Tag Archive: 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.


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.


CACTUSS June 2011

Thanks for the Memory

Last night, I had the good fortune of being selected to present at the local SQL Server User Group, CACTUSS.

This was my first presentation with the user group, and my first one on SQL Server, as well.  I have given technical presentations before, but it has been a couple of years.  So I was a little rusty when it came to pacing and how much content to try to include.

SQL Server Memory

My topic for the night was how SQL Server uses memory.  As a back story, I spoke about some of my experiences supporting and troubleshooting SQL Server over the years.  From there I rolled it up into some techniques and queries to spot problems.

Bit Off More Than I Could Chew

One comment I received, and I agree with, is that while I had plenty of good information, perhaps I could break it up into multiple presentations.  Even after removing several slides and demos I still went over time.

The other thing I realize is that instead of saving all the demos for the end, it may have been more effective to intersperse the demos within the presentation.  Present Topic 1, Demo Topic 1; Present Topic 2, Demo Topic 2, etc.

My audience was most gracious and stayed the entire time.  The best compliment for me was that several people were taking notes on what I was showing them.  Nice.  🙂

Disaster Strikes

As much as I practiced my presentation and related demos, I was not able to keep Mister Murphy at bay.  Once I first adjusted my Buffer Pool to introduce some Memory Pressure, I was no longer to connect and query the database.  I had to laugh and tell the audience that I just created some true Memory Pressure.

Slide Deck

If you are interested in the slides from my presentation, SQL Server Amnesia.  It doesn’t look like the free, hosted version of WordPress will let me upload a .ZIP or .SQL with all of my demo scripts.  My apologies, I’m still new at blogging.  I may publish the code later as a separate post.


If you were there and would like to leave me some feedback, feel free to leave a comment.  Alternatively, you can use SpeakerRate to give me some feedback.

Club News

Before the presentation, Wes Brown (blog | twitter) gave us an update about the South Austin SQL Users Group and SQL Saturday Austin.  It looks like our space for the South Austin Group fell through for this month, so now we are hoping to try again for next month.

Likewise, the struggle for a SQL Saturday Austin got another twist.  It turns out the date we were shooting for has several other regions hosting a SQL Saturday at the same time.  So now, the official rumour date is December 3rd.  Cross your fingers…

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

CACTUSS May 2011

This month Tim Costello (blog | twitter) gave a presentation on Rapid Fire Business Intelligence using Tableau.  Tim works for InterWorks, where he specializes in ETL and Data Analytics.  When you visit his profile and look at his picture, he wants you to keep in mind he was participating in No-Shave November at the time.


Tableau is not SQL Server Reporting Services, it is an Analytics Tool.  The strength of SSRS lies in tabular reports, using string data.  You use it to answer a question that you already know.  Contrast that with Tableau, whose strength is in helping you identify a question you did not know about, but should be asking.

The Big Picture

Most things are done at the aggregate level to enable you to see the big picture visually.  Machines are able to recognize patterns in text very easily, but for us mere humans, it is easier to do this visually.  This is what Tableau focuses on doing.  Furthermore, Tableau hired a professional color designer, who designed some custom color palettes for users who are colorblind.  You can see a nice example of this that uses good ole AdventureWorks for the data source.

The internals of how you setup Tableau are similar to SQL Server Analysis Services.  You will see all the familiar dimension and fact tables.  However, the setup is more visual and user friendly.  It is intended for users, well…power users, instead of designers and engineers.  Tableau is cross platform and you can point it to SQL Server, SSAS, Oracle, Firebird, MySQL, or many other data sources.  Similar to Adobe Reader, Tableau is able to use disconnected data so that you may view and analyze it offline.

After you have connected to your data source, you are presented with a nice, easy to use WYSIWYG designer to setup your Data Analysis.  At this point, it is helpful to run through the Categorical Analysis.  This is a basic statistical breakdown of your data; how many rows, how are your values spread out, etc.  When setting up your design, consider one of the Principles of Data Visualization, “don’t overwhelm your customers with data.”  You can embed SQL queries directly into the connections, however the best practice to create views on the database server so that you can reuse code.

As you begin to analyze your data, it pays to be cognizant of how standard deviation plays into your data.  Seventy-five percent of your population should be contained within one standard deviation, and ninety-five percent of your population should be contained within two standard deviations.  So you want to keep this in mind while looking for outliers in your data set.

While checking out his example, we did see one such outlier; Null Island.  Null Island is conveniently located at the intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator.  For my next vacation, I think I may go visit.

Visual Resume

There is a public version of Tableau available.  When using this version, you are limited to 500,000 rows and your data must be uploaded to their servers.  Obviously, this is not a viable option for most production environments.  However, this could serve well for a proof of concept or test environment.  Tim has a demo of this where he has visual version of his resume posted.  By leveraging the visual tools in Tableau, you are able to see a graphic breakdown of Tim’s skill set and experience.  Not that he’s looking…  😉

In conclusion, please keep in mind that analytics is not reporting, and reporting is not analytics

User Group Business

We are trying to rearrange the San Antonio SQL Server Users Group to meet on Mondays.  Doing so, would bring us closer to the goal of having each major metropolitan area hold their respective meeting on a different day of the week.  Having the days aligned in this manner will facilitate having out of state or “big name” speakers make the Texas Tour.

Austin is looking to experiment with adding a second SQL Server Users Group that is located in the downtown area.  This will compliment the existing group which meets in North Austin.

And finally, the news that you have all been waiting for…

We are getting closer to hosting a SQL Saturday in Austin.  The tentative date is September 10th, so mark your calendars.  Let’s all think happy thoughts to help make this a reality.

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.