Announcing the SQL New Blogger Challenge!

TL;DR – In April, I’m challenging myself to write (and publish!) here regularly, and I’m extending an open challenge to other new bloggers to do the same. Interested? Read on.


I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s writing. Many of his daily posts speak about allowing your creativity to flourish and about building communities by simply allowing your voice to be heard. It’s all about the conversation, about making connections with other people in your own way. It’s all about allowing yourself to take the risk – not only the risk of failing, but also the risk of succeeding. To do that, he says, you have to create, you have to ship, and you have to do it regularly.

In January, he issued a challenge to his blog readers called the Your Turn Challenge, named after his most recent book. Those that accepted the challenge would commit to publishing one blog post per day for a week. The posts had to be public, and they were publicized via a Twitter hashtag. I thought this was a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, the week of the challenge was the week I was leaving on a long-planned family vacation to Walt Disney World, and blogging was not an option. So I did the next best thing: I promised myself that I would do the challenge myself in the near future.

That future is now. In April, I’m going to take the Your Turn Challenge. But what fun would it be to do it by myself? Therefore, I’m challenging other new bloggers in the SQL community to join me. The rules will be simple:

  1. Write – and publish – at least one post per week during the month of April.
  2. Weekly posts should be published by 11:59 PM each Tuesday (April 7, 14, 21, and 28).
  3. Posts must be published on some sort of public forum. This can be your own website, Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, LinkedIn – anything, as long as it’s public.
  4. Write on any topic you want.
  5. Tweet your posts after they’re published using the hashtag #SQLNewBlogger.

The idea with the challenge is to have fun writing and to get ourselves comfortable with publishing what we write (often the hardest part!). I also hope that some who take the challenge will stick with it after April has passed, and we will end up with some new voices in the SQL community. After all, we can never have enough!

And what if you’re an experienced blogger? No problem – everyone’s welcome to join the challenge. Join in yourself (maybe to get back into the habit after a hiatus), or offer encouragement or ideas to those of us in the challenge. The more, the merrier!

Personally, I’m nervous about this. I’ve attempted to get my blog going for quite a while, and mental blocks have always stopped me. I’m putting a piece of myself out there for public criticism, and that’s a hard thing for me to do. However, there’s only one way to get comfortable with blogging, and that’s to do it.

I’m looking forward to the challenge. Will you join me?

SQLSaturday Phoenix Wrap-Up

We had a great day at SQLSaturday Phoenix this weekend!  The weather was beautiful (about 60°F warmer than at my home in Iowa!), and the crowd was fantastic.

Thanks to all who attended my sessions!  Both groups asked a lot of great questions.  I hope all of you were able to find something you could take back to your companies.  The presentation files (including the demos for the encryption session) have been uploaded to my Presentations page and to the SQLSaturday website.  I’m also working on a few blog posts about how to create a demo environment similar to what I showed in the availability group session – stay tuned for those.

And as always, my most sincere thanks go to the organizers.  It’s a lot of work to put on an event like this, and they did a fantastic job!

SQLSaturday Phoenix

This weekend, I’m flying to Phoenix to be a part of SQLSaturday there. I will present two new sessions on Saturday:

Extending Your Availability Group for Disaster Recovery

Did you know that SQL Server Availability Groups can be a great solution for disaster recovery?  Availability groups have become well known for their high availability capabilities, and for good reason: they work well, they remove some of clustering’s limitations, and they are fairly straightforward to setup.  Extending an availability group to multiple sites for disaster recovery becomes more complicated.  A lot of moving parts have to come together for it to work properly – SQL Server, Windows, Active Directory, and DNS all get involved in this advanced configuration.  In this session, we’ll discuss some of the factors that complicate a multi-site availability group deployment, and we’ll walk through a multi-site deployment so you can see how it’s done. (Level: Intermediate)

Protecting Your Data With Encryption

We’ve all seen the recent news stories about companies whose data has been stolen by hackers.  What was once a rare event has become all too common, and companies large and small are at risk.  While it isn’t always possible to prevent intrusions, you can reduce the risk by encrypting your data.  In this presentation, I’ll show you the four ways that SQL Server provides to encrypt data: hashes, cell-level encryption, database-level encryption (also known as transparent data encryption), and backup encryption.  We’ll also discuss the keys required for each type of encryption and discuss how to protect the keys themselves. (Level: Intermediate)

Pre-conference sessions will be held on Friday, and the main conference is on Saturday. If you’re in the Phoenix area, stop by and say hello. I hope to see you there!

PASS Summit: Wrap-Up

This week has been awesome!

On Monday, I attended Red Gate’s SQL in the City at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, a beautiful facility near the base of the Space Needle.  We had a full day of sessions, and everything went off without a hitch.  My session was in one of the last slots of the day, and I still had an a full room of around 100 people who were engaged and asking some great questions.  I’ll post the most recent copy of the slides soon for those who may be interested.  Thank you to Annabel and the rest of the Red Gate crew – you put on a fantastic event!

Starting on Tuesday, I switched to the PASS Summit, the largest SQL Server conference.  Almost 5900 data professionals – DBAs, developers, and BI pros alike – from 50 countries turned out for this year’s conference.  Tom LaRock, PASS’s president, led off the Wednesday keynote with notes about PASS’s performance over the last year.  One of the statistics blew my mind: collectively, PASS (including user groups, SQL Saturday, and other events) has produced over 1.3 million training hours, just in the last year alone.  That’s an incredible accomplishment!  The focus then switched to Microsoft’s data platform.  TK “Ranga” Rengarajan, Microsoft’s relatively new Corporate Vice President for Data Platform, continued with a description of Microsoft’s vision for the platform’s direction.  Included in their vision is a lot of reliance on Azure to push the envelope, including new features such as DocumentDB; elastic scale; Azure Search; and GeoDR.  He was followed by Joseph Sirosh, another CVP, who spoke to Microsoft’s Azure Data Factory, Stream Analysis, and Machine Learning tools; and James Phillips, yet another CVP, who spoke about Power BI, Power Query, and Power Pivot.  Announcements were few this year, but they did announce a major upgrade for Azure SQL Database by the end of the year; and an upcoming capability of on-premises SQL Server to “stretch” its data onto Azure with almost no coding.  I’ll be interested in trying both of those when they come out.  Thursday’s technical keynote was equally awesome.  Dr. Rimma Nehme of Microsoft’s Jim Gray Research Lab discussed cloud computing, and she did it in a way that was both accessible to those who were not familiar with it and interesting to those who were.

On Thursday, I participated in the inaugural Summit Idol competition.  Unfortunately, I did not do well – I had psyched myself out ahead of my round and did not speak well – but a very deserving speaker won the competition handily, and I learned a lot.  Thanks to all who organized and competed in this event!  I sincerely hope that it is held again next year.

Last but certainly not least: thank you and farewell to all my #sqlfamily, both new and old.  The Summit wouldn’t be the same without all of you.  I’ll see you next year!

UPDATE 11/12/14: The slides for the Red Gate presentation have been posted to my Presentations page.

And now for something completely different…

In Monty Python’s Flying Circus, they would sometimes switch sketches with the line, “And now for something completely different”.  I’m reminded of that as I’m writing this, looking down at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on my way to my seventh PASS Summit, for as familiar as this conference is to me now, especially in its home venue of Seattle, this year will be completely different for a number of reasons.

Kingfisher TechnologiesFirst, I’m not attending this year’s Summit as an employee.  I’m overdue in announcing it, but about six weeks ago, I left my previous job as a database administrator for GreatAmerica Financial Services to strike out on my own as an independent consultant.  I am now proudly the founder and principal consultant of Kingfisher Technologies, a new consultancy based in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor.  My focus will remain on SQL Server, with our primary offerings being in the areas of performance, architecture, and security.  More details about our offerings will be on our company website, kingfisherdata.com (as soon as we can get it finished).  It’s been a wild ride the last six weeks, and I’m looking forward to much more!

Second, I’ll also be speaking in Seattle for the first time!  I couldn’t be more excited that I have not one, but two, engagements this year.  On Monday, I’ll be speaking at Red Gate’s SQL in the City conference on the topic of challenges and opportunities for database source control. I’ve been a passionate advocate of this for a number of years now, and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of what I’ve learned about it with the attendees at that conference.  If you’ll be in Seattle on Monday and haven’t already registered for it, please do consider attending – the last SQL in the City I attended was a very fun event, and although it does have a distinctive Red Gate vibe to it (in a good way), they have a lot of good content.  It’s a great way to start out your week.

I was also selected this year to be one of the first-round contestants in the PASS Summit’s inaugural Speaker Idol competition!  Twelve of us were selected from the pool of applicants.  Each of us will give a five-minute presentation before a panel of judges on either Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, or Friday morning.  The winner from each of those rounds will give a second presentation at the finals on Friday afternoon, with the overall winner receiving a guaranteed speaking spot at next year’s Summit.  To say I’m honored to be among the twelve selected is an understatement!  If you can, come to the Speaker Idol session on Thursday evening (5:00p in Room 400) to support me – I plan to give an overview of disk performance for DBAs, and I could use a room full of friendly faces!

This is going to be an awesome week!  If you’re at Summit, please stop me in the hall and say “hi”.  I’d love to meet you!  I’ll also be in the Community Zone on Friday morning – a great place to meet other Summit people and find out more about your local chapter and SQL Saturday – and I may be around the “Consultants’ Corner” booth in the exhibit hall from time to time.  See you there!