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.


 

Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab’s Rimma Nehme Keynoting at PASS Summit 2014

Plus, Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant taking center stage at Women in Technology luncheon


          

Sept. 2, 2014 — Polybase and SQL Server query optimization guru Dr. Rimma Nehme, senior research engineer at the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab, will kick off Day 2 at PASS Summit 2014 in Seattle, WA, Nov. 6, with Black Girls CODE founder Kimberly Bryant headlining the conference’s popular Women in Technology (WIT) luncheon.

Rimma, who has helped prepare Dr. David DeWitt’s celebrated PASS Summit keynotes since 2010, is known for her work on PolyBase, which integrates SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) with Hadoop, as well as the SQL Server PDW query optimizer, a partial results framework for database systems, an automated partitioning advisor for parallel database systems, and more. With her keynote, “Cloud Databases 101,” Rimma will be taking Summit’s 5,000+ SQL Server and BI professionals deep into the what, why and how of data processing in the cloud.

“It’s an honor to help carry on PASS Summit’s rich tradition of helping SQL Server and BI professionals get the most out of their database environments, and I’m thrilled to be sharing some of the exciting work done in the field around working with data in the cloud.” Rimma says. “When talking about cloud databases, people often mean different things. Some may be referring to a pay-per-use service; others may be speaking about a specific piece of software. In this keynote, we will look under the covers of cloud databases and try to dispel some of the myths.”

WIT luncheon speaker Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer working in biotech, was inspired by her daughter in 2011 to launch the non-profit Black Girls CODE (BGC), with the mission of supporting and promoting the underrepresented female and African demographic (25% and 3%, respectively, in 2012) within the technology industry. BGC has grown to 3,000 students across 7 US states as well as in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has received support from many companies both within and outside of the technology industry. Kimberly will be taking questions from the onsite audience and from Twitter during the Nov. 6 live-stream event, hosted by PASS’s WIT Chapter and sponsored by SQL Sentry. 

“The motto of Black Girls CODE is ‘Imagine. Build. Create,’” Kimberly notes. “I can’t wait to share with the PASS WIT and data communities how we can all imagine a world where everyone is given the tools to succeed, and get even more data professionals involved in building ways for everyone to access information and create a new age of women and women of color in technology.”

PASS Summit, organized by and for the SQL Server community, is the largest SQL Server event in the world, delivering 200+ technical sessions, 18 full-day pre-conference sessions, and nonstop networking opportunities with the industry’s top SQL Server and BI experts.

For full details and to register at the discounted rate by Sept. 24, visit http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014

Get Out the Vote: September 24-29

Sept. 2, 2014  The wait is almost over! With just 2 weeks until the announcement of the official candidate slate for the PASS Board of Directors 2014 elections, here’s a quick reminder about this year’s campaigning and voting timeline.

The Nomination Committee is currently interviewing and ranking applicants in preparation for the committee’s slate recommendation to the Board for approval. The official slate of candidates for the three seats up for election – one US/Canada regional seat and two open seats – will be announced in the Sept. 17 Connector along with the opening of campaigning.

In addition to their own campaigning activities, each candidate will have his/her own campaign page on the PASS Elections site and will be participating in at least one of two Live Speech/Q&A campaign events Sept. 18 and 19, before voting opens on Sept. 24.

Emails with the voting link will go out at noon PT Wednesday, Sept. 24, to all eligible voters, consisting of PASS members who updated their profile by June 1, 2014. Voting will be open for 5 days, with all completed ballots due by noon PT Monday, Sept. 29. Election results will be announced in the Oct. 1 Connector.

Good luck, again, to all applicants, and we encourage all PASS members to take every opportunity to get to know the candidates before voting. Here’s to a lively and engaging campaign season!

FY2015: Supporting Another Year of Growth

August 19, 2014  As PASS moves into a new year, I'm excited to announce that the Board of Directors has approved the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and positioned our organization for another great year of growth and service to the data community.

This year's budget process highlighted – perhaps more than ever before – the incredible community expansion that PASS continues to experience. We saw an array of innovative ideas from Board members, community volunteers, and HQ department heads that build on those successes, and I'm excited that many of those are in the budget and underway.

Budget planning and approval can be a long and tedious process, but this year’s tasks were accomplished well within our timeline, thanks to engaged Directors and portfolio owners and the strong relationships they have with their HQ counterparts. In addition, our Finance team worked long hours to assemble research and make the numerous changes that occur during the process, all while keeping our many stakeholders informed. They deserve our huge thanks!

To increase accountability and transparency, we focused this year on budgeting for our current initiatives and goals while committing to revisit further investments through our open budget-exception process for new ideas and future projects. Some key areas of focus in the FY2015 budget include:

    • Continuing support for SQLSaturday, Chapter, and Virtual Chapter growth around the world, capitalizing on amazing year-over-year performance in those portfolios 
    • Exciting growth of our major events, PASS Summit and the PASS Business Analytics Conference
    • Strategic planning and activities for growing and engaging our business analytics community
    • Increasing focus on our Global Alliance Program to continue its early success in aligning with key partners from the data community 
    • Continuing IT investments to modernize our platforms and take advantage of technology to enable a stronger, more connected community 

As you know, PASS generates a significant portion of its revenue from our event platforms. We are back in Seattle November 4-7 for PASS Summit 2014 and expecting our biggest and best gathering of SQL Server and BI professionals ever. Don't miss our all-star lineup of amazing sessions, non-stop opportunities for community engagement and networking, and perhaps even your first SQL Karaoke experience. We hope to see you there – if you haven’t already signed up, I encourage you to register today.

In addition, the PASS Business Analytics Conference is returning to Silicon Valley in 2015, and we expect this event’s growth to match the increasing community interest and enthusiasm in the analytics space. We have a strong group of influencers helping drive this event, and we're excited about its potential for PASS.  

From the governance side of the house, just a reminder that the PASS Board of Directors election is coming up next month. Thanks to our Nomination Committee members  for all the time and effort they’ve dedicated to helping streamline the application process for candidates and the work they’ll be doing over the next weeks to help you get to know the candidates. PASS supports the greatest community of technical professionals in the world – it's hard not to want to be a bigger part of that. Thanks and good luck to everyone who applied to run for the Board this year. I’m looking forward to a lively campaign season as the candidates and community discuss how to make PASS even better. 

It’s thrilling to see everything happening right now in PASS, our industry, and the data world at large. We're excited to share these experiences with you and help community members continue to connect, share, and learn. I can't wait to see you out there!
– Adam Jorgensen
PASS EVP, Finance and Governance
@ajbigdata


Simply PASS

August 19, 2014  What’s in a name? For PASS, it’s a proud heritage of 15 years as one of the world’s largest and most vibrant technical communities.

Synonymous with premier technical training and networking, PASS was founded in 1999 by Microsoft, CA/Platinum Technologies, and passionate DBAs and database developers as an independent, not-for-profit professional association dedicated to promoting and educating SQL Server users around the world. Since then, our community has grown in both size and breadth, with over 100,000 members who work with the integrated Microsoft Data Platform in a variety of roles – from DBAs, data and application developers, and IT Managers to data warehousing specialists, business intelligence architects, and business analytics pros.

In the past 2 years, our organization has embraced the increased interest in and growing educational and networking needs of the analytics community through the PASS Business Analytics Conference and PASS-supported BA-related virtual chapters and BA-focused local chapters. Last year at about this time, PASS updated its mission statement to officially welcome and support the broader data community, including those who may not work directly with SQL Server. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be updating our websites and other communications, replacing most instances of the association’s spelled out name with simply “PASS.”

Run by and for the community, PASS remains dedicated to networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning, with serving data professionals at the core of everything we do. Our legal name will remain Professional Association for SQL Server, meaning we will continue to use the full, spelled out version on legal and corporate documents. But to our members, we will be PASS – representing all the history and excellence of our community as well as the promise of amazing things to come as we set our sights firmly on our mission of empowering data professionals.
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing


PASS NomCom: Busy Summer of 2014

August 5, 2014  The five-member PASS Nomination Committee (NomCom) has had a busy summer streamlining the application process and timeline for this year’s PASS Board of Directors elections and working on new campaign events to better engage the community and help them get to know the candidates before voting opens.

First up was a detailed review and update of the PASS Board application, which resulted in two focused documents. The PASS Board Elections Overview covers election processes, rules, and requirements, including everything from applicant criteria, recommended qualifications, and references to time commitments, procedures for ranking applicants and awarding seats, and campaign guidelines. With more requirements details and clearer examples all consolidated in the overview, the application itself is now shorter and easier to navigate.

The NomCom also adjusted the elections timeline so that campaigning opens before balloting and to reduce the time between when candidates are notified of elections results and when those results are announced to the community.

Although the NomCom is still working on PASS-hosted campaign events for this elections season, it has announced two official campaign events for Sept. 18 and 19, before ballots go out. These online Live Speech/Q&A events will feature a time slot for each candidate to give opening and closing statements and have an open Q&A session with the community. The events will be hosted via GoToWebinar; GoToWebinar will provide the audio, with each candidate responsible for providing the video portion of the session, which will depend on the candidate’s webcam and bandwidth capabilities.

“Serving on a previous NomCom and being a former Board candidate, I am happy with the changes we’ve been able to make to this year’s processes,” said NomCom member Allen Kinsel. “The streamlining we did on the campaign timelines and changes to the election events should have a great impact on candidates’ ability to execute successful, interesting campaigns – which should also increase voter interest in who is running and what they can do to make PASS a more successful organization.”

Added Erin Stellato, who has served on both the 2013 and 2014 committees: “The highlight for me has been the significant progress we’ve made on what last year's NomCom started. I think that we have improved the application process for candidates, and we are working to give the community an even better opportunity to get to know the candidates prior to elections.”

The NomCom is continuing to work on ranking methods for future elections and streamlining the overall elections process even more. These items will be reviewed post-election so that the NomCom can get a better idea of what can be improved. The current ranking methods will remain in place for this year’s elections, and as in the past, all applicants’ rankings will be posted to the public unless they opt out.

“We’ve identified some tweaks that I think will be good for candidates and voters,” noted NomCom member Andy Warren, “and we know that we need to put more time into a document that explains the ‘why’ of parts of the process to future NomCom members. It’s also a lot of fun to work with a group that is serious, diverse, and open minded, so much so that I think when we finish the work of the NomCom, we should find another project to tackle!”

Hortonworks Takes PASS Partnership to New Level

August 5, 2014 – PASS is excited to welcome Hortonworks as a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner as the company expands its event and program sponsorships into a comprehensive, strategic relationship that supports the worldwide PASS community year-round.

Founded in 2011 by the original architects, builders, and operators of Hadoop, Hortonworks develops, distributes, and supports the only 100% open source distribution of Apache Hadoop explicitly architected, built, and tested for enterprise deployments. The company became an active PASS event sponsor in 2012, drawn by the organization’s dedicated professional community and mission to provide excellence in technical education and networking.

“Understanding data and making the best use of it for your business has never been more important,” says Audrey Ng, Hortonworks Sr. Director, Strategic Alliances. “We’re committed to delivering innovative big data solutions and helping data pros as they transition to a modern data architecture and build the next generation of applications. We’re thrilled to be working more closely with PASS to support this passionate data community.” 

As a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner, Hortonworks is a Gold Sponsor of PASS Summit 2014, will be supporting the PASS Big Data Virtual Chapter as its sponsor, and will be a Silver Sponsor at PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015. The company will also be supporting the entire PASS community through Connector sponsorships, web advertising, and more.

PASS sponsors are a vital part of the community, supporting the organization’s many training and networking opportunities, including free learning events. Through the Global Alliance Program, PASS looks forward to bringing many new opportunities and added value to our community and to our partners. For information about becoming a PASS Global Alliance Partner, please contact Craig Ellis.