In the same way that the finest presentations involve much more than the simple relaying of information, the finest software demos are much more than just presenting features.
REMEMBER: The goal of a demo is to INSPIRE the audience to use the software/technology, not to teach them every nuance of software/technology.
I've spent the last 10 years learning how to give good presentations and to give good software demonstrations. Here are several tips to take your software demonstration from informative to masterful:
1. Know your audience
Whenever you start a demo, make sure you have a good idea what the audience is interested in. That way you can focus the attention of the audience upon things that actively engage their imagination. You really, really want the audience to be thinking about how they're going to use the software that you are presenting. If it if you're not presenting on something that they're interested in, they'll mentally disengage. In some cases you'll even see them open their laptops and start to answer emails. That's the last thing in the world that you want to happen.
In many cases, I'll begin a presentation by asking my audience to tell me more about themselves. I want to know how much of their time is spent as a developer, as a DBA, as a designer. If nothing else, I can change the sort of examples that I use to be tailored specifically to the audience that are presenting to.
Truly bad software demos have problems. The code doesn't work. The beta software crashes. The screen shows the dreaded blue screen. But that's one thing. What you really want to avoid, is the truly mediocre software demo. The quickest path to a mediocre software demo is to simply show every feature and explain each in as much detail as you can. It's like those games that sit in our closet that no one likes to play. Most all of these games are ones in which one person takes a turn while everyone else waits. No one has any fun except for the three or four minutes in which it relates directly to them.
2. Start, but only start, with an agenda
It's always a good idea to inform your attendees of what you would like to present. What you present the agenda it's a great idea to confirm that this agenda is what the audience is looking for. Before I learned to do this on a regular basis, I found that my presentation might contain two or three lengthy sections of my software demo which were completely uninteresting to the audience. The customer is really numbed by this waste of time. It's far better to tell the audience what you are going to tell them.
Here's my routine when I start a demo. Confirm that your agenda is of interest to them and recheck the time constraints of the meeting. Then, get to what they are interested in. This flexibility also provides you the opportunity to inject other software demonstrations that are much more pertinent to your audience. Audiences love a presenter who can think on their feet and are flexible to the interests of the audience.
3. Skip the lengthy intro
This is a aspect of demonstrations and presentations that I struggle with. I worried a lot that I hadn't demonstrated enough credibility with my audience. And so for many years of my technology evangelism role, I spent a lot of time telling the audience about myself and about the company. What I found over time though, is that audiences actually give you an initial dose of credibility. It's up to you to maintain and even enhance that credibility through a strong demo and a good presentation. Better to have a very short introduction and get straight to the meat of the presentation.
Call out - Mouse Cursor Movement: It's especially important to remember in online demos that there is usually a great deal of latency between what you do on your screen and what your audience sees on their screen. So it's important to remember to MOVE YOUR MOUSE SLOWLY AND THOUGHTFULLY! I've sat in online webcasts, and even in in-person events, where the mouse literally disappeared on one section of the screen and reappeared elsewhere because the presenter was moving their mouse cursor here, there, and everywhere. If you want the audience to see what you're doing with the mouse cursor, keep it slow.
4. Show what is pertinent
One of the most important things a software evangelist can do is to show the most important and pertinent take away of their software. Let's you are trying to teach an audience about the extreme ROI (return on investment) of a particular kind of business intelligence strategy, it's crucial that you figure out in advance what are the key takeaways that you would like your audience to remember. Typically in audience will only remember two or three very salient points about your demo. If the BI presentation spends the first 30 minutes showing how to build a report but never once mentions ROI, what do you think the audience will remember? Once you know what is pertinent to your audience and what you want the key takeaway to be, you should focus the rest of your energies on building an airtight demo that supports those takeaways.
You will see the inverse of this many times in a mediocre or poor demo. At the end of the demo the audience will feel like they have sat through product training, rather than a call to action that inspires them to use the product. I've sat through demos in which the presenter carefully walk through several different menus, tabs, and wizards. And after 30 minutes of that, I now knew HOW to use the software, but I still didn't know WHY I would use the software.
In the worst cases, showing everything that your software can do may leave the audience feeling that it is too complex, too detailed, or too overwhelming for them to use effectively. Remember that a software demo is not design to train the audience. A software demo is designed to inspire the audience to use your products.
5. Don't get sidelined
We usually get sidelined in our demos by two things: questions from the audience and "technical difficulties" a.k.a. bugs.
Questions from the Audience
It's usually a good sign if your demo is provoking questions from the audience. However, you don't want to demo to turn into free consultation to solve one person's problem. Nor do you want to turn into fact-finding for one very narrow set of interests or to become the arbiter of some sort of political dispute between factions in the audience.
When taking questions, remember to repeat the question to the audience. This ensures that you fully understood the question, that the questioner asked for what they meant, and that if there is any recording going on the question will be picked up by the recording system.
But my typical rule of thumb is to only spend a couple minutes on a single question and questioner. Once a single questioner goes beyond a couple minutes, you can usually tell if you're heading for the sidelines. It's at that point that I asked the questioner if we can take the question off-line and come back to it afterwards so that everyone else can benefit from the time that we have set aside right now.
Another form of sidelining are bugs in the software and outright crashes of your demo environment. Many times this simply can't be avoided. This is especially true if you are demoing a beta version of the software. But there are couple important things to remember if you are sidelined by a bug or crash.
First, mention if you're using a beta and that it might not be fully stable. Also, be sure to mention that the software WAS stable when you prepared the demo. Second, test your demo after conducting a full reboot of your demo environment. I've seen many demos crash because the presenter made other changes in the environment but only tested for the software demonstration itself. Third, Don't draw attention to bugs that you encounter during the demo, especially if they're just cosmetic. It's important not to do things like slap your four head and exclaim "what the hell is that?" If it's a bigger bug that hampers or interferes with functionality, you might state that it's normal functionality is… XYZ. Finally, if you experience a major bug or crash, immediately disconnect the projector or the desktop sharing application. There's nothing worse than seeing a presenter struggle with the bug in front of the entire audience.
6. Hit the jackpot
All good jokes have a punchline. All good action movies have a climax. All good newspaper stories have a headline. Your demo needs to have a jackpot, where the audience can clearly and immediately see how your software pays off.
Let's say you're doing a demo of the new columnstore features in SQL Server 2012. You could spend a lot of time showing the conceptual underpinnings of a columnstore index. You could show the state was to create columnstore indexes, to modify them, to drop them. You could admonish the audience and ways to build read-write systems so that they can easily get data into and out of columnstore indexes.
But what's the real payoff of a columnstore index? It is incredible fast for a particular kind of scenario on SQL Server. So in this example, your jackpot is to show how difficult that scenario is under normal circumstances and then immediately show how easy and fast it is with the columnstore index. Bingo! Your audience is hooked. They immediately see why they want this. There inspired to start using it. Now, they want to figure out how to use it and want to know when and under what conditions they should use.
Are you an SC, technology evangelist, or technology presenter? What are your tips for a better demo?
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I just got this email from LinkedIn about my profile (that's http://www.linkedin.com/in/kekline in clear text).
Recently, LinkedIn reached a new milestone: 200 million members. But this isn't just our achievement to celebrate — it's also yours.
I want to personally thank you for being part of our community. Your journey is part of our journey, and we're delighted and humbled when we hear stories of how our members are using LinkedIn to connect, learn, and find opportunity.
All of us come to work each day focused on our shared mission of connecting the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful. We're excited to show you what'snext.
With sincere thanks,
Senior Vice President, Products & User Experience
P.S. What does 200 million look like? See the infographic
What does that mean? Two things: 1) that the much more famous actor of the same name is not very good at social media, and 2) I'm better at social media than I thought.
It means one more thing - I should be grateful for your support and interest. THANK YOU! Please let me know what else I can do to help you grow in your SQL Server technology skills, database & SQL skills, and IT leadership & professional development path.
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I always seem to get a question or two along the lines of "What's it like on a SQLCruise?" as I present at various conferences, SQL Saturdays, and user group meetings. Since we just finished up the 2013 Miami SQLCruise, I thought it'd be a good time to recap so that you can judge for yourself if you'd ever want to do it yourself. Personally, I think that Tim Ford (Twitter | Blog), together with his wife Amy, are doing better than ever in making the cruise both a top-quality learning experience and fantastic social experience. I've heard from many attendees that they learned enough in the first day or two to make the whole trip worthwhile and, keep in mind, some of these attendees paid for the trip out of their own pocket.
Loads of pictures at http://sqlcruise.com/cruise/past-cruises/sql-cruise-caribbean-2013/.
SQLCruise is, first and foremost, a training event. On each cruise, Tim usually pulls together four or five very well known experts in the industry who, in turn present several hours training. Each day the ship is at sea is a day spent in class. Example of the agenda is on the lower right. When the ship is in port, it's a day of activity and adventures. Tim spends quite a bit of time coordinating with the speakers so that the curriculum is both unique and well tailored to the students.
But each and every night, whether at sea or in port, is spent in 'office hours'. For many attendees, office hours are their favorite part of the learning experience. Since Tim caps registration at 15 students, that means the students get virtually unfettered access to the experts. If you've ever attended a conference, you've probably encountered that common scenario where the speakers are busy with presentations and, at the conclusion of their session, are mobbed by attendees with questions. They're lucky to get 3-4 minutes of the speaker's time. On the other hand, the students get hours and hours to talk about whatever is on their mind. And since we're on a cruise ship in the tropics, office hours usually look like the image at top right. It's both very relaxing and very educational.
Another aspect of the content on SQLCruise that makes it unique is the amount of time spent on personal and professional development. The majority of attendees are not newbies. They're mid-career professionals who are doing well and their career and want to take it to a higher level. But as we often find, our earlier years in IT are spent learning how to be really good at the technology part of our career. We like technology and, sensibly, it's the immediate problem we face in day-to-day productivity. But as the years progress and we earn a few promotions, we come to find that rising in the ranks means a lot of communication and, gasp, office politics. The speakers, in many cases, have careers the students would like to emulate. This is where SQLCruise really shines. Imagine being able to pick the brains of senior technologists and managers in a friendly and welcoming environment. How great is that? In fact, many SQLCruise attendees (I know of several from each cruise I have attended) have used the professional counseling they received on the cruise to enact an energetic new phase in their career with big pay raises, exciting new jobs, high-profile blogs, and all sorts of other really cool things like that.
You'll have to suffer through excursions like Trunk Bay on St. John's in the US Virgin Islands.
Now that I've told you about the grueling educational side of SQLCruise, did I mention that we do all of this ON A CRUISE SHIP IN THE CARIBBEAN?!? The cruise ships are, if you will, an enormous Vegas hotel on the water. There are casinos, a constant parade of entertainment, live music, comedy, pools and water slides, discos and dancing, live game shows - the works. Ask Neil Hambly (Twitter | Blog) about the dancing!
Several of the sponsors also help to put on really fun contests and activities, some of which produce some really funny antics. There are fun scavenger hunts and other team relays which, if you can get over your inhibitions, are a ton of fun. Another aspect that makes the SQLCruise a unique experience is the fact that most attendees bring at least one other person, if not their entire family. That means that there are plenty of people for your significant other to hang out with while you're in class. Kids have built-in playmates, over and above the kids' activities that the cruise line keeps running around the clock. Lots of folks, including me, have also brought along a parent or several parents. They all have a great time and, in many cases, look forward to meeting their new friends again on a future cruise. Would it surprise you if I mentioned that most of the parents are not the type to start emailing each other as soon as they get off the ship?
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of SQLCruise for many attendees is that you're on a cruise ship in the Caribbean hundreds of miles from bandwidth. That means very limited connectivity. Although I've witnessed a student or two have to miss a class to put out some sort of fire back at the office, this is a really rare occurrence. In fact, it's much less common than what I've seen at the big conferences because you're so disconnected from all fast forms of bandwidth. Yes, there is an expensive sort of satellite connectivity on the ship. But your boss would have to be pretty desperate to keep you on the front lines while on one of these trips. Now I don't know about you, but my training events are always more enjoyable when I don't have the cares of the office weighing on my mind.
SQLCruise Instructor Allen White (Twitter
) teaches about PowerShell for the SQL Server professional at right. Notice his casual but totally appropriate attire. Shorts, sandals, and comfy shirts are the norm even in class.
SQLCruise costs less than $200/day for the training. That compares to more than $300-400/day training costs of most commercial training centers who use the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC)
. On the other hand, there's the cost of the cruise itself. But again, the cruise is all-inclusive for lodging and meals (but not alcohol). So, for me at least, the cost of cruise itself was actually a little cheaper than a standard, nice American hotel chain like a Hilton, Marriott, or Sheraton.
Another, less tangible benefit of the expense of the SQLCruise is that the instructors are never
unable to answer your questions, compared to many training centers whose trainers have never actually had a career built around the topic they're teaching. It's a huge difference.
Finally, if you're weighing the idea of paying for a trip like this out of your own pocket, consider that training expense are tax deductible. In my experience, probably a third of attendees cover their own costs. In a few cases, employers cover the training and the attendee covers their travel expenses. And for the rest, their employers cover the cost. Check out the FAQ
and other resources on the website for tips on convincing your boss that this is the right training for you. As an aside, SQL Sentry
gave away a full registration to the event - winner Mickey Stuewe is in the center of the picture at right. Congrats Mickey!
It's a great event and a great way to spend a week. I hope to see you at a future SQLCruise!
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2012 was, simply stated, a year that kicked my butt. When I wasn't struggling professionally, I was struggling personally. Health issues, culminating in a diagnosis of Type II diabetes, and the passing of my father soon after Thanksgiving marked my biggest struggles. I apologize to those of you who are normally on my Christmas card list for not sending any this year. The wind was not in my sails. On the positive side of the ledger, I made a scary but exciting leap to SQL Sentry midyear. This was a huge shake-up after 10 years with my previous employer, but one which has been met with unbridled enthusiasm everywhere I've gone. Thank you for the handshakes, high-fives, and hugs! We're doing some really exciting things at SQL Sentry (such as SQLPerformance.com and Plan Explorer Pro) and I hope to engage with you more than ever in 2013.
Blogging Activity, Plus Leadership Skills & Professionalism
2012 marked a bit of a shift in my content creation direction. I've seen an uptick in struggles in the non-IT part of our career - communications, leadership, motivation, goal-keeping, all of those sort of things. I feel like I have some wisdom to contribute in that space. So, in addition to technical blog posts, I been putting down more of my experiences and lessons learned on the interpersonal side of the IT career path. My top ten blog posts for the year reflect some of that new direction:
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph about blogging, I'm putting more energy into best practices for professional growth among IT pros. Along those lines of thought, I started a website called ForITPros.com with my long-time friend Joe Webb (Twitter | Blog) and, in partnership with SSWUG, developed a 2-DVD set and streaming media class called Leadership Skills for IT Professionals containing 14 hours of leadership and soft skills training specifically crafted for IT teams.
I've also been working with PASS on the Professional Development Virtual Chapter (VC), led by Mark Caldwell (Twitter). We've already got a full year of content schedule and are trying to figure out how fit in more sessions. Maybe moving to more than one webcast per month? The PASS Professional Development VC archive has lots of great content for you to review and future sessions are detailed at the PASS Professional Development VC homepage.
2012 was busy where I actually appeared in person or put in a big effort to write or create content. Here's a run-down: Articles (2), Conference Spoken (12), Customer Calls (88), Customer Visits (4), Magazine Columns (14) at SQLMag.com and DBTA.com, New Books (1) with Ross Mistry, PASS Chapter Presentations (12), Pre-cons/Full-day Seminars (4), SQL Saturdays (4), SSWUG Sessions (4), TechNet Radio Broadcasts (2), Technical Book Reviews (3), and Webcasts (10).
In 2013, I expect to travel a bit less. But I also expect to do many more webcasts. Let me know if you have some ideas about what you'd like to learn! One business trip that I refuse to give up, though, is SQLCruise. (Register!) I know it sounds like the worst possible way to learn. I mean who'd want to learn on a cruise ship in the Caribbean?!? (I hope you could detect the sarcasm dripping from those two sentences.) But here are two favorite aspects of of SQLCruise that are totally ferreals - 1) You simultaneously can relax and focus on learning. You are disconnected from the mainland. You don't have to worry about the mobile phone going off. 2) You get extended ours in a intimate setting with the top talent in the SQL Server world. It's always a pleasure to attend a conference session from the best in the industry. But you'll get hours of time to talk with these veterans of the industry about your specific problems and situations. It just doesn't get better than that.
It's hard to believe that only a year ago, 2011, was my first year on Twitter. By years end, here's where my stats had moved: 5,507 tweets (up from 3,452 tweets), 661 following (up from 531), and 3,720 followers (up from 2,656) . I didn't check my social media numbers last year, so I've got no point of comparison. But I'm currently sitting at 2,327 LinkedIn connections and 1,157 Facebook friends. One of my standing policies on Facebook is that I don't "friend" someone who I haven't personally met. That doesn't help detangle the hopeless mess I've created by having only one identify on Facebook, both personal and public. So, on the one hand, I owe all of my longtime friends a big apology for all of the SQL talk and, on the other hand, a big apology to all of my professional friends for not posting enough news and advice while dilute my status updates with personal minutia. Oh well - it is what it is.
My blogging activity for 2012 was the lowest it's been in many years, down to 44 entries, down from 77 in 2011 and well into the hundreds in 2010. My answer to that sort of doldrums for 2013 is to get sloppy! And by that, I mean less of a perfectionist and more of a content machine that just cranks it out! Most of you, as my readers, have been very forgiving of a misplaced verb, a missing punctuation, or -heck- a totally malformed sentence that makes no sense at all. So I'm going to try much harder to churn through the 700+ nascent blog posts in my notes folder and get those ideas out there!
I hope to see you following me on Twitter soon! Thanks,
I'm doing two new webcasts next week on Wednesday, December 19th, one in the morning and the other after lunch.
SSDs are a Game Changer for SQL Server Storage
No, session is not exclusively about SSDs. But this is my first session on IO and storage tuning that emphasizes SSDs over hard disks. As Bob Dylan said "Times, they are a'changin'". This session on Wednesday, December 19th at 11:30 AM EST, sponsored by Astute Networks, takes you through all of the basics of storage and IO tuning, regardless of the underlying storage technology. I'll show you how SQL Server handles storage structures, how to identify IO activity on Windows and SQL Server, and best practices for minimizing IO bottlenecks. Register now for: Storage IO Best Practices for SQL Server and a New Approach to Solving Application Performance Issues.
Write Better SQL Queries
The next webcast on Wednesday, December 19th at 2 PM EST, is with me, Aaron Bertrand (Twitter | Blog) and SQLCruise Impresario & Microsoft MVP Tim Ford (Twitter | Blog) as we take you through the query tuning process, discussing important DMVs to use during query tuning, as well as demonstrating several essential query tuning techniques that every SQL developer should know. Not only are we presenting an hour of top quality technical content, we’ll also be giving away some cool prizes, including the grand prize of a paid registration for the upcoming SQLCruise Miami, a $1,395 value! Register now for: SQL Server Query Tuning Best Practices, Hosted by Kevin Kline and Aaron Bertrand with special guest Tim Ford
I hope to see you at both of these sessions next week! Best regards,
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I have two new articles up on Database Trends & Applications magazine. I'd love to get your thoughts and feedback!
Welcome to the Weird, Wild World of SQL Server Licensing
Not long in the past, SQL Server licensing was an easy and straightforward process. You used to take one of a few paths to get your SQL Server licenses. The first and easiest path was to buy your SQL Server license with your hardware. Want to buy a HP Proliant DL380 for a SQL Server application? Why not get your SQL Server Enterprise Edition license with it at the same time? Just pay the hardware vendor for the whole stack, from the bare metal all the way through to the Microsoft OS and SQL Server....
DBTA E-Edition - December 2012 Issue
Virtualization Conquers the Database
I was privileged to deliver a session entitled Managing SQL Server in a Virtual World at the PASS Summit 2012, the largest annual conference for Microsoft SQL Server. It was a packed house, literally at standing-room-only capacity. I delivered the session with my friend David Klee and we were swarmed by attendees after the session wrapped up. With almost 600 people in the room, we conducted one of those informal polls that speakers like to do along the lines of "Raise your hands if …" and the informal findings were very telling. Probably around 90% of the attendees used VMware and SQL Server in some capacity and at least 60% used it in production environments. Another important fact was that only 10% of the attendees were actually able to get information on the performance of the actual VMs themselves. Most had to get all of their information and support from the VM / System administration staff....
DBTA E-Edition - November E-Edition Issue
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For all members of the Professional Association for Server (PASS), are you downloading slides and videos from all sorts of great PASS events? If not, what are you waiting for ... an invitation?
Ok, here it is. I invite you to download like a madman! (How a madman downloads, an almost entirely virtual activity, is not the question here, ok?).
For starters, there's the recent 24 Hours of PASS event. I hope you were able to attend all of the sessions you wanted. But even if you didn't get to see any, you can see them now as long as you're a (free) member of PASS. The session recordings are now available for streaming from the 24 Hours of PASS Archive website. Review your favorites or catch up on some of the sessions you missed, by gum! Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next on the list for downloads are the PASS Summit 2012 highlights. The navigation is a little weird. But all you have to do is simply click on the keynote that you're interested in. And may I recommend, as always, the excellent session from Dr. David Dewitt. Again, you need to be a PASS member, but it's free. And I'd be remiss not to mention the SQLPASS YouTube Channel.
During and immediately after each PASS Summit, attendees are able to buy the event records for around $175. That's over 150 hours of training, over three weeks of training I say, for under $200!!! I hear that this year, instead of a massive DVD set, we'll be getting a slim 32- or 64Gb thumbdrive. Yeah! But did you know you can also watch sessions from earlier years, free for members, at http://www.sqlpass.org/LearningCenter/SessionRecordings.aspx? That's right, brothers and sisters, if you didn't get to go to older events and didn't buy the DVDs, you don't have to bribe that scruffy mangy dog of a DBA to get your own look at the sessions. And since SQL Server versions don't change enormously from one year to the next, most of the content remains valuable and worthwhile for several years. For example, most recommendations and sessions from the PASS Summit 2008 event are still valuable even if you've upgraded to SQL Server 2012.
Take Another Look at PASS Virtual Chapters
Don’t have a local PASS Chapter near you? Want to learn from your desk? Or are you simply looking for more opportunities for free SQL Server training and learning every month with fellow IT pros from around the world? Virtual Chapters (VCs) are a great way to get involved in the PASS community from your own home or office. Virtual chapters are targeted, online monthly webcasts from top-rated speakers with related subject matter from one month to the next, such as database design, performance, virtualization, etc. Here’s how. But wait - there's more. All of the VC sessions are also recorded and posted online for later viewing, usually within a month of the initial broadcast.
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Here's a quick tip for you:
During some restore operations on Microsoft SQL Server, the transaction log redo step might be taking an unusually long time. Depending somewhat on the version and edition of SQL Server you've installed, you may be able to increase performance by tinkering with the readahead performance for the redo operations. To do this, you should use the MAXTRANSFERSIZE parameter of the RESTORE statement. For example, if you set MAXTRANSFERSIZE=1048576, it'll use 1MB buffers.
If you change the MAXTRANSFERSIZE, keep an eye on the PerfMon objects for Buffer Manager and Readahead IO. You may also wish to keep an eye on LOGBUFFER wait stats.
I'd love to hear your feedback. Have you tried this technique? Did it work as advertised? Did it require some changes to work on a specific version or edition?
Ok, I have to admit the painful truth. I'm reliably slow to the finish line. This year, I got my slides into PASS HQ by the skin of my teeth, the weekend before the event was to begin. Although I could say with a straight face "I uploaded my slides!". I have to be honest that I wasn't surprised when many of my attendees said that they weren't available for download by the time my session started. OTOH, I also have to say that I really do prefer for attendees to focus on the presentation while it's being presented and that they should grab the slides afterwards. But that's just my personal preference.
Having said all of that, I'm going to post my three session slide decks here so that you can grab them in case PASS has to take a while longer to get them posted. If you don't mind, the PASS program committee has introduced a new electronic feedback system. PLEASE PROVIDE FEEDBACK!
(Click on the session title to download the zip file of the slide deck).
This brief session is all about convincing your boss to do something you want - telecommute, make a big purchase of hardware or software, bring in a consultant, and so forth. See the PASS TV schedule for other sessions.
Abstract: Ever wanted to convince the boss to try something new, but didn't know where to start? Ever tried to lead your peers toward an innovative, fresh idea only to fail to achieve your goals? This session teaches you the eight techniques of influencing IT professionals and the means of communicating your ideas upward to management and out to teammates so that you can innovate and achieve change in your organization. You'll learn the fundamental difference between influence and authority and how you can achieve a high degree of influence without explicit authority. You'll also learn the eight techniques of influencing IT professionals, when to apply them, and how to best use them. And you'll discover the communication and procedural techniques that ensure your ideas get a hearing by bosses and peers, and how to best win support for them.
This session rocked the house! We had standing room only probably at 20 to 30 minutes before start time. Our attendance was over 500, but we probably could've filled the biggest 700+ person room. A special thanks to my friend David Klee (blog | twitter) for tag-teaming with my like mega-nerd luchadors.
Abstract: Why are so many organizations implementing VMware, and what does it mean for SQL Server DBAs? In this deep-dive session, you'll see that when configured and managed properly, SQL Server can run just as well in a virtual environment as a physical one. We'll review the benefits VMware provides, including hardware abstraction, easier failover, and simpler capacity planning. We'll also explore key tips to help administer a SQL Server instance running inside a virtual machine. You'll learn the differences in general administration, disaster recovery, and high availability on VMs; get a better understanding of activity and performance trends on VMs; and learn how to ensure effective capacity planning and optimal performance on VMs. If you’ve ever had a virtual deployment go bad, or if you’re struggling to manage the performance of virtualized SQL Servers, be sure to catch this session.
One of the most positive experiences I can have, as a former leader of the PASS organization, is when I see a neophyte become a passionate support and champion for the community. On my first day in Seattle, before the event had even begun, I was stopped several by people who'd attended their first PASS Summit last year. But this year, they were excited to tell me that they'd started user groups in their own community, spoken for the first time at a PASS event, or even helped launch a SQL Saturday event.
Wow! To go from a complete newcomer in the PASS community to an active and engaged community chapter is a major achievement!
Many years ago, the founding board of directors wrestled with the major issues of how to attract new members at the same time while lacking major funds to create services and offerings attractive to SQL Server professions. Compared to other major professional IT associations, we simply lacked the money to do the cool things that we saw happening elsewhere.
But one of the things that we settled on is that, while we didn't have the money to put on a big dazzle-dazzle conference or to publish hard-bound conference proceedings, we could simple be a more giving, supportive community. Being more friendly, more encouraging, more supportive. Those were things that we could excel at which would cost us nothing.
In those days, I have to admit, it wasn't really a difficult calling to be the 'more' friendly professional association. With board members like Kurt Windisch, Joe Webb, Stefanie Higgins, and Wayne Snyder, being friendly came naturally. As new board members, like Rushabh Mehta and Bill Graziano and Tom Larock and Andy Warren, joined the leadership the idea of openness and friendliness became an institution ideal.
By 2006, the concept of 'sqlfamily' wasn't simply something we aspired to, it was an integral part of our culture. I can recall plenty of decisions being settled with the question of "Does this decision make our community more inclusive or not?" If it didn't, then we didn't do it. At other times, in the face of conflict, we asked ourselves "What's the high road? What's the right thing to do?" Our intent wasn't to do what was most advantageous, the most expedient, or the least costly, especially if we had to compromise on our ethics. Do what's right. Do what is helpful to our people. And then don't look back.
That certainly doesn't mean that we made all of the right decisions or that there weren't any situations where we wouldn't do it differently if we could do it again. But it did ensure that, when we made a mistake, we didn't have too many regrets.
So here we are in 2012. How has that early initial decision to focus on building a community of care panned out? The association now has 126,000 members, with more than 300 chapters around the world, and more than 60 yearly SQL Saturday events per year. The annual Summit is more than 300% bigger than our first event, with about 100 more sessions over the course of three days.
And, in my opinion more importantly, I'm being stopped on the street by people to tell me how excited they are to have started a new user group, spoken at an event, or attended a conference. It's in these moments that all of those hard years of work on the PASS board are crystallized as a valuable and worthwhile. Those decisions are still paying dividends today. The spirit of SQLfamily is stronger than ever!
P.S. I'll be speaking on Thursday and Friday at the event. Come see me!
The PerfMon Counters That Just Won't Die
One of the things that's simultaneously great and horrible about the Internet is that once something gets posted out in the ether, it basically never goes away. (Some day, politicians will realize this. We can easily fact check their consistency). Because of longevity of content posted to the Internet, a lot of performance tuning topics become "zombies". We shoot 'em in dead, but they keep coming back!
In other words, those old recommendations were
a suggested best practices for long ago, for a specific version of SQL Server, but are now inappropriately for the newer version. It's not uncommon for me, when speaking at a conference, to encounter someone who's still clinging to settings and techniques which haven't been good practice since the days of SQL Server 2000. Here's an example of Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Best Practices that are very version-specific
So here's an example. The %Disk Time counter and the Disk Queue Length were heavily recommended as a key performance indicator for IO performance. SQL Server throws a lot of IO at the disks using scatter/gather to maximize the utilization of the disk-based IO subsystem. This approach leads to short bursts of long queue depths during checkpoints and readaheads for an instance of SQL Server. Sometimes the server workload is such that your disk can't keep up with the IO shoved at it and when that happens, you'll see long queue lengths too. The short burst scenario isn't a problem. The lengthening queue length scenario usually is a problem. So is that a good practice?
In a word, not-so-much.
Those counters can still be of some use on an instance of SQL Server which only has one hard disk drive. But that's exceedingly rare these days. Why?
The PerfMon counter %Disk time is a bogus performance metric for several reasons. It does not take into account asynchronous I/O requests. It can't tell what the real performance profile is for an underlying RAID set may be, since they contain multiple disk drives. The PerfMon counter Disk Queue Length is also mostly useless, except on SQL Server's with a single physical disk, because the hard disk controller cache obfuscates how many IO operations are actually pending on the queue or not. In fact, some hard disks even have tiny write caches as well, which further muddies the water was to whether the IO is truly queued, in a cache somewhere between the OS and the disk, or has finally made it all the way to the CMOS
on the disk.
Better IO PerfMon Counters
Instead of using those PerfMon counters, use the Ave Disk Reads /sec, Avg Disk Write /sec, and Avg Disk Transfers/sec to track the performance of disk subsystems. These counters track the average number of read IOs, write IOs, and combined read and write IOs to occured in the last second. Occassionally, I like to track the same metrics by volume of data rather than the rate of IO operations. So, to get that data, you may wish to give these volume-specific PerfMon counters a try: Avg Disk Transfer Bytes/sec, Ave Disk Read Bytes /sec, and Avg Disk Write Bytes/sec
For SQL Server IO Performance, Use Dynamic Management Views (DMV)
And unless you've been living in a cave, you should make sure to use SQL Server's Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) to check on IO performance for recent versions of SQL Server. Some of my favorite DMV's for IO include:
So how are you tracking IO performance metrics? Which ones are you using?
I look forward to hearing back from you!
It's always a feel-good experience for me to return to SQL Saturday in Orlando, the place where SQL Saturdays were started by Andy Warren (Twitter | Blog). On this trip, I delivered a full-day, pre-conference seminar on Troubleshooting and Performance Tuning SQL Server. I also delivered a session on SQL Server Internals and Architecture to a totally packed house. For those of you who emailed me directly, here's the link for the special SQL Sentry offer.
I got to attend the extended events session by Jack Corbett (Twitter | Blog), middle in the photo above. Good stuff, Jack! Jack led the Orlando PASS Chapter for a few years and, although he relocated back up to New England, he enjoys getting back to Orlando when the opportunity presents itself.
I also got a chance to do a podcast with Rodney Landrum (Twitter | Blog), in the SQL Saturday chef's outfit on the right. Rodney, you should get your blog details up at the PASS SQL blogger page, btw. Rodney is also known as "the guy with the Red-Gate tatoo". Ask him why, when you meet him in person. I'll post the direct link to our podcast when I get it from Rodney. But in the meantime, be sure to check out his SQLBeat webcast. There are lots of great speakers and respected authorities to hear on his podcast.
As I mellow with age, I've found that I most enjoy connecting with friends and building relationships. The above picture shows me, Eddie Weurch (Twitter | Blog), and Pam Shaw (Twitter), head of the Tampa PASS Chapter. Pam, Eddie, and I were swapping some hilarious stories about our early years in snowy climates. Pam had the good fortune to be pulled, face first, through the snow by her mom during a trip to the school bus stop on the first big snow of the season. Mom, it seems, wanted to make sure she got to the bus stop safely, but instead fell down two steps from the front door of their home, sliding all the way to the bus stop firmly clutching Pam's hand. ROFL!
I got to spend some time with Ryan Adams (left) and Kendal Van Dyke (right), as well. There may have been some liquor involved. However, the highlight of my evening was definitely when Kendal yelled "FINALLY!" at the waitress bringing our plates out ten minutes after the appetizers were served. Kendal was actually paying no attention to the waitress or the plates and was instead yelling at the TV where the Florida State vs South Florida football game was playing. The waitress, on the other hand, was mortified. Hilarity ensued as he tried to explain that he was not the least bit cross with her. :^)
Ryan is going to be presenting at the upcoming spring 2013 SQLCruise event. You should definitely attend! Ryan Adams has lot more content here (Twitter | Blog). Kendal, by the way, is a standing member of the current PASS Board of Directors. He's written some excellent content and, just recently, moved to Upsearch consultancy where my friend Allen White (Twitter | Blog) works. Kendal Van Dyke has more content here (Twitter | Blog).
I hope you're planning to attend a SQL Saturday event soon. And not just the event, but also the after-event gatherings as well. You can almost always be sure that most of the speakers will be there. It's a great way to enlarge your professional network as well as to make real and lasting friendships!
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I was chatting with my buddy, Buck Woody (Twitter | Blog), about a week ago and we were discussing that it's pretty hard to put together the entire history of SQL Server. Then the thought hit me that I'd already done this, to a degree, in my book Transact-SQL Programming. This was the first Transact-SQL programming book on the market way back in the SQL Server 7.0 days and even included full coverage of both Microsoft and Sybase variants of T-SQL.
The thing is, I was never able to put out a second edition due to some legal and contractual issues. So, help me catch up on the history of SQL Server:
The Ancient History of Microsoft SQL Server
SQL Server, like many things related to SQL, is a story of diversity. At one time, both Sybase and Microsoft had virtually the same product with Sybase's product targeted at Unix and enterprise environments while Microsoft targeted only the Windows enterprise. Today, the two products are entirely divergent. The code base for each product is unique to each platform and shares no code at all. For a while, both Sybase and Microsoft called their flagship database product "SQL Server", but now, Sybase calls their implementation of the product Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise. So while the two products are now completely distinct, they continue to share a strongly similar Transact-SQL implementation. Other less noticeable similarities persist, such as the use of Tabular Data Stream (TDS), tempdb architecture, and a few other odds and ends.
Perhaps you want to know more about how things got to be the way they are? By reading this section, you will be making an admission that many programmers and developers are loath to - history is interesting ... perhaps even enjoyable. This is not actually a sign of weakness as some might attest. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, please read on. Table 1-1 shows the evolution of both Microsoft and Sybase’s version of SQL Server’s.
Notice that I stop at more than a decade ago. Help me add the subsequent details by leaving a comment! Extra points if you know the code name for each release.
1987 - Microsoft Buddies Up with Sybase
Microsoft and Sybase announce a technology and marketing partnership. Microsoft gets exclusive rights to market Sybase’s DataServer product on OS/2 and all Microsoft-developed operating systems. Sybase gets royalties and added credibility in the Unix and VMS markets. (Remember VMS?) Sybase ships their first commercial DBMS product, called DataServer, for Sun workstations running Unix.
It was only 20 years prior that the first Super Bowl was played as the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League defeated the Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League, 35-10. (Hey, now this is important!)
1988 - Microsoft Buddies Up with Ashton-Tate
Microsoft and Ashton-Tate announce a marketing partnership. Microsoft can’t put a dent in dBase’s tremendous market presence. Ashton-Tate wants access to Sybase’s powerful multi-user database management technology, which ships this year. Microsoft forms a three-way alliance.
Another interesting three-way alliance was also making headlines at that time, as independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh probed the Iran-Contra affair.
1989 - SQL Server v1.0 Ships
Ashton-Tate/Microsoft SQL Server version 1.0 ships.
Perhaps not coincidentally, NYC transit fare rises from $1.00 to $1.15.
1990 - Microsoft Ships SQL Server v.1. for, OMG, Windows!
Ashton-Tate dBase IV was floundering. Microsoft wanted to beef up its offerings for the new OS/2 LAN Manager product. Microsoft and Ashton-Tate quit the partnership. “Microsoft SQL Server” version 1.1 ships by summer with support for Windows 3.0
Another partnership came to an end that year: ousted Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega surrendered to U.S. forces, after taking refuge in the Vatican's diplomatic mission.
1991 - Microsoft Goes All-In on Windows 3.0
A proliferation of Windows 3.0 front-end tools spurs the growth of Microsoft SQL Server. Later that year Microsoft and Sybase amend their contract to allow Microsoft to make actual bug fixes - all under Sybase supervision. IBM and Microsoft call off their OS/2 partnership with Microsoft to focus on Windows. Sybase surpasses the $100 million revenue mark and goes public on NASDAQ.
Almost one thousand years ago to the day, significant improvements in front-end tools (i.e. the plow and horse yolk) spur a huge population boom in Europe. The Vikings and Europeans call off their partnership, with the Vikings dragging off most of the loot. Meanwhile, Islam is continuing its military expansion throughout the world. Fortunately, medieval Europe does not have to endure lengthy beta programs, although computer geeks have to endure a plague of viruses. No fair!
1992 - Microsoft Goes Nuts on Windows NT
Microsoft and Sybase SQL Server 4.2 ships. Microsoft diverts its attention away from OS/2 and into developing Windows NT. Microsoft SQL Server for Windows NT later ships in beta release while Sybase ships its much-vaunted System 10.
A famous diversion of attention in the political arena, you ask? Then President George H. W. Bush lost his lunch during a state dinner in Tokyo; White House officials tried to deflect attention saying Bush was suffering from stomach flu.
1993 - Microsoft and Sybase Become Unfriends
Microsoft Windows NT 3.1 ships, closely followed by Microsoft SQL Server. By 1994, Sybase SQL Server System 10 and Microsoft SQL Server were competing unabashedly as the two formally ended their partnership. (This is about the time that I started to use Microsoft SQL Server 4.21 on OS/2).
Likewise, the American voting public formally ended their relationship with “Read my lips” President George H. W. Bush.
1995 - Microsoft Enters the Enterprise Computing World
Microsoft SQL Server 6.0, a very significant release, ships in June. Up until this time, most Microsoft products were considered departmental-level only. SQL Server also begins to push out many PC-level database products, with the noticeable exception of Microsoft Access. Access will be a thorn in the side of SQL Server DBAs until ... uh ... probably 10+ years from now.
Other significant release for 1995 included O.J. Simpson - not guilty.
1996 - SQL Server 6.5 Goes Into Production
Though released in April, it’s no April Fool’s joke. SQL Server 6.5 is the most powerful and capable version Microsoft had ever produced. It also received considerable press because of its innovative user interface and free tools.
1997 - Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 Beta Released. Remember the Code Name?
Is there a causal relationship between the Monkees' appearance at the Hollywood Bowl (June 10, 1967) and the first shipment of the Apple II Computer (June 10, 1977) and the release of MS SQL Server 7.0 beta (June 10, 1997)? It does make you wonder, doesn’t it?
1998 - Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 RTM
Microsoft offers another set of new innovations in the SQL Server 7.0 release, including an "all-in-the-box" strategy. Other major DBMS vendors had, and still have, separate products for ETL (extract-transform-load), administration tools, scheduling, and business intelligence. Not Microsoft. With SQL Server 7.0, Microsoft included the Data Transformation Service (DTS) for ETL work, Query Analyzer and other administration tools, OLAP services (my brain gets a little cloudy on this one), along with the already existing scheduler, SQL Agent.
2000 - Microsoft SQL Server 2000
Branding experts said that version numbers should get too big, or else customers would perceive the software as stodgy and old fashioned. So Microsoft switched from the version number nomenclature to the one highlighting the year of the release for SQL Server 2000. This release included the game-changing Enterprise Manager (EM). Forced many other DBMS companies to at least attempt to build useful tools (anyone use SQL*Plus from Oracle). Again, my brain is getting dusty with old age and too many releases, but IIRC this was the release in which Microsoft finally got ride of page-level locking in favor of row-level locking. That shuts up a lot of Oracle-bigots, but doesn't truly ease their smarmy attitude. Grudge matches continue unabated.
I'm going to follow-up with another blog post carrying forward with SQL Server 2000, including highlights for important half-steps like SQL Server 2000 SP3, the "Slammer" security release.
Feel free to throw down some of your SQL Server trivia knowledge about release and features for releases. Share a picture of one of your old boxes, if you have one!
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