Category: PASS Community Summit

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.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Paul Randal

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, Paul Randal shares some quick tidbits from his pre-con, Performance Troubleshooting Using Waits and Latches.

Q: What excites you most about using wait and latch statistics to investigate performance problems?
It provides one of the easiest ways to get an idea of what's happening with a poorly performing workload and can help avoid a lot of wasted time when performance troubleshooting.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
It depends. :-)
 
Q: What’s the biggest myth around waits and latches that you’d like to debunk?
Probably the worst myth out there is that if you see a lot of CXPACKET waits, you should set your instance MAXDOP to 1.

Q: What are a few of your favorite wait and latch types?
SOS_SCHEDULER_YIELD, PAGELATCH_UP, and WRITELOG.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Using sys.dm_os_waiting_tasks to immediately see what's happening on a SQL Server instance.

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

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Erin Stellato & Jonathan Kehayias

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, Erin Stellato and Jonathan Kehayias give you a sneak peek at Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Extended Events.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Jonathan:
“Let It Go” from Frozen, because we are all going to eventually have to let SQL Trace go. I'm surprised I even thought of that, I'm generally not someone who would think about a theme song.
Erin: Jon and I both have daughters, one year apart in age – his answer is perfect. :)

Q: Erin, what excites you most about working with Extended Events?
The flexibility of it. You have the ability to do so much more – compared to Trace/Profiler – when capturing data that it gives you better insight when you're troubleshooting a problem or just trying to understand what's going on inside SQL Server.   

 Q: Jonathan, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
I still use Profiler and Trace some times. Old habits die hard, even after writing 400+ pages of content on Extended Events since 2008.
 
 Q: Back to you, Erin: What’s the biggest myth around using Extended Events that you’d like to debunk?
That Extended Events are difficult to understand and figure out how to use. Before the UI in 2012, I admit that they were not intuitive. But between the UI and the approach we take when teaching, I think people will see how easy XE is to grasp and immediately start using.

Q: Jonathan, what’s your favorite advanced XE troubleshooting method that isn’t possible with Trace?
I would say collecting a memory dump and callstack information for a specific error or event occurring one time, and one time only, to minimize impact to the system over previous methods.
 
Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you both want that to be?
Replacing old methods of collecting data using Trace and Profiler with a new understanding of Extended Events and the UI in SSMS.

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PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Alberto Ferrari

Oct. 6, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Alberto Ferrari gives us a preview of his pre-con, From 0 to DAX.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Queen's “Don’t Stop Me Now." After you start looking at the power of DAX, you’ll have that exact feeling.

Q: What excites you most about the DAX language?
You can write amazingly fast code using DAX, once you know how it works. Right now, it is the fastest engine I have ever seen, apart – maybe – from video games.
 
Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
You may not get a “wow effect” from any of my statements, but what normally excites people is to see DAX querying a 4-billion-rows fact table with many-to-many relationships in… well, it is fast. You have to see it to believe it. And did I just tell you that many-to-many relationships are absolutely fine with DAX? 

Q: What’s the biggest myth around DAX that you’d like to debunk?
“DAX is easy.” I don’t want to scare anybody: DAX is simple, but it is not easy. I have seen so many people following my lectures say, “Wow! NOW I understand why my formula computes that value.” Learning DAX by trial and error, as some people still do, is really hard.
 
Q: What still trips you up in the real world when working with DAX?
After 4 years working full-time with DAX, there are still some formulas that take a few minutes to understand, and they are all related to evaluation contexts and the CALCULATE function. CALCULATE is a beautiful function, but sometimes it generates such a level of complexity that it is really, really hard to understand.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I want them to open Power Pivot, load some data, and start having fun getting the insights that looked nearly impossible to compute before this pre-con.

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

PASS Summit Scheduling and Predictive Analytics

Sept. 30 – Many large technical conferences such as PASS Summit have a thorny problem: It’s hard for attendees to get into all the sessions they want to attend. The solution is to do a better job with session scheduling and room allocation, assigning sessions with larger expected attendance to  bigger rooms.

This year, Data Scientist and active PASS member Dev Nambi volunteered to help the PASS Program Team put predictive analytics to work to help predict which PASS Summit 2014 sessions would be most attended so we could schedule them in larger rooms. I encourage you to read Dev’s detailed explanation of the project, “Let Me In! The Attendance Challenge,” on his blog. 

After this year’s Summit, we will review each session’s actual attendance and other factors and continue to work with Dev on adding other possible inputs and improving the prediction model. We’re excited about leveraging predictive analytics for future Summits and other PASS events.

Dev and the Program Team will be hosting Office Hours at Summit (stay tuned for details) to review this effort with the PASS community. The Program Team will also be available during these times to talk about how the Program Committee works and other PASS Program-related topics. As always, please feel free to email me or the PASS Program team at program@sqlpass.org with any feedback.

See you at PASS Summit 2014!
– Amy Lewis
Director of PASS Programs

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Chris Shaw & John Morehouse

Sept. 18, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Chris Shaw and John Morehouse share a few tidbits about their pre-con, Real World End-to-End Performance Solutions.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Chris:
“Battle Born” by Five Finger Death Punch – I know it sounds strange, but the meat of our session comes from being there and doing it. We have read the best practices, but until you see how different settings impact the servers and the performance, the understanding just isn’t complete.
John: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC – This too probably sounds strange, but that song just seems to always gets folks pumped up and moving. It usually reminds me of one of many movies where the good guys are about to beat the snot out of the bad guys. And given that Chris and I will be beating the snot out of some performance issues, I think it’s very fitting. Plus, what better way to get the energy flowing than with an awesome classic song like “Thunderstruck”!

Q: Chris, what excites you most about solving performance problems?
I think the best part is when I make a client’s day all that much better. When I’ve been a full-time employee and there have been performance problems and stress that surrounds that situation, being part of the solution has a lot of satisfaction associated with it.

Q: John, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
That's a good question. I'm a firm believer that there is a time and place for any solution in SQL Server, so the attendees might hear me say that it's alright to shrink a database or that cursors are acceptable or that scalar user-defined functions serve a purpose. All of these (as well as others) can play a part in just about any solution. The trick is to know and understand the ramifications of using them, which in turn allows you to make an informed decision about your solution.

Q: Back to you Chris: What’s the biggest designing-for-performance myth that you’d like to debunk?
Not all performance issues can be resolved by throwing more hardware at them. Granted, there are times when you can fix performance issues with hardware. However, eventually bad design is just that – bad design, and adjusting the design may get you a much better performance gain than going out and buying new hardware.

Q: John, what still trips you up in the real world when trying to implement the fastest solutions?
Simple, sometimes everything. SQL Server is such a huge platform that it's very easy to forget one thing or another. This is why I'm always reading articles, blogs, whatever. I'm always trying to learn.

Q: And for both of you: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Chris:
I was going to answer something very tangible such as taking a baseline or setting up index maintenance, but really what I would want attendees to come away with is the ability and the skill to work through an issue with confidence. Each environment has differences that make it unique; the answer of “it depends” fits because of all these differences. When attendees walk out the door, I want them to know how other SQL Server DBAs make decisions.
John: I would agree with Chris in that I would want attendees to be able to tackle any solution with confidence and realize that there is definitely more than one way to accomplish a solution within SQL Server.

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


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Grant Fritchey

Sept. 15, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Grant Fritchey gives us a sneak peek at what to expect from his pre-con, Query Performance Tuning in SQL Server 2014.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
"More Human Than Human" by Rob Zombie. I picked this song because I think a lot of people are going to walk out of the session feeling like they’re ready to conquer the world, or at least tune a few queries.

Q: What excites you most about finding and fixing poorly performing queries?
Well, the business answer is that I’m improving the efficiency and reliability of our systems to better supply our customers with access to the information they need to make good decisions. But the nerd answer is that I really enjoy figuring out what’s going wrong and finding ways to improve things.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
I’m going to tell them to not use some of the functionality within SQL Server. Flat out. It’s too dangerous and there are few, if any, requirements for this piece of functionality that are not satisfied elsewhere with zero danger.

Q: What’s the biggest myth around query tuning that you’d like to debunk?
That throwing an index at the query fixes it. The problems most of the time are right there in the code. Yes, indexes are great ways to tune query performance, but adjusting the query itself is frequently the better way.

Q: What still trips you up in mastering SQL Server’s query optimizer?
Figuring out why I’m seeing something unexpected. When you get behavior you didn’t anticipate, there’s seldom a quick and simple solution. I have to dig through the properties in the operators, same as everyone else.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Maintain your statistics better. I don’t think people realize just how vital they can be to ensuring that your queries run well.

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

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Robert Cain, Bradley Ball & Jason Strate

Sept. 15, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. We caught up with Robert Cain, Bradley Ball, and Jason Strate to learn more about their pre-con, Zero to Hero with PowerShell and SQL Server.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Robert:
 "Can't Stop Rockin'" by ZZ Top, because once you start rocking with PowerShell, you can't stop.
Bradley: "Timber" by Pitbull and Ke$ha. There’s a lot of tasks in the DBA/BI world that PowerShell makes easy. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Jason: "Come Sail Away" by Styx, because as I've told others, the boat for learning PowerShell has sailed, and it's time to get everyone up to speed on it.

Q: Robert, what excites you most about using PowerShell with SQL Server?
The incredible diversity of tasks you can automate using PowerShell. Everything from DBA tasks to BI to development can be automated using PowerShell with SQL Server.

Q: Bradley, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
Sometimes PowerShell’s a better ETL tool than SSIS.

Q: Jason, what’s the biggest myth around learning PowerShell that you’d like to debunk?
PowerShell isn't for everything. It's a tool for the chest, but it isn't a magical hammer that can take care of everything. Knowing its capabilities will help you use PowerShell where it fits, while providing an understanding of when using it is like cleaning a window with a sledgehammer.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after your pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Robert:
Using PowerShell to explore their SQL Servers to get quick answers to common questions.
Bradley: Making their lives easier by using PowerShell to automate time-consuming tasks.
Jason: It bears repeating: PowerShell is sometimes a better tool for ETL than SSIS.

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


 

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Adam Machanic

Sept. 15, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Adam Machanic takes us inside his pre-con, Better Performance Through Parallelism.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
"The Power" by Snap! This pre-con teaches people to take control of performance for large queries and to use techniques that put them in the driver's seat. The query optimizer does not – and cannot – make the right choice every time. If you want ultimate performance, you must take matters into your own hands.

Q: What excites you most about SQL Server’s parallel processing?
It's a feature set that is at once both very mature and very much in a growth phase. Parallelism works well, but it doesn't always kick in when it should or work in an optimal fashion. And not many people know how to get it to play nice. As a developer, having a deep understanding of parallelism gives you a huge edge over the competition.

Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
Columnstore, despite what you may have heard, is not the answer to most of your tough performance challenges. (Even though it might help, sometimes.)

Q: What’s the biggest myth around parallelism and query optimization that you’d like to debunk?
Many people are still confused about what, exactly, this CXPACKET thing *really* means, and what to do about it. At the end of this seminar you will be able to describe CXPACKET very accurately and you will understand its exact implications.

Q: What still trips you up in mastering SQL Server’s parallelism settings?
Sometimes mixed workload scenarios present some interesting challenges. For some of the settings, there is only a single instance-wide configuration knob. That can be tough. But as with everything, there are options.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Some of my prior seminar attendees have written to tell me that my Parallel APPLY query patten has yielded performance gains of 10 times or greater. It often takes only a few minutes to bolt it on to an existing query, and properly applied, it does truly amazing things. This is why I teach the seminar; I want people to go back to the office and fix their tough performance issues so that they can spend their time building cool new apps instead of messing with the database all day. 

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


 

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Itzik Ben-Gan

Sept. 15, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. First up: Itzik Ben-Gan and Mastering T-SQL Querying Fundamentals.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” The seminar will shed light on what correct T-SQL thinking is.

Q: T-SQL was named the most popular programming language in 2013 - what excites you most about it?
T-SQL is my native tongue; it’s kind of my language. It’s great to know that many others like what you like. It’s also evidence of the usefulness and practicality of the language.
 
Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say about query fundamentals during the pre-con?
“Now you know everything there is to know about T-SQL fundamentals.” If I did say it, of course, it would be just a joke. The point is that people often get the wrong impression that the language is simple to master. But the more you learn, the more you realize how deep and non-trivial it is.
 
Q: What’s the biggest T-SQL querying myth that you’d like to debunk?
Probably the most common myth has to do with confusing the physical and logical layers, ignoring or being oblivious to the relational model’s physical data independence principal and thinking that the data is organized in certain physical order and that this provides guarantees that the rows will be processed and/or returned in that order. People keep falling into this trap over and over again, including very smart people. Classic examples are queries in table expressions that have TOP and ORDER BY, what people refer to as quirky update, and others.

Q: What still trips you up in mastering logical query processing?
The fact that there are so many things that seem unnatural about the language until your learn about logical query processing. When you learn about it, there are so many a-ha moments, and things suddenly start making so much more sense.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I would say mainly that they would start using the language in the correct way, having the right expectations from it, and also knowing what not to expect from it. This is the "big picture" part.

As for an example of something more specific that attendees will be able to use immediately, they will be able to elegantly solve the problem of not being able to refer to column aliases defined in the SELECT clause in the WHERE, GROUP BY, and other expressions in the same SELECT clause. They will be able to do this using a trick that I will show them based on the APPLY operator and the VALUES clause.

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