Wrap-up catch-up

Thanks to all who have attended my recent sessions!  This has been quite a busy summer with a number of firsts, some of which I’ll talk about in this post.

In June, I presented two sessions at my home SQL Saturday in Iowa City: “SQL Server Features That Will Blow Your Mind!” and “Get Involved”.  I had fantastic crowds for both with a lot of great questions.  I also had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion with my friend David Klee about discussing infrastructure needs with your admins; that experience was a first for me, but it certainly won’t be the last.  All in all, we had a great crowd at our sixth SQL Saturday, and we had a great time putting on the event!

One person asked me after the “Features” session in Iowa City if I had any suggestions for books to get more information on the topics.  I’m very late with the answer (and I sincerely apologize for that), but I haven’t forgotten!  For those wanting to find out more about these features, I would highly recommend two books that are always at hand on my bookshelf: Itzik Ben-Gan’s Microsoft SQL Server 2012 High-Performance T-SQL Using Window Functions is all about window functions and how they can be used to your advantage; and Kalen Delaney’s excellent SQL Server Internals books (Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Internals and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Internals) contain sections on sparse columns, filtered indexes, and snapshot isolation.  Grant Fritchey’s SQL Server Query Performance Tuning also contains a short but well-written section on filtered indexes, and Microsoft’s Books Online also has good information on all four features.

In July, I spoke for the first time at Iowa Code Camp in Iowa City.  Iowa Code Camp is a similar event to SQL Saturday but is focused on a wide array of developer-oriented topics.  I met quite a few new people and attended sessions on several topics that were new to me.  I presented the “Features” session at this conference to a large group that was very engaged with the topic.  Thanks for all of the great questions!  While I can’t make the fall event, I’ll definitely be submitting to Code Camps again next year.

On September 13, I spoke at SQL Saturday in Kansas City, my second trip to that event.  I presented the “Features” session to that group, as well, and also had a great group there.

And finally, on September 20, I spoke for the first time at SQL Saturday in Denver, presenting “Service Broker: The Queue Continuum”.  The attendance was smaller for this session, but no less interested in the topic.  Thanks for the great questions and feedback!  I spoke to a few of you after the session, and I have some great ideas for revisions to the session that will help it become even better.

One question was also asked in the Denver session about whether Database Mail could be throttled. At the time, I said that I wasn’t sure but that I thought that you could. I was incorrect; Database Mail does not have any direct control over that. However, you could work around that by creating a holding queue in Service Broker and only releasing a certain number of messages per hour. I apologize for the confusion!

The slides and demos for the latest versions of both sessions are on my Presentations page.  Thanks again to all who attended, and thanks to the organizers and volunteers for all these events!


SQL Saturday Chicago Wrap-Up

Yesterday, I had a fantastic day at SQL Saturday #291 in Chicago.  I had the privilege of teaching a packed room – thanks to all of you who came to my session!  It was a very diverse group with a lot of great questions, which always makes giving the session fun.  I’ve uploaded a new version of the slides and the complete set of demos to both the SQL Saturday site and my Presentations page.

Thanks also to all of the organizers and volunteers!  As always, all of your hard work is very much appreciated.  Events like this wouldn’t happen without all of your efforts.

I’m Speaking: SQL Saturday Chicago

It’s spring, and that means that speaking season is starting up again!  My first presentation of the year will be at SQL Saturday #291 in Chicago on April 26.  I’ll be presenting “SQL Server Features That Will Blow Your Mind!”, a new developer-focused session that covers four features added by Microsoft in recent versions that are sure to elicit “WOW! How’d you do that?” from the uninitiated:

  • window functions, which add new dimensions to aggregates (and new aggregates!) by dividing your query’s data into partitions (or “windows”) on-the-fly;
  • sparse columns, which allow you to store large numbers of nullable columns in very little space – and allow you to interact with them using XML;
  • filtered indexes, which enable creation of indexes that ignore unneeded values (such as nulls), thus reducing the size of the index and improving performance; and
  • snapshot isolation, which can eliminate blocking by reads without the dangers of dirty reads introduced by NOLOCK.

I plan to have a lot of demos to show you just how easy it can be to use all of these.  It’s going to be a fun hour!

In addition, SQL Saturday Chicago has almost 50 other sessions by top-grade speakers – and it’s all free.  See you there!

Summer and Fall SQL Saturdays

Thanks to all who attended my sessions at recent SQL Saturdays! In July, I presented two sessions at the SQL Saturday in Iowa City; this past weekend, I presented at SQL Saturday in Kansas City. My slides for both are now on my presentations page.

On October 12, I’ll be doing my last SQL Saturday for the year, this time in Minneapolis. I’ll be speaking about how you can use service broker to enhance your applications. The abstract is on my presentations page, and you can register here. I hope to see you there!

Thoughts about Microsoft’s retirement of the MCM

I was quite surprised, to say the least, to hear today of Microsoft’s sudden retirement of its advanced certifications. (For those who haven’t heard, Microsoft sent an email late Friday announcing its decision to retire the MCM, MCSM, and MCA certifications on October 1, just one month from today.)

For many of us, this is a huge disappointment. In the world of their certifications, the MCSA is like an associate’s degree from college; the MCSE is like a bachelor’s degree.  The tests for both are challenging, but still readily available, and thousands of people get these certifications every year.

An MCM, on the other hand, was more like a graduate degree from a university. It was expensive. It required experience, and a lot of study, both of which took a lot of time. It was definitely not for everyone. And that was precisely its allure for the small percentage of us who aspire to be the best at our craft.

I’m sure the advanced certification programs were not cheap to operate. But not everything can be distilled to a number on a balance sheet. The intangible benefits for this program were huge. For those who desired to attain it, it was a way to prove ourselves. For Microsoft, this was (or should have been) another way for them to find their most dedicated supporters and the next generation of those ready to solve the hardest problems.

I, for one, am sorry to see this program go. I’m not ready for it yet – my goal is to obtain my MCSA and MCSE by year’s end – but I had planned to try for a MCSM in a year or two. Hopefully, there will be something else to take its place by then.