Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I’m Thankful For

Since it is the week of Thanksgiving in the United States, Jason Strate (@strateSql) has requested that bloggers post what they are thankful for, along the lines of Adam Machanic’s (@AdamMachanic) T-SQL Tuesday and now Jen McCown’s (@midnightDBA) UnSQL Friday. So this is my entry.

I have many things to be thankful for and, honestly, I’m not thankful enough, so this is a good exercise for me.


This Fall has been a fairly difficult one for my family and me.  We found out that my father-in-law has terminal cancer, we’ve dealt with lice, my son broke his arm, I went to the ER with chest pain, and I just found out that my father has cancer in the lymph nodes on the left side of his neck.  Yet, through all of this, I find comfort in my faith because I believe what the Bible says in Romans 6:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Even when I don’t understand the why’s I know that God has a plan.  I know that his is hard for people who don’t share my faith to understand.  It’s even hard for me to explain, of course that’s why it’s faith.


My wife, Alice, is the best.  She has to be to put up with me.  She’s my best friend and there’s comfort just in knowing she’s there.  She’s allowed me to drag here from New Hampshire to Florida and dealt with her parents failing health from 1500 miles away.  Alice also has encouraged me to be involved in the SQL Server community and to grow professionally no matter the time and expense needed.  On top of all that she’s a great mom too!

I love my 3 kids.  Danielle is almost 12, does great in school, and can really do anything she sets her mind to.  Evan (mister broken arm), 9, is my sports pal.  He loves to play and watch sports with me.   Regan, 7, is a bundle of energy and loves to perform.  Things are NEVER dull when he’s around.  Sure I get frustrated with them and annoyed, but I couldn’t ask for a better set of kids.


I’ve moved around a lot in my life so I don’t have that best friend since second grade, but I’m blessed with many friends all over the world.

Over the last couple of years the SQL Server Community has amazed me with the way it rallies around and supports its members.  Most of you I’ve only interacted with online, but in many cases I know you as well or better than people I see regularly.  I consider Mike Walsh (@mike_walsh) to be one of my closest friends (this may be news to him) and I’ve only met him face to face 3 times, but we share the same faith and the same profession so we have much in common.  There are too many of you to name you all, but I’m thankful that I get to associate with you all.

Being thankful is something I know I could and should do better at.  I’m going to close with one more verse that sums up how I should be 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

PASS SQLRally Call for Speakers and Registration Open!!

Call for Speakers

With the close of the PASS Summit today, the call for speakers for PASS SQLRally has opened!  so those of you who submitted to the Summit and didn’t quite make it, break out your abstracts and send them in!! We will be taking submissions through December 15th.  You can see the qualifications on the Speaker page on the SQLRally site.  I’m really excited about this event and excited to see how many sessions we’ll have submitted.  SQLRally will have 4 tracks:

  • BI Platform Architecture, Development and Administration
  • Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment
  • Database & Application Development
  • Wild Card – which will include 3 Professional Development sessions and 3 sessions from each of the other 3 tracks.

Included in each of the tracks will be “Summit Showcase” sessions that are selected from submissions by experienced Summit presenters.  As this event is designed to be a “taste” of the Summit these sessions will really give you a chance to see what the Summit is like.

Here’s even more great news, YOU will select the sessions on the schedule.  The event team will evaluate submissions for eligibility and group the sessions into categories within each track (BI, DBA, Dev, Professional Development).  YOU will then have the opportunity to vote on the session you’d like to see in each session.  Abstracts will be available for viewing and comments shortly after the call for speakers ends and voting will take place in the month of January.  Here is the voting schedule:

  • Professional Development (Jan 3, 2011 to January 9, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST) (3 categories)
  • Database & Application Development (Jan 10, 2011 to January 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST)
  • Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment (Jan 17, 2011 to January 23, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST)
  • BI Platform Architecture, Development and Administration (Jan 24, 2011 to January 30, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST)

Be sure to check out the Speaker Page on the SQLRally site for details.


Even if you aren’t interested in speaking you can still attend.  Registration is now open and how can you beat 2 days of training for $299 + a full-day pre-con for $199?  Don’t forget that we are limited to 600 attendees, so register early to make sure you get a seat!


We are excited to already have 3 sponsors on board:

On the off-chance that a SQLSaturday sponsor reads my blog and you have an interest in sponsoring SQLRally, you can!  We have limited number of sponsor opportunities, see our sponsor page for contact information.

We are confident that this will be a GREAT event and hope that you can come.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Priorities and the PASS Summit

As most of you know, I am not attending the PASS Summit this year.  I had all my plans made, airline tickets, hotel, and a schedule laid out for the week.  Then during lunch on Friday my son’s school called to let us know that he had injured his arm falling off a swing during the lunch recess.  Of course, we thought nothing of it at first, thinking he may have sprain or minor fracture, then we got to the school and could immediately see that the arm was broken.  By the end of the day Friday we knew that Evan had a “nasty” displaced fracture of the ulna and a fracture at the head of the radius and that he would need surgery Saturday to repair everything, including having a plate inserted to hold the ulna in place. 

Even with that, I still held out hope that I’d be able to make it for most of the week.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave on Sunday, as I had originally planned, so I cancelled that flight Saturday morning, but kept my return flight for the next Friday.  By Saturday afternoon I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it all, so I let my roommate, Mike Walsh (@mike_walsh) know and he took care of cancelling my hotel reservation for me.

We got Evan home a little after 7pm Sunday night and I have to admit that Sunday night watching the #sqlpass hash tag on Twitter was hard.  Seeing many friends getting together with people I haven’t had the opportunity to meet in person made me wish I was there.  As the week has gone on, yes, it’s only Tuesday morning, every day I realize even more that I made the right decision.  Evan is still in a lot of pain and I don’t think that there is any way that his mother, Alice, could have handled him and the other 2 kids alone without going crazy.  This is where priorities come in.  Even though the Summit is a great time and a great way to advance professionally, my career isn’t at the top of my list of priorities.  My priority list is: faith, family, friends, and then work.  My wife and kids need me to be home this week so that’s where I am.

I’m going to live the Summit vicariously through Twitter and the Live Stream of the Keynotes.  It certainly isn’t the same as being at Top Post, the Tap House, or any of the other events and places, but it’ll do.

Have a great time and I hope to see people at the SQLRally in the spring!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My PASS Summit Schedule

Several bloggers have posted what their plans are for the PASS Summit and I’m following suit for 2 reasons:

  1. So people who may want to meet me, hopefully there are some, will know where I’ll be.
  2. To hopefully give the members of my O.C. group an idea on where to find me.


My flight is scheduled to arrive at 3:15pm.  I’ll be traveling with Kendal Van Dyke (@sqldba) on this flight.

Once I get checked into the hotel, staying at the Sheraton with Mike Walsh (@mike_walsh), Mike and I are planning on attending a service at Mars Hill Church.  If my flight is on time we may be able to make the 5pm service.  After church I’d like to try to connect with anyone from my O.C. group who is arriving on Sunday and head to the dinner Andy Warren (@sqlandy) is planning (details). One of the goals of the O.C. is to get people introduced and starting with a dinner with Andy and Don will be a good start. 

Since I don’t have anything early on Monday morning I’ll probably use Twitter to find out where people are hanging out and stay out a bit later.


While I’m not attending a pre-con, I’ll have plenty to do on Monday.

Each morning there will be an opportunity to meet up with other Christians to pray (see Mike Walsh’s post) that I’ll be involved in.

I’ll likely meet up with Andy Warren at Top Pot Donuts (his favorite morning hangout in Seattle) and anyone else who wanders in before anything else happens.  Being on Eastern Time still means I’ll probably be awake by 5am.

At 10:00am I’ll be in the SQLSaturday Round Table and then I’ll be trying to meet-up with my any of my O.C. crew and others for lunch. 

I believe that there is a volunteer networking session with Don Gabor during the afternoon that I will likely attend.

At 4:30pm there is a 2 hour networking session with Don Gabor that I may attend if any of my O.C. crew registers.  I need to get this ironed out this week so I can get that paid for and scheduled.

At 6:00pm I’ll be at the Welcome and Orientation session for new attendees along with my O.C. crew. 

From 6:30-8:00 is the Official Welcome Reception and Quiz Bowl and I’ll be at that.

Then I’ll be heading to the SQLServerCentral Party.  There is also a Volunteer and Speaker party, but I committed to the SSC party prior to the volunteer party invite coming.  I’m frustrated that I can only attend one, but that’s life and there are plenty of people to see at either.

I’m not a big SQLKaroke guy, so I’ll probably turn in early (by midnight).


I’ll probably head to Top Pot Donuts in the morning and then to the convention center before the keynote to try to meet up with my O.C. crew.

Because there is so much I need to learn about it is hard to decide which sessions I’ll be attending throughout the week.  I’m also going to try to focus on areas that I have little to no experience like SSAS.  There are definitely times I’ll be just hanging out in the convention center talking with people, but here are sessions I may attend:

10:15 – Virtualization and SAN Basics for DBAs – Brent Ozar

I’ve seen Brent speak so I know this will be a good session and I need to better understand Virtualization and SANs.  My alternate in this block would be Getting SQL Service Broker Up and Running – Denny Cherry.  I know Denny, but have never heard him speak and Service Broker is a technology I think I need to know because I’ll be using it at my office soon.

Lunch is the Birds of a Feather lunch where each table will be hosted by an MVP who will moderate/lead a discussion around a specific topic.  Last year I sat at Paul Randal’s table on HA/DR.  This was my favorite part of the official Summit.  I don’t know what table I’ll be at this year, but whichever one it is will be good I’m sure.  I’ll likely pick one where I don’t know the MVP, at least not well, and on a subject I know little about.

1:30 – Entity Framework for the DB Administrator - Faisal Mohamood

Entity Framework is going to be around so I want to know how to use it and deal with it.  I probably do more development in my current position than DBA work, so I’m definitely interested.  My alternate for this session is Best Practices for Data Warehousing with SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 with Eric Hanson

3:00 – Demystifying MDX in Reporting Services – Stacia Misner

I follow Stacia on Twitter and would like to meet her.  This is also staying with my theme of subjects I’m not familiar with and would like to know more about.  My alternate is An MDM Methodololgy with SQL Server 2008 Master Data Services – Paul Bertucci

4:30 - SQLCAT: SQL Server Consolidation - Enabling Tools and Lessons Learned (90 mins) - Guy Bowerman; Prem Mehra; Sylvia Vargas

My alternate is Building FILESTREAM solutions with SQL Server 2008 – Klaus Aschenbrenner

For the evening I’m planning on attending the SQLSentry Party and then who knows?  This is what Twitter is for, knowing where to head next.


From 7:00am – 10:15am I will be serving as an Ambassador, helping get people where they need to be, which should be the key note.

10:15 – I’ll be at the Chapter Leader & Regional Mentor meeting

This is the time when the Chapter Leaders meet to help each other and help PASS help us.  This is when you find out that you aren’t alone in facing issues with sponsors, speakers, venues, etc…

Today is the Women in Technology luncheon which I missed last year, and I’ll try to attend this year.  This is not a female-only event, but an opportunity to discuss the role of women in technology.  With a daughter I definitely have an interest in what is happening with women in the work force.  I’m also friends with several of the organizers of the luncheon so I want to support them as well.

1:30 - 50 surprising features of SQL Server Business Intelligence - Amir Netz; Donald Farmer

I think BI is an area I need to know to be marketable and you can’t get better than Donald Farmer, right?  My alternate for this slot is Making SQL Server Extended Events Work for You – Charles Hawkins

3:00 - Conducting Effective Meetings – Joe Webb

I complain constantly about meetings, so I want to be able to schedule and lead productive meetings if and when I ‘m ever in a position to do that.  My alternate is Data Warehouse Design and Architecture Best Practices – Eric Veerman

4:30 - Inside Latching (90 min) – Bob Ward

I didn’t attend Bob Ward’s session last year and found out that I missed one of the best sessions of the Summit.  I’m not going to make that mistake this year.  This will go beyond locking and help me to better understand some internals.  My alternate is Business Intelligence – end-to-end - Donald Farmer; Pej Javaheri; Russell Humphries

Wednesday night is the Microsoft party at Gameworks which I’ll spend some time at and then see where other people end up.  As usual, Twitter is the tool I’ll use to find people.


This morning’s keynote is by Dr. David DeWitt who had a highly lauded keynote last year.  So if you are going to make one keynote this is the one to make.  This is where I’ll be.

10:15 - Upgrade and Migrate your SQL Server with Just Minutes of Down Time – Chris Shaw

I’m looking at upgrading from 2005 to 2008 R2 in the next few months, probably January, so this is a session on a subject I can use in the office almost immediately.  My alternate is DBA Mythbusters – Paul Randal.

Lunch is the chapter leader lunch and I’ll be at the Orlando table so if you are from the Orlando area be sure to find my table.

1:00 - Starting with More than a Blank Page: Using an Industry Standard Data Model – Karen Lopez

I’ve met Karen and have wanted to hear her speak and this is a great opportunity and good topic to understand.  My alternate Know thy Report Server! - James Luetkehoelter

2:30 - Automating SQL Buildouts with Hyper-V and SQL Server 2008 R2 – Robert Davis

Virtualization is an area I want to understand better.  My alternate is N-Tier Applications Designed for Optimal Performance – Areas to focus from a connectivity perspective. - Lars Giusti; Luiz Santos

4:00 - SQL Server and Hyper-V - getting the most out of new features – Guy Bowerman

Alternate is ETL from the Trenches:  Using SSIS in the Real World – Dave Fackler.

I’ll be having dinner with the Friends of RedGate and then likely heading back to the hotel to get packed up.


I fly out at 10:30 so I’ll be heading to the airport pretty much first thing in the morning.  I’ll be ready to get home to my family by this time.

I know I won’t be in every session.  I’ll probably miss the after lunch sessions every day because of lunch discussions.  I also want to make sure I make it through the exhibition hall to talk with the vendors.  There is definitely something you can learn from the vendors and many of the products are worth taking a look at.

I hope to see you there.  Be sure to come say, “Hello” to me during the week.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

T-SQL Tuesday–Why are DBA Skills Necessary?

This month T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Paul Randal (@PaulRandal) and he asks the question, “Why are DBA Skills Necessary?”.

The Story

When I first started working at New Tribes Mission in July of 2007, I was informed that there were no SQL Servers and that the plan was to move from FoxPro to .NET and SQL Server.  So I came on board as the SQL Server expert (at the time I was only an expert in comparison to the people in-house, I’ve come a LONG way since then). 

Well, as most SQL Server professionals have found out, SQL Server is out there whether you know about it or not.  It turns out there was a critical application in our Finance department that had a SQL Server backend which was running on a desktop class PC in the Finance office.  At the time I didn’t know about the MAP Tool, SQLPing, and other tools that find SQL Servers, so I didn’t find out about this SQL Server until November.  Guess why I found out about it?  That’s right, it crashed!  The worst part about the crash is that the original problem occurred in August!  There had been a power outage and msdb was corrupted.  What happens when msdb is corrupted?  That’s right, SQL Server Agent jobs doing backups no longer run!  Well, the PC maintenance department had been taking regular Acronis images of this PC, but the most recent one was a week old, so all we were able to do was to get the data recovered to within a week.  I was then able to rebuild msdb and recreate all the backup jobs, this time with system database backups and alerts when they don’t run.  Then I made plans to migrate the application database to a true SQL Server in our server room, with proper backups, monitoring, and maintenance.

The Moral of the Story

Why do you need DBA skills?  To keep these types of situations from happening. Does NTM need a full-time DBA?  No, but like any business running critical systems on SQL Server, they definitely need someone with DBA skills on a part-time basis to keep an eye on the SQL Server environment.