Category: SQL Saturday


I do it for the schwag...

This weekend, I rounded out the SQL Saturday Texas Trifecta: Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

Earlier this year, I attended the SQL Saturdays in Houston and Dallas.  These were both fantastic events; I gained some excellent technical training and I made some great connections with other DBAs in the field.

When it was announced that Austin was going to host a SQL Saturday, I immediately jumped at the chance to present.  With this move, I went from being a spectator to a spectacle.

SQL Server Amnesia

I gave my presentation over SQL Server memory usage and how to troubleshoot problems that arise from it.  I took my attendees through the basics of using Perfmon and DMVs to peek under the hood and see what SQL Server and Windows are doing with all the memory.  Thankfully, all my demos worked as planned.  When I did this presentation at the CACTUSS User Group, my laptop locked up, and I had to pop the battery out.  How’s that for memory pressure?

No one threw tomatoes at me, and several people asked me some extended questions afterwards. So, I guess that means I did alright.  If you did see my session, please take a moment to give me some feedback.  If you would like the slides or sample code, they are posted on the SQL Saturday #97 website.

I was a little nervous making the jump from presentations at the CACTUSS User Group to a SQL Saturday.  In the end, it was a good decision and I feel excited about making the plunge.  I see this as an opportunity to step up my game and try to give a little back to the community that has helped me hone my DBA skills.

The Sessions

After presenting my session, I checked out some of the other great speakers.  Russell Johnson (blog | twitter) gave a nice overview of the various options that are available for HA and DR in our ever-futile pursuit of a No-Downtime Architecture.

SQL Saturday #97

Then it was time for lunch, so I stowed my laptop, grabbed lunch, and chatted with some of the other attendees.  Lunch is also a great time to check out the vendor and sponsor booths.

After lunch, I checked out Jim Murphy’s (blog | twitter) demo of Denali’s Always On Architecture.  He took us through the basics of how it works, and then showed off a demo of Always On in action.

Next, I attended Joe Celko’s dive into Advanced Table Constraints.  He took us through some of the more obscure options for constraints, and discussed how these can assist the query optimizer.

To finish out the day, I learned about the potpourri of management TLAs that are available: CMS, PBM, EPM, MDW, UCP, and DAC.  Nancy Hidy-Wilson (blog) took us through the basics of each of these tools and showed us how they all fit together to help you manage your enterprise.

Vendors and Sponsors

In the foyer, there were booths from several vendors: Idera, Quest, Fusion-IO, Confio, and Texas Memory Systems.  Included with your registration were several raffle tickets that you could use at the vendor tables to try to win some cool prizes: Kindles, iPads, Gift Cards, Software Licences, and more. Several of these vendors had free versions of their tools available to try.

I really have to commend Idera here, as they went above and beyond in their sponsorship of the event: running the registration, manning the info booth, and giving away some great prizes.

Speakers Dinner and After Party

The Speakers Dinner was a nice event where we got to meet the other speakers, finalize any last minute changes to the event, and blow off a little steam before the big event.  Wes Brown & Co. (blog | twitter) treated us to some local grub at Iron Works BBQ.  I really enjoyed chatting with some of the more experienced speakers and getting some tips.  It was also cool meeting a few of the other first timers and seeing I wasn’t the only nervous one in the bunch.

We had the After Party at the same location, and this was a good opportunity to reflect on the day’s events and compare notes with speakers and attendees alike.  I met some really cool people and I’m looking forward to seeing my new friends again.

Conclusion

I hope this is shrink to fit...

If you have never attended a SQL Saturday, I encourage you to check the schedule and see when we’ll be coming to your town.  When I look back to January, when I attended my first SQL Saturday in Houston to ten months later, presenting at my first one in Austin, it amazes me what a good year 2011 has been for me.

From learning about some cool tools, picking up some good technical knowledge, and most importantly making some new friends; I have been very fortunate indeed.  The best part, I finally got a coveted SQL Saturday shirt to call my own.

Advertisements

SQL Saturday #63 Dallas

SQL Saturday #63 Schwag

This was my second SQL Saturday after attending the one in Houston earlier in the year.  I was curious to see if this one would be as awesome as my first.  Now, I am excited about the prospect of a Texas Trifecta in Austin later in the year.

SQL Saturday is an almost free, all day event dedicated to all things SQL Server.  I saw almost-free since you will still have travel costs: hotel, gas, rental car, meals, etc.  However, I think this is the best bang for the buck that you will find anywhere.

Location

Dallas’ SQL Saturday was held on April 2nd at the Region 10 Education Service Center.  All of the conference rooms were very nice and had adequate audiovisual equipment.  However, in between the sessions, the hallways and common areas were a little cramped.  I think it would have been better if a few more conference rooms were availble.  This way, the vendor and networking areas could have been hosted there, thus alleviating some of the congestion.

Networking

Friday, before the event, Idera hosted a casual meet and greet at Wizard’s Sports Cafe.  This was an excellent opportunity to meet your fellow attendees, have a cold beer, and display your lack of pool skills.

SQL Saturday itself is a great way to meet other DBAs from across the state and the country.  You can talk shop, trade horror stories, and even get feedback on your resume.

Saturday, the official networking event was held at Dave and Busters.  There was free food to much on, other attendees to trade notes with, and presenters to pepper with more questions.

Sessions

SQL Saturday #63 Schedule

There were a total of forty-two sessions covering seven different tracks.  So a wide variety of topics to choose from.  Some sessions were of the same quality you would find at SQL PASS.  While others with from beginning speakers looking to polish their craft.  I think it is wonderful that there is a hospitable venue for the aspiring speaker.

Highlights

I began my morning with a deep dive on Solid State Storage with Wes Brown (blog | twitter).  He took us through the differences amongst the various vendors.  Additionally, we learned about some of the gotchas that come along with flash storage, and what the difference between enterprise and consumer grade was.

Next, I took in Kevin Kline’s (blog | twitter) presentation on SQL Internals and Architecture.  This was a lively show and the room was literally standing room only.  Afterwards, Kevin was very gracious and took the time for some one-on-one questions from me.

For the afternoon, I checked out Kevin Boles’ (blog | twitter) session on Parallel Query Execution.  He have us all the basics and showed up what all the options available with sp_configure mean.  In addition to sharing his technical skills with us, he also displayed his sense of humor while dealing with a heckler.

To close out the day, I saw Suresh Kandoth (blog | twitter) give a lesson on Database Availability and Recovery.  This is an area that we all have to deal with from time to time.  Having some knowledge of the fundamentals will help make things easier when the time comes.

Deep Ellum Arts Festival

Deep Ellum Music

As luck would have it, the Deep Ellum Arts Festival was being held on the same weekend as SQL Saturday.  Before checking into the hotel, I decided to explore a little bit.  It was held in Deep Ellum and several streets were blocked off to traffic and pedestrianized.  There were multiple stages and several local bands were playing a variety of styles.  Additionally, there were local artists and vendors with booths setup to showcase their wares.  While the event itself was free, you did have to pay for the concessions.  Wandering the streets, listening some local bands, drinking a cold brew…what a great way to get ready for SQL Saturday.

Conclusion

If you have never been to a SQL Saturday, then you are missing out.  It is a great way to get some nice training, make some new friends, and re-energize yourself about SQL Server.

I attended my first SQL Saturday this past weekend in Houston. SQL Saturday is a free event sponsored by PASS, the local SQL Server user group (HASSUG), and some vendors. Well, it was almost free. I did have to pay ten dollars for lunch. It was a delicious selection of eats from Hinze’s BBQ.

Schwag:The real reason we come…
In some ways, I found SQL Saturday to be more accessible than a full SQLPASS conference. SQLPASS can be a bit overwhelming; after the first couple of days, your brain starts to get mushy from all the content that has been thrown at you.

Since this was only one day, I was able to absorb all of the sessions I attended. You come away with tons of great ideas, tips, and tricks that you are ready to apply in your shop once you get back home. By keeping the total number of sessions small, I feel you increase the chances of actually following-up with the knowledge you have gained.

Sessions

There were five tracks with a total of forty-two different technical sessions from which to choose. The tracks were divided among Application Development, Business Intelligence, Database Administration, General, and PowerShell.

Each session I attended was full of great information that I can take back and use at work. The speakers were all enlightening and entertaining. I was able to ask questions, trade emails, and get copies of their presentations.

Presenters

The speakers were very engaging, and in some cases, downright entertaining. Several of the presenters were names I recognized from SQLPASS 2010 in Seattle. Either as presenters there, or as people I met during the various social events. So I knew I was in for a treat.

The day began with with Dean Richards (website) teaching us about VMWare and SQL Server. With more and more systems becoming virtualized every day, this is a good foundation for the future.

I followed-up with hometown hero Wesley Brown (blog | twitter) who got so down on storage systems, I started seeing things in terms of sectors, cylinders, and tracks. I loved his joke about RAID0 not being RAID at all, but rather just ‘AID’… In other words, your resume may need some aid if you use this in production.

Thomas LeBlanc (blog | twitter) was especially hysterical, and I took in a double dose of his stuff, with no fluff. He covered Execution Plans and Business Intelligence. Many times during his presentations, he had the whole room in laughter. I had to ask if he ever did stand-up.

Another stand-out was Jason Wong (website). He took a normally serious topic, performance tuning, and turned it into a rollicking good time with his dry wit and dead-pan delivery.

One of my favorite sessions was presented by Trevor Barkhouse (blog | twitter) on Deadlock Detection. His was a session I recognized from SQLPASS 2010.

Some of the presenters would give mini-quizzes during their presentations and awards prizes to people who got them right. Others had books to give away from some of the sponsors.

Vendors and Employers

Just like any good technical conference, there were plenty of vendors on hand to show you samples of their products, or offer you trial licenses. In some cases, you had the possibility of winning a full license for their software.

Again, since the scale was more manageable, it is more likely that you will actually go back and download the trial software and try them out.

An added bonus was the presence of a few area employers who are in a hiring phase: sparkhound and intellinet. They each had recruiters and technical staff on hand to answer questions about the company, their projects, and what sort of people they are looking for.

Location

This SQL Saturday was held at the Bammel Church of Christ, who was kind enough to provide the facilities for the conference. I have to say, this was the coolest, most modern church I have been in. Amongst the various rooms was the ever-popular Xbox room, complete with a flat screen TV and fluffy couches.

Networking

I got to meet an interesting cross section of SQL professionals from a wide variety of industries. I was surprised at the number of people I met who came from out of state. After the conference, there was an informal dinner held at Outback Steakhouse. This was a great opportunity to socialize and mix with your fellow SQL peeps.

One thing I wish I had done, was attend the Speaker Mixer dinner the night before. Since I was new, and didn’t know anyone, I decided not to attend. However, after meeting everyone on Saturday, and seeing how friendly the group was, I will definitely do this the next time.

At the end of the conference, there was a general meeting for the local user group, HASSUG, where some user group business was discussed, awards given for the volunteers, and a raffle for prizes from the sponsors. Too bad, I didn’t win the Xbox or the iPad. There’s always next time…

Conclusion

When I consider the quality of the education, and more importantly the food, this event was beyond free. It was more like they gave me money. I received quality technical training, networked with some great professionals, and ate some great BBQ all in one day.

My only disappointment was not being able to snag one of those cool shirts that all the speakers and volunteers were sporting. At the end of the conference, they had a few extras to give away, but alas, I was not able to beat the crowds. You would have thought Metallica was giving away free tickets to their next show.

Another opportunity is to volunteer to help with the next SQL Saturday. This entails arriving early, perhaps the day before, and helping to setup the facility, answering questions, or perhaps a more long-term commitment to help organize the whole affair.

If you decide to go to a SQL Saturday, I recommend traveling there the night before. They start at 8:30am and this way you will be fresh and rested; ready to absorb every last drop of SQL awesomeness. Buy using Hotels.com, you can find a wide range of hotels to fit your price range.

Executive Summary

It was like a mini-PASS conference for a fraction of the price; free!

SQL Saturday #57 Houston

The other day, I registered for SQL Saturday #57 in Houston.  I know what you’re thinking; SQL on a Saturday?  Don’t I have something better to do?  Well, yes, I have plenty of things I would rather be doing.  But I felt this was a fairly unique opportunity that I wanted to take advantage of.

The first time I heard about SQL Saturday was at SQL PASS 2010 in Seattle last year.  I kept seeing people with T-shirts that mentioned SQL Saturday.  I asked some folks about it, and I found out it is an event that rotates locations enabling SQL Server Professionals to get together and learn more about SQL Server.

While at SQL PASS, I signed up for Twitter in order to keep track of all the updates and to be able to see what all the attendees were chatting about during the conference.  Since then, I have been exploring what is out there.  Recently, I saw a posting about the upcoming SQL Saturday in Houston.  Well, since Texas is a relatively small state I decided a road trip was in my future.

After looking at the website and schedule of sessions, I was very impressed.  SQL Saturday offers some very good training on a variety of topics for no cost.  I noticed that several of the speakers were people that I met at SQL PASS; bloggers, presenters, or just some folks I exchanged business cards with.

I am excited about attending my first SQL Saturday.  I think it will be a good way to meet some other people in the SQL community and to learn about more about SQL Server.  Perhaps exploring a few new topics, or getting a deep dive on something familiar.

Either way, it should be a good experience.  If you are interested in learning more about SQL Server, take a look at the SQL Saturday website and see if there is a session near you.