Thursday, November 5, 2009

PASS Summit Day 2 – What More Can I Learn

I actually slept in on Wednesday until 6am.  This was a change from being wide awake at 4am.  I made my way over to the convention center and was roped into invited to an informal meeting of bloggers with Andy Warren (@sqlandy) and a member of the PASS marketing team.  It was a discussion of how PASS and SQL Server bloggers can work together to get the message of PASS out to the community.  It was more of a brain storming session than a meeting. 

When the meeting closed I spent some time with Gail Shaw and Bob Hovious before the opening remarks and keynote.  PASS recognized some of the key volunteers, Tim Ford (@sqlagentman), Grant Fritchey (@gfritchey), and a few others.  Then it was time for the PASSion awards.  The international PASSion award went to Charlie Hanania while the U.S. award when to Allen Kinsel (@sqlinsaneo), both of whom did yeoman's work for PASS and certainly earned their awards.  After the awards were announced I took a break and worked on blogging my experiences.

Paul Randal – Logging and Recovery

This was my first session of the day.  Because I read Paul’s blog I did know a lot of the material, but he definitely expanded and explained more.  One of his main points is that the Transaction Log is the most important component of the database as ALL changes must be written to the transaction log BEFORE they can be written to the data files.  Some takeaways were:

  • Each data page has the last LSN (Log Sequence Number) stamped on the page for recovery purposes.
  • While there are minimally logged operations there are NO non-logged operations.
  • You can enable trace flag 3502 to see checkpoint operations.
  • A checkpoint writes ALL dirty pages from memory to the log file, even pages that are part of an uncommitted transaction.
  • The log always reserves enough space to rollback open transactions.
  • The log cannot be “cleared” (have virtual log files marked as available) while a Full or Differential backup is occurring, even if there is a simultaneous log backup taken.
  • Only log backups “clear” the transaction log, Full and Differential do not.

Very interesting material on the details of the transaction log and how it is used in recovery.


I enjoyed lunch with some newly made Christian friends again, Mike Walsh, Brain Moran, Peter Schott, and Erik Veerman.  Always good to spend time with men of faith.

Louis Davidson – Database Design

Louis has an interesting presenting style where he uses a lot of humor to make his point.  His main premise is that taking the time to have a well designed database at the start, saves much time later in the process.

Gail Shaw – Insight into Indexes

Gail’s session was about how to find out information about your indexes using the Dynamic Management Views and Functions.  I did know a bit about this, but I did not know about sys.dm_index_operational_stats which can help you see what is happening to indexes (inserts, updates, deletes) and how they are affecting locking, i.e. the number of locks taken on the resource by type (page, row).  Page Latch (waiting for access to page in memory) and Page IO Latch  (waiting for pages to be written to disk or read from disk) wait information is also available in this DMV.  Gail did a great job using a book to demonstrate how indexes work, a very good visual example.

Panel Discussion with the PASS Board of Directors

For the first time the BoD made themselves available for a question and answer session, moderated by former board member Joe Webb.  This was a late addition to the schedule, which contributed to the light turnout, about 15-20 people, not counting the board members.  One of the key points to come out is that there needs to be better communication between the board and other parties (members, chapter leaders, and sponsors/partners).  Chapter leaders would like more support from PASS and PASS would like more information from the chapter leaders. 

Steve Jones (@way0utwest) asked for more transparency and publication of the goals and accomplishments for each board member.  His point is that, to be honest, the community really doesn’t know what they are doing/have done, and they should be publishing their accomplishments.

Another interesting issue, raised by Jessica Moss, was that we, the community, need to know who to contact and how to go about presenting ideas we have for the organization.  Kevin Kline (past president) answered that the board was working on a “process” for this.  Jessica followed up by asking “When will this process be available?” and, unfortunately, there was not a concrete answer given, probably the low point of the session.

Lastly I asked about the recent BoD election controversy and if that caused them to consider changing the election process.  There was clear, “Yes”, and that there may need to be changes made to the by-laws to make the election process better.  I also commented that I’d like to see the BoD aim higher for the number of voters than the 1100 or so they are looking for next year.  Granted that would be double the votes cast this year, but still a small percentage of membership (30000).  I took some grief from Andy Warren as I would not/could not provide a realistic number to shoot for for next year’s election.  I’ll be thinking about this later.

It was, I think, a positive experience for both the BoD and those from the community who attended and I applaud the efforts being made by the BoD to be more transparent and make themselves more easily available to the membership.  As a relative newcomer to PASS, I can’t speak for how available they have been in the past, but I do believe that they are doing the best they can.

I certainly haven’t covered everything that was discussed, but I covered what I remembered.

I also want to thank the board for making themselves available for this session, it was definitely a step in the right direction.  I also want to thank Bill Graziano (@billgraziano) for being willing to hang around a while longer to continue the discussion.

Please take the time to email or talk to the board members and bring them your ideas and goals for PASS.  I believe that they truly want to serve the needs of the community, but without feedback they can’t know if they are focusing on the areas we, as a community, are most concerned about.

In the evening

I went over to the party provided by Microsoft at Gameworks, the biggest arcade/game room, I have ever been in.  There was good food and unlimited game play made available.  I grabbed some food and visited with some of my new friends while there and then went out with old friends before heading in for an early evening (10:00pm).

Trying to save up energy for my last day at the Summit where I will get to “host” the OPASS table at the Chapter Leader lunch.


  1. Jack, thanks for blogging about the Summit and in particular for attending the Q&A with the board. I think your thoughts on voting are totally valid, but the question I raised was that without a fairly solid plan for increasing voting, setting a goal of a 400% improvement (or more) would just be wishful thinking. Nothing wrong with aiming high, we should be ambitious, yet we also expect to be held accountable for making a solid attempt at our goals. In addition, we should look at other organizations to see what 'good' is, just to have an idea of where we stand.

    It's no fun to say that you can't (or won't) commit to having 25k voters next year. Just like our day jobs, we try to say what we think we can deliver, even if that's less than wish it was!

    Thanks again, and I look forward to the continuing conversation on this.

  2. Andy,

    Yeah, I understand what you mean and I'm probably expecting too much regarding the election. I probably could have phrased the comment/question better as well.

    The openness of the board was much appreciated. Hopefully I'll be able to make more time for PASS involvement.


So what do you think I am?