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Rick Heiges

News about SQL Server and the SQL Server Community

  • Looking Back at the Keynote for SQLSat #250

    The organizers of SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh did a great job at putting on their second SQL Saturday.  Well Done!

    I volunteered to perform a keynote for this event.  I blogged about developing it here.   I had practiced and tweaked the dellivery about 10 times before Saturday.  I was told that the time available was about 40 minutes and practiced for that amount of time.  The scheduled called for the opening remarks and keynote to go from 8:00 to 9:00.  I was then told on Friday night that they needed to be done by 8:50 to allow for the attendees to get to the breakout rooms.  I was anticipating that there might be a slight time crunch, but shaving about 10 minutes off was going to be a challenge.  When I got back to the hotel, I cranked up the laptop and practiced the keynote two more times at a much faster pace. I also found out that the room where I was speaking had no sound system and that my voice would need to project in order to reach the audience.  We got off to a late start by a few minutes and the transition between the opening remarks and the keynote was a little less than smooth as we only had a single microphone to share.  This microphone also was not for the room where I was presenting; it was for the overflow rooms.  It paid off as I ended right at 8:50am.

    The first part of the keynote was about Community Resources and especially PASS.  As I concluded the community portion of the keynote, I had a Specific Call to Action for the Attendees which aligned with Connect/Share/Learn.  Here it is:

    • Connect - Meet at least 10 New People Today.  Get on twitter and follow #sqlhelp
    • Share - Actively Particiapte in the Sessions Today and Provide Feedback to the Presenters on the Evaluation Forms
    • Learn - Write Down at least one tip from each session and review it on Monday Morning

    Was I successful?  Was it inspring?  It is hard to tell; however, I felt like I connected with the audience and had at least some measure of success with one of the "Call to Action" items with some anecdotal evidence.  I asked the attendees to actively participate in the sessions and to provide feedback to the speakers on the evaluations.  This was the "Share" (as in Connect / Share / Learn) Action that the attendees could easily fulfill.  Almost all of my evaluations for my breakout session had comments.  As other speakers reviewed their evaluations, they also noticed an uptick in commentary on the evaluations. 

    The second part of the keynote was focused on three new features of SQL Server 2014.  Again, I felt like I was successful in connecting with the audience as I framed up the changes in server technology over the past 10 years.  I was going at Warp Speed with the additonal time constraints, but at least the audience has an idea of why some of the features in SQL Server 2014 are significant.

    I wrapped up the keynote again with the Call To Action for Connect/Share/Learn and sent them on their way.  I had a lot of energy and overcame some last minute challenges. It was great fun to deliver a keynote as it is different than a regular breakout session.  I'd love to do it again.

  • Developing a Keynote for SQL Saturday #250

    I volunteered to help out and present a keynote at SQL Saturday #250.  It worked out that they couldn't find anyone better.  :-)  I am really looking forward to it and hope that I do not disappoint. The time available is about 40 minutes so it can't get too technical.

    Although I have been a part of 2 keynotes at the PASS Summit, I really only added some ideas to the overall messaging for the third day keynote which is really more like an emcee.  And I also got to introduce Dr DeWitt for the meat of the keynote - so the keynote was a breeze.  The behind the scenes team at PASS was great at develping a script and timing.  Most of the development comes from the professional marketing team to keep what I say on stage on message.  Coming up with a keynote is different from developing a breakout session.  Typically, a keynote is meant to present information at a high level so that the details don't distract from the message; it is not meant to garner questions like a breakout session where the questions really enhance the content.  It is also meant to inspire (at some level) the audience to act on the message. 

    The Message - The SQL Community is full of great stuff. - This is aimed at the "newbie" attendee.  They may have some favorite blogs or have seen a webcast or two, but they are not aware of the various moving parts and players in the community.  Naturally, I will highlight PASS events because that is what I know best and have a passion for.  But I also intend to shine the light on some of the "properties" for lack of a better word that I have found useful over the years.  This includes vendors, consultancies, and other web focused properties that are active in the community.  This was the first cut of the keynote message.

    I was asked to add some techie stuff into the keynote as well.  I thought about several ways to go.  I looked over the finalized schedule of sessions and noticed that there were not a lot of sessions focused on SQL Server 2014. It seemed only too natural to talk about the upcoming rleease of SQL Server and what to expect.  Obviously, I had to include Hekaton in here.  I also selected Clustered Column-store Index and Buffer Pool Extensions to highlight some key features in the next release.  However, just diving into the features wouldn't be beneficial unless it was framed properly and really help the audience think BIG and beyond their current issues in their environment.  In order to frame these features in the proper light, I take a look back at what things were like 10 years ago in regards to OS, RAM, Storage, etc and contrast that with today's realities. The big things that I key on are the 64-bit OS enabling more RAM to be available, multi-core CPUs, and the surge of SSDs. I also have some fun with gazing 10 years iinto the future with some wild guesses thrown in to lighten things up a bit.  I will give a 45,000 foot view of the features with the limited time and once again get the audience to think about the future and what's next and to get excited about SQL Server 2014.

    So now the message is "Community and Cool Stuff".  The first half is centered around Community and what resources are available.  The call to action is to "Connect, Share, Learn" with specific attainable goals for that day.  Connect - Meet at least 10 new people. Share - Provide Feedback to the Speakers and Actively Particiapte in Sessions (perhaps by asking questions). Learn - Write down at least one tip from each session and review the list on Monday Morning.  The second half of the keynote is about SQL Server 2014.  The call to action is to get the CTP and get ahead of the curve.

    In closing, developing a Keynote has been a lot of work, but it was fun to think of communicating at a different level.  Essentially I get to talk about some great resources in the community and some cool features in the upcoming release.  I plan on blogging about the experience afterwrads and hope to get some solid feedback to improve upon.  If you are attending SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh, please say "Hello" on Saturday.  I am looking forward to being back "home" for the weekend.

  • PASS Election Time is Here (Almost)

    According to the PASS Election Timeline, the PASS BoD will take up the issue of approving the slate of candidates to be presented to the community for voting.  These candidates have taken a big step in putting themselves out there for election.  They have gone through the application process and the interview process by the NomCom to be fully vetted.  This is not any easy task for the applicants who hope to become candidates and the members of the NomCom.  I have been on both sides as an applicant and NomCom member in the past and know that there are some tough questions asked of the applicants and tough decisions to be made by the NomCom. 

    The NomCom will present a slate of applicants to become official candidates.  There are ranked in order of how well they "scored" during the application and interview process by the NomCom.  This means that when we see the official list of candidates, they will be listed in order of most qualified on top.  There is no visibility into how the NomCom scored each candidate or how big of a spread there is between the various candidates.  They are ordered for a reason and should be part of your consideration when voting.

    Many candidates will use their own blogs or other social media to answer questioins that are often posed in the PASS Election Forums.  Most have also put a link in the forums to their blog posts.  The forum is probably the best way to get a question answered from all of the candidates.  If there is one issue that you care about most, ask it in the forums to learn about each candidates position.

    Perhaps the one question that should be posed is "What will this candidate bring to the BoD?"  How will having Candidate A serve on the board be different from Candidate B?  Is there a track record to show the difference?

    I encourage everyone to find out about each candidate's position on issues and to participate in the process. I know that I will be following the process closely again this year.  Stay Tuned...

  • I'm speaking at SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh!

    On September 14, 2013, I will be speaking at the 2nd SQL Saturday event to be held in Pittsburgh.  I spoke at the last SQL Saturday event last year which was a blast. 

    This year, I will be presenting a session entitled "Really Basic Perfmon".  It is designed for the person who has heard about Perfmon before, but never really got into capturing data or examining the counters. Last year, I had about 50 people jammed into the room for this topic.  I hope that it will be a success again.

    I am also delivering the keynote for this event.  It is entitled "Community and Cool Stuff".  The first half will be focused on the SQL Server community and the resources that I have found useful over the years and ways in which you can get involved.  My goal is to get the audience educated and excited about being a SQL Server Data Professional.  The second part of the keynote will highlight some of the new features to be found in SQL Server 2014.  The short list includes Hekaton, Clustered Column-Store Index, and Buffer Pool Extensions.

    If you are in the area, I encourage you  to attend SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh and Enjoy a day where you can Connect, Share, and Learn.

  • Learn SQL Server in a virtual college atmosphere...

    For a number of years, I have served on an Advisory Board for the University of Washington SQL Server Certificate Programs.  Last year, UW took the program to the web for learning SQL Server virtually anywhere in the world.  And you get to have Buck Woody as an instructor for one of the courses. 

    The course will meet virtually every week and there are assignments to be done.  Often people find that this format for learning a subject  works well because of the constant contact and expectations that are set at the beginning as you commit to taking the course.

     You can find more information at


    Now, Go Learn Something!

  • How many SQL Server DBAs does an organization need?

    "How many SQL Server DBAs do we need?" - This is a question that often comes up in conversations with customers.  Essentially, customers want to know if they have enough DBAs or too many.  This is not  a trivial question.  If you do some research online via your favorite search engine, you will most likely come across numbers such as 40-65 DBs per DBA (for SQL Server).  I remember finding another number relating to storage space instead of the number of DBs; the range was 3-5TB per DBA.

     I have had custoemrs that had a team of 5-6 DBAs supporting a single application (logically a single DB).  I have also had customers that had 2000-3000 DBs (not all prod, but still) per DBA.  But just saying that a DBA can manage x number of DBs over y TBs of storage just doesn't seem right.

    Here are the factors that I have found that influence the number of DBAs needed:

    • Mission Criticality - If a DB is mission critical, it deserves more attention in order to stay available.  The more it is intertwined with the success of the enterprise, the more DBA resources are needed.
    • Churn - How often does data get loaded or get modified?  Usually a DB that has minimal INSERTS/UPDATES/DELETES requires periodic attention for growth, index rebuilds, etc. 
    • Usage Patterns - Even a DB primarily used for Reporting with few updates can require attention if the usage of the DB changes. For example, a reporting DB that has many users that can query the data in anyway that they want can scream for attention.
    • Permissions - But not in the secuity sense... Many DBs are from vendors which restrict what type of modifications that a DBA can perform such as restricting the additon of indexes for example.
    • Skillset of the DBA Team - A team of DBAs that embrace standardization, atuomation, scripting (especially powershell) can manage resources more efficiently.

    There are many other factors as well.  I wish that I could say that I came up with a magical formula with these factors built in, but I have not.  I never seem to run into those situations where there are too many SQL Server DBAs.  With that iin mind, I have come across quite a few situations where a qualified DBA is needed either because there is none or the factors listed above warrant an addition of resources.  How does this happen?  SQL Server is "Simple".  Just about anyone can install SQL Server and be up an drunning in no time.  The default settings are adequate for many applications as they are initially built/installed.  Over time, the usage of the system becomes greater and the importance of the data does as well.  Before you know it, an organization may need a DBA and not know it.

    If you are unsure that you need a full time DBA, consider a "DBA on-call" service or perhaps a local consultant who specializes in SQL Server.  This type of service can also be helpful to support the organization if you have a DBA or a team of DBAs to cover for vacations, sickness, etc.  The important thing to note is that you do not let your DBA be the potential single point of failure.  When this happens, you truly understand the value of a well qualified DBA. Don't forget that DBAs are people too who have real lives.  :-)

  • PASS Summit is in Charlotte This Year!

    My first Pass Summit was in January 2002 in Denver. I spent the weekend before the Summit in Denver to save a bunch on airfare. I did the Ski Train which gave me a terrific Train ride in the Rocky Mountains with a day of skiing; it was a great day. I have heard from others who took some time either before or after the PASS Summit in Seattle to climb a mountain, ski, hike, or explore the area. This year, the PASS Summit comes to the East coast in Charlotte, NC.  I live in High Point, NC which is just about 90 minutes from downtown Charlotte (depending on traffic of course).  This means no long cross country journey for me this year.  I know that some attendees may come early to the host city in order to save on air fare or to just visit another part of the world.  I'd like to share some points of interest in the region which you may find interesting. 

    West of Charlotte - Asheville is about 2 hours away and is host to the Biltmore Estate. There is some amazing Architecture and Engineering that went into this place.  Since it will be October, the odds are favorable that the fall colors will be near their peak.  On your way to Asheville, check out Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.  If you continue going west of Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border with Tennessee. There are some great hiking trails here.  There is also a CD based tour guide that you can follow in your car that guides you through the various environments that you would encounter if you drove the length of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine. It is about another 2 hours past Asheville to get to Gatlinburg, TN.  If you are into gambling, there is a Harrah's Cherokee Casino on the NC side.

    Northwest of Charlotte - About 2 hours NW of Charlotte past Hickory is Grandfather Mountain.  One of the attractions here is the "Mile-High" swinging bridge; the bridge itself is at one mile above sealevel.  Also in this area is Linville Caverns and Linville Falls.  There is a story about how deserted soldiers (both Confederate and Uniion) hid in the caverns to avoid service.  Continuing North of this area will bring you to Blowing Rock and Boone.  Blowing Rock is a small village with local arts/crafts and fine dining.  Boone (as in Daniel Boone) is home to Appalachian State University and is a fun college town.

    North of Charlotte - About Two Hours North of Charlotte on Interstate 77 near the Virginia border is Mount Airy.  If you are a fan of the Andy Griffith show, Mayberry was based on Mount Airy. Just a little south of Mount Airy is Pilot Mountain (Mount Pilot in the show) which is another state park with lots of trails and a unique geological feature. If you keep going North into Virgina, Natural Bridge is about 90 minutes further and is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.  On your way to Mount Airy or on your way back, stop in at a Winery or two.  Although I do not drink wine, these are fun places to visit.  My favorite is Raffaldini.  Did you know that NC had the most wineries in the US prior to Prohibition?  Also in this direction is Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point area where I live.  The High Point area is known for its Furniture Galleries and Stores.  If you are looking for a deal on furniture, High Point is the place to go.  This would include nearby towns of Lexington and Thomasville as well.

    East of Charlotte - About two hours East of Charlotte is Pinehurst.  Pinehurst #2 is the famed course of the area where the USGA Open Championship is held occassionally. There are many other courses in the area as well. Also in this direction and North on Interstate 73 is a collection of potteries near the village of Seagrove.  There is a huge selection of pottery and ceramics.

    Southeast of Charlotte - Almost four hours to the Southeast is the Resort Destination of Myrtle Beach, SC.  This is my favorite destination because there is so much to do here.  There are over 100 golf courses in the area plus great shopping, dining, and Night Life.  It is family friendly and the ocean water will still be very warm in October.  The only other attraction in this direction is South of the Border which is a Tourist Trap dating back to at least the 60s.  It is NOT worth a special trip IMHO.

    South and Southwest of Charlotte - Columbia is the capital of SC.  I have not spent a lot of time there.  I will let someone else speak to that.  Southwest of Charlotte is the Greenville//Spartanburg area.  Greenville has a "Rails to Trails" project called the Swamp Rabbit Trail which looks like a great place for a Bike Ride.  Again, I have not spent a great deal of time in this area.  Cotinuing on Interstate 85 south, you can get to Atlanta in about 4 hours.

    Alternate Airports - If you are looking at air fares to Charlotte (CLT), consider tome other airports close by that may provide cheaper fares.  GSO (Greensboro)  is about 90 minutes away.  GSP (Greenville/Spartanburg) is less than two hours away.  And RDU (Raleigh-Durham) is a little over two hours away.  If money is a factor consider these airports.

    As you can see, if you need to (or want to) spend a weekend in Charlotte, there are some great excursions nearby without being trapped in a city. I hope to see you at the Summit and let me know if you decide to visit one of these treasures.

  • 24 Hours of PASS - BA Style

    Tomorrow will mark another chapter in the 24 Hours of PASS series.I am involved once again - this time in a moderator role. The event begins at 8am ET for me.  I will be introducing Alberto Ferrari who will be speaking on "Excel 2013 Power Pivot in Action" which is a great self-service BI story.

    This 24hop event will be in a different format.  12 hours of Live webcasts followed by 12 hours of on-demand webcasts from the previous 12 hours.  All sessions will be available for viewing on Feb 11, 2013.  There is also a new hashtag to follow on twitter - #PASS24hop.  And there is a new website as well...

    I am excited about the event tomorrow and hope that you will join me to learn more about Business Analytics and ramp up for the PASS Business Analytic Conference being held in Chicago this April.  Check out for more information.

  • Is the SAN dying???

    Is the SAN dying?

    The reason that I ask this question is that MSFT has unleashed technologies this year that point in that direction

    • Always ON Availability Groups shuns shared storage
    • Windows 2012 has Storage Replication Technology that does not require a SAN
    • Windows 2012 has Hyper-V Replica Technology that does not require a SAN
    • PDW v2 continues to reinforce the approach to avoid shared storage

    I'm not saying that SAN technology does not have its place or does not have benefits inherent to the beast.  I'm just pointing out that MSFT has made investments in technology that diminish the need for SANs. 


  • Blog Posts from Prepping for Last Year's Summit

    Last year, I had a series of blog posts that matched up with a webcast I did targeting First Timers to the PASS Summit 2011.  Here is a link to the final blog post which is a summary of those posts and links to the main points in the series. A good deal of the information in those posts are still relevant.  I am in the process of updating the webcast and will be presenting the information again this year on Oct 25, 2012 at 11am ET.  There is a lot of great information out there for first timers that can be found here

     Hope to see you there!

  • SQLPASS BoD Polls Close this Friday

    Research, Contemplate, Vote.

    In case you didn't hear, there is a campaign going on that impacts the PASS Organization and the SQL Community.  If you were a PASS member before June 1, 2012, you should have received a ballot link via email.  Polls close at 3pm PT on Friday, Oct 12, 2012.

    I am fortunate to know all 5 candidates for this year's election and count them among my friends.  The problem that I have is that I only have 3 votes to cast. At this point, I have decided on 2 of my 3 votes.  Since I have invested a lot into PASS over the years, this is not a decision that I take lightly.  I have read through all of the campaign materials and kept reading replies to questions on the forums.  There have been many well thought out responses and I have changed my mind several times.  I will probably wait until Friday to cast my votes.  However, this problem of mine means it is another sign of strength for PASS as these five brave individuals step up to the plate to lead the organization.

    And the winner is..... 

    Polls close Oct 12, but  the announcement won't occur until Oct 17.  Why the delay?  Aren't we in the age of instant answers?  There are several reasons why there is a delay.  The process isn't full-proof.  I don't believe there has been an issue with the voting process, but I know that there is the possiblity of an error occurring which may force the polls to remain open.  I can think of several instances in years past when submitting abstracts for sessions that caused the deadline to be extended there.  That isn't the only reason.  The candidates should be informed before anyone else knows so that they can prepare a blog post or whatever.  This is usually done in a personal manner and it takes time to connect with each candidate - yes sometimes it takes days to connect.

    Closing Thoughts

    If you have already voted, you are safe - you didn't make any bad choices.  :-)   In the past, I have been able to predict who will win just by looking at the ballot.  I have made my own prediction on who I think will win, but this is the toughest year yet. I am at least guaranteed of selecting at least one winner!  Go Vote!

  • PASS Board of Directors Election - Making Progress

    It is almost time to cast your vote in this year's PASS BoD Elections.  Things have changed considerably since the first PASS BoD election that I participated in.  That was in 2001.  I hadn't even been to a Summit or even a chpater meeting yet.  I had registered for the PASS Summit 2001 (which was postponed to Jan 2002  btw).  Back then, the elections were held at the summit and on paper, but there was no summit that year.  If you wanted to vote, you needed to print out a ballot and fax it in.  I think that I was 1 of about 37 people who did this.  How did I make my decision?  I reviewed the material that was provided -essentially a bio and a picture.  I also knew one of the names because I had just watched a video with this gentle giant (Wayne Snyder) telling me all about SQL Server.  I knew one other name because the person was on the committee that I was serving on.  So I knew a little more about 2 candidates than the others (I think there were 6) and I liked my interaction with these two people - so that meant I had to only make 1 decision for tmy third choice.  I do not recall who I voted for, but with only 37 votes, it may have influenced the outcome.

    Today, the process is much more involved and is more accessible.  PASS tries to have elections before the Summit now and voting is electronic.  There are forums where you can ask questions and read the responses of candidates.  Denny Cherry held a podcast with the candidates.  If there is an issue that you want to know where a candidate comes down on, use the forums or even #passvotes on twitter to ask a question. 

    Do youthink that you already know how a candidate will respond?  Be sure and ask that question.  Don't assume that the person holds the same view that you do just because you have read their blog or follow them on twitter.  I know that the forums influenced my choices for last year's election.  Keep an open mind, research, ask questions in the forums, and then make an informed decision and vote.

  • Another Way to Learn SQL Server

    Since 2004, I have been on the Advisory Board for several continuing education certificate programs for the University of Washington.   You might know some of the other Advisory Board Memebrs - check it out.  The Advisory Board meets very infrequently and is asked for "advice" (not direction) on various aspects of the program. Generally speaking, courses that are taught for a degree are non-platform specific.  Continuing Education courses and certificate programs are more product focused. As you can probably guess, these certificate programs are focused on SQL Server. From the outset, I always looked at these certificate programs as a solid course offering that kept the student on a schedule to keep learning the foundations of SQL Server.  The one thing that I felt was a little disappointing was that only people who resided in the Seattle area could take advantage of the courses.  The instructors for these courses have been current and former MSFT employees and consultants.  The instructors have brought in real-world experience and stories to help supplement the material. 

    These programs are not geared to help you pass the certification tests from Microsoft Learning.  These programs are structured to provide a broad foundation and confidence in SQL Server technologies.The exciting news is that these courses are going online for the first time this fall!  It is not free, but it is not outrageously expensive either (course fee od $850 per course). 

    One of the Program Coordinators also provided me some highlights to share:

    Certificate Website:      

    • · Fully online format, but interactive with Tuesday evening live sessions (Autumn 6-7 PM, Winter 6-9 PM, Spring 6-9 PM, Pacific Time) and supplemental videos.

      · Courses are 10 weeks long, for 9 months total

      · Starts October 9, 2012 ends May 28, 2013

      · Instructor bios are linked from the course pages of the website

      · Admissions requirements are here:

    • Now anyone with an internet connection can be a student of the program and earn a certificate - not a certification - in SQL Server.

    • Enjoy!


  • September 12 in San Fran

    Just a reminder that I will be speaking at the SF UG SQL Server User Group on Sep 12.  Here is a link with all of the details.  If you are in the area, It would be great to see you!
  • Sep 10 Week - I'll be on the West Coast Speaking in Irvine and San Fran

    In my role as a Solutions Architect for Scalability Experts, I often get to present to customers about the work that we performed.  Unfortunately, this is often on short notice and I can't coordinate a trip to participate in a User Group Meeting.  Next week, I was able to coordinate my west coast trip to be able to present.  I am heading to Irvine at the MTC on Sepember 11 and San Francisco at the MSFT offices on Sep 13 to speak to customers who want to learn more about SQL Server 2012.To register for the Irvine event, click here.  To register for the SF event, click here.

    Topics covered will include:

    • Always On Overview
    • Column Store Index
    • Licensing Overview
    • Upgrading to SQL Server 2012

    All of this will be covered in about 3 hours and is geared for folks who have not spent a lot of time learning about SQL Server 2012 yet. 

    Since I knew about this ahead of time, I was also able to secure a chance to speak to the San Francisco SQL Server User Group on the evening of Sep 12.  You can read more about it in my previous blog post located here

    Hope to see you there!

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