Category: PASS General

Announcing PASS Board Portfolios for 2015

Oct. 31, 2014  With the PASS Board of Directors elections completed and thousands of community members and volunteers gathering at PASS Summit 2014 in Seattle next week, I wanted to share the details around your portfolio leaders for 2015.

It’s always exciting to match up Directors with the project portfolios where they can put their skills, experience, passions, and energy to best use for our members. Next year will see a few changes to our Board portfolios, including the continuing integration of the Global Growth and Volunteers focus areas into everything we do at PASS as well as the addition of a Business Analytics portfolio.

Without further ado, here are the portfolio assignments for 2015:

    • James Rowland-Jones, who led our Global Growth portfolio and was re-elected to the Board for the 2015/2016 term, will be spearheading our Special Projects portfolio going forward, as our ongoing efforts to better support the global community become an essential part of all of our portfolios. James’ project for 2015 will be to grow PASS’s sponsorship sales activities across the organization.
    • Wendy Pastrick, also re-elected to the Board for 2015/2016, will bring her experience in supporting and growing Global Chapters this year to her new mission with Virtual Chapters, leading our efforts to provide unparalleled online learning opportunities for the global data community through an ever-increasing lineup of language- and topic-focused VCs. 
    • Tim Ford has translated his passion and experience as a SQLSaturday organizer into guiding the SQLSaturday portfolio to even greater growth. We witnessed a record 86 free SQLSaturday events in FY2014 – 34 international SQLSaturdays and 52 US events – and will be rolling out a new SQLSaturday website, enhanced for attendees and organizers. With Tim’s continued leadership in 2015, we are focused on meeting the needs of even more data professionals around the globe through these popular free, 1-day training events.
    • Amy Lewis will take the momentum from a busy first year heading up the PASS Programs portfolio into 2015, continuing to improve processes, support community speakers, and lead PASS’s largest volunteer committees as they select sessions for PASS Summit – this year’s conference features a record 200+ sessions – and the PASS Business Analytics Conference.
    • Jen Stirrup, who led the Virtual Chapters portfolio this year, will be taking on a different role in 2015 as she heads up our new Business Analytics portfolio, helping steer the strategy around the growth of this young and growing community.
    • Grant Fritchey, who will begin serving on the Board in January, will take over the Global Chapters portfolio, working to grow and support local user groups with a great team of Community Evangelists and Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors throughout the world.

The 2015 PASS Board also includes the PASS Executive Committee – consisting of myself; Executive VP, Finance, Adam Jorgensen; VP, Marketing, Denise McInerney; and Past President Bill Graziano – as well as Founding Partner Board representatives from Microsoft.

Looking over the portfolio assignments above, you can’t help but see how essential community volunteers are to everything we do. Each portfolio leader works with valued volunteers in their area. In 2015, each Director will be focusing on how to better engage more volunteers as a vital part of every project.

As Sri Sridharan transitions off the Board, his work on the important tasks of growing PASS’s volunteer pool, better organizing volunteer efforts, and recognizing volunteers’ valuable contributions will continue through the focus and efforts of each Director and their PASS HQ counterparts. This is a similar method to how we approached the Global Growth portfolio, and we expect to see similar success.

The transition to new assignments is underway, and new and returning portfolio leaders will be meeting with community leaders and volunteers at Summit to get a jump-start on their projects. Make sure you say “Hi” at Summit – you can find us in the Community Zone throughout the week and at the Board Q&A on Friday, Nov. 7 – and volunteer to pitch in on your favorite projects. We can’t wait to get down to business!
– Thomas LaRock
PASS President

 

SQL Server and BA: Growing in Depth and Breadth

Oct. 31, 2014  Two years ago, PASS began to expand our educational offerings to include a conference targeted to the business analytics community. This year, we’ve had more discussion within our community about what our business analytics strategy means for PASS.

Next week at Summit, we’ll be holding a special PASS Business Analytics Direction and Q&A session. Throughout the week, members of the Board will also be available to listen to your feedback and answer your questions about our plans for BA. If you will be at Summit, I hope you will take some time to talk to me or other Board members about our BA initiatives.

One of the concerns I’ve heard expressed is that our expansion to serve the business analytics community could negatively affect how we serve our core SQL Server and BI members. I’d like to share with you how we are allocating resources to ensure that does not happen.

Business analytics is a natural extension of our core, data-centric SQL Server and business intelligence communities. We  the DBAs, database developers, data architects, and BI professionals – work with business and data analysts, data scientists, line-of-business managers, and others on the business side whose lives revolve around data every day. The business and data analysts are our colleagues, our clients, our customers.

PASS Summit has long been the main source of fundraising for PASS, funding the many other learning opportunities and programs we offer throughout the year. As PASS leaders saw the expanding attention to business analytics in the data industry, developing a focused conference and other learning opportunities for those working in the business analytics space made sense. This would both introduce an additional revenue stream to help secure the organization’s future capability to better serve all our members and bring us in closer touch with a growing community of data professionals.

PASS’s BA-related activities and budget were structured from the beginning to be fully self-funding, with no cross-funding or subsidization from PASS’s SQL Server-related revenues. When PASS announced in July 2012 that it would be hosting the new PASS Business Analytics Conference in Spring 2013, the conference was projected to break even – we made a modest profit. To date, the net profit we’ve realized from our two BA Conference events has covered the cost of all of our other BA-related initiatives, including staff time to support new BA-related Virtual Chapters, 24 Hours of PASS: Business Analytics Edition, and other activities.

At the same time, our fiscal year 2015 budget supports continuing growth for our core SQLSaturday events and SQL Server and BI Chapters and Virtual Chapters around the world, an ever-growing PASS Summit, and continuing IT investments to modernize our platforms and take advantage of technology to enable a stronger, more connected PASS community.

The BA Conference and other BA offerings may not be taking funding from PASS’s SQL Server activities, but do these expanded initiatives affect the energy and focus that PASS leaders, volunteers, and staff can bring to serving SQL Server and BI professionals?

Even before launching our BA activities, PASS has been mindful of making investments to support the growth we’ve seen in our local PASS Chapters, Virtual Chapters, SQLSaturday events, and overall SQL Server and BI membership rolls. We have expanded our Community, Project Management, Marketing, and IT teams and have a continued focus on growth – in terms of both quantity of chapters, services, and resources for the global SQL Server community as well as quality of training and networking opportunities. (See our FY2015 portfolio goals here.)

Judging from the energy, hard work, and creativity that’s gone into next week’s PASS Summit – which will feature the biggest program and the largest gathering of SQL Server and BI pros ever – our HQ and community teams are committed to serving the needs of our core members.

One of the strengths of PASS is that our membership is so diverse, made up of a variety of roles, interests, and talents. The PASS community is already the hub and connector for many different data communities – from 275+ local Chapters around the world to 27 language- and topic-focused Virtual Chapters to speaker and blogger communities and beyond. These communities serve different locales, different learning needs, different technology interests, and different career and professional growth goals – and each interacts with PASS in a different way. But they all come together under the PASS mission of empowering data professionals to connect, share, and learn.

The way that PASS invests in these different data communities shows that it can be AND rather than OR. With the passion and dedication of our members and volunteers, we can continue growing not only in breadth, but also in depth in the communities we already serve.

In the coming months, we’ll publish more about our BA strategy and direction. And I hope you will bring your questions to the PASS Business Analytics Direction and Q&A session at Summit on Friday, Nov. 7, at 2:15pm in Room 307/308. I’ll see you there. 
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing


 

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Brian & Devin Knight

Oct. 16, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. We caught up with Brian and Devin Knight for a quick chat about their pre-con, SSIS: Problem, Design, Solution.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Devin:
I’d go with Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone” because it’s an awesome song and so is our pre-con!

Q: What excites you most about working with SQL Server Integration Services?
Brian:
I like the logic problems. Each package you build is like solving a puzzle that has a dozen ways of solving it. 

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
Devin: “Okay, now everyone line up for the ceremonial Knight brothers pre-con hug.“

Q: What’s your favorite SSIS transform and why?
Brian:
The Swiss Army knife of any SSIS developer is the Script Transform. When you can’t do something in a native or third-party component, it’s time to whip out a script. We should cover about a dozen different patterns of how to use these in our pre-conference session. 

Q: What still trips you up in the real world when scrubbing duplicate data?
Devin:
Using Regular Expressions to scrub data has always been something that has thrown me, because it feels very unnatural to write coming from a SQL Server background. Luckily, there are plenty of resources such as http://regexlib.com/ to help!

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Devin:
I find that the package restartability section of the pre-con has a lot of content that’s often overlooked but that can be extremely useful for recovering from failed package executions. I think people skip these steps because most people don’t plan for their packages to fail.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Board Elections: The Results Are In!

Oct. 14, 2014  The results are in for the three PASS Board of Directors seats up for election this year. After an extended elections season in 2014, we are proud to announce that Grant Fritchey, James Rowland-Jones, and Wendy Pastrick have been elected to serve for the 2015/2016 term. Grant will serve in the US/Canada regional seat, and James and Wendy were each re-elected to an open seat on the Board.

A total of 3,917 votes were cast this year by 1,570 voters. This is a slight increase when compared to the 3,904 votes cast by 1,514 voters in 2013. For those of us who enjoy data, you can see the voter turnout numbers for the past six years on the Elections Archive page. Results for the 2014 elections are as follows:

Grant Fritchey  1,295 votes     US/Canada seat winner
James Rowland-Jones   1,052 votes    Open seat winner
Wendy Pastrick 1,037 votes    Open seat winner
Sri Sridharan
   533 votes  

To review how the seats were awarded, please see the elections overview document. The newly elected directors will begin serving their term on January 1, 2015.

I also want to take a moment to thank Sri Sridharan for his two years of service on the PASS Board. And while Sri won’t be with the Board in 2015, I know we’ll continue to see great things from him as he continues volunteering and supporting the PASS community.

Now, a few words about voting eligibility for the 2014 elections. As noted in an earlier post, this year the PASS Board extended the deadline for members to update their profile and vote. We did this in an effort to ensure that as many members as possible had the ability to cast their ballot; you can read the details here.

Historically, we have seen the highest number of members casting ballots on the very first few days of the election. This year was no exception, with 535 members casting ballots on the first two days. Between September 26 and October 6, we saw 379 members casting their ballots. 

With the extension this year, we saw an additional spike on October 7, with 262 members casting ballots. Another 394 members voted between October 8 and the close of voting on Tuesday, October 14. 

I’m thankful that we were able to take the steps necessary to get ballots into the hands of the people who updated their profiles. Thank you for your patience, thank you for your PASSion, and thank you for taking the time to exercise your right to vote.

I also want to thank everyone who asked a question in the candidate forums or Twitter chats, who blogged and tweeted about the elections, and who made their voices heard. PASS will always need your ideas, your involvement, and your dedication. As PASS continues to grow, it continues to need more PASSionate individuals to step up and lead. If you're interested in moving into a leadership role within the PASS community, check out volunteer opportunities with your local PASS Chapter or favorite Virtual Chapter and take that next step toward possibly serving on the PASS Board yourself.

And finally, to the newly elected directors: We’ve got some work to do, and I’m looking forward to getting started. See you in Seattle!
– Thomas LaRock
PASS President

SQLSaturday at Summit: Q&A Panels, Website Sneak Peek, and More

Oct. 14, 2014  Hello, PASS Community! It seems like it was just a couple months ago that we were meeting up for PASS Summit 2013 – I can’t believe it was actually a year ago. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again in person in Seattle next month.

As part of our Summit agenda, we always dedicate time to meet with our community organizers, including Chapter and Virtual Chapter Leaders, Regional Mentors, and SQLSaturday organizers. As Director of the SQLSaturday portfolio, I wanted to share some of what we’ll be discussing around SQLSaturday on Community Day at Summit, which is Tuesday, Nov. 4, as well as in the Community Zone throughout the week.

Kicking off the annual SQLSaturday Round Table will be a Q&A with the SQLSaturday leadership team, consisting of myself and our passionate Community Evangelists, Karla Landrum and Carmen Buchman. You can review the agenda here, and please bring all your questions and suggestions. We’re following up this year with some activities that go even further in supporting PASS’s mission statement:

Empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn
through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.

We'll be hosting a new panel featuring some of our most experienced SQLSaturday organizers from around the world sharing their knowledge and tips and tricks for putting on successful events.

We’ll also be reviewing exciting updates to the SQLSaturday website, coming your way by the end of 2014. Working from your SQLSaturday website wish list – which we’ve cultivated over the past few years – as well as with a Community Focus Group, we’ve taken your feedback and ideas and put a great amount of time and consideration into building a more functional and modern web experience for SQLSaturday organizers and attendees alike. We can’t wait to show off the current version at Summit. You can find a list of all the wish list items that we’re integrating into the next SQLSaturday website here. We’ll also be emailing it along with a full Round Table meeting agenda to all SQLSaturday organizers for review in advance.

In addition, PASS Community Evangelists and SQLSaturday organizers from around the world will be available in the Community Zone Wednesday-Friday to answer all your questions – whether you’re looking for a SQLSaturday to attend or want to learn how to host one yourself. Check out the Community Zone Spotlight schedule to see when to stop by and meet with organizers from your area.

Our team is working hard to make these meetings as informational, transparent, and successful as possible, so we can quickly answer your questions, respond to any issues or concerns, and spend more time discussing how we can improve our future events. As owner of the SQLSaturday portfolio as well as a PASS Director-at-Large, I can’t wait to connect with all our passionate SQLSaturday organizers, volunteers, speakers, and attendees, share what we’re doing today to enhance everyone’s experience, and learn how we can better support SQLSaturday efforts around the world.   

Don’t forget to wear your favorite SQLSaturday shirt Wednesday at Summit, and I’ll see you in Seattle!
– Tim Ford
PASS Director of SQLSaturday


 

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Allan Hirt

Oct. 7, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. We spent a few minutes with Allan Hirt to learn more about what to expect in his pre-con, The A to Z of Availability Groups.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Tough choice, but thinking about it, maybe “La Villa Strangiato” by Rush. Besides the obvious if you know me, it’s an instrumental that starts off deceptively simple, but gets really complex and furious at times. I think it’s appropriate. AGs are deceptively simple, but in reality, not at all once you really start looking under the hood.

Q: What excites you most about Availability Groups?
It takes the best bits of a few different things and mashes them into one. That creates certain challenges, but that’s part of the fun.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
If you don’t understand Windows Server failover clusters, you will fail at deploying AGs. 

Q: What’s the biggest myth around AGs that you’d like to debunk?
A secondary replica can be under-powered. That is completely false. 

Q: In the spirit of A-to-Z: What are some first words you’d like to say about AGs? How about a statement to leave attendees with?
First words: The Availability Groups feature is NOT AlwaysOn. AlwaysOn is not a feature.
Last words: Plan your deployments well, and you will be very successful with AGs.

Q: If SQL Server pros could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I'd like them to understand things like networking, storage, and Windows Server failover clusters so they will have better deployments of AGs.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Davide Mauri

Oct. 7, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this Q&A, Davide Mauri gives us a quick look at his pre-con, Agile Data Warehousing: Start to Finish.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
“One Vision” by Queen. The data warehouse is all about having one, coherent vision of all company data and information.

Q: What interests you most about the Agile approach to data warehouse design, testing, and implementation?
It gives results quickly, and everyone involved in it, from developers to managers, get excited because they start to understand the strategic importance of the data warehouse. As a result of being able to quickly get insights, they start to use it to democratize the information in the company, really changing how decisions are made and ultimately making the process much more efficient and based on “real” data, not just intuition or, worse, suppositions. This is the era of data-driven decisions, and the data warehouse is one of the backbones of that.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
That the only thing that will remain constant is that requirements will always change. I’m quite sure that many will also be surprised to learn that there is no product or model or tool that can make you Agile. Agile is a mindset, and thus the most important thing is to start to think that way. Everything will become natural after that first step.

Q: What’s the biggest myth around the agile process that you’d like to debunk?
I have two: The first myth is that the data warehouse is now obsolete, and with Big Data tools like Hadoop and In-Memory technologies, one can live without it. It’s really an important myth to debunk, because a data warehouse is not only a physical container, but is the place where people expect to find correct data. It’s a sort of metaphysical concept that alone can change how decisions are made within a company. 

The second myth is about tools that enable you to become Agile. As I noted earlier, this is another myth I’ll try to debunk.

Q: What still excites you in the real world when using Agile data warehousing principles?
I love to see the huge impact a good BI/DWH solution has in a company. And I love even more to see the faces of managers used to waiting for weeks or months to have a new business requirement put into production when I tell them, “OK, you’ll have it in a couple of days.” It’s like being a superhero… except they don’t allow me to go to their offices wearing a blue and red spandex suit. :)

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Automation. I’ll show attendees how they can automate up to 66% of data warehouse creation. This really changes the game because it allows you to support frequent changes and move in the direction of becoming Agile.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Adam Jorgensen & John Welch

Oct. 7, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Adam Jorgensen and John Welch take us inside their pre-con, Big Data: Deploy, Design, and Manage Like a Pro.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Adam and John: "
The Imperial March" (Darth Vader's Theme) – Big Data is going to take over the world.

Q: Adam, what excites you most about helping attendees unlock the potential of Big Data?
I want to help them understand that they already work with data, big and small, but now they have tools to help them be more agile and proactive in their design and approach to this analysis.

Q: John, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
There's no such thing as unstructured data. A lot of people associate Big Data with unstructured data, but really, all data has some sort of structure. If it didn't, it would be useless. It's more a matter of when and how the structure is applied to the data.
 
Q: Back to you Adam: What’s the biggest Big Data myth that you’d like to debunk?
That it has to be "Big" – size doesn't matter‏. The tools work regardless of the data size and offer new ways to work with any size of data.

Q: John, what still trips you up in the real world when designing, deploying, and managing Big Data solutions?
Staying on top of the options available. Relational databases are relatively stable at this point, in terms of the fundamental technology and approaches. Given a specific problem, there are generally known, proven approaches to solving it. Big Data is still rapidly evolving, and both the technologies available and the approaches are changing as people try to solve new problems, or solve older problems better. 

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you both want that to be?
Adam and John: That they can start working with these technologies today, with minimal investment, and leverage existing skills while learning new ones.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Kalen Delaney

Oct. 7, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Kalen Delaney gives us a sneak peek at what to expect from her pre-con, In-Memory OLTP Internals: How Is a 30x Performance Boost Possible?

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
“It’s a Whole New World” (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice) because it IS a WHOLE new world – a completely new way to think about data and data management. And it’s almost like magic. :)

Q: What excites you most about In-Memory OLTP?
The most exciting thing is the potential for orders of magnitude performance increases with a very gentle learning curve.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a surprise!

Q: What’s the biggest myth around In-Memory OLTP that you’d like to debunk?
The biggest myth is that In-Memory OLTP is not really all that different from what we’ve had before or that it’s just a new implementation of the old DBCC PINTABLE.

Q: What still trips you up in the real world when working with concurrency issues and trying to implement the fastest SQL Server solutions possible?
The biggest thing that trips me up is thinking people really understand the dangers of using NOLOCK when they don’t. They use it anyway! So with In-Memory OLTP, they’ll never even have the inclination to use NOLOCK.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I hope that people will decide to give In-Memory OLTP a try and, in a test environment, start converting some of their performance-critical tables to memory-optimized tables to see how easy it is and how much difference just a tiny change can make. 

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Marco Russo

Oct. 6, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Marco Russo shares some of what you’ll learn in his pre-con, Data Modeling in SSAS Tabular.

Q: What excites you most about the SSAS Tabular model?
It is simple to learn how to create an SSAS Tabular model, and is very fast and powerful at the same time. You can achieve great performance goals on a large volume of data, even with complex calculations involved. 
 
Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
Forget the traditional way of modeling data, worrying about the size of each data type. Now you have to think about data distribution.

Q: What’s the biggest DAX myth that you’d like to debunk?
Even if we won't talk too much about DAX (there is DAX-specific pre-con on Tuesday), I will quickly show that DAX is more similar to SQL than to MDX, whereas some BI developers still think the opposite is true.

Q: What still trips you up in the real world when creating and implementing Tabular data models?
The lack of a great DAX Editor!

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I'd like them to quickly map their relational model into a Tabular model; they can get their first complete Tabular model up and working in less than 1 hour.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.