PASS Summit 2008 Wednesday Recap (#sqlpass)

Aside from my liveblog of Ted Kummert’s keynote this morning and Jimmy May’s presentation on partition alignment, a few other things caught my eye today.

I talked to JC Cannon about his SQL Server 2008 Compliance Guide.  I’ve written here about it before, but it bears repeating.  If you’re not here at PASS, and you wish you were, you can get a taste of the educational experience by going through that guide.  It’s extremely well-written, and like I told JC, when I think of an example about how whitepapers should be written, that one leaps immediately to mind.  You can learn a heck of a lot from that, and it’s f-r-e-e.  Go read it.

Keynote DBA Star Ayad Shommout’s SQL 2008 Experiences

I talked to Ayad Shommout, lead DBA for CareGroup Healthcare Systems, to get more information about his SQL Server 2008 upgrade experiences that he’d discussed during the keynote.  He uses clusters in conjunction with database mirroring, so he used a rolling upgrade process: fail over to the mirror, upgrade the cluster, and fail back.  The whole process involves less than a minute of downtime.  I’d heard that before from sales & marketing, but this was the first time I’d heard someone who’d done it on a wide scale in production.  Ayad’s environment is a perfect fit for 2008: healthcare, mission criticality, encryption needs, you name it, there’s a 2008 feature for him.

Ayad was also in on the server management tools that were covered in today’s keynote because he’s a part of a Microsoft early adopter program.  We talked a little about our hopes and dreams for the future of SQL Server management.

The Future of SQL Server Management

Based on what we saw today, I would really encourage DBAs to start looking closer at virtualization.  The DAC concept – packaging databases, dependencies and connection name into a single deployable package – means that it will be easier to move database applications from one server to another without changing the application.  In a sense, that’s virtualization, much like the instance concept is to some degree virtualization.  We’ve got virtual servers from Hyper-V and VMware, virtual storage from tools like IBM SVC, virtual databases from HP PolyServe and now SQL Server itself is moving towards abstracting away the underlying hardware.

Cloud-Based Business Intelligence

I gave a very sparsely attended presentation on using cloud-based BI to interpret Profiler and Perfmon results,and I mean sparsely.  I knew I was up against a lot of great competition – heck, ***I*** wanted to leave and watch Donald Farmer’s BI Power Hour – but I pitched in to help cover a speaker who couldn’t make it.  There was some mild interest in the technology, but the audience really grasped the security issue.

BI in the cloud, or even just databases in the cloud period, is one hell of a tough sale to professional database administrators.  They make their livings wrestling with tough issues like good security, compliance, auditing and disaster recovery.  They know how difficult these things are to implement, and they won’t just take someone’s word that it’s implemented.  They’re just not interested in using it for private data, period.

The analysis on the vendor side is that sooner or later, the cost will get so cheap that it will be a business decision, not a technology decision.  Maybe executives will mandate the use of cheaper resources, or maybe mid-level managers will just whip out their credit cards and handle BI projects on the sly.  Whatever it is, DBAs are not begging for the ability to do stuff in the cloud yet.

It’s a tough sell to DBAs, so who’s it an easy sell to?  Who wants this stuff?  I’ve had this discussion a few times with different folks this week, and there’s an apparent barrier to entry that’s pretty high.  People don’t understand how analytics works – real predictive analytics, data mining and whatnot.  I know – I’ve picked up data mining 101 books and put them down a few days later feeling like an idiot.  Analytics is really powerful, analytics is really enabling, but how do you wrap it in an experience that end users will embrace?  I dunno.  I’m just a guy who writes blogs and Twitters.

SSIS Task for Twitter

Andy Leonard and Jessica Moss gave a great presentation on using SSIS to send and receive Twitter messages.  (That CodePlex code is awaiting approval as of this writing, but will be live shortly.)  I was on the edge of my seat, along with fellow Tweeps Jason Cumberland and Paul Waters.

The rest of the class was, ah, shall we say, reserved.  The room was absolutely packed, standing room only, but people were practically mute.  Jason and I busted out clapping at a couple of points.  Wayne Snyder’s remarks this morning about it not being a zombie conference weren’t entirely accurate.  I think the DBAs only light up after 5pm when the drinks start flowing, like at the…

SQLServerPedia.com Launch Party

I talk up our marketing team a lot, and here it goes again.  The SQL Server marketing team at Quest are rock stars.  The party was a ton of fun, and packed in a lot of really good people with great conversations. I talked to a bunch of people I’ve met online over the years, people I’ve never had the chance to meet in person, and way more people than I can even list here.  My brain is fried!

We talked shop, we talked hobbies, we talked politics, and more.  Especially politics.

You, dear reader, have probably not voted yet.  Get your lazy rear over to a voting kiosk at PASS and take just a couple of minutes to vote.  Seriously, it’s important.  It may not be important to you, but it’s ridiculously important to the people who are running.  I’ve endorsed Douglas McDowell and Tom LaRock, and these guys are just biting their nails.  Go get to a kiosk and cast your vote, because they really want your help in getting elected.  Even if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to me.  These guys really do care.

Don’t believe me?  Go watch the PASS Board candidate videos.  These people want your vote.

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