One DBA's Ongoing Search for Clarity in the Middle of Nowhere


Yet Another Andy Writing About SQL Server

Friday, August 10, 2012

Going to Seattle for More SQLSkills!

Last April I experienced the most amazing training event I have participated in so far in my life (yet).

I actually got to go to a SQLskills Immersion Event - IE1 in Chicago.  I went with one of my House of Brick colleagues David Klee (blog/@kleegeek) and our minds melted for five unbelievable days.

At the end of the very first day of class I talked to Klee and we agreed that we had to get the company to send us to the remaining immersion events in the series - at least to IE2-IE4 (and maybe the BI events too). I called home to the office and they reminded me that I was already registered for the PASS Summit for 2012, and that another week of training wasn't going to happen this year (in their defense, I already had two weeks booked in one year which is better than a lot of companies do, right?)

I pondered in deep thought for about half a second and offered to skip PASS if I could register for IE2 in Seattle in the late summer.

Realize that I haven't been to the PASS Summit for several years (as I described here) and I had really been looking forward to it.  The Summit is a crazy-good cross-section of the SQL Server universe and is not to be missed if you can make it happen.

...except for this.

The Powers-That-Be briefly considered and then approved my suggestion, and Klee and I registered that same day for IE2 in Seattle in August.

...and now it's August.

To top all of that, since then SQLskills has hired two more amazing employees Glenn Berry and Erin Stellato, and they will both be in the class with us next week, as will several other well known SQL Server personalities.

To borrow a well-known phrase, SQUEEEE!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

SQLSaturday 159 - KC Can Sure Throw a SQL Saturday!

This past weekend was SQLSaturday159 - Kansas City.  I drove down with my wife and our sons (2 years old and 11 months old) and spent the first day sightseeing (Union Station & Crown Center) and scaring the wits out of our 2-year-old (T-Rex Cafe - he loves dinosaurs except when they are 15 feet tall and roaring at him!)

Friday night was the speaker dinner at Screenland Crossroads (a working movie theater although we were not actually in a theater).  I met up there with my House of Brick Technologies colleagues David Klee (blog/@kleegeek) and Jon Shields and we were greeted by one of the organizers of the event Bill Fellows (blog/@billinkc).  Bill presented us with one of the most unique parts of the dinner, the speaker gift bag.  Rather than giving out a polo shirt or t-shirt, the KC SQL Saturday team compiled the following collection of Kansas City-related or produced products:

It was a very creative and well-executed idea.

 At dinner I met several people that I had interacted with online (mostly Twitter) but had never previously met in person, including Dave Valentine (blog/@IngeniousSQL), Rick Krueger (blog/@DataOgre), Chris Shaw (blog/@SQLShaw), Andre Dubois (@MtnDBA), and Jason Kassay (@JasonKassay).  We had "heavy hors d'oeuvres" for dinner and chatted for quite a while.

After a long night of our two little boys not wanting to go to sleep (or stay asleep) in the hotel, I rose far too early on Saturday morning looking forward to giving two presentations and participating in several others.  We arrived at the Cerner Corporation Riverport Campus (actually an old riverboat casino dock building - very cool!) and immediately found that there were issues with the Guidebook application scheduling the sessions (changes weren't synchornizing properly).  Bill and the team jumped in and quickly produced printed schedules and everything went off without a hitch.

First up was 10 Things That Every DBA Should Know! from fellow Omahan John Morehouse (blog/@sqlrus). 

John did an excellent job of playing to his audience in a large room (actually the former sports bar) and conveying some good tips - thumbs up.

The next session was the one I was most excited for, mainly due to the two presenters giving the session - Karen Lopez (blog/@DataChick) and Thomas LaRock (blog/@SQLRockstar).  The session, Database Design Throwdown, was a Point-Counterpoint-style debate on a variety of subjects (NULL's - yes or no?) between Karen - the architect - and Tom - the DBA.
Karen & Tom prepping for the session

At the end of each topic, Karen and Tom polled the audience for input, and it was fun and informative for all.  They are scheduled for the PASS Summit with the same concept so I would definitely recommend the session.

Next up was another collaborative session - Choose Your Own Adventure: Performance Tuning - given by LaRock and Jason Strate (blog/@stratesql).  Tom and Jason started with a broken process and then polled the audience as to what steps to take tried to resolve the issue in 60 minutes or less. ("The server has been down for 10 minutes - we've lost $10 million dollars!)  I won't give away the ultimate solution here - if you get a chance go see the session at a future SQL Saturday or at the PASS Summit and find out for yourself.

Lunch was Kansas City BBQ from Oklahoma Joe's (don't ask me why there is a Kansas City BBQ joint named "Oklahoma" Joe's) - it was definitely tasty.

After lunch was my first session, and it was a new session I have just created - Maintain Your DBs with Help from Ola Hallengren.  I highly recommend the Ola Hallengren Maintenance Solution for backups/reindexing/CHECKDB and it just made sense to me that it could be a good topic for a presentation.  I knew that Ola occasionally presents on the topic himself, so I wanted to verify that he was OK with my creating such a presentation.  To my amazement, he was incredibly responsive, agreeing that I could create the presentation as long as I didn't submit it to this year's Summit (since he was going to submit himself).  He also offered to review my slide deck once I completed it and in the weeks that followed sent me several unsolicited suggestions and notes on new features as suggestions to include in the presentation.

A note on Ola Hallengren (and most of the other developers of the free tools that we all use) - this is a side effort on top of his regular job.  He develops and maintains this widely recommended piece of code on his own time, and then on top of that was offering to help me with this presentation - I can not thank him enough.

I ended up with a full room (~40 people - I was in one of the smaller rooms)
Picture stolen from a Tweet by @sqlrus -

Overall I thought the presentation went well for the first run, but I did end up about ten minutes short.  I am modifying my presentation to add a demo database with fragmented indexes and out-of-date statistics so that I can add some demos for next time.

Next up was smoothies, sponsored by Xtivia - yum!

The last information session of the day was Virtualizing Business Critical SQL Servers.  I give this presentation with my House of Brick colleague David Klee.  He sometimes gives it alone, but it does add an extra layer when we present it together (plus he doesn't have to talk about licensing SQL Server on VMWare when I am there to do it.)

Our room was almost full and we had a very engaged audience.  We have given the talk several times and we get more refined with it each time - some day we'll present it at the PASS Summit...some day.

The final session of the day was the awards and giveaways, and even with some vendors giving out dozens of book and t-shirts, we still didn't win anything (oh well).

Overall the experience was amazing, both as a presenter and as an attendee.  The SQL Saturday phenomenon has exploded in the last couple of years and if there isn't one near you, contact Karla Landrum (blog/@KarlaKay22) and PASS and they will help you set one up - it is definitely worth it!

Next up for me (after SQLSkills Immersion Event 2 in Seattle, but that's a different blog post) - SQL Saturday 154 in St Louis - be there!