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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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.


BAC 2015: Even More for Business and Data Analysts to Love

Sept. 16, 2014  With registration for PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 opening early next week, I wanted to share some of the exciting new things we have in store for business and data analysts in April and throughout the coming year.

Who’s the BA Conference For?
The BA Conference is for those who work in business and data analytics using Excel and PowerBI, as well as other technologies such as SQL, Hive, and R. 

Unlike other BA-related conferences, our BA Conference – true to PASS tradition – is focused on real-world training and connections designed to have an immediate and direct impact on attendees and their organizations.

As both our new BA and core SQL Server/BI communities continue to grow, we’re seeing a greater demand for training and support specific to each group. While SQL Server and BI pros are typically architects, builders, and facilitators of data and analytics systems, business and data analysts extract data from these systems to gain insights and drive the decision making process. They are the data consumers – the customers, clients, and colleagues of PASS’s DBA, developer, and BI community members. 

This year, through the BA Conference (as well as upcoming webinars and analytics-focused content), we’re answering the call to meet the unique needs of business and data analysts, who are asked to do more with data every day. Every BA Conference learning and networking experience will be concentrated on the BA perspective and focused on the skills, technologies, and methods they need to investigate business performance and influence business planning. 

The Program
PASS launched the BA Conference in 2013 to support our data colleagues on the business side, and since then we’ve been fine-tuning our session content, formats, and networking offerings. Next year’s event takes that a step further with a program laser-focused to deliver practical, best-practices information, hands-on training, and visionary thought leadership. 

Experienced business and data analytics professionals are in high demand and short supply. Leading organizations are looking for people with a unique combination of data technology skills, business knowledge, and analytical expertise – paired with strong professional skills – to drive decision making and core profitability. 

Our BA Planning Committee has done an excellent job mirroring these requirements with an outline of classroom sessions, hands-on workshops, and expert panels organized into five real-world tracks. We’ll be covering everything those in business and data analytics need to know about Excel, Power BI, SQL, R, Hive, Machine Learning, and more.

The Speakers
As PASS works to grow and support our young BA community, we’re also working to grow our pool of business and data analytics experts and speakers.

PASS is about community, and we believe that to serve and grow the BA community as part of PASS’s expanding membership, we need to provide the best possible program and experience for our BA Conference attendees and future PASS members. We are fortunate to have seen such amazing growth and maturity in our speaker pool from PASS’s traditional SQL Server/BI Pro membership, and we want the same level of excellence for our growing BA audience. 

As we’ve refined our program approach and reviewed the feedback from previous years, it’s become clear that we need to target the right mix of BA topics and expertise. So this year’s conference speaker lineup will be comprised of a group of handpicked experts – an approach used by many conferences – to bring the highest quality experience to attendees; we will not be having an open call for speakers. Our goal is to accelerate our BA community-building efforts through this process. Identifying and growing knowledgeable and talented community contributors will allow us to integrate a community speaker component in next year’s event while maintaining the level of excellence and real-world value that we are committed to for all our members and attendees. 

I can’t wait to share our program and speakers list for BA Conference 2015! Watch for the initial lineup in early November.

Following a Great Lead
Founded in the database space, PASS was brought to life by passionate SQL Server pros with a vision to connect, share, and learn.

PASS is all about meeting the needs of data professionals, providing world-class training and thought leadership, and supporting and promoting a community of like-minded people. It’s a great model to follow and a firm foundation for a growing conference and community that supports our Business Analytics brothers and sisters.

To all the SQL Server and BI community members who’ve paved the way, we ask for your help in reaching out to your business and data analytics colleagues, letting them know how important the PASS community has been in your own career, and encouraging them to check out the PASS BA Conference and our other BA offerings. We couldn’t ask for better community evangelists!
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing

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 peak 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?
A:
 "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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A: 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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A: "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?
A: 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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A:
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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: “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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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!