Category: PASS Community Summit

What Do You Want to See at Summit?

Hey, SQL pros!

I’m excited to announce the first milestone from your hardworking Program Team! In the past, we have done a survey that asked you to help us get inside your head. (We were disturbed at what we saw, but we’re coming back anyway. :) We do this so we can find out what you’d like to see at PASS Summit – we use the information you share to help drive the session types and content we’ll be looking for soon when we launch the call for speakers. The survey gathered great information, but it was soooo looong and took a hunk of time to complete, so we’ve streamlined!

You can take the slimmed-down survey today at The new survey has been reduced by over 50% in length and should take you only 60-120 seconds to complete. To help sweeten the pot, we’re giving you the chance to win a complimentary pre-con registration (whoa!) and a blog interview with me to share what you’d personally like to see at Summit. But don’t wait – the survey closes in 1 week, on April 11. Once the survey votes are tallied, we’ll draw for the winner.

This year, the Program Team aims to showcase the new and improved processes we’re putting in place to help make the Summit planning, session selection, evaluation, and feedback mechanisms more straightforward and streamlined. We will keep working with you to make Summit the most community-integrated event possible, always improving and learning.

You represent the strongest technology community out there (in my humble opinion), and your opinions give us the direction we need to implement the continuous flow of great ideas coming out of our volunteer teams. But we need everyone’s feedback. So get started on the survey now. Tell your friends and coworkers to take the survey, and get your dog or cat to take it too (this may not apply to you – maybe only my dog knows T-SQL).

And as always, let us know how we can keep making your PASS experience better. Reach out to me any time at with questions or feedback.

Board Starts New Year with Portfolio Assignments

For my first editorial as PASS President, I want to take a moment to thank all of you who voted in our Board elections in December and encourage you to get even more involved in your organization in this new year. It was awesome to see the excitement generated by a phenomenal slate of candidates and by wide-ranging community discussion about the biggest issues and opportunities facing our organization. I challenge all of us to translate that energy into creative solutions to help SQL Server professionals around the world connect, share, and learn. With your help, 2012 is going to be a great year for PASS!

One of the first tasks for the President each year is to assign Board members to portfolios, and I’m excited to announce this year’s portfolio leaders. The portfolios for members of the Executive Committee were determined when the Board elected them last June. Douglas McDowell will serve as Executive Vice President, Finance, and Thomas LaRock will serve as Vice President, Marketing. Rushabh Mehta moves to the role of Immediate Past President. These terms started Jan. 1 and run for 2 years.

Directors-At-Large are typically assigned a portfolio for a calendar year, although  sometimes Board members will head the same portfolio for 2 years. This approach works best with the natural Board turnover and matching the desires of Board members with the needs of the organization.

This year, we have only one returning At-Large Director, Allen Kinsel, who is taking over the Chapters portfolio. Allen previously headed the Summit Program committee, and his experience leading a large volunteer team will be invaluable in the Chapters area.

Our three newly elected Board members – Adam Jorgensen, Denise McInerney, and Rob Farley – have also received their portfolio assignments. Adam will lead the Summit Program portfolio, putting his previous  2 years of experience on the Program Committee and service in two other portfolios to great use. Adam’s experience and combined technical and business skills will be central to the continued expansion of our Summit educational offerings.

Denise will take over the Virtual Chapters portfolio. Denise was instrumental in the creation and growth of the Women in Technology (WIT) Virtual Chapter and the growth of its leadership team, and I’m excited to bring her experience to all our Virtual Chapters.

And Rob will lead the 24 Hours of PASS portfolio, heading up our largest online events program and one of our greatest opportunities to reach more members. PASS has a tremendous opportunity to expand its offering of  local-language events that can touch all parts of the globe. Rob’s drive and experience organizing events and volunteers will really shine in this portfolio.

Our last portfolio, the popular PASS SQLSaturday events program, will be filled when the Board appoints someone to fill one of two empty Board seats later this month.

I’m honored to be working with a Board that has more experience and depth than any I can remember. And I’m looking forward to this team and our army of volunteers accomplishing great things for PASS and the SQL Server community this year.

Best Presentations from PASS Summit 2011

By Allen Kinsel
(Reposted from Allen's blog)

Every year after the Summit the results of the thousands of evaluations are tabulated.  It seems every year the only question I hear after the summit is “when are the evaluations coming out?”  Well dear reader I’m happy to say, that day is today.  First id like to point out that this year we had well over 13000 unique session evaluations which is an increase of about 30% over 2010.

Online Evaluations produce unexpected results
One interesting thing I noticed in this years online evals was that we received evals for all sorts of “events” that happened at the Summit.  Normally, we only get them for sessions but because of the way the session scheduler was automated and integrated into the session eval forms, we actually received evals on many other events that took place at the summit other than regular sessions.  Receiving candid feedback on these events was quite refreshing and will be worked back into next years similar events.

Moving into the 21st century
This year since we offered online evaluations as well as paper evaluations I was interested to see what the turnout would be and while the amount of paper vs online evaluations entered was more lopsided towards paper than I’d have liked.  I believe that overall they were well used and next year we plan on only having online session evals.  I expect that if the room monitors push the online evals in the same manner they pushed the paper this year that we’ll get enough evals next year for this to be an effective option.  The real benefit other than costs of entering paper evals and killing trees is that if all of the evals come in a digital form I would see no reason that they shouldn’t be ready either real time or within a week or 2 from the end of the event but, Ill leave those details to next years Board member who's in charge of the Summit.  

Without Further ado, Here’s the link to the 2011 Summit top overall sessions.

The top sessions were calculated by averaging all of the evaluation answers then we excluded results if there were less than 20 evaluations or 20 attendees.

Also, if you were a speaker, You can log into the PASS Speaker portal site and get your full evaluation results (and the overall event scores) from the following link

Please join me again in congratulating all of the speakers from this years Summit, without them and their excellent contributions our community wouldnt be the same.

Edited-> I had the wrong filter criteria on our exclusion of sessions from the top list specification.  I stated we excluded if there were less than 10 evals and 10 attendees when the number was 15 each, I apologize for my fading memory.

2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Allan Hirt

 Today's post is from Allan Hirt who will be presenting "A Deep Dive into AlwaysOn:Failover Clustering and Availability Groups". You can read more about his session here: .

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
There has been a lot of buzz around all the changes in high availability that come as part of Denali. This session is for those who want to jumpstart their knowledge, and focuses on both failover clustering and the new availability groups feature from a DBA/IT/infrastructure, not a developer, perspective.


After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?

  1. Learn the essentials of the new AlwaysOn availability groups feature in SQL Server Denali
  2. Understand how to plan and implement an underlying Windows failover cluster for not only a standard SQL Server failover cluster, but ones that are multi-site as well as for AlwaysOn availability groups
  3. See live demos to how how DBAs will actually need to implement and administer these features. This will not be just a day’s worth of theory from slide presentations that is not usable in the real world.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Since there is no plan to teach the basics of failover clustering, attendees should have at least a working knowledge of clusters because clusters not only play a role in the traditional failover clustering aspects of Denali, but in availability groups as well.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Besides being a Microsoft Cluster MVP who can talk to both Windows and SQL Server, I have been working with one of Microsoft’s Denali TAP customers since Spring 2011 on a multi-site deployment combining both clustered instances and availability groups. I also bring close to 20 years of experience with SQL Server including consulting, training, and writing numerous whitepapers, articles, and books. I do not just do this stuff in a lab; I help customers in the real world.

2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Rob Farley

Today's post is from Rob Farley who will be presenting "Fixing Queries With Advanced T-SQL Constructs".  You can read more about his
session here:
Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
A lot of people are quite good at T-SQL. They can write queries to solve most of their problems, and they probably understand indexing principles - able to pick the ideal covering index for their queries, and probably know to look in the Execution Plan to look for ‘bad things’ such as Index Scans and Lookups. However, I see a lot of things that people don’t really know about writing queries and the relationship to plans. I know they don’t, because I remember learning them myself. I remember making that shift from being able to write ‘good queries’ to being able to write the queries that matched the plans I wanted to see being produced.

But you don’t have to be particularly good at T-SQL already. The kind of person I think will get the most out of this seminar is the person who is merely comfortable writing queries, and interested in being stretched to think differently.

After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
My favourite piece of feedback from any of my Advanced T-SQL classes is when someone writes "You’ve made me want to pull up every query I’ve ever written." It’s not because they suddenly have tools to assess their queries better (although they will certainly have the opportunity to learn to assess queries), but because they’ve developed an interest in thinking about their queries more. I’ll show people the profoundness of what they already know, and they’ll probably think of times they’ve used those constructs without considering the impact of them. I’ve had people remote into their machines during my talks to see if they’re taking full advantage of the things I’m showing.

As well as that, people will get renewed hope that they can tune some of their nastier queries even more. We all have queries that we have given up on, and I hope that I can persuade people that there is almost always hope, even for the worst of them. The things I’ll be showing can affect a lot of queries, so I’m sure there will be something for even the most frustrating of queries.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
I’m going to assume that attendees are not complete beginners with T-SQL. I figure if I show a simple GROUP BY statement, that someone’s going to understand what I’m showing. But I don’t expect that they should have a certain level of expertise before coming. The biggest prerequisite I see for this is to have an interest in getting the most out of T-SQL. If they’re coming to hear my jokes, they’ll be disappointed - my jokes aren’t really that good.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Well, I’ve taught Advanced T-SQL for a number of years, using my own courseware, and have delivered this seminar before with excellent feedback. I’ve done public speaking for a long time, and promise to make the day enjoyable as well as instructional. I’ve had some of the best in the industry say that I’m one of the best explainers out there, and I take pleasure in helping people really get the concepts that I’m showing. I try for a mix of the light-hearted and eye-opening, that generally works well. I don’t try for massively deep and obscure; I go for profound, and may make your head hurt as you start seeing the possibilities for the code you can write.

Oh, but if you’ve never seen an execution plan before, then consider going to Grant & Gail’s session. I’m sure that will be very good too.

Untapped Benefit?

(Cross-posted from my blog)

Are you using your benefits to further your SQL Server skills? The other day, the company I work for (Scalability Experts) had a benefits meeting where open enrollment for insurance and other similar things were discussed. Since we are a small company, we outsource HR/Payroll/Benefits, and I discovered a new benefit that I was unaware of previously. Perhaps you have it too.

There is an Educational Assistance Benefit of $1500/year to help with courses that count towards a degree. I was somewhat familiar with that one. There is also an Educational Assistance Benefit that is geared for attending seminars (especially those offered by a Professional Association). The benefit offered through our plan is $500/year to spend on educational seminars. There is some criteria the seminar must meet under our benefit structure such as: helping develop skills that you use in your line of work and it can't be in-house or custom training.

That sounds like a perfect fit for a PASS Summit Pre-Con! Of course your organization may have different criteria and/or benefit amounts, but don't let that education benefit go to waste. There is a great selection of Pre-Cons to choose from (see the lineup below) that offer a full day of learning for only $395! Tap into your benefits and receive some great learning practically for free!
--Rick Heiges

Monday, October 10:

Tuesday, October 11


2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Simon Sabin

Today's post is from Simon Sabin who will be presenting "Advanced Reporting Services".  You can read more about his session here:

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Are any of these familiar

  • You’ve been asked to make your reports more interactive.
  • You’ve got 100 reports to develop and you want to avoid doing the same thing 100 times.
  • You’ve got a system that is used by 200 clients how can you use reporting services to deliver reports for them securely.
  • You’ve seen crescent and would like some of that goodness.
  • You know reporting services can do more but you just don’t know how.
  • You’ve been sitting at your desk and you’ve got no hair left because you’ve been trying to get reporting services to do something that looks easy.

If any of them are familiar then you need to attend the advanced reporting services precon at SQL PASS
After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
After attending you will know how to tackle the common problems that on the surface look easy but in practice are very difficult. Like how do you combine data from different sources, how do you display parent child data, how do you add interactivity to your report.
Not only will you learn how, but you will also learn why certain options are better than others. I’ve done the hard work figuring these things out so you don’t have to.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Before attending you should have some experience of reporting services. We will assume you know your way around management studio and BIDS. Some knowledge of VB.Net would be helpful but we will be covering that at a fairly basic level.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
I’ve got 14 years experience with SQL Server and have worked with reporting services from its first incarnation with SQL Server 2000. I’ve worked on large installations with 100s of reports as well as hosted services where we had to deliver reports for individual clients.
I regularly teach companies on how to use SQL Server and Reporting Services and my experience means I know the pitfalls to avoid and the ways to work around some of the limitations of reporting services.
I’ve been and MVP for 6 years, I’m one of the founders of SQLBits and I am a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server 2008.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.

Enhancing First-Timers’ Summit Experience

I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. Why did I go? Because of two words: professional association. I wanted to grow my professional skills as a DBA, and I knew that meant more than just technical knowledge. I knew I needed to join a network of like-minded individuals where we could learn and grow together.

The first morning there I met Pat Wright (blog | @SQLAsylum). Well, more like he met me, as he lumbered over and sat down at my table during breakfast. We ended up attending Kimberly Tripp’s (blog | @KimberlyLTripp) pre-conference seminar together and met Allen Kinsel (blog | @sqlinsaneo) there. The three of us hung out together all week, sharing meals and talking about our shops. We came to the Summit knowing nobody but were fortunate to have met each other. We left the Summit and stayed in touch, returning the next year, and every year since.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many of our first-time attendees arrive at the Summit knowing nobody. They meet no one, they eat alone, they leave, and we don't see them again. How do I know this? Because every year, we have roughly 800 people at our Summit for the first time. If those 800 came back every year, we would be over 7,000 attendees by now.

Clearly, we need to improve our customer retention. That's what led me to think about putting together an Orientation Committee (OC) to help first-time attendees get connected, share experiences, and learn from each other. I believe this will translate into more repeat attendees, which will result in more knowledge, more sharing, and better growth opportunities for everyone.

We launched the orientation program for first-time Summit attendees last year at PASS Summit, and we are doing it again this year. That means we need Summit alumni to volunteer to serve as "Big Brothers/Sisters" for a group of new members – and we need new attendees to sign up to participate.

We are thinking most groups will have about 9 people (8 newbies and 1 alumni). The Big Brothers/Sisters will help the first-timers feel welcome, introduce them around, help facilitate discussions, answer questions, etc. The alumni volunteers will be in contact with their assigned group well ahead of Summit and ideally will arrange a meeting with their group before the Welcome Reception. In case that is not possible, we are going to reserve a room at the Convention Center so that all Big Brothers/Sisters can meet with their groups just prior to the Welcome Reception

If you are interested in serving as a Big Brother/Sister, drop us an email at And if you are attending the Summit for the first time and want to participate in the program, I encourage you to sign up – just email Watch for updates on Twitter as we finalize the details, and participate in the discussion by using the #sqlpass #firsttimers hashtags.

See you in Seattle!
-- Thomas LaRock

2011 Pass Summit Pre-Con Preview - Gail Shaw and Grant Fritchey

Today's post is from Gail Shaw and Grant Fritchey who will be presenting "All About Execution Plans".  You can read more about their session here:

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Grant Fritchey
:  Everybody. Seriously, anyone that has to understand what decisions the optimizer has made with the queries they write. That pretty much covers, database administrators, database developers and report writers, in short, most of the SQL Server community.
Gail Shaw: Anybody who’s ever looked at an execution plan and wondered what it means. Anyone who’s ever wondered how SQL was running a particular query and if they can change that. Anyone who’s sat cursing SQL for picking the wrong index or wrong join. Anyone who’s wondered which of some query patterns were more efficient than others and how to tell that. Basically, anyone who seriously writes queries.

After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
Grant Fritchey
: Only two or three things? I think everyone will be able to go back to their office and immediately gain access to execution plans they were not previously able to open. Further, I think the attendees will be motivated to go back to the office and look at their execution plans. We're going to be showing how to identify many common problems that evidence themselves within execution plans and we'll be showing how to fix some of those problems. If the attendees have issues such as slow running queries, blocking, or parameter sniffing, I'm pretty sure they'll have something new to use to help with those problems immediately on their return to the office.
Gail Shaw: They’ll know how to read execution plans, what some of the signs of a bad plan is, and they’ll have several options for getting those plans from SQL. That should be enough for them to dig into problems that have been nagging for months and start solving them.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Grant Fritchey
: They should have a reasonably good understanding of what SQL Server is and what it does. They absolutely should already understand TSQL. This is not an introductory course where we'll walk everyone through fundamental things like connecting to the database. But, it's not a doctorate level course either. This is a middle of the road type of technical course that's going to assume fundamental working knowledge of SQL Server.
Gail Shaw: Of course it’s not a doctorate level course, SQL qualifications only go up to master level. ;-) Seriously though, as long as they understand how SQL works in general, don’t panic at the sight of complex queries and know that execution plans and the plan cache exists, they should be fine. I won’t promise that there won’t be the occasional deep dive into internals, sometimes digging deep is necessary and fun.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Grant Fritchey
: I wrote a book. Isn't that enough? OK. 
I've been working in development and databases for more than 20 years. During that time, I really have focused on trying to make my code better. In SQL Server, one of the best ways to improve your code is to understand what it is doing. Understanding what your code is doing requires looking at execution plans and learning how to read them. It's all this time working on real world problems that made me start posting answers on various user group forums, especially SQL Server Central. That's how I began to understand what were common problems and what were rare problems. This time and knowledge was applied to writing, and currently rewriting, a book on nothing but execution plans.
Gail Shaw: Why are you asking me? Grant wrote the book on this. Ok, enough joking. I’ve been doing SQL performance tuning for over 6 years now, databases in general for a fair bit longer (though nowhere near as long as Grant. 20 years ago I was still in high school). I’ve been solely responsible for the performance of a critical banking system (and if you think your users are bad, try stock market dealers 20 minutes before the market closes), both in tuning existing code and in helping the development team write well performing code. I’ve been helping out on the SQLServerCentral forums for over 4 years, answering many performance-related questions with just schema definitions and execution plan to work from. Execution plans are one of the things I blog frequently about.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.

2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Brian and Devin Knight

Today's post is from Brian Knight who, along with Devin Knight, will be presenting "Building a Microsoft Business Intelligence Platform".  You can read more about his session here:

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session? 
Someone who has a beginner to novice experience in some of the BI suite will gain a huge amount from the real-world experience we’re going to bring to the table. If you’re a beginner, you’ll also gain quite a bit from the interactive style of the session. During the day, we’re going to build an end-to-end BI solution using SSRS, SSIS and SSAS. Attendees should bring their own laptops to build the solution with us and get the most out of the session. 
After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
An attendee will have the broad knowledge to build an end-to-end BI solution at his or her company.  This includes designing and loading the data warehouse, building a cube on the warehouse and building a presentation-layer.  
What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
The session is interactive. Because of this, for the attendee to get the most out of the session, he or she should know how to navigate around the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) environment. The attendee should also have a good understanding of T-SQL and a fundamental knowledge of the BI tools.
What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Devin and I have created BI solutions across the globe for more than a hundred different companies. In 2011, we trained more than 3,000 people in a fun and interactive way that will make the day fly by. You’ll hear tons of information about real-world examples that we can provide from the field.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.