T-SQL Tuesday #081: Sharpen Something

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Published on: July 27, 2016

Sharpen Something

It has now been 30 months since the last time I hosted a TSQL Tuesday, that was TSQL Tuesday 51. I recapped that event here with the original invite here. I can’t believe it has been that long since I last hosted. It only seems like yesterday.

sqlskillsharpener_pigComing into the present day, we are now at TSQL Tuesday 81. For this month, I would like to try and up the ante a bit. Usually we only get about a weeks notice prior to the event to think about the article to write for the event.

This time, I want to invite everybody just a little bit sooner and will follow-up with a reminder seven days prior to the event. The reason I want to do this is because I think this may be a touch more difficult this time.

 

This month I am asking you to not only write a post but to do a little homework – first. In other words, plan to do something, carry out that plan, and then write about the experience. There is a lot going into that last sentence. Because of that, let me try to explain through a few examples of what I might like to see. Hopefully these examples will help you understand the intent and how this month the topic relates to “Sharpening Something“.

EXAMPLES

  1. You have learned about a really cool feature called Azure DevTest Lab. Having heard about it, you wish to implement this feature to solve some need in your personal development or corporate environment. Develop a plan to implement the feature and tell us the problem it solves and about your experiences in getting it to work from start to end. An example of how I might try to use this might involve the creation of a disposable and easy setup environment for Precons, Workshops, and various other types of training.
  2. There is a really awesome book about SQL Server you heard about and you decided to buy it. Plan to sit down and read the book. Take a nugget or two from the book and tell us how you can use that nugget of information within your personal or professional environment.
  3. You know you are extremely deficient at a certain SQL Skill. Tell me what that skill is and develop a plan to get better at that skill. Report on the implementation of this skill and how you are doing at improving. Maybe that skill is about Extended Events, PoSH or availability groups.
  4. Similar to the skill deficiency, you know you do not understand a certain concept within SQL Server as well as you feel you should. Maybe that concept is indexing or statistics (for example). Create a two week plan to become more proficient at that concept. Follow that plan and report on your progress.

In recap, this is an invite to make a short term goal covering the next two weeks. Tell everybody what that goal is (in your tsql tuesday post of course) and how you went about creating a plan for that goal and how you have progressed during the two week interval.

What is T-SQL Tuesday?

TSQL2sDay150x150T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party hosted by a different blogger each month. This blog party was started by Adam Machanic (blog|twitter). You can take part by posting your own participating post that fits the topic of the month and follows the requirements below. Additionally, if you are interested in hosting a future T-SQL Tuesday, contact Adam Machanic on his blog.

How to Participate

  • Your post must be published between 00:00 GMT Tuesday, Août 9e, 2016, and 00:00 GMT Wednesday Août 10e, 2016.
  • Your post must contain the T-SQL Tuesday logo from above and the image should link back to this blog post.
  • Trackbacks should work. But, please do add a link to your post in the comments section below so everyone can see your work.
  • Tweet about your post using the hash tag #TSQL2sDay.

You Deserve to be an MVP

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: July 25, 2016

I have been sitting on this article for a while now. I have been tossing around some Microsoft_MVP_logo_thumb
thoughts and finally it is time to share some of those thoughts with the masses. I hope to provoke further thought on the topic of being an MVP.

I want to preface all of these thoughts first by saying that I believe there are many great people out there who are not an MVP who deserve to be an MVP. These are the types of people that do a lot for the community and strive to bring training and increased knowledge to more people in various platforms under the Microsoft banner.

Now for some obligatory information. While it is true I am an MVP, I feel obligated to remind people that I have zero (yup that is a big fat zero) influence over the MVP program. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to retain the position of MVP along with all of the rest of the MVP community (there are a few of us out there). Not only am I grateful to the program for allowing me in, I am also grateful to all of those that nominated me.

Work – and lots of it!

mvp_banner

One of the first things that strikes me is the nomination process for the MVP program. There are two parts to the process. The easy part comes from the person making the nomination. That said, if you are nominating somebody or if you are asking somebody to nominate you, read this guide from Jen Stirrup. Jen has listed a bunch of work that has to be done on the part of nominator. Or is it work for the person making the nomination?

When you really start thinking about it, the nominee is really the person that needs to do a fair amount of work. Yes, it is a good amount of work to do. Then again, maybe it is not very much work for you at all.

One of the things that really bugs me about the process is all of this work. Not specifically that I get the opportunity to do it. No, more specifically that there seems to be a growing trend in the community of entitlement. I feel that far too many people, that do a lot within the community, feel they are entitled to being accepted into the MVP program. And of course there are others that do much less and also exhibit the same sentiment.

Entitled?

When you feel you deserve to be an MVP, are you prepared to do more work? I have heard from more than one source that they will not fill out all the extra information requested when they are nominated. The prevailing reason here being that they are entitled, because they do some bit of community work, to be automatically included. Another prevailing sentiment, around this extra work, is that Microsoft should already be tracking the individual and know everything there is to know about the contributions of said individual.

These sentiments couldn’t be further from the fact. If you are thinking along the lines of either of these sentiments, you are NOT an MVP. There are a ton of professionals in the world doing a lot of community activities who are just as deserving of becoming an MVP. It long_resumeis hardly plausible for Microsoft to track every candidate in the world. Why not tell them a bit about yourself?

RESUME / CV

When applying for a job, how do you go about applying for that job? Every job for which I have ever applied, I have needed to fill out an application as well as send a resume to the employer. I hardly think any employer would hire me without knowing that I am interested in the job.

That sounds fantastic for a job right? Being an MVP surely has no need to send a resume for that, is there? Well, technically no. However, if you treat your community work like you would treat any other experience you have, you may start to see the need for the resume just a touch more. When nominated, you are requested to provide a lot of information to Microsoft that essentially builds your resume to be reviewed for the MVP program.

One of the prevailing sentiments I have heard from more than one place is that filling out all of this information is just bragging on yourself. That sentiment is not too far from reality. Just like any resume, you have to highlight your experiences, your accomplishments and your skills. Without this kind of information, how could Microsoft possibly know anything about you? Do you have the paparazzi following you and sending the information along to Microsoft for you? If you do, then why even bother with the MVP program? Your popularity is probably on a bigger scale than the MVP program if you have your own paparazzi.

Invest in your Professional Self

resume_wordcloudThe more effort you put into your candidate details the better chance you have at standing out within the review process. Think about it this way, would you turn in a piece of paper with just your name on it for a job? Or…would you take hours to invest in your personal self and produce a good resume that will stand out in the sea of resumes that have been submitted?

If you ask me to submit you as an MVP and I do, I would hope that you complete your MVP resume (candidate profile) and submit it to Microsoft. If you don’t take the time to do that, then I would find it hard to ever submit you again. The refusal to fill out that information speaks volumes to me and says either you are not interested or think too much of yourself for the MVP program.

Leadership

One of the attributes of an MVP is that of leadership. A simple measure of leadership actually falls into the previous two sections we just covered. If you are contributing to the community, that would be one small form of leadership. If you are willing to follow, that is also a form of leadership. If you are able to complete your information and submit it, then that is also an attribute of leadership.

Leaders demonstrate their leadership by being able to take direction, teaching others (community work), completing tasks when necessary, and reporting back up to their superiors on successes and failures (the last two can be attached to the completion of the nomination data).

Don’t believe me about leadership being an attribute of an MVP? Take a gander at this snippet from my last renewal letter. Highlighted in red is the pertinent sentence.

MVPrenew15_leader

You can run the phrase through a translator or take my word for it that it pertains to exceptional leaders in the technical community.

It’s not a Job though

I am sure some of the pundits out there would be clamoring that if the MVP program were an actual job, then they would perform all of the extra work. I have two observations for this: 1) it speaks to the persons character and 2) MVP really is more like a job than you may think.

The MVP program is not a paid job and probably falls more into the realm of volunteering back2workthan a paid job. Despite that, if you treat it more like a job with full on responsibilities you will have greater success in getting accepted and you will have a greater sense of fulfillment. Additionally, you will get further along with more opportunities within the MVP program just like a traditional job.

Just like a traditional job, there are responsibilities, non-disclosures, internal communications, and annual reviews. Did any of those terms raise your eyebrow? The community contribution paperwork does not end with becoming an MVP – that is just the job application / resume. Every year, you have to provide an annual review. This review is a recap of the entire year with your personal accomplishments and is basically a self-review that would be provided to the manager. I am sure you are familiar with the process of providing a self-review to document reasons why you should remain employed or even get a raise.

Non-traditional Job

As with a regular job, you must continue to accomplish something in order to maintain the position. The accomplishments can come in any form of community contribution such as blogs, speaking, mentoring, or podcasts (as examples). What is not often realized is that this takes time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time. When you consider the time as a part of your effort, I hope you start to realize that being an MVP really is a lot like a part time job (and a full time job in some cases).

When we start talking about being an MVP in quantity of hours contributed and tasks accomplished, it is not hard to see it as a job. So if it really is just like a job, how much time are you willing to invest in the documentation for this award? Is it at least comparable to the time you invest in documenting your professional career when applying for a paying job? If you don’t take that kind of pride or effort in documenting your worth to your personal career development, then I dare say you need to rethink your approach and re-evaluate whether you should be an MVP candidate.

Being an MVP is not just an award – it is a commitment to do more for the community!

The Virginia Tour 2016

db nsfwLong Time Coming

With less than a week before the Richmond SQLSaturday event, I am finally getting this post done – maybe.

This is not just a one day event for me. No no! I will be presenting for three consecutive days on many things SQL Server related. The Virginia Tour 2016 really is more of a Richmond Tour 2016 (March 16-19) with all three days being presentations in the Richmond area.

The tour starts off with a visit to the Richmond User Group. You can find details on the evening and event on their website – here.

Here is a quick recap of the NSFW (Naked Sql: Fundamentals to Wisdom) session:

Ever feel like there are just too many layers with SQL Server? You peel off a layer and behold there is yet another layer. SQL Server is rather complex. The complexities can be rather frustrating from time to time.

Join this NSFW (not safe for whining) session as we strip SQL down to the bare bones. I will help you undress the complexities of a few of the basic SQL Server concepts. These concepts will include locks, principals, query directives and deadlocks.

In this session I will disrobe misunderstandings related to the aforementioned topics. I will show the different types of principals in SQL Server. I will also show various scenarios involving locks and deadlocks along with some of their effects with and without query directives. The goal is to better understand these topics and to hopefully stop using and perpetuating common mis-uses of terminology and common misconceptions about the technology.

This should be a light-hearted and fun session with a bit of NSFW learning. Just hope the censors don’t get to the slide deck first!

After the user group presentation to kick off the week, there will be an all-day encore on Friday. Friday is officially a part of the SQLSaturday event. You are welcome to come and participate in my all day workshop – Monitoring SQL Server with Extended Events. There is an event page with details for registering that you can visit – here!

Here is some of what I will be covering in day 2 of this Richmond tour:

Every good enterprising DBA has the prime directive of monitoring the SQL Servers under his/her jurisdiction. The last thing a DBA wants to hear is that there is a problem with a database under his/her purview from an end-user.

SQL Server has progressed over time to give better and better information to the DBA.  Much of this information can be used in a home grown solution to monitor SQL Server. With the constant increase in surface area from Extended Events, the power to build a home grown solution becomes more and more feasible while being limited only by the imagination of the enterprising DBA (or developer or data professional). This full day workshop will introduce you to an Extended Events based solution to achieve that home-grown monitoring goal.

This full day session on Extended Events will help prepare you to put this tool to immediate use as you walk back to your daily duties.  This workshop will teach you about Extended Events starting with the basics and moving through how to create XE sessions that will get the right data for you, while doing so with minimal impact.

You will be exposed to advanced troubleshooting techniques as we work through complex issues that are made easier through the use of XE.  Take advantage of this opportunity to dive into the world of Extended Events and learn how you can make best use of this tool in your SQL 2008+ environment.

This will be a fun day if for nothing else than it is about Extended Events and how to glean great information from your SQL Servers. That and we will keep it light. Just remember, the more you are involved in the workshop the better it will be!

sqlsat486webAfter a brief break to grab some zzzz’s, I will be wrapping up this tour with the grand finale – SQL Saturday 486!!

Not only will I be presenting at this event, I have also volunteered.

I will have a short introductory style presentation about Extended Events. I intend to show a little profiler and a little Extended Events. As usual, I intend to keep the session light, fun and engaging. Here is a little more info on that session:

Extended Events were introduced in SQL Server 2008. With SQL 2014, we have seen a significant upgrade to this feature. Join me for a little adventure into the realm of extended events. We will discuss how to use extended events to aid in performance tuning and in day to day administration. We will also explore some background and the architecture of extended events. This is a fast paced session and will be a lot of fun. Attendees will be able to take back several sample XE sessions to help troubleshoot different issues and get to more intimately know their data/environment.

wheelofdoomThen to cap the day, I will be helping to assist with the Wheel of Doom.

The name of the session sounds much worse than it really is. The premise is simple. Speakers and attendees are invited to submit a lightening talk style session with slide deck. Then attendees of the session can volunteer to spin the wheel and present whichever session pops up.

This session is to help people get over the nerve of presenting. It will be very light-hearted and entertaining. No judgement, no shaming, just have fun with it!

 

 

Freecon – Oct 27 in Seattle

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Published on: September 23, 2015

Just over a week ago I announced that SQL Solutions Group was getting ready to host a day of training, FREECON if you will, in Seattle as a prelude to the PASS Summit of 2015. You can read all about that here, with registration being here.

While I really do hope to see the room fill with people looking to get some fantastic training, I also want to note that this training is not a part of the Summit. Though I hope it is viewed as an effort to enhance the learning made available during the week of Summit and to give the attendees more options.

An option is only really any good if some sort of detail can be attained about the option. While, I did publicize that the event was going to happen with a brief introduction into the the topics to be covered, one may be left wondering what really will be covered during the day.

Today, I hope to help make the SSG Freecon option a better option  by including a little detail into what it is that I will be presenting during my session on Extended Events.

Extended Events

This should come as a huge surprise given the 60 Days of XEvents series that I am currently publishing. While I am publishing a lot of information about Extended Events in this series, this Freecon session will cover the methodology that I, as a consultant, would use to troubleshoot various issues when a client seeks my help.

It is well known that there is a wealth of information within Extended Events. One can tap plenty of information about performance issues, errors, or general interest type stuff by setting up an XEvent Session and trapping some (hopefully) useful information.

roadmapDuring this session at the FreeCon, I want to help show how I would use Extended Events as a consultant to help find the pertinent information that will bring to light the problems the client is having.

How can I use Extended Events as a consultant to perform a health check on your server? That information will be covered throughout this session.

How can I determine where precisely the backup failed (and when) and be able to procure more information to determine if it was caused by some other event on the network? This is the type of information included in the methodology that I plan to share.

Think of this session as a condensed road-map to XE Success.

Free SQL Training in Seattle

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: September 15, 2015

The annual SQL Server Professional migration is about to begin. Many of us will be descending upon the city of Seattle for a week of training and networking at the PASS Summit. The week in Seattle will invariably begin and end on different days for many people. And since many will be coming to Seattle in advance of the first day of the actual Summit, there may be some idle time available.

free training

Well, because of this, SQL Solutions Group decided to provide yet another opportunity for those that may have a bit of free time on their hands. So, on Oct 27th, SSG is offering a day of free training (with a small fee for lunch) provided by four of our Microsoft Certified Masters.

If you are in the market for some extra training, you are invited to attend this day of training. Please register at our EventBrite listing to attend and see the training that we have on tap for you on Oct 27th, 2015.

Here is a brief overview of the training that will be given:

Code Smells for the Consultant

Throughout my career, I’ve seen developers do some pretty crazy things to databases ( I know because I come from a developer background). Come to this session to learn both what I (and SSG) look for and why it’s bad for the database (or your career), and alternatives that can be used. Some of the topics that I will discuss include; how coding mistakes open up the database for SQL Injection attacks, how coding choices can slow down the server, and how design choices keep SQL Server dumb ( if SQL Server was allowed to be smart, it would be faster!). Trust me, your DBA will love you for identifying and fixing these code smells.

A Masters Passport to Extended Events

As is commonly the case, all good things come to an end.  And now is as good a time as any for the use of SQL Trace and Profiler to come to an end.  Let’s face it, Trace was a good tool and had some wonderful uses.  Profiler for that matter was a good tool and was useful at times.

It is time to let those old tools retire gracefully and move into the world of XE.  This workshop will provide you the means to let Profiler and Trace be retired from your tool-set as you discover all that XE has to offer.

This focused session on Extended Events will help prepare you to put this tool to immediate use as you walk back to your daily duties.  This workshop will teach you about Extended Events starting with the basics and moving through to some specific XE sessions that I would use to troubleshoot in a client environment – while doing so with minimal impact.

You will be exposed to advanced troubleshooting techniques as we work through complex issues that are made easier through the use of XE.  Take advantage of this opportunity to dive into the world of Extended Events and learn how you can make best use of this tool in your SQL 2008+ environment.

Practical Powershell for the DBA

Think of all the tools you use in managing your SQL Servers. All those SQL Servers being managed by tools and man that is a lot of clicks. We will show practical scripts and techniques to help you get a handle on all those clicks. Whether you are gathering data or statistics from your SQL Servers or deploying an object to all of them. Configuration items are not excluded from the need for good tools. PowerShell is that tool that will let you get away from all those clicks. Reusable scripts that let you manage all those instances with ease. This session will give you a great start on how to think about admin tasks using PowerShell scripts or modules. Many items are already out there to help you and we will take a good look.

Transaction Isolation Levels, Locking and Deadlocking

Managing concurrency is one of the most challenging aspects of working with any enterprise DBMS. There is much confusion out there about locking, blocking, and deadlocks.

In this demo heavy session we will clear up the confusion by defining what each of these items are and what their causes are. We will then dig into each of SQL Server’s built in isolation levels and explore how they affect concurrency. Understanding concurrency and how isolation levels impact it is one of the most important things you need to know as a SQL Server developer. But understanding when to use each one can be daunting. Whether you are a developer who needs to understand how isolation works and why NOLOCK is not an appropriate hint in most cases, or a seasoned DBA who needs to understand the less commonly used isolation methods, this session is for you. We will look at each level, how it impacts the engine, and examine appropriate (and inappropriate) use cases for each.

 

TSQL Recipes – 2014 Edition

Announcing…the book

book_coverAt long last the wait is over. After much blood, sweat and more blood and sweat, the next edition of the SQL Server Recipes book is finished.

This edition brings several changes and quite a bit of re-write. It has been updated for many of the new SQL Server 2014 (well, new, at least until SQL 2016 hits mainstream) features that were added. In addition, we revisited some of the other features that had been omitted from previous editions to try and give it a more encompassing feel.

All of that said, the book is not a comprehensive listing of every command, jot or tittle in SQL Server. There were a finite number of pages and the features in SQL Server just has far too many features and nuances to cover within a single edition.

Despite the limitation of page quantity, we do feel that this is a pretty comprehensive book covering a wide array of features with several examples of how to perform various tasks along with use-cases for when to use the example.

When you crack the covers, you will find examples of how to perform backups to blob storage in Azure, create In-memory OLTP tables, restore from blob storage, and in some cases you will see how to use Extended Events to help with troubleshooting. That is just a small sampling of the contents that fill the almost 900 pages in this book.

Combine this reference book with the previous editions, and you will have an excellent resource for SQL Server.

You can purchase the book on Amazon – here.

Now for the mushy stuff

I am grateful to the folks at Apress for letting us come on board with this book and continue writing about SQL Server and creating a great resource.

I am grateful to the other authors Jonathan Gennick and Wayne Sheffield for helping push this along. The collaboration and support provided by these guys was fantastic. Their patience was also exceptional.

Equally important was the patience and understanding afforded by my family. Writing does take a significant amount of time and they sacrificed so I could continue on this project.

Thanks to all these folks for helping make this a great achievement!

Murder and XE Train in Louisville

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: July 17, 2015

I am about to set sail on a new venture with my next official whistle stop.  This year has been plenty full of whistle stops and I plan on continuing.  You can read (in full) about previous whistle stops and why they are called whistle stops here.

Amazing this thing is still going on after the sailing train comment that was made around the time of PASS Summit 2013.

lvillecrazytrain

 

Time to sink or sail, so to speak.  SQL Saturday 403 in Louisville will mark the next attempt at what I hope to be a repeat performance – many times.  I will be tag-teaming with Wayne Sheffield in this all day workshop event.  The session is one of two all day sessions for the event in Louisville, KY. Did I mention that this is a:

bogo

That’s right! If you get two all day sessions for the price of one! Attend just one or both of the sessions that Wayne and I will be presenting. You can see full details at our eventbrite site here.

If you are a DBA or a database developer, these sessions are for you.  If you are managing a database and are experiencing performance issues, these sessions are a must.  We will chat with attendees about a horde of performance killers and other critical issues we have seen in our years of working with SQL Server.  In short, some of these issues are pure murder on your database, DBA, developer and team in general.  We will work through many of these things and show some methods to achieve a higher state of database Zen.

Description

Join Microsoft Certified Masters, Wayne Sheffield and Jason Brimhall, as they examine numerous crazy implementations they have seen over the years, and how these implementations can be murder on SQL Server.  No topic is off limits as they cover the effects of these crazy implementations from performance to security, and how the “Default Blame Acceptors” (DBAs) can use alternatives to keep the developers, DBAs, bosses and even the end-users happy.

Course Objectives

  1. Recognize practices that are performance pitfalls
  2. Learn how to Remedy the performance pitfalls
  3. Recognize practices that are security pitfalls
  4. Learn how to Remedy the security pitfalls
  5. Demos Demos Demos – scripts to demonstrate pitfalls and their remedies will be provided
  6. Have fun and discuss
  7. We might blow up a database

That is just the Murder session. Here are the details for the XE session.

A Masters Passport to Extended Events

As is commonly the case, all good things come to an end.  And now is as good a time as any for the use of SQL Trace and Profiler to come to an end.  Let’s face it, Trace was a good tool and had some wonderful uses.  Profiler for that matter was a good tool and was useful at times.

It is time to let those old tools retire gracefully and move into the world of XE.  This full day workshop will provide you the means to let Profiler and Trace be retired from your toolset as you discover all that XE has to offer.

This full day session on Extended Events will help prepare you to put this tool to immediate use as you walk back to your daily duties.  This workshop will teach you about Extended Events starting with the basics and moving through how to create XE sessions that will get the right data for you, while doing so with minimal impact.

You will be exposed to advanced troubleshooting techniques as we work through complex issues that are made easier through the use of XE.  Take advantage of this opportunity to dive into the world of Extended Events and learn how you can make best use of this tool in your SQL 2008+ environment.

Course Objectives

  1. Build a knowledge base for Extended Events
  2. Become familiar with the tools for Extended Events
  3. Become familiar with uses for Extended Events
  4. Get acquainted with troubleshooting scenarios for Extended Events
  5. Begin to put Extended Events to practical use
  6. Return to work with enough information to eradicate Profiler from the environment

Presented by:

wayneWayne Sheffield, a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server, started working with xBase databases in the late 80’s. With over 20 years in IT, he has worked with SQL Server (since 6.5 in the late 90’s) in various dev/admin roles, with an emphasis in performance tuning. He is the author of several articles at www.sqlservercentral.com, a co-author of SQL Server 2012 T-SQL Recipes, and enjoys sharing his knowledge by presenting at SQL PASS events and blogging at http://blog.waynesheffield.com/wayne

 

 

 

JasonBrimhall

Jason Brimhall has 10+ yrs experience and has worked with SQL Server from 6.5 through SQL 2012. He has experience in performance tuning, high transaction environments, as well as large environments.  Jason also has 18 years experience in IT working with the hardware, OS, network and even the plunger (ask him sometime about that). He is currently a Consultant and a Microsoft Certified Master(MCM). Jason is also an MVP for SQL Server.

 

 

 

kaboom

 

There will be a nice mix of real world examples and some painfully contrived examples. All will have a good and useful point.

If you will be in the area, and you are looking for high quality content with a good mix of enjoyment, come and join us.  You can find registration information and event details at the Louisville SQL Saturday site – here.  There are only 75 seats available for this murder mystery theater.  Reserve yours now.

The cost for the class is $150 (plus fees) up through the day of the event.  When you register, be sure to tell your coworkers and friends.

Wait, there’s more…

Not only will I be in Louisville for these workshops, I will also be presenting as a part of the SQLSaturday event on August 22, 2015 (the Saturday after the workshops which run Aug. 20-21, 2015).  You can view the available sessions here.

Shameless plug time

I present regularly at SQL Saturdays.  Wayne also presents regularly at SQL Saturdays.  If you are organizing an event and would like to fill some workshop sessions, please contact either Wayne, myself or both of us for this session.

PASS Summit 2015 – Guess What?

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Published on: July 13, 2015

Quick run the other way!

PASS Summit will never be the same!

Why?

Well, because for the first time in the history of me, I have been selected to speak at such a prestigious event.

I'm Speaking Graphic_Large

Isn’t that just crazy?

In some ways it seems crazy. When I received the email I was exhilarated and completely astonished. I had hoped I would be selected, but did not entirely think it would happen this year.

I have to confess that I am honored to be one of the many to have been selected. This is really cool. You may be wondering why I am blogging about this opportunity soooo late after the speakers were announced. Well, the answer is rather straight forward. Life has been a bit crazy the past few weeks.

The last night of SQL Cruise I received a phone call from my family letting me know that my grandfather had become fatally ill. I spent the next several days with him in the hospital until he passed away a week later. Then there were the holidays and the funeral. And to cap that off, I flew down to Phoenix to speak to the two user groups last week. SO, it has been a whirlwind!

All of that said, I am announcing it now and really am excited to be a apart of such an AWESOME event.

Now for the surprise.

When I discovered which session had been selected, I was very surprised. I expected one of my Extended Events sessions to be picked. Nope! Instead, one of my other fun sessions was picked. We will be talking about Compression in SQL Server at Summit.

I am hopeful we are able to make this an exciting and enjoyable session for the attendees. I hope the attendees will also be able to take the information home and be able to use it for better (or worse) in their environments.

I do hope to see many of you in attendance. On the agenda for the attendees in this session will be:

  1. Dive into functions available to help learn about compression
  2. Evaluation of compression settings and possible savings
  3. Dive into the Pages
  4. A quick look at the CD and compressed data types
  5. Levity

Of course, I could just decide to change this on a whim – buahaha!

SQL Cruise Mediterranean+

Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: June 24, 2015

This is a post that is looooong overdue. I have intended to write some of this at least since the first SQL Cruise I attended back in 2013 (in the Caribbean). Now with three Cruises under the belt and plenty of awesome experiences, it is high time to follow through on those intentions.

Official_SQLCruise_2015For those that have not heard, SQL Cruise is a mix of training and vacation. You get a little (or a lot) of SQL and then you get a little (or a lot) of vacation mixed with the opportunity to see places you may not have otherwise visited. Last but certainly not least is the opportunity afforded to all attendees to meet other people they may have never otherwise gotten a chance to meet. This last benefit may be the most important facet of SQL Cruise in that the networking done during the cruise will last a long time and can certainly open a few doors if/when necessary.

One great example of this networking occurred on the first cruise I attended. In the meetings outside of the scheduled training, one of the other cruisers (he is now an MCM and MVP) asked a pretty important question about an issue within his work environment. A performance monitoring package they ran for all of their clients was causing some serious problems. The problems affected about 30% of all of the servers which numbered over 1500. The application on the affected servers would stop responding and they would no longer receive metrics or alerts to conditions being raised.

This problem was significant enough that they engaged Microsoft and Microsoft engineers had been collecting metrics and logs for over six months (at the time). There was a series of try this and try that and all of it resulted in no change whatsoever. So this fellow cruiser brought the issue to the cruise with him. In chatting with the cruiser (oh, and he had to fly to the US from Europe in order to attend), I discovered that the symptoms he was enduring were quite similar to some things I had seen within SSIS packages for example. We discussed a quick fix which he took back to his employer.

Through a series of tests and deployments, this Cruiser and his employer rolled out the fix to all of the servers in the environment. This fix ended up saving them so much money in labor and other costs, that his employer sent him and his family (eight people in total) back to SQL Cruise in the Caribbean the following year. The ROI for this Cruiser and his employer was huge! Additionally, he and I have become friends thanks to the Cruise. This is the sort of stuff that defines SQL Cruise.

This year, we had the chance to repeat the Cruise by attending the Mediterranean version. This installment was a whirlwind of touring Europe. Some started in London before proceeding to Barcelona and then on to such places as Pompeii, Rome, Pisa, Cannes, Monaco, and Mallorica before returning to Barcelona to continue on to Berlin or London before returning home. For me, we chose to start in Paris and then taking the bullet train on to Barcelona.

Med Sunset

The tourism was fast and furious. The training was faster and more furious. And in the end, the European / Mediterranean trip was gone before we knew it. All who attended surely walked away with great memories and with having learned something (whether it be cultural, historic, or SQL in nature).

If you have the chance to attend a SQL Cruise, I would say do it. The training comes from the technical leads as well as the attendees in the rooms. Often, the tech lead will even defer to any of the other professionals in attendance. Especially in the case of Trace Flags as we learned this past week – in every session and in every office hours meeting. Just ask Grant Fritchey (blog | twitter) about it some time – he loves talking about Trace Flags.

Security as a Fleeting Thought

Comments: 6 Comments
Published on: February 10, 2015

Today we have another installment in what is known as TSQL Tuesday.  This month we have an invitation and topic given to us by the infamous Kenneth Fisher ( blog | twitter).

TSQL2sDay150x150Today, the invitation is for us to share our stories on how we like to manage security.  Or at least that is the request that was made by Kenneth.  I am going to take a bit of a twist on that request.  Instead of sharing how I like to manage security, I am going to share some interesting stories on how I have seen security managed.

Let’s just call this a short series on various case studies in how to manage your security in a very peculiar way.  Or as the blog title suggests, how to manage your security as an afterthought.

Case Study #1

dbsecurityWe have all dealt with the vendor that insists on the user account that will be used for their database and application be one of two things.  Either it needs to be sa or needs to be a member of the sysadmin fixed server role.  The ensuing discussion with those vendors is always a gem.  They insist the application will break, you as the diligent DBA prove otherwise, and then the senior manager sponsoring the application comes around with a mandate that you must provide the access the vendor is requesting.

Those are particularly fun times.  Sometimes, there is a mutual agreement in the middle on what security can be used and sometimes the DBA just loses.

But what about when it is not a vendor application that mandates such relaxed security for their application and database?  What if it happens to be the development group?  What if it happens to be a developer driven shop and you are the consultant coming in to help get things in order?

I have had the distinct pleasure of working in all of those scenarios.  My favorite was a client that hosted ~700 clients, each with their own database.  There were several thousand connections coming into the server and every single connection was coming in as ‘sa’.  Yes, that is correct.  There were no user logins other than the domain admins group on the server – which was also added to the sysadmin security role.  That is always a fun discussion to start and finish.  The look of color disappearing from the clients’ eyes as the realize the severity of the problem.

Please do not attempt this stunt at home.

Case Study #2

In a similar vain, another one that I have seen far too often is the desire to grant users dbo access within a database.  While this is less heinous than granting everybody sysadmin access – it is only a tad better.  Think about it in this way – does Joe from financing really need to be able to create and drop tables within the accounting database?  Does Marie from human resources need to be able to create or drop stored procedures from the HR database?  The answer to both should be ‘NO’.

In another environment, I was given the opportunity to perform a security audit.  Upon looking over things, it became very clear what the security was.  Somebody felt it necessary to add [Domain Users] to the dbo role on every database.  Yes, you read that correctly.  In addition to that, the same [Domain Users] group was added to the sysadmin server fixed security role.  HOLY COW!

In this particular case, they were constantly trying to figure out why permissions and objects were changing for all sorts of things within the database environment.  The answer was easy.  The fix is also easy – but not terribly easy to accept.

Please do not attempt this stunt at home.

Case Study #3

I have encountered vendor after vendor that has always insisted that they MUST have local admin and sysadmin rights on the box and instance (respectively).  For many this is a grey area because of the contracts derived between the client and the vendor.

For me, I have to ask why they need that level of access.  Does the vendor really need to be able to backup your databases and investigate system performance on your server?  Does that vendor need, or are they even engaged, to troubleshoot your system as a whole?  Or, do they just randomly sign in and apply application updates without your knowledge or perform other “routine” tasks unknown to you?

I have seen vendors change permissions and add back door accounts far too often.  They seldom if ever are capable of providing the level of support necessary when you are stuck with deadlocks by the second or blocking chains that tie up the entire server.  In addition, they are generally unavailable for immediate support when a production halting issue arises in their application – or at least not for a few hours.

This is specifically in regards to application vendors.  They are not your sysadmin and they are not your DBA.  If they must have RDP access or access to the database – put it under tight control.  Disable the account until they request access.  Then a request can be made and a note documented about why the access is needed.  Then the account can be enabled, monitored and disabled after a specified amount of time.

Please do not attempt this stunt at home.

This also changes when that vendor happens to be providing you IT functionality and is not specifically tied to an application.  Those relationships are a bit different and do require a little more trust to the person who is acting on your behalf as your IT staff.

Conclusion

I have shared three very dangerous stunts that are sometimes portrayed to be done by professionals.  Do not try this in your environment or at home.  It is dangerous to treat security with so little concern.  Security is not some stunt, and should be treated with a little more care and attention.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, an audit is your friend.  Create some audit process within SQL Server or on the Local server to track changes and accesses.  Find out what is going on and be prepared to act while you build your case and a plan for implementing tighter security.

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