October, I’d like to make a suggestion. The Summit itself is only three days long, Wednesday to Friday. But, if you have to travel any distance to get there, you’re going to miss work on Tuesday as well. Why not take a whole week away and spend Monday with Gail Shaw (blog|twitter) and me?

The reason I ask is because Gail and I are putting together 7 hours of information all about execution plans. We’re going to be presenting this information on Monday at the Summit as a pre-conference seminar. Yes, you’ll have to pay extra to attend this session. But if you register for the Summit now, there’s still a discount, which you can put towards to the seminar. And, seriously now, didn’t you want to learn more about execution plans? This is your chance.

Gail is an acknowledged SQL Server expert who writes and speaks regularly about execution plans and query performance tuning. If you read this blog at all, you might notice the occasional post about execution plans. Plus there’s the book on execution plans and the one on query tuning . Come on! You really do want to attend our session.

Even if you’ve already registered for the PASS Summit, you can still add a pre-conference seminar to your registration. If you don’t like learning about execution plans, there are lots of other good seminars to pick from (I’d recommend considering Rob Farley’s (blog|twitter) session even though he can be slightly backwards when it comes to execution plans [kidding]).