MCM on Life Support

Comments: No Comments
Published on: September 11, 2013

Good news everybody.  October 1st is no longer the day that the MCM was prescribed to die.  The Microsoft Certified Master is now on life support until December 31st, 2013.  Which means that the Jan 1st (for any interested in New Years resolutions), the Advanced Certifications at Microsoft will have been terminated and any who possess the certification will instantly become myths, legends, and items of folklore.  Ok so that last bit might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Here is a screen grab from the Advanced Certification Site here.  I added the nice red boxes and underline for emphasis.

MCM_exam_extended

While this bodes well for those that had committed to training rotations, or who had committed to hours of study and only had the Lab Exam remaining, the program is still being terminated.  Many are still unhappy.  Many have moved on through the grief cycle.  Polls have been taken, articles (here, here, and here) written and meetings held.  In the end, Microsoft sort of acknowledged that they alienated a huge faction of their supporting community.  Bumping the death date back to December 31st is a sign of that.

I am happy that a meeting was held after the community outcry.  It is far better than nothing at all.  I am also happy that the date has been bumped back.  I was not happy with the initial announcement and the manner it was done.  I am not yet satisfied that Microsoft will do anything to promote a Master level with their products.  In fact, as others have said (and I am sure many more have silently supported), I am uncertain I could advocate an advanced certification for Microsoft again.  I am uncertain that I could support an advanced certification for Microsoft from a 3rd party vendor.

If there is ever to be an advanced certification for Microsoft SQL Server, I will have to think long and hard about the value and worth of pursuing it.  All of that said, I value learning and I reiterate something that Paul Randal wrote on his survey results post:

Although the MCM has been removed as the focus point for learning goals, learning still goes on, and people will still aspire to make themselves better SQL Server professionals.

Don’t give up learning – it’s always worth it.

If you have passed your Knowledge Exam, I say go for the lab exam.  Test yourself and see if you can tame the beast.  If for nothing else other than to measure yourself and provide a bit of a self-evaluation.  Don’t hesitate and leave yourself wondering if you could have accomplished that goal.

I know one person that has been pondering if he should do it.  He had been planning on attempting the MCM exams next year.  Obviously the change from Microsoft has changed his plans and made him question the value of attempting.  My advice to him was to take the exams, and especially now that the MCM is on Life Support.

MCM_SQL

It is far better to attempt the exams (for those that are still on the fence), than it is to live in regret and doubt.  Worst case, you fail the exam and have a fair amount of introspect that will happen because of it.  Best case is you will pass the exams, be an MCM for life, and still have a fair amount of introspect that will happen because of it.

Rare Species, Extinction and the MCM

Comments: 8 Comments
Published on: September 2, 2013

MCM_SQLPandaAs of 11:04 PM MST ( -6 UTC ), the Microsoft Certified Master along with the other certifications in the Advanced certification series at Microsoft joined the ranks of the Panda on the Rare and Endangered Species list.

The email is readily available on the web, and can be read here. I am not going to dive too deeply into the email other than to reiterate a comment that I made here about it.

“The communication on the extinction of the program really spewed a lack of respect and communication for the ‘vanguard.'”

I am not happy about the decision.  In part that is why I have waited a few days before writing up an article on the whole shenanigan.  I was pretty ticked off about it in the first several hours after seeing the email.  The community in whole also seems to share that same sentiment.

Today, I want to share some of my thoughts on the whole certification thing.  I want to share some of the community thoughts on the soon to be extinct certification.  I also want to try and do all of this in an even keel.

First some back story. Let’s revive some of my thoughts and perspectives on certification and training from past articles.

MCJ (Microsoft Certified Journeyman)

When I first wrote about this, I called it a Stepping Stone Cert. That article can be found here. There is also a follow-up article here about it. This came about because of two fundamental reasons: 1. Cost of MCM and 2. lack of validity behind the MCITP/MCDBA/MCSE certifications.

As far as the SQL MCM track goes, the first fundamental reason for that blog series was corrected.  Microsoft opened up the SQL MCM to a broader audience by eliminating the 3 week rotation requirement and by lowering the cost (most of which was probably due to the 3 week rotation).  Suddenly the MCM became much more attainable for somebody like me.  I think that this barrier to entry is right sized now.  I would probably still be happy with the cost if it were to be double the current cost (the cost is travel and exam costs for somebody like me).  Could Microsoft take it up another notch?  Probably.  I don’t think I would be as miffed by the decision to raise the bar another level, as I was with the decision to try and force extinction on the MCM.

The second reason has not been addressed in any manner in my opinion.  Since writing that series, I put myself to the challenge and took all four of the pre-requisite exams for MCITP SQL Server 2008.  I took the exams without preparation and found them to still be excessively easy.  Even going out on the web today, I can find plenty of resources for those exams that look like the exams I took.  To me, this validates my concern as well as the concern of many who attained the MCM that the MCSE/MCITP/MCDBA is nothing more than a paper certification that can be far too easily braindumped.  I will post some quotes along those very lines as well.

Bootcamp Certifications

I have also written about my disdain for many training facilities in the past.  One such article can be read here.  Part of the reason for that article was to try and make it to training by SQLSkills.  They perform training that can be respected, unlike all of those MCSE farms out there that teach you how to pass the test and do nothing about teaching you valid SQL Skills.  Sadly, I did not make it to that training offered with that contest, and am still seeking my first opportunity to attend.  You can read my reasons for not having attended here.

To belabor this point.  That was not the only run-in I have had with a paper certified DBA.  On other occasions I have been interviewing and received stacks of resumes from these Bootcamps.  I have received numerous resumes for a Senior DBA role with “truck driving” or “rope making” as the only prior experience.  While that doesn’t mean these people are not intelligent, they are in no way qualified to be a Senior DBA just yet.  I don’t care what the bootcamp promises these people, a bootcamp is not experience and a MCSE/MCDBA/MCITP certification does not automatically equate to a Senior DBA.

However, if you had an MCM apply for the job, that should equate to a Senior DBA.  And no, just because one is an MCM does not mean we know everything about SQL Server.  It does mean, however, that we are very good, seasoned and can figure it out quickly if there is something we don’t know.  And I will take a moment for a sidebar here as well.  Just because somebody is an MCM (or presenting or training) does not mean you have an opportunity to try and play stump the chump.  If you engage in behavior such as that, you are pretty ignorant and crass.

With some of that background out of the way, we can now dive into some of the aftermath caused by this announcement.

Disdain for Paper Certs (MCITP/MCSE/MCDBA)

References for these citations will be hyperlinks on the persons name or images of the citation in whole.

we definitely need something that distinguishes us from the horde of paper MCITPs/MCSEs, etc. – Luke Edson

Even though I’m not a MCM yet I sick of seeing paper MCP’s get ahead and the MCM gave me hope and a goal to differentiate myself as I’m sure it did to many others. - Michael Usov

As of last night, there are now 0 certifications that one can take that I will immediately respect. MCITP/MCTS/MCSA/MCSE tell me that either a person is interested in learning more, that they were required by their company to take the exams and did the absolute bare minimum memorisation or that they’re a cheat, which it is I have to find in the interview. - Gail Shaw (MCM, MVP)

I haven’t taken a single Microsoft certification. Now, since the only one I respect is gone, I don’t have to. - Grant Fritchey (MVP)

Without something like the MCSM/MCM to truly validate the knowledge & experience of those who take and pass the exam how can we differentiate ourselves from those that have just brain dumped or boot-camped their way to an MCSE? Without the MCSM/MCM program we will just return to the bad old days of the certifications not being worth having. - SQLServerMonkey (John Martin)

What this does is make the MCSE (eminently brain dumpable) the highest level of certification. There is nothing that anyone with real knowledge can do to differentiate themselves from someone that bought the cert out the back of a lorry. - Nic Cain (MCM)

That is just a few of the sentiments.  Now let’s look at some of the comments from twitter on this affair.

twitter1

 

twitter2

 

twitter3

 

twitter4 twitter5 twitter6 twitter7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just a small sample of some of the activity and comments concerning this announcement.  Granted, it does not paint the entire picture yet since it seems pretty much opposed to this decision by Microsoft.  To put it as Mary Jo Foly said on ZD-Net (emphasis added) “Microsoft’s surprise phase-out of its highest-level certification programs has angered a number of those who have trained or are in the midst of training to be “masters” across a variety of the company’s products.

It should be understood that there would be an angry backlash when the “pinnacle” of Microsoft certification has been abolished.

pinnacleThis is a sentiment that was echoed by Tim Sneath in his comments on the connect item when he called the MCM the vanguard.

“You are the vanguard of the community. You have the most advanced skills and have demonstrated it through a grueling and intensive program. The certification is a clear marker of experience, knowledge and practical skills.” - Tim Sneath

To put it another way, we have this from Simon Sharwood at The Register

Microsoft has again enraged some of its most committed users, by “retiring” the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM), and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certifications. 

It should be abundantly clear that this decision is driving a wedge between the “most committed users” and Microsoft.  Not in the decision itself but also in the way that it was executed.  Sending the news out at 10PM PST (-7 UTC) is being viewed as nothing more than a means to try and mute the criticism.  Instead, the criticism has boiled over and many in the community are unhappy with Microsoft, Microsoft Learning, and this decision.

Furthering the backlash is not just the articles by the news outlets and the social media networks, but also through several blogs that have been written concerning the topic. This news has not only angered some, but also disheartened them.  One such comment I received was the following:

I am changing tracks, after 14 yrs of prod dba work and with this, it is the end of the road for me

A DBA of 14 years is disheartened to the point to change career paths and goals? Does Microsoft really want to push away the committed users in this fashion?

Cause of the Pause

Tim posted several possible reasons for the need to pause the MCM program in a post on the connect item.  There has been some feedback and some of it nastier than other feedback.  Two of the big driving factors that seem relevant from his comments are: 1. Traction and 2. Cost.

It was also stated that there was months of deliberation on the topic.  I don’t think Tim is fooling anybody with that statement.  There is evidence that Microsoft continued to take money for rotations starting in October as late as last week.  This seems to be a bit of back-pedaling in a cover up at the very least to try and take some heat off the decision.

As per the two semi-coherent reasons for canceling the advanced certifications, the only one that seems to hold water is cost.  I don’t buy into the barriers to entry (as is the case for others per their responses on the connect item).  I don’t buy into the traction issue.

Tim stated that .08% of MCSEs go on to become MCM.  For Microsoft that seems to be a bad thing.  For the rest of the world, this seems to be a good thing.  This is the peak, pinnacle, vanguard we are talking about here.  Can you have a peak that contains 10% of your certified user base?  That seems more like a saddle than a peak to me.

With .08% traction, that is a good thing in my mind.  I have seen plenty of potential clients demanding an MCM.  Sure, they may not have known what an MCM is/was last year, but we are in a changing landscape and people know what the certification represents.

If Microsoft wanted better traction, I think they should have done some of the things that Greg Low has pointed out in the connect item.

A first step in making the program more relevant would have been to make use of it within other Microsoft programs. For example, Microsoft Certified Trainers could have been required to have at least taken the knowledge exam. When I suggested that, it was met with howls of “but we’d lose most of the trainers”. While that’s partly true, what does that tell you about the existing trainers?

Instead of abandoning it, why not take quality seriously and see it applied throughout related programs. The MCT program is one but another would be the Gold Partner program. Is it really acceptable to have Gold Partners working (and promoted by Microsoft) on the largest projects, without a single MCM/MCSM on staff? Why not require real demonstrated ability in the Gold Partner program?

Speaking on the Gold Partner program, there was apparently some inconsistency there with that as well.  For instance, I know some cases where the Gold Partner did not account for the MCMs on staff and in some cases where the “partner” was informed that the MCM would count.  If it doesn’t count (for Gold Partners), how can one expect there to be a more broadened traction with the advanced certification?

The Community

If you are on twitter, I recommend you follow the hashtag #BringBackMCM or #SQLMCM.  I also recommend you read more of the opinions people have written on the topic.  Here is a good starter list:

Radi Atanassov –

http://www.sharepoint.bg/radi/post/The-fall-of-the-Master.aspx

Wayne Sheffield –

http://blog.waynesheffield.com/wayne/archive/2013/08/retiring-of-the-mcm-certifications/

Nic Cain –

http://sirsql.net/blog/2013/8/30/so-long-mcm

Jon Gurgul –

http://jongurgul.com/blog/master-certification-cancelled/

Robert Davis –

http://www.sqlsoldier.com/wp/sqlserver/isthemastercertificationdeadorwillitbebornagain

Ed Leighton –

http://www.edleightondick.com/2013/09/thoughts-about-microsofts-retirement-of-the-mcm/

Marc Anderson –

http://sympmarc.com/2013/09/01/thoughts-on-the-discontinuation-of-the-microsoft-masters-program-by-microsoft-learning/

Tony Redmond –

http://windowsitpro.com/blog/microsoft-learning-kills-mcm-and-mca-accreditations

Mala Mahadevan –

http://diligentdba.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/finding-new-goals/

Is it just endangered or is it dead?

So far, it has been pretty much doom and gloom.  There are some out-crying for a refund (some should and some are just being pithy).  Microsoft gave us a pretty absurd announcement and it was poorly executed.  In no way would many of us be able to retain a client with an announcement executed in the same manner that was done by Microsoft Learning.

We have solely focused on the “supporter” side of the fence and how this announcement affects us.  Very little has been said concerning how this affects those at Microsoft Learning that received the news in similar fashion and who may be without a job in 30 days.

There is a possible light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s why we’re taking a pause from offering this program, and looking to see if there’s a better way to create a pinnacle, WITHOUT losing the technical rigor. We have some plans already, but it’s a little too early to share them at this stage. Over the next couple of months, we’d like to talk to many of you to help us evaluate our certifications and build something that will endure and be sustainable for many years to come.” – Tim Sneath

I will remain cautiously optimistic about the program being revived.  I do not expect it to happen and will be happy if it comes back to life.  That comes with a warning though.  If the program is anything less than the current program, it will be met with disdain by the community and I dare so by Corporations globally.

Another huge fact is being lost in all of this fuss.  Every single person that has pursued the MCM/MCSM/MCA has engaged in education.  Anything that you have learned cannot be revoked by Microsoft.  The certification may be dead (Image snagged from twitter),

mcm_rip

 

but the knowledge and skills each MCM has gained is invaluable.  We can continue to serve our clients better.  And maybe that will be in spite of Microsoft Learning.  Microsoft has said we will continue to be charter members.  That’s cool and all, but it probably won’t hold water with any client that checks the Microsoft Learning website and is unable to find MCM or MCSM anywhere.

I know the characteristics of many of the MCM and I am fairly certain that there is one thing this announcement will not change.  Those who have the drive and passion for SQL Server and attained the MCM, also have a drive and passion for continued education.  We will continue to dive deep into SQL Server.  We will continue to push ourselves.  We will strive to continue to provide top notch service to our clients or employer.  That is just who we are, and the removal of this certification will not change that.

I do fear that the loss of this certification will continue the big brother psychosis in the DBMS world though.  There will be a perpetual “Oracle has a certified Master” or “Oracle has this” and Microsoft will be in the Oracle shadows for a while to come because of it.  We don’t see Oracle abandoning their pinnacle certification.  We don’t see Cisco abandoning their pinnacle certification.  And I am certain it is no less costly to them than Microsoft, nor is it anymore profitable to them than it is Microsoft.

With that in mind, I wonder what is on the mind this Certification and Microsoft learning as it approaches its deathbed. (Image snagged from twitter.)

finaldays

Is Microsoft Learning ready to latch tight to the MCSE that is poorly regarded through the Community and Corporations worldwide?

If relationships matter most, I would hope that Microsoft Learning does not abandon this relationship with the MCM and their most staunch supporters/evangelists.

In concluding this long diatribe, I welcome all MCMs to show their support at Summit 2013.  We are planning on wearing the robes of the Jedi in tribute to the MCM.  The initial idea was by Robert Davis, and we are trying to run with it now.

 One thing remains certain for me, Microsoft cannot change my license plate or that I have earned my MCM!!

20130711_201747

The following two images are courtesy of Robert Davis.

mcm4life001 mcm4life002

Summit 2012

Categories: News, Professional, SSC, SSSOLV
Comments: No Comments
Published on: November 1, 2012

In case you have been living under a rock (I know it’s not under my rock), here is your notice that Summit 2012 is just a few days away at this point.

I will soon be boarding a jet bound for Seattle for a week full of all things SQL.  When I say all things SQL – there isn’t much exaggeration to it.

During my week at summit, I will be busy from pre-dawn to post-dusk every day.  That is  not an atypical experience for Summit – but the reality hit me firmly as I finalized my daily schedule for next week.

Since I put it together, I decided to share it so others may see all that may be available to them.

I arrive Sunday.  That evening after getting settled in, I plan to join the MCM study group (and maybe have the Sunday night NFL game on in the background).

Monday is a free day of learning hosted by Red Gate and their SQL in the City series. You can see the agenda here. After the event there is the after event social party.  That party overlaps with the Networking Dinner hosted by Andy Warren (twitter) and Steve Jones (twitter) at Gordon Biersch.  This dinner is a pre-registration event (as is SQL in the City).  You can register here (if they have slots available).

Tuesday is a big day.  Tuesday I will be taking the MCM Lab exam in the morning.  Upon completion I hope to decompress for a few hours prior to the evening events.  In the evening we have the Welcome reception/Quiz Bowl sponsored by SQL Sentry.  Immediately following that, there are two events at the same time.  The first is the Speaker/Volunteer party.  The other is another Red Gate event – The Exceptional DBA Awards and SQLServerCentral party. For those from the US, this is also Election Tuesday.  I hope for those from out of town you voted early or are sending in an absentee ballot.

Wednesday we jump into the sessions that I planned on attending (XE, SQLOS and Perf Tuning on my docket).  But in addition to those sessions, I will be at the Apress booth (booth 342) from 12:30 – 1:00 and Wayne Sheffield (twitter) representing our book. And before anything even gets going Wednesday, I will also be at the Summit Community Zone from 7AM to 8AM.  In the evening there is the Exhibitor Reception.  And for anybody into Karaoke – you can do either of the two Karaoke events at about 9PM that evening.  Don’t forget to wear your SQL Saturday shirt(s) on Wednesday.

Thursday I will be at the Community Zone again from 7AM to 8AM.  If you have a kilt – wear it Thursday.  I plan on attending the Query Tuning Mastery, Transaction Isolation Levels, and Recovering Lost Data sessions on Thursday. That brings us to the evening when we have the Community Appreciation Party that runs from 7PM to 10PM.

Friday we are on our last leg wrapping things up and hoping to not be overloaded by this point.  The session I am most looking forward to is the last one of the day by Paul White (twitter). I mean who wouldn’t want to end summit by attending a deep dive session into the Query Optimizer.  In fact I know Wayne Sheffield is presenting during the same time and he was hoping nobody would come to his session so he could attend Paul’s session instead.  Of course he said that in jest, because he wants to do his presentation.  But at the same time he really wants to get to Paul’s session. At the conclusion of this session, my agenda is concluded leaving Friday night my only open night.

I am looking forward to meeting you and chatting. If you see me, say hi. But please don’t try to interrupt my exam. ;)

Do you Dream?

Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: October 11, 2012

You ever have those nights consumed by all things SQL?

I do.  It happens more than I might like sometimes.  Usually it happens when there is a work problem that I am trying to solve.

I don’t mind it sometimes because it does provide some results at times.  Other times it is of no use.

Sometimes when multi-tasking like this, I wish I could recall some of the code.  Others, I don’t care to recall the code.  And yet other times, the code sits fresh in my head until I sit at a keyboard.  Sometimes, that last one is the only way I am going to get some sleep – find the laptop and then bang out some code.

Of late though, my SQL dreams have been very relaxing.  I have been pouring through books and thinking about topics I might want to study more in depth to become that more well rounded DBA.  Of course, these studies also have another goal in mind.  I am working toward the MCM.

So as I study and think of those extra tidbits I want to learn, I also dream of exotic solutions and implementations.  I have been sleeping better and dreaming more about SQL.  Which is kind of weird come to think about it.  But hey, I will enjoy these SQL dreams and hopefully it will be more than just dreams.  I will soon know if I get to move on to the next exam as I will be taking my Knowledge exam tomorrow.

 

My question for you is: Do you Dream of SQL?  If you do, what kinds of SQL Dreams do you have?

Oh and if you practice this at your desk, do you just tell your boss that you are multi-tasking?

Database In Recovery

Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: June 4, 2012

What do we do?

Have you ever run into a database that is in the “In Recovery” state?

If that has happened, have the bosses and/or endusers come to you asking “What do we do?” or “When will it be done?”.  They probably have – it is inevitable.

The question is, what do you do when you run into a database that is in this state?

We all know that it doesn’t help much if we are panicked about the issue – that just feeds the already growing anxiety.  If you feel anxiety – that’s OK, just don’t show that to the endusers or to the boss.  You need to portray to them that you are on top of the issue.

While trying to keep everybody calm and apprised of the situation, you would probably like some assurances for yourself that the database is progressing to a usable state.  That is what I want to share today – a little query that I wrote for this very instance.

Anxiety Tranquilizer

[codesyntax lang="tsql"]

[/codesyntax]

Unfortunately, this query does not demonstrate the time remaining for the rollback nor the percent complete without needing to query the error log.  Those would be awesome additions if you know how to do it (and let me know), other than via the error log.  Thanks to a blog post by Tim Loqua for the base info on querying the error log for the percent complete.

I think the key component on this query is the LEFT OUTER JOIN to sys.dm_tran_active_transactions.  This is essential since the recovery is shown in two transactions.  One transaction is numbered and is the placeholder for the un-numbered transaction where the work is actually being done.  In the numbered transaction, you should see a transaction name of “Recovery Allocation Locks” and nothing for the unnumbered transaction.

Now, unnumbered is not entirely accurate because that transaction has an id of 0, but you will not find a correlating transaction for that in the sys.dm_tran_active_transactions DMV.

The transactions displayed here will be displayed until recovery is complete.  That also means that if you really wanted to, you could create a table to log the recovery process by inserting the results from this query into it.  Then you could revisit the table and examine at closer detail what happened during recovery.

The anxiety killer from this query is to watch two columns in the unnumbered transaction.  These columns are database_transaction_log_record_count and database_transaction_next_undo_lsn.  I rerun the query multiple times throughout the process of recovery.  I check those columns to ensure the data in them is changing.  Changing results in those fields means that you are seeing progress and can provide some comfort by seeing actual progress (even though we know in the back of our head that it is progressing).

System Base Tables

Comments: No Comments
Published on: January 30, 2012

On January 19th, I published a post about the Dedicated Administrator Connection.  I spoke very briefly of the system base tables in that article.  Today, I want to dive into these tables a little bit more.

First, let’s get the Microsoft definition for these tables.  “System base tables are the underlying tables that actually store the metadata for a specific database.”

Have you ever queried sys.objects from the master database and wondered about some of the results?  You can see all of the System base tables when querying the sys.objects view.  These tables are denoted in sys.objects by type of ‘S’ and a type_desc of ‘SYSTEM_TABLE’.

Here is a simple query to take a quick peek at these tables.

[codesyntax lang="tsql"]

[/codesyntax]

There is no need for a Dedicated Administrator connection in order for this query to work.  You can view these results with a non-DAC connection to the instance so long as you have adequate permissions to query sys.objects.  That said, not all objects returned by that query are System Base Tables.  Furthermore, it appears that the list from MSDN is not comprehensive.  One such example is the reference to sys.sysserrefs that does not appear to exist in SQL 2008 R2 and the missing System Base table called sys.sysbrickfiles (which is used by sysaltfiles as shown in this execution plan).

If I try to query the sysbrickfiles table (as an example) without connecting via DAC, I will get an error message like this:

This is normal behavior.  You cannot query the system base tables without first connecting via DAC.  Having said that, the obligatory warning is required.  As explained on MSDN, these tables are intended for use by Microsoft.  Proceed at your own risk and please make sure you have backups.

In addition to these System Base tables, you will find tables not mentioned in the article nor in the master database.  These System Base tables are found within the Resource database.  The resource database does contain most of the tables mentioned in that article, but there are some differences.  I will leave that discovery exercise to the reader.

There is plenty about SQL Server that many of us take for granted.  Under the hood, there is much more to learn.  Taking a peek at the System Base tables is one of those areas that will help you to learn more about SQL Server.  My question is this: How far are you willing to explore to learn more about SQL Server?

Dedicated Administrator Connection

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: January 19, 2012

Recently you may have read my article about some hidden functions in SQL Server.  In that article you learned that those functions were in some DMOs and that you could get at them through the resource database.

Today I found myself learning more about the resource database.  Due to what I had learned in my prior foray into the resource database, I was curious if certain other functions might call some hidden functions in that database.

Sadly – they did not.  But in my travels I did happen across something else that is in that database.  Those items are called system base tables.  Unlike the trio of functions from the last article – you can get to these but it is STRONGLY advised to not do it.

Naturally, I want to check these tables out – especially since the MSDN article does say how to get to them.  I will write about some adventures into looking at these tables in the future.  I already found one interesting thing that seemed odd – but first I will need to login using the DAC and start testing to confirm a hypothesis.

For now, I want to cover how to create a Dedicated Administrator Connection.  This should be something that DBAs know how to do.  It isn’t difficult, and I will only cover one method and leave the other method to the Microsoft documentation.

You can create a DAC through either SSMS or through SQLCMD.  You can create one remotely, but you will need to enable that option since it is disabled by default.  You can find the method for creating this connection via SQLCMD here.

To create a connection through SSMS, it is rather easy as well.  You simply add (case insensitive) “admin:” to the beginning of your server as shown in this image.

In order for this to work, you will need to have the browser service running.  If it is not running, you will get an error message.  This error message is informative if you read it.  It will provide a clue to look at the browser service.

Once you have successfully created this connection, you can now use it when necessary to perform administrative tasks or for some learning opportunities.  If you open a query using this connection you will see something like this next image in your query tab.

You can see in the tab of this query tab that there is the label “ADMIN:”.  This is your DAC connection.  You are limited to one of these at a time – period.

If you try to create a second connection, you will get a nasty message.  The message is not entirely informative – just understand that you are getting it because you already have a DAC open.

It is a good idea to become familiar with how to connect via the DAC.  I have a connection saved for quick access.  Luckily I have a development server which I can test and use for learning opportunities.  As the warning MSDN states: “Access to system base tables by using DAC is designed only for Microsoft personnel, and it is not a supported customer scenario.”  If you venture into the system base tables via the DAC – Microsoft will not support it if you break it.

MCITP: 4 Down 0 To Go

Categories: News, Professional, SSC
Comments: 9 Comments
Published on: December 7, 2011

Yay.  I finally took the plunge and decided to take Exam 70-451.  This is the MCITP exam for the SQL 2008 Dev track.

Frankly, I had taken my time with this one because I was a bit concerned after taking the 70-450 exam.  I saw that exam was more difficult than its MCTS counterpart and fully expected the 70-451 exam to be more difficult.  And based on that assumption I wanted to devote some time to study.

So here is what I did to study:

Well, I did not find the time to study and decided to just get it done.  I took the exam cold.  And not only was it cold by means of not studying, the building did not feel like it was heated and I walked out, after finishing the test, a popsicle.  Add to that the next level of cold – I was up until 2am working.  Then we throw in a snafu created by Prometric (happens every time though) and a 20 minute wait to start the test.  Things could have been better going into this exam.

Needless to say, experience pays off with this exam.  The biggest piece of the exam is based on practice and not so much the semantics of the code.  That said, I did have three questions that were impossible to answer.  The question description and requirements immediately eliminated all of the answers.  Needless to say, I did not like those questions and left ample comment about them.

Otherwise, the exam was successful.  I passed missing only 5 questions (by my calc).  Now I am off to start down the 2008 BI track followed by the MCM Knowledge Exam.

If you are interested here is an excellent resource to study.  Yes, I actually looked at the topics to be tested prior to taking the exam.  I felt comfortable in most areas and felt I could handle the exam too.

And here is my study dump:

 

Did you really think I was gonna give you a dump of the exam?

Powershell, Me and the MCM part II

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: December 20, 2010

Last week I posted the first part of this series.  I thought it would be a good idea to give a little follow-up on how my foray into Powershell as I attempted to download this videos.

Attempt 1:  Failed miserably.  I did not have enough disk space and thus only downloaded about half of the videos.  I tried to remedy this by changing the path to a different volume but that threw out some error messages.  The script works best when continuing to use the $env variable in the path for the location to dump the files.

Attempt 2:  From a different machine this was working beautifully until I noticed that every once in a while a file would error out and the download would resume with the next video in the list.  When I attempted to look up those particular videos, they were all present.  So I restarted thinking it was a local environment problem.

Attempt 3:  I figured out that attempt 2 was failing because my laptop was going to standby – duh!!!  I disabled the standby and finally got the download to work from start to finish without fail.

Now, I can place these videos on my Android and watch/listen from anywhere I have my phone.  Since I have an auxiliary port in my car, I can just plug the phone in, let it charge, and listen to the videos while I commute – through the car speakers.  It is nice to have such a high-level of training material available for a quick refresher or for that first time through.  I recommend people get on board and take advantage of what Microsoft, Paul Randal, and others have given to the community through this training.  Since I pay out of pocket for my training – this is the right price for me.

Thanks for the Christmas Gift.

Powershell, Me and the MCM

Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: December 16, 2010

If you haven’t heard yet, Microsoft has made some significant changes to the MCM program.  The changes make the certification more accessible to the masses.

You can read more about that from sources such as the following:

  1. Grant Fritchey
  2. Jason Strate
  3. Glenn Berry
  4. Microsoft

This post is not so much about the changes.  More it is about the information dissemination related to the MCM.  I saw on twitter that there were some videos available to watch concerning the MCM training.  I was curious where these videos were so I decided to go looking for the videos.  In my search for the videos, I came across the Blog post referenced above by Jason Strate.  In that post, he has a link to the videos.  I decided to check out the videos and I decided to start downloading them so I could use them as study aids as I work on the MCITP.

Downloading those videos one by one is somewhat tedious and time consuming.  Thus while some were in the process of downloading, I started working on a few other things and saw another twitter post come across about a Powershell script to download those MCM training videos.  This is great news – except I have never run a powershell script.

Well, no time like the present to learn.  First thing to do is to check out the blog article about the script – it has a few downloads.  The blog post is by Eric Humphrey, and can be found here.  After having read what he had to say about the script and downloading the necessary files that he lists, it was time to find out how to run a powershell script.  A little looking and I came across this article.

Excellent I am well under way now to run this script.  After following some of the recommendations in that article (e.g. security settings), it was time to look at the script and see what I needed to know from there, such as paths required for add-in files or paths for destination files.  Some quick adjustments to the userprofile path and to the download directory, as well as copying the HTMLAgilityPack into the userprofile path – and we are all set.

Now I have the script running and downloading the files – but it looks like it is going to be running for a long time.  This is a very useful tool for me at this moment.  This demonstrates another use for Powershell as well.  I haven’t yet decided that I will pursue the MCM, however I will use these videos to improve my knowledge base on SQL server.  I would recommend that people go check out these videos.  It was somewhat surprising to me to see that many of the pages had not been viewed very frequently at all.  This is great training material.  I recommend getting it and adding it to the reference material you may already have.

If you are just looking to browse the videos individually, you can find the site here.

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