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Rick Heiges

News about SQL Server and the SQL Server Community

  • Where do 100-Level Sessions belong at PASS?

    Now that the PASS Summit 2014 is over, I remember having a hard time deciding which sessions to attend and can't wait for the USB to arrive.  This year, I was on the Program Committee for the first time ever.  I would recommend the experience to all speakers or potential speakers at some point.  I know with the explosion of SQL Saturday events that many more people have had to wrestle with how to choose content.  The Program Committee has the main goal of selecting the content that will drive people to the Summit.  There is a set of criteria that influences the the final selection that includes "Balance".  Balance among many items such as # of new speakers, topics/subtopics, and level to mention a few. 

    During the Summit, I like to ask questions of attendees about their experience and often ask specific questions arond the content they are consuming.  One attendee that I have seen for many years keeps coming back to the Summit for the 400-500 level sessions; he just wishes that we'd have more of them.  I also make a special effort to ask First Timers about their experience as well and their thoughts around the level of content.  The general response form this group is "Awsome!", but then I dig in a little deeper and ask about level.  For this population, they are very happy with the 200-300 level material for the most part.  A couple that I spoke with are very happy with 100 level because they are just so new to their role. But I did have some of the First Timers tell me that they avoid 100 level because they can get that material elsewhere.

    I started to think about this a bit.  Does 100 level content belong at the PASS Summit?  IMHO, it depends... If there is a new technology/feature that needs introduction, then yes I believe 100 content can be valuable at the Summit.  Topics such as Normalization Basics or Indexing Basics should not be at the Summit because that material should have been covered at a SQL Saturday, Chapter Meeting, or Webinar.  Is that it? No, I believe the track of the Summit that could benefit from more introductory sessions would be the Professional Development track.  The reason I see that it is beneficial for lower level content at the Summit it has a "Data Professional" spin and many of us don't think about some of these topics on a daily basis.  I attended 2.5 Prof Dev sessions last week and gave a 10 Minute Lightning Talk on Interviewing.  The information that was presented was not all that deep from my point of view, but it generated some good discussions.

    Is there any other track at the PASS Summit where 100 level topics are appropriate or do they all belong somewhere else?

  • Keep Your Eyes to the Skies

    Recently, a partner of Scalability  Experts asked me to write a blog relating to the Day 1 Keynote of PASS Summit 2014.  Here is a link to the post.

     

     

    http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/keeping-your-eyes-on-the-skies-a-partners-view-on-sql-server-and-ucs

     

     

    Enjoy! 

  • Are you ready for PASS Summit 2014?

    I wanted to re-publish an old blog post that is still fairly accurate.  It is actually a summary of blog posts I did back in 2011.

     http://sqlblog.com/blogs/rick_heiges/archive/2011/09/19/pass-summit-2011-what-you-can-expect-at-the-conference-summary.aspx

     A great deal of the information is still relevant. I hope that you find the information useful and to see you at the PASS Summit 2014!

  • Speaking at Richmond SQL Saturday!

    I am looking forward to my trip to Richmond, VA this coming weekend!  I will be able to meet up with some of my peeps from the area plus be able to deliver a presentation that is still in the works as we are still testing .

    The presentation is based on some work that I have been doing with Fusion-IO and the MTC Chicago on the develpment of several white papers.  Essentially, we are looking at the impact of Fusion-IO cards on two features in SQL Server 2014 - BPE and In-Memory OLTP. This is definitely a work in progress, but I truly believe that the attendees will gain some insight into these features as we explore what we have uncovered thus far.

    If you are in the area, be sure not to miss SQL Saturday #277 in Richmond!  http://www.sqlsaturday.com/277/eventhome.aspx

  • Looking Back at PASS Summit 2013 - Location

    Now that it has been a few weeks since the Summit, I wanted to look back at the location "experiment".

    Convention Center - It seemed to work well for the conference.  There were quite a few areas in the area where you could sit down and get some work down or have a discussion.  For the larger welcome reception the first night, I really liked the different areas.  If you wanted to enjoy the Quiz Bowl, the ballroom area was set up nicely with big screens so that everyone could see and hear.  The area right outside the ballroom and the outside patio area were good for people who wanted to have a conversation among friends while enjoying food and drink.  The light rail system came right through the middle of the convention center.  I wasn't crazy about this becasue it meant some extra walking to get from some breakout rooms to others.  I also did not like being limited to two sets of escalators to get to/from the Expo Hall.  I really liked the wide aisles in the Expo Hall as it helped to prevent traffic jams.  The food provided here was in line with other convention center food.

    Hotels - I booked my room late and had to stay a few more blocks away.  It was about 10-15 minute walk, but it was easy and good exercise for me.  Generally the prices for hotel rooms seemed fair for a downtown location, but an attendee could have a choice if booking the hotel early enough.

    Food / Drink - Much of the time away from the Convention Center is spent in a restaurant / bar / tavern.  There were lots of choices within easy walking distance.  Our friends at SQL Sentry provided a shuttle for attendees to get to all of the "hot spots" in Charlotte.  I found the shuttle to be of great value and added to the summit experience.  Thanks SQL Sentry!

    Attendees - Location also has an impact on where the attendees come from.  I know that I personally met quite a few folks from NC that would most likely not be at the Summit in Seattle.  I also spoke to a group of 7 folks from the same company that drove an extended van from Ohio to get to the Summit. I myself chose PASS in 2001 over several other conferences because it was scheduled to be in Orlando.  Location definitely has a big impact on where attendees come from.

    Microsoft Involvement - I knew going in that the number of Microsoft Folks would be considerably less than in Seattle.  It just makes sense.  I still had some great interaction with MSFT folks, but I missed having off-beat conversations with developers who were just there for the day.  In the MSFT area in the Expo hall, there was an area for Chalk Talks.  I would spend more time here next year as I got to hear more from Conor Cunningham and David DeWitt at this venue.

    IMHO, Charlotte is a viable option for future Summits.  There are lots of things to consider when selecting a site.  Looking back at the other non-Seattle Locations that we have been, I would put Charlotte at the top of the list.  I would probably shy away from the Gaylord properties like the ones we used in Orlando and Dallas.  At that point in time for the size of the Summit, those locations worked, but would be too small now.  The PASS Summit has conintued to grow each year.  It is not far-fetched to think that a larger venue like those used by TechEd will be the only viable option inthe future. I think this was good to get out of Seattle for a year, but Seattle should be the primary "home" for the Summit with an occasional alternate site every 3-4 years.

  • Webcast: What to Expect at the PASS Summit 2013 - Oct 3, 2013 @ 12:30pm EDT

    It has been confirmed that I will be delivering a webcast on "What to Expect at the PASS SUmmit 2013" on Oct 3, 2013 at 12:30pm ET.  Here is the link to register for the event.

    https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7411380526146008833

    This is targeted at First Time Attendees of the summit, but all are welcome to join.  This webcast will go over items such as:

    • How to Decode the Session Code
    • Meal Planning
    • Seating and Summit Ambassadors
    • Other Offerings : SQL Clinic, Labs, Community Zone, Luncheons, etc.
    • Odss and Ends

    This information is designed to take some of the "unknown" out of the equation for the attendee.  Please let all First Time Attendees know about this webcast.  And, it will be recorded and posted ASAP in case you can't join me for the Live Event.

  • What to Expect at the PASS Summit 2013

    Next week, I am tentatively planning a webcast on Oct 3, 2013 @ 12:30pm ET as I have done over the past couple of years aimed at First Time Attendees.  Once I get things confirmed, I will post a link for registration.  I updated my PPT Deck with the new information and realized that most of the message and events / timings are similar to the past two years. 

    I first did this webcast in 2011 and created a series of companion blog posts that are still very relevant for this year.  Naturally, some references to locations and specifics to Seattle will not apply, but much of the information is consistent with this year's Summit and can still provide guidance to new attendees.  So I am providing links to the blog posts below from 2011 and hope that they will be useful.to this year's attendees.

    1. General Overview
    2. Planning Your Learning Itinerary
    3. Meals
    4. More Than Just Sessions - And Be Prepared
    5. Networking
    6. After Hours
    7. Social Networking Tools
    8. Logistics
  • PASS - Regional Seats First

    After thinking about how to cast my votes for the PASS Election, I thought about the process and how one could get confused (and even upset) if the process for seating successful candidates was not already laid out.  I found this on the PASS Elections site which proved to be helpful.  The scenario that I thought of was the following....

    Person A (US/Canada) - 20 votes

    Person B (EMEA) - 19 votes

    Person C (EMEA) - 18 votes

    Person D (US/Canada) - 17 votes

    Person E (US/Canada) - 16 votes)

    If Regional Seats are awarded first (as the process states now)...

    Person A - US/Canada Seat, Person B - EMEA Seat, Person C - Open Seat

    If Open Seats are awarded first (not the current process)....

    Person A - Open Seat, Peson B - EMEA Seat, Person D - US/Canada Seat

    I am not advocating for one process over the other.  I am just pointing out that this type of situation was provided for in the processs adopted by the BoD.  Good information to have before the votes are counted.  :-)

  • PASS Candidates Announced and Campaign Time Has Begun

    Today was the official announcement of the Candidates and the official start of the Campaign.  PASS Campaigns sure have changed a lot since I originally ran for a seat (and lost) in 2002.  The process has changed to become more rigorous in the Nomination stage.  This is a very good thing because in my view, there are no bad choices when the NomCom does their job.  I am of the opinion that all of the candidates are fully qualified to serve PASS well. Thanks to the NomCom, I now have some tough decisions to make.  :-)

    There are three seats available this time.  One is designated for US/Canada. Another is designated for EMEA.  And another is not assigned so any of the candidates could win.  Each PASS Member in Good Standing (You will know if you aren't) can vote for up to three candidates.  You cannot vote for the same candidate 3 times. If someone votes for three candidates from EMEA, one of their choices will not win a seat.  Likewise if someone votes for three candidates from US/Canada, one of their choices will not win a seat.  It really forces you to think about potentially voting for someone that you may not be as familiar with.  Or you could just vote for your favorite three regardless of region.  I haven't decided what to do yet as far as how to cast all of my votes except for one.

    I read each and every candidate application and platform this morning.  I care very much about PASS and want to see the best advocates for PASS and the community continue the success story, so I take this seriously.  I must admit that after reviewing the information, I felt like I had a much better picture of the candidates.  I am enthusiatically supporting Allen Kinsel for the Board of Directors of PASS.  I was fortunate to serve with Allen on the Board at the end of my service on the Board.  Although we did not agree on all of the discussions, I found that he articualted his point of view effectively in the Board Room and was a tireless worker.  I know that Allen works a real day job (and not a consulting position), but I can't remember him ever pushing something off because his work was too busy.  In my experience, he put a priority on serving PASS and the SQL Community at large.  And we have not had that many non-consultant types on the Board.  Allen brings a unique perspective from that angle.

    In closing, I hope that all PASS Members will take advantage of the campaigning activities this week and read the Candidate applications and platforms.  I know that I am still undecided about my two other votes and plan on following the campaign closely this week so that I can make my decision.  We are fortunate that a PASS campaign is one that celebrates the strong points of each candidate and frowns upon putting the other candidate down.  Just because I support one candidate, does not mean that I am against another.  It just means that some choices are not easy, but decisions need to be made.  Go Find your Candidate!  Happy Campaigning!

  • Looking Back at the Keynote for SQLSat #250

    The organizers of SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh did a great job at putting on their second SQL Saturday.  Well Done!

    I volunteered to perform a keynote for this event.  I blogged about developing it here.   I had practiced and tweaked the dellivery about 10 times before Saturday.  I was told that the time available was about 40 minutes and practiced for that amount of time.  The scheduled called for the opening remarks and keynote to go from 8:00 to 9:00.  I was then told on Friday night that they needed to be done by 8:50 to allow for the attendees to get to the breakout rooms.  I was anticipating that there might be a slight time crunch, but shaving about 10 minutes off was going to be a challenge.  When I got back to the hotel, I cranked up the laptop and practiced the keynote two more times at a much faster pace. I also found out that the room where I was speaking had no sound system and that my voice would need to project in order to reach the audience.  We got off to a late start by a few minutes and the transition between the opening remarks and the keynote was a little less than smooth as we only had a single microphone to share.  This microphone also was not for the room where I was presenting; it was for the overflow rooms.  It paid off as I ended right at 8:50am.

    The first part of the keynote was about Community Resources and especially PASS.  As I concluded the community portion of the keynote, I had a Specific Call to Action for the Attendees which aligned with Connect/Share/Learn.  Here it is:

    • Connect - Meet at least 10 New People Today.  Get on twitter and follow #sqlhelp
    • Share - Actively Particiapte in the Sessions Today and Provide Feedback to the Presenters on the Evaluation Forms
    • Learn - Write Down at least one tip from each session and review it on Monday Morning

    Was I successful?  Was it inspring?  It is hard to tell; however, I felt like I connected with the audience and had at least some measure of success with one of the "Call to Action" items with some anecdotal evidence.  I asked the attendees to actively participate in the sessions and to provide feedback to the speakers on the evaluations.  This was the "Share" (as in Connect / Share / Learn) Action that the attendees could easily fulfill.  Almost all of my evaluations for my breakout session had comments.  As other speakers reviewed their evaluations, they also noticed an uptick in commentary on the evaluations. 

    The second part of the keynote was focused on three new features of SQL Server 2014.  Again, I felt like I was successful in connecting with the audience as I framed up the changes in server technology over the past 10 years.  I was going at Warp Speed with the additonal time constraints, but at least the audience has an idea of why some of the features in SQL Server 2014 are significant.

    I wrapped up the keynote again with the Call To Action for Connect/Share/Learn and sent them on their way.  I had a lot of energy and overcame some last minute challenges. It was great fun to deliver a keynote as it is different than a regular breakout session.  I'd love to do it again.

  • Developing a Keynote for SQL Saturday #250

    I volunteered to help out and present a keynote at SQL Saturday #250.  It worked out that they couldn't find anyone better.  :-)  I am really looking forward to it and hope that I do not disappoint. The time available is about 40 minutes so it can't get too technical.

    Although I have been a part of 2 keynotes at the PASS Summit, I really only added some ideas to the overall messaging for the third day keynote which is really more like an emcee.  And I also got to introduce Dr DeWitt for the meat of the keynote - so the keynote was a breeze.  The behind the scenes team at PASS was great at develping a script and timing.  Most of the development comes from the professional marketing team to keep what I say on stage on message.  Coming up with a keynote is different from developing a breakout session.  Typically, a keynote is meant to present information at a high level so that the details don't distract from the message; it is not meant to garner questions like a breakout session where the questions really enhance the content.  It is also meant to inspire (at some level) the audience to act on the message. 

    The Message - The SQL Community is full of great stuff. - This is aimed at the "newbie" attendee.  They may have some favorite blogs or have seen a webcast or two, but they are not aware of the various moving parts and players in the community.  Naturally, I will highlight PASS events because that is what I know best and have a passion for.  But I also intend to shine the light on some of the "properties" for lack of a better word that I have found useful over the years.  This includes vendors, consultancies, and other web focused properties that are active in the community.  This was the first cut of the keynote message.

    I was asked to add some techie stuff into the keynote as well.  I thought about several ways to go.  I looked over the finalized schedule of sessions and noticed that there were not a lot of sessions focused on SQL Server 2014. It seemed only too natural to talk about the upcoming rleease of SQL Server and what to expect.  Obviously, I had to include Hekaton in here.  I also selected Clustered Column-store Index and Buffer Pool Extensions to highlight some key features in the next release.  However, just diving into the features wouldn't be beneficial unless it was framed properly and really help the audience think BIG and beyond their current issues in their environment.  In order to frame these features in the proper light, I take a look back at what things were like 10 years ago in regards to OS, RAM, Storage, etc and contrast that with today's realities. The big things that I key on are the 64-bit OS enabling more RAM to be available, multi-core CPUs, and the surge of SSDs. I also have some fun with gazing 10 years iinto the future with some wild guesses thrown in to lighten things up a bit.  I will give a 45,000 foot view of the features with the limited time and once again get the audience to think about the future and what's next and to get excited about SQL Server 2014.

    So now the message is "Community and Cool Stuff".  The first half is centered around Community and what resources are available.  The call to action is to "Connect, Share, Learn" with specific attainable goals for that day.  Connect - Meet at least 10 new people. Share - Provide Feedback to the Speakers and Actively Particiapte in Sessions (perhaps by asking questions). Learn - Write down at least one tip from each session and review the list on Monday Morning.  The second half of the keynote is about SQL Server 2014.  The call to action is to get the CTP and get ahead of the curve.

    In closing, developing a Keynote has been a lot of work, but it was fun to think of communicating at a different level.  Essentially I get to talk about some great resources in the community and some cool features in the upcoming release.  I plan on blogging about the experience afterwrads and hope to get some solid feedback to improve upon.  If you are attending SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh, please say "Hello" on Saturday.  I am looking forward to being back "home" for the weekend.

  • PASS Election Time is Here (Almost)

    According to the PASS Election Timeline, the PASS BoD will take up the issue of approving the slate of candidates to be presented to the community for voting.  These candidates have taken a big step in putting themselves out there for election.  They have gone through the application process and the interview process by the NomCom to be fully vetted.  This is not any easy task for the applicants who hope to become candidates and the members of the NomCom.  I have been on both sides as an applicant and NomCom member in the past and know that there are some tough questions asked of the applicants and tough decisions to be made by the NomCom. 

    The NomCom will present a slate of applicants to become official candidates.  There are ranked in order of how well they "scored" during the application and interview process by the NomCom.  This means that when we see the official list of candidates, they will be listed in order of most qualified on top.  There is no visibility into how the NomCom scored each candidate or how big of a spread there is between the various candidates.  They are ordered for a reason and should be part of your consideration when voting.

    Many candidates will use their own blogs or other social media to answer questioins that are often posed in the PASS Election Forums.  Most have also put a link in the forums to their blog posts.  The forum is probably the best way to get a question answered from all of the candidates.  If there is one issue that you care about most, ask it in the forums to learn about each candidates position.

    Perhaps the one question that should be posed is "What will this candidate bring to the BoD?"  How will having Candidate A serve on the board be different from Candidate B?  Is there a track record to show the difference?

    I encourage everyone to find out about each candidate's position on issues and to participate in the process. I know that I will be following the process closely again this year.  Stay Tuned...

  • I'm speaking at SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh!

    On September 14, 2013, I will be speaking at the 2nd SQL Saturday event to be held in Pittsburgh.  I spoke at the last SQL Saturday event last year which was a blast. 

    This year, I will be presenting a session entitled "Really Basic Perfmon".  It is designed for the person who has heard about Perfmon before, but never really got into capturing data or examining the counters. Last year, I had about 50 people jammed into the room for this topic.  I hope that it will be a success again.

    I am also delivering the keynote for this event.  It is entitled "Community and Cool Stuff".  The first half will be focused on the SQL Server community and the resources that I have found useful over the years and ways in which you can get involved.  My goal is to get the audience educated and excited about being a SQL Server Data Professional.  The second part of the keynote will highlight some of the new features to be found in SQL Server 2014.  The short list includes Hekaton, Clustered Column-Store Index, and Buffer Pool Extensions.

    If you are in the area, I encourage you  to attend SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh and Enjoy a day where you can Connect, Share, and Learn.

    http://www.sqlsaturday.com/250/eventhome.aspx

  • Learn SQL Server in a virtual college atmosphere...

    For a number of years, I have served on an Advisory Board for the University of Washington SQL Server Certificate Programs.  Last year, UW took the program to the web for learning SQL Server virtually anywhere in the world.  And you get to have Buck Woody as an instructor for one of the courses. 

    The course will meet virtually every week and there are assignments to be done.  Often people find that this format for learning a subject  works well because of the constant contact and expectations that are set at the beginning as you commit to taking the course.

     You can find more information at http://www.pce.uw.edu/certificates/sql-server-administration.html

     

    Now, Go Learn Something!

  • How many SQL Server DBAs does an organization need?

    "How many SQL Server DBAs do we need?" - This is a question that often comes up in conversations with customers.  Essentially, customers want to know if they have enough DBAs or too many.  This is not  a trivial question.  If you do some research online via your favorite search engine, you will most likely come across numbers such as 40-65 DBs per DBA (for SQL Server).  I remember finding another number relating to storage space instead of the number of DBs; the range was 3-5TB per DBA.

     I have had custoemrs that had a team of 5-6 DBAs supporting a single application (logically a single DB).  I have also had customers that had 2000-3000 DBs (not all prod, but still) per DBA.  But just saying that a DBA can manage x number of DBs over y TBs of storage just doesn't seem right.

    Here are the factors that I have found that influence the number of DBAs needed:

    • Mission Criticality - If a DB is mission critical, it deserves more attention in order to stay available.  The more it is intertwined with the success of the enterprise, the more DBA resources are needed.
    • Churn - How often does data get loaded or get modified?  Usually a DB that has minimal INSERTS/UPDATES/DELETES requires periodic attention for growth, index rebuilds, etc. 
    • Usage Patterns - Even a DB primarily used for Reporting with few updates can require attention if the usage of the DB changes. For example, a reporting DB that has many users that can query the data in anyway that they want can scream for attention.
    • Permissions - But not in the secuity sense... Many DBs are from vendors which restrict what type of modifications that a DBA can perform such as restricting the additon of indexes for example.
    • Skillset of the DBA Team - A team of DBAs that embrace standardization, atuomation, scripting (especially powershell) can manage resources more efficiently.

    There are many other factors as well.  I wish that I could say that I came up with a magical formula with these factors built in, but I have not.  I never seem to run into those situations where there are too many SQL Server DBAs.  With that iin mind, I have come across quite a few situations where a qualified DBA is needed either because there is none or the factors listed above warrant an addition of resources.  How does this happen?  SQL Server is "Simple".  Just about anyone can install SQL Server and be up an drunning in no time.  The default settings are adequate for many applications as they are initially built/installed.  Over time, the usage of the system becomes greater and the importance of the data does as well.  Before you know it, an organization may need a DBA and not know it.

    If you are unsure that you need a full time DBA, consider a "DBA on-call" service or perhaps a local consultant who specializes in SQL Server.  This type of service can also be helpful to support the organization if you have a DBA or a team of DBAs to cover for vacations, sickness, etc.  The important thing to note is that you do not let your DBA be the potential single point of failure.  When this happens, you truly understand the value of a well qualified DBA. Don't forget that DBAs are people too who have real lives.  :-)

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