SQLBits 9 – Looking Back

SQLBits LogoWhat I did on my holidays

The latest SQLBits conference (number 9 – “Query across the Mersey”, a bad joke based on it being in Liverpool) is now long gone, and the only thing left to come from it is the uploaded videos of the sessions – which, as in previous events, I’m not expecting for another month or so, and I also hope will be available for all.

Thursday – A day of Denali

On the Thursday, I had a full day of Denali training from Christian Bolton (blog|twitter), Microsoft Certified Architect (that’s the one better than Master), and Technical Director of coeo, a SQL Server consultancy firm and provider of remote DBA services.  He’s one of those chaps who can, from a relatively simple starting point, take you progressively deeper into the workings of SQL Server until you realise you’re looking at stuff that you would almost certainly never need to know, and (to your surprise) you are understanding it completely.  I’ve seen him in action before, talking to a user group meeting (not just hard-core DBAs, but Devs & BI-types), going on a “deep dive” into CXPACKET waits, and I don’t think we lost anyone.  So the opportunity to get a day of his training in Denali was too good to miss.  The day included sessions on:

  • Introducing SQL Server Denali
  • Upgrade Planning
  • Windows Server Core
  • Security Enhancements
  • ColumnStore Indexes
  • AlwaysOn and other HA techniques
  • A Deep Dive into AlwaysOn Availability Groups
  • Advanced Troubleshooting with Extended Events

I’ve made lots of notes (well over 3000 words), and I hope to get round to writing some of these topics up (taking care not to breach copyright, of course!)

Friday & Saturday

Friday & Saturday consisted of hour-long sessions – six at a time – covering almost all aspects of SQL Server, suitable for DBAs, Developers and BI professionals. To give you a flavour, here’s a list of the sessions I went to:

  • Keynote speech – a dual-header from MS & HP, talking about their joint venture of data warehouse appliances which have been highly optimized to offer high performance out-of-the box (video)
  • Transaction Log Architecture – a presentation by Chirag Roy (twitter) digging into the behaviour of the transaction log and how to make it perform (video)
  • Around the World of Query Plan Operators – an ambitious attempt by Dave Morrison (twitter) to give a brief outline of all the query plan operators (scans, seeks, joins, creators, checks & filters, spools, parallel and “the bad and ugly”).  This was, given the time constraints, fast & furious.
  • Horror Stories – A lunchtime sponsor session primarily by Kevin E Kline of Quest Software (blog|twitter), sharing some horror stories from his years of experience, and getting us to chip in with stories of our own.  I probably said too much… …and I need to send him an email with some material I can’t use in public!
  • Advanced SQL Server Troubleshooting by Klaus Aschenbrenner (blog|twitter).  Again, another ambitious attempt to cover a lot of ground.  Probably best viewed as an introduction to Klaus’s three-day training seminars on the subject.  Towards the end of the session, he said “We only have 12 minutes left, but I’ve got 5 days of material to get through” (or words to that effect).  (video)
  • RoboDBA – a presentation by André Kamman (blog|twitter), describing techniques he’s developed to help him look after 400 instances of SQL Server.
  • Why Are We Waiting – Denali edition, by Neil Hambly (blog|twitter).  This is the second of Neil’s presentation on SQL Server waits.  (video)
  • Server-Side Traces by Christina Leo (blog|twitter).  This was only Christina’s second speaking effort, and she did well – almost certainly better than I would have done under similar circumstances!  We had a quick run around server-side traces, setting them up, dealing with the output etc, and a few demos.  The presentation itself was a little short, but the audience came up with plenty of questions at the end to keep her busy!  It has reminded me that I need to sort out some of my own code… (video)
  • Database Development with SQL Server Juneau, by Gert Drapers.  He’s the Group Program Manager for this product, which will be the new SQL Server development environment.  The room was packed for this presentation, with 20% of the audience standing at the back & sides, and the room was stifling.
  • Finding the Limits of SQL Server, by Thomas Kejser (blog|twitter).  Thomas is part of the SQLCAT (Customer Advisory Team) that handles some of the biggest deployments of SQL server around.  Top tip – if ever you get the chance to go to a presentation by a member of this team, then do so.  These guys can even get performance improvements on systems where you are maxing out CPU.  Scary.  (video)
  • SQL Community lunchtime session – an A to Z of SQL Server tips.  OK, they cheated, and only did a few of the letters, but there was some good tips.  I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Allen (blog|twitter) – “G is for GO”.  The presenters also made reference to the SQL Relay event that was scheduled for the week after SQLBits – 16 user group meetings in four days, including a visit from Itzik Ben Gan (blog|twitter), the guy who writes the books that get you inside T-SQL.
  • Through The Virtual LookingGlass – Monitoring Virtualised SQL Server, by Gavin Payne of coeo (blog|twitter).  The big takeaway for monitoring virtual servers?  “Windows doesn’t know the truth any more.”  Time to get sneakier with performance monitoring / identifying performance issues.
  • T-SQL – Bad Habits to Kick, by Aaron Bertrand (blog|twitter).  I went with a lighter session to end up the conference – it had been a long few days!  Aaron took us through a dozen bad habits that any of us could have, including the basics such as use of “SELECT *”, or using old-style JOINs.  As a result of this, I know I’ve got some work to do to tidy up some of my code.

And there ended the conference.  As always, I found it represented very good value for money, and the Saturday was free of charge.  I met old friends in the business, and made a few new ones, did some networking, and managed to come away with pages of notes that I’ve only just finished typing up into something slightly more legible.

Here’s to the next one!

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