Han SQL
That's no moon . . . It's a SQL Server!

Feb
24

I have the good fortune of being able to present at SQL Saturday 108 in Redmond, WA tomorrow.  This is my first SQL Saturday session, and I’m very excited to present on this topic.

My session is titled “5 SSIS Tips to Take You From Beginner to Awesome!”, and it is a beginner level session.  Here’s the session abstract:

You know how to create a connection manager, and you can extract data to a flat file. So how do you get past basic package creation? This presentation will cover 5 high-level techniques you can use to become the “go-to” person for SSIS in your organization. This session will be packed with demos of packages you can use to achieve SSIS Awesomeness!

The presentation slides, reference files and demonstration files can be downloaded from http://tinyurl.com/SSIS5Tips

If you attended the session, and would like to provide feedback or constructive criticism, please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

Feb
09

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting at the Arizona SQL Server User Group meeting.  I was called in to present at the last minute, and I gave a session titled “Partitioning For the Win! An Introduction to SQL Server Partitioning“.  Here’s the session abstract:

Are you using your hardware wisely?  Are you getting the best possible performance out of your data warehouse?  Fed up with long maintenance cycles?  Partitioning may be the solution you’ve been looking for!  This session will introduce you to Partitioning using simple examples and will describe how you can get the most out of this feature of SQL Server.

I enjoyed presenting this session, which was packed with LEGO references and some scripts to help users who are new to partitioning experiment with this feature.  Click here to download the presentation and scripts in .zip file format.

If you attended the presentation and would like to share feedback (especially suggestions for improving the presentation) please add a comment below.

Thanks to Amy Lewis (t) for inviting me to present, and thanks to all of those who attended!

Jan
19

Another one of those questions I’m often asked is how someone can start learning about SQL Server.  There are many options, and I’m going to share some of my favorites with you. Some colleges teach SQL Server courses, so you could always take or audit a course.  In my experience, these courses always moved too slow and focused on elements of technology that were outdated or just plain not useful to me in my day-to-day job.  I am completely self-taught in SQL Server (ok, that’s not actually fair, since much of the training material I read/watch/attend is the result of hard working SQL Server professionals).  I study SQL Server for at least an hour a day, every single day.  In 2011, I attended 663 hours of training.  I highly recommend this goal of 1 hour study per day for everyone.  Finding quality training material is much easier than it sounds.  So assuming that you want to study on your own, I have some wonderful resources to help you do it:

  • Blogs – Given the speed with which technology is changing, most of the really fresh content is not found in books.  I spend time each day monitoring the blogs of my peers, and while the topics vary, the content I find is invaluable.  I strongly recommend that you set up an RSS reader (like Google Reader, which can be used at Cigna) to keep track of all the blogs you are interested in.  Here are a few to start with:
    • www.brentozar.com – Brent Ozar is perhaps the most famous SQL Server personality. He now blogs with Jeremiah Peschka, Kendra Little, and Tim Ford on this site, and the content they deliver is fantastic.
    • http://www.sqlskills.com/BLOGS/PAUL/ and http://sqlskills.com/BLOGS/KIMBERLY – These are the blogs of Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp, a husband-and-wife team that lives SQL Server.  The content on their site is very advanced, but I recommend that you start reading – even if you don’t completely understand – and as time goes on you’ll get it.  Paul and Kimberly are some of the best trainers I’ve ever seen.
    • http://thomaslarock.com/ – Thomas LaRock, better known as @SQLRockstar, was perhaps the first blog I started reading.   Tom provides top-notch content, and he leads a lot of initiatives in the SQL Server world.  He also compiles a list of SQL Server Blogger Rankings, and that is a wonderful place to get introduced to other blogs.  His rankings are usually spot-on.
    • Others to follow: Robert Davis, Andy Leonard, Adam Machanic, Jen McCown and Sean McCown – another husband-and-wife SQL Server team, Denny Cherry, and Nicholas Cain.  I could go on and on, but eventually you’ll find the list that works for you, and you’ll be glad you did.

 

  • Twitter – For me, two years ago the thought of a social networking site being a training resource was ridiculous.  Then one day I was introduced to Twitter by Thomas LaRock (b | t).  I use Twitter to connect with other SQL Server professionals and to get help when I need a question answered.  We’ve developed a hashtag on Twitter called #sqlhelp, and anyone can tweet a question using that hashtag.  Within seconds you’ll start getting replies from the best in the SQL Server community.  The real benefit of the #sqlhelp hashtag comes from when you watch the #sqlhelp column throughout the day.  You can learn from other’s questions, and let me tell you, this really does work. Who knew that tweets of 140 characters or less could teach you so much?  To get started on Twitter, check out Brent Ozar’s free e-book on Twitter at: http://www.brentozar.com/twitter/book/.  I’m on Twitter as @HanSQL.

 

  • Books – Technical books are expensive, no question about it.  If book-based learning works well for you, I still encourage you to locate technical books on the topics you are interested in.  Before you run off and spend $60 on that new book, I recommend checking with your employer to see if they have subscriptions to any technical book libraries.  My company provides a subscription to Books 24×7, which offers thousands of high quality books on any technical topic you can name.  Search Books 24×7 for the term “SQL” and you’ll get over 2,000 titles.  Subscriptions are pricey – about $500 for the ITPro collection, which includes all of the titles on SQL Server.  That’s about the cost of 8 or 9 IT books, so you can see why you should encourage your boss to purchase a subscription rather than paying it out of your own pocket.  There are many other subscription services out there, so be sure to check if you’re able to use any of them!
  • PASS – PASS, which stands for the Professional Association for SQL Server, is the largest and best organization dedicated to training on SQL Server.  I’m a member of PASS, and I support its initiatives whenever I can.  PASS offers a host of free training resources including:
    • Local Chapters - These are local user groups scattered throughout major cities.  User groups typically meet once a month (on a night during the work-week).  Guest speakers typically train on a wide variety of SQL Server topics.  Find your local chapter at: http://www.sqlpass.org/MyChapters.aspx (free registration and login required)
    • Virtual Chapters - These are online user groups devoted to offering free training.  Some groups meet once monthly, some meet more often.  You can sign up for as many as you’d like.  I’m the new host for Live Meetings for the Performance Virtual Chapter, and we have some amazing sessions lined up for 2012.  Virtual chapters are sometimes sponsored by vendors, so be sure to thank these sponsors when you see them at shows.  Check out all the VC’s at: http://www.sqlpass.org/Community/VirtualChapters.aspx
    • SQL Saturday - Imagine 30 to 40 sessions of top-notch training for free packed into one day.  SQL Saturday offers that, and it is a beautiful thing.  SQL Saturday gives you the choice of several sessions to attend (and choosing can sometimes be very hard!) and the opportunity to network with other SQL Server professionals.  SQL Saturday events occur all over the country, and are an excellent way to spend a Saturday.  Many SQL professionals visit multiple SQL Saturday events each year.  Visit http://www.sqlsaturday.com/ to find an event near you.  My favorite thing about SQL Saturday is meeting as many of my peers as I can, so I encourage you to be bold and talk to people you don’t know. 
    • 24 Hours of PASS - Imagine 24 one-hour sessions devoted to all things SQL Server, and you’ll have 24 Hours of PASS (also known as “24HOP”).  This event was started a few years back and was really my first introduction to PASS as an organization and web-based training for SQL Server.  I -love- 24HOP because it offers amazing training for free.  For the last four 24HOP sessions I’ve attended all 24 sessions, and loved every minute of it.  It used to be done as 24 sessions back-to-back (which was rough!), but these days sessions are divided over 2 days (with bonus sessions sometimes thrown in).  If you’re not a completionist (or if you have, you know, a life) you can pick a few sessions and still get an amazing benefit.  The next 24 Hours of PASS event starts March 21, 2012.  Once registration opens up (in February) be sure to check out the sessions.  More info on 24HOP can be found at http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/spring2012/Home.aspx.
    • The PASS Summit and SQL Rally - The PASS Summit is the premiere training event for SQL Server.  This is a week-long conference dedicated to offering the best technical training available anywhere.  The Summit is attended by Microsoft employees and resources abound to network, troubleshoot problems, gain new direction, and learn everything there is to know about SQL Server.  Sessions range from entry-level (100 series sessions) to very, very advanced sessions (500 level sessions).  SQL Rally is another training event that is gaining momentum, and offers 3 days of top-notch training.  The Summit and SQL Rally are paid events, but very much worth the price tag.  Since it isn’t possible to attend all 170+ sessions during the event, PASS offers attendees the option to purchase DVDs.  I highly recommend the DVDs, including the pre-conferences (all day sessions devoted to one topic).  The DVDs are costly, but worth every penny.  Remember that 663 hours of training I mentioned earlier?  The vast majority of that material came from my PASS Summit DVDs.
  • Webcasts – Some of the most effective training sessions come in the form of webcasts – online presentations where you watch a presenter’s screen while they lecture on a topic.  Webcasts are plentiful, so finding material that interests you is not difficult.  In addition to the previously mentioned webcasts (PASS Virtual Chapter Meetings, 24 Hours of PASS) there are several other organizations that offer high-quality webcasts.  Many of these presentations are sponsored by vendors who sell third-party SQL Server software.  Some of those vendors will perform a short demonstration of their product after the presentation ends.  Some may detest this marketing, but I support watching this material.  Sponsors are the reason you saw the rest of the webcast, so it is only fair for you to watch a few short minutes of demonstrations.  Who knows – you may find a product that automates tedious tasks.  I usually find out about these webcasts from emails or Twitter (why aren’t you on Twitter yet?!).  Here’s a list of a few of my favorite webcast series:
    • Brent Ozar PLF Tech Triage Tuesday Training – (Just about) every Tuesday, Brent Ozar and his team of misfits compatriots offer a free half-hour training session. These sessions are quick and simple, focusing on a granular topic in SQL Server (usually in database administration or development).  Check the upcoming sessions out at www.brentozar.com/community/upcoming-events/ .  Brent’s team also offers longer paid training events that are worth every penny, so take a look and convince your boss to send you.
    • Idera – Idera is a software vendor with tools to make SQL Server easier to manage.  And trust me; Idera tools can definitely make your DBA’s life easier.  Idera has a series of webcasts called Secrets of SQL Server averaging about 1 webcast a month. Better yet, you can find an archive of past events on the same page.
    • MS SQL Tips – MS SQL Tips also offers frequent training, and though they aren’t a vendor much of the training they offer is vendor-sponsored as well.  Signing up for MS SQL Tips’ email list will net you an invite to upcoming webcasts, and past webcasts can be found at http://www.mssqltips.com/webcastlist.asp.   You may also see some of these webcasts at the site of the vendor who sponsored that presentation.
    • Pragmatic Works – If Business Intelligence is your thing, Pragmatic Works offers a wealth of training (both paid and free).  The shear volume of webcasts they offer is impressive.  Sign up for upcoming sessions or view previous webcasts at http://pragmaticworks.com/Resources/webinars/Default.aspx

With all these training resources, what are you waiting for?  Get out there, start studying, and start distinguishing yourself.  Share what you learn with the world.  Remember, we’re not in a sketchy boot camp here; we’re in this for the long haul.  Try studying for an hour a day, every day, for a week.  If you have a hard time with it, you’re doing the wrong kind of study, so switch it up for another method that works better for you.  You’ll know you’re doing it right when you don’t want to put that book/blog/video down at the end of your hour.

Have a favorite study method?  Know of any other resources? Tell us about it in the comments!

P.S. – Denny Cherry, one of my favorite speakers, is presently running a contest offering a free ticket to a 4-day training he’s giving in Los Angeles, CA.  The course focuses entirely on SQL Server 2012.  To enter his contest, just write a blog post about how you plan to use SQL Server 2012 and how his course could make deploying SQL Server 2012 easier for you.

Nov
07
Business Cat is Watching you work!

Business Cat is watching you work! (Click for more Business Cat!)

Today’s Meme Monday theme is the warm-and-fuzzy topic of #SQLFamily, and I’ve already read some wonderful posts chock full of happiness.  There’s a good reason for this: The SQL Server community has earned the title #SQLFamily by being the most open, inviting, and encouraging technical community anywhere.   

When I started in IT 9 years ago, I moved into a technical role but was still managed by a non-IT manager.  I was a lone wolf – I had no support system, no one I could ask for help when a crisis occurred.  In many ways this was very good for me, since it taught me how to find answers by myself and put me on a path to training myself every day.  But don’t let me fool you – it was far from easy.  What I really needed was a mentor.

Fast forward a few years, and I was still running as a lone wolf.  By this time, I’d moved onto a proper IT team, but since I was the only SQL Server DBA on my team, I was expected to be the expert.  I still needed a mentor, and eventually I found it. It’s name was Twitter.

You see, in 2009 some genius members of our #SQLFamily started the #SQLHelp hashtag on Twitter to help community members get answers to SQL questions.  The #SQLHelp hashtag became an instant hit; everyday joes were able to start asking questions and were getting replies within minutes from the top minds in SQL Server.  Having #SQLHelp around to ask questions was great, but the real power of #SQLHelp is in watching other people ask and answer questions.  Let’s face it, people are doing things with SQL Server you never even dreamed of; watching #SQLHelp is a way to learn about a very diverse set of challenges and solutions.

At the PASSSummitthis year, I asked every new person I met if they were on Twitter yet. Surprisingly, the majority said they weren’t, and that’s when they got my 2 minute speech about why they HAD to get on Twitter.  I gave that speech at least 70 times over the course of theSummit, and it was heartfelt every time I gave it.

There’s one more thing I want to point out about this #SQLFamily of ours.  I recently made the very difficult decision to move from my long-time home in Phoenix, Arizona, up to Bellevue, Washington.  I’m near the Microsoft campus now, and I’ve already had the chance to participate in some spectacular training events I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to attend.  But here’s why our #SQLFamily is so awesome: from the moment I mentioned on Twitter that I planned on moving to Washington, the SQL Server community here welcomed me.  From Mike Decuir (b / t) recommending what neighborhood to live in, to Robert Davis (b / t) inviting me to #SQLNomz, to discussing all things comic-book related with Nic Cain (b / t), these guys made moving here so much easier.

I can’t even imagine my work (or life) without my #SQLFamily.  Why would anyone want to be an Oracle DBA when SQL Server offers so much more than what comes on the installation disk?  Our #SQLFamily is something truly unique in the IT world, and if you haven’t joined us yet, get on Twitter, chat us up and get involved in the SQL Server community.  We want to know you, and we want you to succeed!

Apr
04

There’s a phenomenon sweeping through the SQL Twitterverse today called Meme Monday.  It’s the brainchild of Thomas LaRock, a.k.a. SQLRockstar (Blog | Twitter).  I like where this idea is going; visions of Xzibit are dancing through my head (ooh, idea: let’s make “Yo Dawg” the next Meme Monday).

This Monday’s meme is to “Write a SQL blog post in 11 words or less”.  I was tagged by Rebecca Mitchell (Blog | Twitter) and so I’m happy to play this game.  Here’s my entry, which combines two of the things I’m all about:

“You know our disaster plan? What does it say about zombies?”

I’m tagging Mike Decuir (Blog | Twitter) and Yanni Robel (Blog | Twitter), the dynamic duo of DBA’s for Allrecipies.com.

UPDATE: It looks like Yanni Robel beat me to the punch with her Meme Monday post. 

Feb
08

I’m often asked how one should choose what aspect of SQL Server they should focus on when starting out. Essentially, they’re trying to decide what job role they should prepare for. There’s a lot of variety offered by SQL Server, and there are many different job titles. In my eyes, though, every job in SQL Server is a blend of one of three core job roles: Database Developer, Database Administrator, or Business Intelligence Developer. Let’s talk about the differences between these 3 key roles.

The Database Developer
Database developers spend time creating and coding databases. Often database developers are also application developers as well. Developers might spend their time creating a data model. Data modeling is the process of defining structure for a database, usually following a process called normalization to make data accessible and relational. (Future posts will teach you the basics of data modeling, since it is a critical skill that every database professional should understand.). Developers spend much of their time writing T-SQL code that executes in the database. We call these objects “programmability”, and they include items like stored procedures (T-SQL to perform repeatable operations by calling a single command), functions, and triggers (automated commands that occur when triggered by another action in the database).

Database developers frequently move from project to project. Developers might interact with customers (usually, the people who will be using the system being developed). As a result, it is important for developers to learn the skill of working with non-technical staff, which requires patience and frequent clarification. Database development is a good role for anyone who likes experimenting with new ideas, and who likes the changing scenery of new projects.

The Database Administrator
Database administrators, or DBAs, are responsible for maintaining SQL Server solutions. DBAs are the guardians of data, and they perform this role in many ways. It is the job of the DBA to ensure that authorized users can access their data efficiently. DBAs administer security by granting or preventing access to each database. DBAs perform a critical set of tasks that can make or break their career: database backup and recovery. Preparing for disasters might not seem important until you find that you can’t recover from one. Many DBAs have lost their job because they were unable to recover a database after some critical failure. If this sounds scary, it’s because it is scary. Nothing will make a DBA’s blood run cold than a 2am call to let them know that the database has gone down. As a result, good DBAs spend time preparing for disasters, testing backups, and automating solutions.

Database administrators are also responsible for making the database run well. They have knowledge of indexing and query optimization, and can read execution plans to find ways to make queries run more efficiently (in other words, faster). It is also not uncommon for the DBA to benchmark performance so they understand how a system should perform under normal operating conditions.

As you might suspect, some DBAs see their job as dull days interspersed with periods of sheer panic; I don’t count myself among them. I am primarily a DBA and one lesson I learned early was that good DBAs prevent emergencies before they happen. Sure, there will always be some things beyond your control to prevent, but that’s where your disaster recovery plan comes in. Database administrators should expect to spend some time on-call, but the amount of time might depend on the size of your team. If you’re the only DBA for your team, expect to be on call all the time. If you work for a large company, this duty usually rotates. Some companies hire DBAs to shifts, so that on-call duties don’t rotate, but these seem to be the exception to the on-call rule.

Given that, being a DBA can be very rewarding and exciting work. If you enjoy solving new problems everyday, choosing go become a DBA could be the right job for you. Companies want to know that their data is secure, so note that you’ll likely need to start as a junior DBA and work your way up (in other words there is room for advancement).

The Business Intelligence Developer
Business Intelligence Developers are a recent addition to the ranks of database professionals. BI developers spend their time analyzing data, building data warehouses and creating reports. Often times, BI developers are responsible for combining many sources of data into a “single point of truth”. SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is an amazing tool that can extract data from many sources and help a BI developer to populate their data warehouse.

BI developers get to work with other specialized tools, including SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). The tools are sophisticated, so BI developers often have to wear many hats. For example, data cubes a common feature of a data warehouses. These specialized tables provide dimensional data and are frequently used to understand how data changes over time. Dimensional data cubes can be queried using a language called MDX (Multi-Dimensional eXpressions, or depending on who you ask, Multi-Dimensional eXtensions), so this is another very specialized tool that the BI developers must master as they progress in their career.

Once The BI developer has reached the data they want to present, they use SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) or another reporting tool to build intelligent reports. SSRS can do some amazing things, and when used properly can make data beautiful. More importantly it can bring out trends and predict changes in an almost magical way.

BI projects are usually every expensive, which also means they are high profile within a company. Executives often are the recipients of the reports and dashboards the BI project, and so when things go wrong with a BI project, that failure is certainly recognized. Additionally, since this is a relatively young facet of databases, failure could be more common with companies that are not accustomed to BI projects.

It seems to me that BI developer positions are more likely to be contract positions than the other two jobs.  SQL Server, and Information Technology (IT) in general have a larger consultant base than many other office jobs, but as a BI developer it seems that moving from contract position to contract position is common.

If you like working with exciting technology, love working with data, and can handle high-profile successes (and, let’s be honest, failures) then Business Intelligence Development might be for you.

The Way These Roles Blend

I’ve never seen a database professional who focused only on just one of these aspects.  I often say that to be a good SQL developer, you need to know something about administration.  A good example: developers often need to understand how queries you write will be handled by the database engine and the Optimizer (don’t worry if you don’t know what these are yet – that’s ok – just note that these are usually considered in the realm of the DBA).

As a DBA you’ll often assist in tuning queries, which requires development skills.  You might also build SSIS packages (a BI task) to populate your databases or extract data to send to another system.  DBAs often build data models, too.

BI developers work in such a different environment that they need to know much about database development and sometimes about administration, too.  BI works differently; databases are structured differently, and DBAs may not always be familiar with the best practices to build good data warehouses.

I’ve found it very helpful to focus primarily on my chosen job role, database administration, while specializing in features of each of the other jobs.  In my case, this is data modeling on the development side, and SSIS on the BI side.  Don’t expect to need all skills as you start out, though!  Add to your toolkit as you go and soon you’ll be building unique solutions.  Choose your calling well and don’t be afraid to switch course mid-stream.  The knowledge you gain in one database job role will certainly be valuable in any other you choose.

Feb
03

One of the questions I’m commonly asked by co-workers or those who are interested in what I do is “How do you become a database administrator?”. This is a tricky question, given that there is not a single path to becoming a DBA. Ask 10 DBAs how they got into the business, and I guarantee you’ll get 10 different stories. I’ve been thinking about my own path to becoming a DBA, and something occurred to me: there is an awful lot of training material out the for intermediate and advanced database administration, but very little material for those people starting with little to no knowledge of databases. I’m going to try to fill in this gap with a new blog series I’m calling “Database Preschool”. The series will focus mostly on administration, with some database development thrown in.
DBA Preschool 1: Talk the Talk
One of the most frustrating things about learning SQL Server is all the acronyms and slang used by veterans. The first lesson in Database Preschool will focus on defining these acronyms. I’ll be defining them in the order that makes the most sense for someone who doesn’t already work with SQL Server.

SQL - Structured Query Language. You might be surprised to find that Microsoft doesn’t own the acronym SQL. There are two things you need to know about SQL: 1) SQL refers to the programming language used to create, populate and maintain databases. There are actually many different variations of SQL; the version Microsoft’s SQL Server uses is called Transact SQL, often abbreviated T-SQL. 2) Database professionals pronounce SQL as “sequel”, and never by spelling out the acronym as “S-Q-L”. If you want to be a database professional, you’d better not mix the two up in public circles. Nothing screams “scruffy-looking noob” like someone saying “Es-Queue-El”.

SQL Server – Microsoft’s relational database engine software. SQL Server can refer to many different technologies working together under this platform, but usually when we say SQL Sever we are referring to the core database engine – in other words, the software that manages data storage and retrieval.

BI - Business Intelligence. That might sound like an oxymoron, but in fact BI refers to a emerging discipline in the database world. Business Intelligence refers to the software and methods a company uses to analyze, interpret and distribute their data. SQL Server offers multiple BI components to achieve these tasks.

SSMS - SQL Server Management Studio. If the database administrator is an artist, then SSMS is the paintbrush. SSMS is the primary software you’ll use to administer databases and work with data. In SSMS you will connect to individual servers, execute queries, work with SQL Server Agent (a built-in scheduling and automation tool), and configure instances of SQL Server. Most DBAs spend much of their day in SSMS.

SSIS - SQL Server Integration Services. This tool allows SQL Server to Extract, Transform and Load (often abbreviated ETL, or sometimes E/T/L) data from any heterogeneous data source. What does that mean? It means that SSIS can move information between any database, spreadsheet or file, and it can make changes to the data as it moves between sources. SSIS is a very powerful tool and (in my personal opinion) is the best of its kind.

SSRS – SQL Server Reporting Services. This tool allows you to build sophisticated reports, and includes many options to distribute those reports intelligently. SSRS supports self-serve reporting sites, subscription-based distribution lists, and impressive visualizations. SSRS is a Business Intelligence tool and it is not uncommon to specialize in this aspect of SQL Server.

SSAS - SQL Server Analysis Services. SSAS (not to be confused with SAS) is a robust data analysis tool that can be used to perform complex calculations and aggregations on dimensional data. This Business Intelligence tool is incredibly powerful and, when paired with SSRS can make up an in-demand specialty if you are willing to put in the work to learn this skill.

BIDS – Business Intelligence Development Studio. BIDS is a special version of another popular Microsoft Development tool called Visual Studio. BIDS is designed to help you develop business intelligence projects. While SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS are tools for BI, they actually run as Windows Services to enable projects developed in BIDS to run. For example, if you want to create an SSIS package that extracts data from a spreadsheet and loads it into a table on your SQL Server, you’d use BIDS to develop it and SSIS to execute it. The same holds true for reporting (SSRS) and data analysis (SSAS).

BOL – Books Online. Books Online is an ever-growing resource developed by Microsoft. Books Online for SQL Server can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms130214.aspx. Think of Books Online as a combination of instruction manual and troubleshooting guide. Microsoft also indexes key forums for SQL Server, which permits you to search out questions and to see what answers others with the same question have received. BOL should be your first stop for syntax questions.

SSC – SQL Server Central, located at http://www.sqlservercentral.com/. This non-Microsoft resource is the largest independent technical website focused on SQL Server. There are help forums, large collections of pre-written scripts (T-SQL code), blogs and daily trivia questions to help you sharpen your skills. I’m telling you about SSC for one reason at this point in Database Preschool: the scripts available can help you both 1) solve immediate problems, and 2) get a sense for how to write good T-SQL.

CRUD – Create, Read, Update, Delete. This is a curveball to most new administrators. This term comes from LINQ (Language Integrated Query), which is a query language that application developers can use as an alternative to SQL. The Create, Read, Update, Delete refers to actions done in LINQ, and they are equivalent to statements in SQL. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about these queries now, but if you do, here are some rough equivalencies between LINQ and SQL: Create = Insert, Read = Select, Update = Update, and Delete = Delete.

There are many more acronyms waiting for you in the wide world of databases, but this is a good list for a first-timer.  As Database Preschool continues, I’ll define each new acronym as we go.

Jun
16

The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) has just posted recordings of all 24 sessions from 2010’s 24 Hours of PASS.  This is a great opportunity to get free training on a wide range of database administration, development, and business intelligence topics.

View the recordings at: http://www.sqlpass.org/LearningCenter/24Hours.aspx.  You will be prompted to login or register for PASS membership (which is free and very valuable to any database professional).

Are you unsure which recording to start with?   Read my post on The 11 Must-see Sessions You Missed at 24 Hours of PASS.

May
20

The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) has a proven track record for delivering valuable training to database professionals.  PASS has started a new annual tradition by organizing 24 Hours of PASS, something truly unique in IT training.  Twenty-four webcasts, 1 hour each, are webcast back-to-back.  Some of the top authorities in SQL Server present tremendously valuable information.

 This year I attended all 24 sessions, and I know that I am one of the few who did.  I was impressed by every session, but here are my 11 favorites.  I will certainly be watching these sessions again once they are posted on the PASS website.

  1. What’s Really Happening on Your Server? 15 Powerful SQL Server Dynamic Management Objects – Presenter:  Adam Machanic – This session sheds light on very powerful DMO/DMV’s that can be used to quickly troubleshoot SQL Server.  Adam has a knack for combining these objects to get to the root of performance issues.
  2. Exploring SQL Server 2005 and 2008 Security – Presenter: Don Kiely –  The best thing Don said in this session was to establish what your security risks are and take steps to eliminate those risks.  I agree with Don’s thoughts that SQL Server security is very hard to get right, and I think it is common to waste time on security exposures that don’t apply to your environment.  Don provided some excellent advice.
  3. Using Data Compression with SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2  – Presenter: Maciej Pilecki – I really enjoyed Maciej’s topic, especially the in-depth analysis of how compression affects I/O and processor cycles.  I will be implementing more compression in my day-to-day based on what I’ve learned.  I just wish I knew how to pronounce his name. ;)
  4. High Performance Functions- Presenter: Simon Sabin – Simon isn’t shy about sharing his opinion on SQL Server Functions.  He spent time explaining why several functions result in dismal performance (for example, scalar UDFs). Simon also provided excellent examples of how to use higher-performing functions in place of inefficient functions.  This is the sort of presentation you have to watch twice to get it all, so I can’t wait to watch it again.
  5. Manage Your DBA Career, Don’t Let it Manage You – Presenter: Brad McGehee – If you frequent SQL Server Central you almost certainly know what Brad looks like because his picture appears on the Redgate adds that permeate the site.   Brad has a reputation for teaching DBA’s to control their career.  If you haven’t read his book How to  Become an Exceptional DBA (available for free download), this session is a great summary, covering methods to take control of your DBA career.
  6. Top 10 Mistakes on SQL Server – Presenter: Kevin Kline – Holy cow, I couldn’t capture enough screenshots from this presentation.  This session did exactly what it set out to do, and I bet it will help hundreds of DBA’s nail down those nagging probems.
  7. SQL Tuning – Get it Right the First Time- Presenter: Dean Richards -This session covered how Dean uses SQL diagramming to analyze and tune queries.  This presentation is chock full of concepts I will put to use in my day-to-day tasks.  Dean also covered Wait Time Tables, which marks the first time I’ve seen a list of these sys tables all on one page.
  8. Advanced T-SQL Query Tuning Techniques – Presenter: Rob Farley – The best surprise of 24 Hours of PASS, hands down.  Rob kindly filled-in for another presenter the last minute (and spared us a session on yet another give-your-business-users-reporting-control application).  There was no slide deck, no structured plan for the presentation.  Instead, Rob showed us how he approached tuning a mutant query so evil that even Cthulhu would shudder.  Watching a tuning expert reason through his process to tune this query was a real treat.  I would like to see more from Rob at the 2010 PASS Summit.
  9. SQL 2008 R2 How to Manage CPU’s, Cores and CPU Groups  – Presenter: Thomas Grohser – I always enjoy more in-depth technical presentations when it comes to SQL Server.  This session delved deep into how SQL Server works with CPU’s and memory, and how you can optimize this environment.  Since this was in the early hours of the morning (something like 2:00 AM Phoenix time) you can bet I will watch this again once it is posted and I am not so sleep deprived.
  10. Database Design Fundamentals – Presenter: Louis Davidson – Better known as Dr. SQL, Louis Davidson is an iconic authority in SQL Server’s inner circles.  This session touched on smart design, focusing heavily on database normalization forms and how and when to choose each normal form.  A terrific session for all DBA’s no matter what their experience level.
  11. BLITZ! 60 Minute Server Takeovers – Presenter: Brent Ozar – Going into 24 Hours of PASS I predicted that this last session would be my favorite.  Brent Ozar has been on fire lately; he’s widely respected, has a new book (Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting), and just recently gained the MCM certification on SQL Server (which very few people hold).  Brent provided a step-by-step walkthrough of the uber-script he uses for assessing new SQL Servers that he’s taking over.  The session walkthrough covered about half the script, which is massive, and Brent spent several extra minutes answering questions as he went and at the end of the session.  Some of the best gems are discovered when the presenter drifts off-topic, and Brent has real talent for unearthing those gems.  You can bet I run this script on every server I manage in the next week.  I can’t wait!

Thanks to all of the presenters.  Special thanks to Thomas LaRock (@SQLRockstar) for his role in organizing and facilitating the event, and thanks to all of the other hard-working PASS members who put in countless hours to make this event work so darn well.

These sessions were just my favorites, but I learned a tremendous amount from every session.  Several other sessions covered elements I already knew (for example, Jessica Moss gave an excellent SSRS session, but I’d seen most of it before in one of her previous sessions). 

Will I ever attend all 24 sessions again?  You bet your data warehouse I will!

May
20

Hi there. I’m Wil Sisney, a SQL Server Database Administrator from Phoenix, AZ, USA. My screen name is Han SQL. I’ve been working with SQL Server in some capacity for 9 years, and I’ve been a senior DBA for 5 years. I am a Microsoft Certified Professional, and hold the following certifications:

Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Database Administrator 2008; Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Database Developer 2008; Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance; Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: SQL Server 2008, Database Development. I also happen to be a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT).

Like many DBA’s, I am mostly self-taught. It has been a long road of constant daily study, and I figure it is about time to start sharing some of my favorite resources, scripts and concepts so that new DBA’s visiting my blog have a list of resources to use. I also want to talk about the business of being a DBA. Many resources focus on solving technical issues related to our databases, but not very many teach you how to be successful at being a DBA inside a living breathing company that relies on you.

When it comes to SQL Server, I like to help others, so run your question by me. I promise not to pretend I know every answer, but I will be happy to give every question some thought and help if I can.

So this blog might not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.

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