Starting a Data Warehouse PASS Virtual Chapter


The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) has several sub-groups for specialized groups of people:

  • Application Developers – people who code applications that store data in SQL Server.
  • Auditing and Compliance – people who need to secure their SQL Servers and be compliant with regulations.
  • Business Intelligence – people who write reports, design cubes, and mine data.
  • Database Administrators – people who manage production database servers.

PASS is adding a new one for Data Warehousing: people who manage very large databases (VLDB’s) of a terabyte or larger.

What’s Different About Data Warehouses?

Managing a VLDB means taking a different approach to some common database administration tasks like backup & recovery, index defragmentation, partitioning, and storage design.

In each of SQL Server’s last releases, they’ve made huge improvements in how we manage VLDBs.  That’s awesome – but challenging, because the way we do things keeps changing.  At Southern Wine, we built a data warehouse only to turn around and start re-engineering it the very next quarter so that we could take advantage of the next SQL Server version’s features.  With every new version, we have to learn how to use new tools and we have to build best practices for it.

SQL Server 2008 R2 brings another wild round of changes that will improve the VLDB experience, but change it at the same time.  We’re going to have to figure out how to scale out effectively with Project Madison, how to design partitions and indexes for it, and figure out how to troubleshoot it.

Nobody wants to reinvent the wheel, so we’re starting a PASS Virtual Chapter so we can all learn and grow together.

A Virtual What?

Data warehouses aren’t as common as typical databases, and there’s less people managing very large databases.  They’re scattered all over the world, too.  A VLDB administrator in Chicago has more in common with another VLDB administrator in Dubai than with a regular SQL Server DBA in Chicago.  Even though the two Chicago guys are nearby and they love talking over deep-dish pizza, they can’t share backup and recovery strategies.

Meetings between VLDB administrators will most likely always be virtual: we’ll meet over LiveMeeting, Ustream, Skype, and other virtual technologies.  We’ll talk over Twitter.  I want to make it as easy and seamless for people to get this knowledge and training without making any meatspace travel arrangements.  The less time we spend commuting and moving around, the better.

PASS is rebranding the SIGs as Virtual Chapters.  You can be a member of both a physical chapter (like the Chicago chapter) and a virtual chapter (like the Data Warehouse chapter).  PASS won’t charge you any extra to join the virtual chapter – joining PASS is free.

Why PASS is Starting This Virtual Chapter

I’m not the world’s most qualified guy to talk about very large databases: I’ve only managed two, and I didn’t have much in the way of mentoring.  In fact, I struggled with it, and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

That’s exactly why I’m a big fan of the chapter: I don’t want anybody else to go through that hard-way learning either.  I know there’s better-qualified people out there than me, and that’s where you come in.  PASS needs a steering committee to help get the virtual chapter off the ground.  If you’re involved with managing databases of a terabyte or more, and you’d like to commit to four hours a week in meetings and correspondence, PASS would love your help.  If you know someone in that position, forward this on to them and ask if they’d like to help.

The work involved over the next couple of months will include:

  • Laying out the virtual chapter’s mission and goals
  • Setting a meeting schedule
  • Picking a few session topics and recruiting speakers
  • Deciding how to organize the virtual chapter’s web site
  • Working with Microsoft with what’s coming in Project Madison

If you’re interested in helping out, email Blythe Morrow.

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