What I Learned at #MSTechEd North America Last Week


Last week, I soaked up sun, rain, and knowledge in Orlando, Florida at the annual Microsoft TechEd conference. It’s a huge conference with something like 10,000 attendees, and it covers development and administration for Windows, SQL Server, SharePoint, and more. Between the keynotes, sessions, and attendee chats, here’s what I learned:

Microsoft’s cranking out the server hits. Windows Server 2012 has great new features like better file copy handling, improved clustering, and slick SAN integration. When your file servers and virtualization hosts are backed by an ODX-savvy SAN, you’re going to be shell-shocked at the performance improvements. The SharePoint, BI, and Visual Studio folks seemed just as excited about their upcoming stuff too.

Hi Mom!
Me teaching a workshop at TechEd. “Everybody say Hi Mom!”

DBAs are pretty sensitive about SQL 2012’s Enterprise Edition licensing. Microsoft switched to core-based licensing in this release. The short story is that the price is still about the same for quad-core CPUs, but above that, cost rises fast. Many DBAs told me their shops were gritting their teeth at paying $140,000 in licensing to run SQL Server on a $25,000 piece of hardware. Whenever I talked about a new feature in SQL Server 2012, people instantly asked, “Is that feature available in Standard, or just Enterprise?”

Hyper-V and System Center are coming on strong. The vast, vast majority of my clients happily use VMware, but they’re not so happy about the continued price increases. Hyper-V’s feature sets catch up to (and in some areas, even surpass) VMware – as long as you’re willing to buy into the whole System Center suite to get the full feature set. System Center’s deployment costs in terms of hardware, software, and manpower mean that there’s not an immediate ROI to replace VMware with Hyper-V, but if your company hasn’t deployed virtualization in a wide scale yet, they’re going to. I talked to less and less holdouts.

Attendees weren’t excited about Windows 8 clients. Turns out I’m not the only one who hates the clunky, low-res, low-information-density Metro interface on high-resolution desktops and laptops. I heard a lot of Windows Vista jokes, and I heard a lot of sysadmins saying, “We’re still running a lot of XP. We held out as long as we could, but right now, we’re going to deploy Windows 7 across the board.” I’m not sure that’s a good idea, though; if you have to retrain all your users on a new UI anyway, I’d skip to 8. If I was already on 7, though, I think I’d hold pat for a couple of years.

We still aren’t hearing release dates. Microsoft missed a big opportunity here because thousands of geeks are about to go home to their coworkers and do free marketing for Microsoft. They’re going to say, “I love what’s coming, but even though the year is half over, we still can’t make any plans because I have no idea when it’ll drop.” I know Microsoft understands the power of good word-of-mouth marketing, so the fact that we still don’t have release dates makes me think the products still have a ways to go before Microsoft can even announce a shipping date.

There’s a huge demand for good PowerShell basic training. The majority of sysadmins and DBAs that I spoke with still aren’t using PowerShell. They’re vaguely interested in it, but they’re not getting the education they need. Don Jones and Jeffry Snover ran an incredibly well-attended PowerShell crash course session with almost 1,500 attendees and got very, very positive feedback. Thanks to Microsoft, you can watch the PowerShell session recording now.  (You may have to turn the audio *way* up in the video, and on your computer.)

You like me.  You really like me.  Attendees voted my session on Building the Fastest SQL Servers as one of the top five sessions at TechEd – not just the SQL Server track, but out of all 419 sessions at the entire show!  I’m really humbled by that, given the quantity and quality of presenters like Mark Russinovich, Mark Minasi, and Paula Januszkiewicz.  I’m still walking on air about that one, and I find myself asking – what do I do to take things to the next level?

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15 Comments. Leave new

  • Chris Adkin
    June 17, 2012 3:38 pm

    Hi Brent,

    Regarding the performance improvements due to Windows server 2012 being ODX aware, were any hard figures banded around or are the gains anecdotal at present.



    • Chris – great question. With ODX, file copies/moves are handled completely by the ODX-aware storage. The improvement will vary based on your storage device’s internal throughput, external throughput, and your connection to the SAN. Taking a ridiculously simplistic view, if you were using 1Gb iSCSI to connect to the storage, and it could move data at 10Gb speeds internally, then you’d be looking at a 10x throughput improvement. In reality, the improvement would be higher than that since you’d be pushing less data over iSCSI and thereby freeing up your storage network to do other stuff.

  • Ah! Right now slides are not available, some blob is not found:

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  • Wonderful sessions and very knowledgeable. Thank you for all you do for the DBA community :).

    (Sorry I walked out of your class!)

  • Great session, Brent, so very informative and thought-provoking.

    We’re configuring a new SQL 2012 Enterprise Edition Server, transitioning from SQL2005EE, so your session is very timely. Currently have 16 logical cpu’s @ <= 20% busy, 36GB RAM and shared SAN (1 of 3) @ Rackspace.

    App is a hybrid – lots of OLTP (6M Inserts/day) but a ton of reads for aggregated data, mostly pre-aggregated every 15 minutes to save IO at query time.

    Under SQL2012EE I now have page-level compression in place and the largest table is at 39GB, down from 250GB raw size by additionally dropping a superfluous alternate index. DB's now total 70GB, all using compression. Is the data cache size, i.e., physical RAM, I need based upon raw or compressed size – the difference for me is huge?

    It looks from your session that our logical cpu count is excessive! We’re considering dropping to 8 or 12 to keep licensing costs down. Would a 4-core hyperthreaded Intel E5-2600 be sufficient in your opinion?

    Would you put the log file SSD RAID controller on a x16 slot on a Dell R720 or is an x8 sufficient?

    Is it OK to use an internal (local) RAID10 drive setup for tempdb on an active-passive cluster? I read on http://www.slideshare.net/hellsten/tempdb2, page 3, it could be done, but is it wise/viable in reality? (Had user-filegroup-distribution been possible with tempdb I’d have split it across multiple drive letters!)

    Sorry, so many questions, but hopefully they’re quickies.

    Very much appreciate the sheer volume of info you make available via RSS.

    Best regards,


    • Stephen – the number of questions here is a little beyond what I can address in a blog comment, and I’d need a lot more further details. If you’d like consulting help, feel free to click Contact up at the top of the page and we can get you much more specific answers.

  • MiamiCaveman
    June 23, 2012 8:58 pm

    Good you mentioned the Powershell sessions in Teched with Jeff and Don. I was in all the Powershell conferences I could attend, wishing I was the Kwisatz Haderach that can be in many places at once!

  • Your voice (TechEd Pres) sounds like you been hitting the pub, very cool tone. (I loved the psychology pub link, any connection?)

    Next level?
    You get that Porsche GT(some number) and join the WWE!


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