Get In on Upcoming Index Training Events

I’m going to teach the world about SQL Server indexes, one event at a time. I’d love to have you join me at these three upcoming events — they’re all different, hope to see you there!

Take the SQL Server Index Quiz!

Thursday, September 17, 2015, 5 PM Pacific
Part of the free 24 Hours of PASS event
How well versed are you on SQL Server indexes? Join this free session to take a quiz on SQL Server indexes to test your knowledge on clustered indexes, nonclustered indexes, filtered indexes, and more! Register over at the 24 Hours of PASS website.

And by the way, if you haven’t taken our free quiz on SQL Server indexing, now’s the time. Take the quiz here, it won’t spoil the webcast.

Top (3) SQL Server Index Tuning Questions

Monday, September 28th, 10 am Pacific
Free webcast hosted by the clever robots that keep Brent Ozar Unlimited® running

Got questions about how to design indexes for performance in SQL Server? You’re not alone! Join Kendra to get answers to the top questions she gets about indexes. You’ll learn how to decide on key column order, how to tell if you should drop an index, whether it’s bad to use the clustered index key in your nonclustered index definition, and more. Bring your best index questions for Q&A and discussion! Reserve your spot now.

SQL Server Index Therapy Session – One Day Pre-Conference Event at the SQL PASS Summit, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 in Seattle, WA
You want to design indexes to improve SQL Server’s performance, but you’re concerned that you might create too many, not enough, or just plain “wrong” indexes. In this session, you will learn how to design effective clustered and nonclustered indexes to speed up your queries. You’ll tackle index design challenges to learn how to choose the right key and included columns and how to consolidate duplicate indexes. You’ll get practical tips to recognize when to use filtered indexes and indexed views and how to avoid the gotchas and pitfalls that make indexes slow down your queries. If you have two years of experience writing queries for SQL Server, this session will put you in control of your next index-design project.

This one-day session is $495, and full conference registration isn’t required. Reserve your spot on the PASS Summit website.

Need video training, or in-depth training?

  • Brent teaches indexes in his “How to think like the Engine” 90 minute online video ($29)
  • Kendra teaches you “How to Tune Indexes in SQL Server” in 6+ hours of online content ($299)
  • Kendra and Jeremiah teach a full week of “Advanced Querying and Indexing” ($3995)

PASS Summit #FreeCon2015: What We’re Talking About

FreeCon SQLSaturday Chicago 2012

FreeCon SQLSaturday Chicago 2012

On the Monday before the PASS Summit in Seattle this year, we’re putting on another one of our FreeCons. The FreeCon is different from a typical conference pre-con – it’s free, and it’s about the SQL Server community, presenting, marketing, branding, networking, and yes, some technical stuff too.

In the past, they’ve been invitation-only, but this year we opened up applications to the public. One of the application questions asked, “What’s the one thing you want to learn from the Brent Ozar Unlimited team?”

The answers were really enlightening, and we figured you’d like to hear ’em too, so here’s some of the highlights:

Business / Branding / Marketing Answers

How some of the brilliant marketing initiatives come about (brainstorming, creativity, etc) .

Tips on protecting IP and what works for you.

How to know when you are really ready to become a consultant.

Shameless self promotion 🙂 I’ve got skills and I want to market them better. I know about many different aspects of IT and SQL Server, but aimed at the small to medium shops. A more personal relationship with my customers is key.

How to build brand. I’m not a consultant or self-employed, but I am interested in expanding beyond the user group core of my local community. I don’t really know where to start or have a very solid idea of what it would entail–aside, of course, from the limos and champagne…

Presenting Answers

How to build demos that don’t suck.

How to build an plan to move from being a known speaker to one of the best speakers. I have had some great success but would love some help getting to the next level.

How to approach New technical initiatives at work and how to approach upper management correctly to gain buy-in.

Tips about presenting and stage-presence.

Technical Answers

Performance tuning especially query optimization and hardware optimization.

SQL 2014 in-memory tables; service broker; pushing the limits of availability groups, interesting stuff with larger/distributed setups

Best arguments to convince my employer that my unofficial, very-time-limited accidental DBA-ing isn’t going to cut it (especially since I got primarily other responsibilities), we need a dedicated DBA.

Community / Volunteering Answers

Finding the right mix of technical ‘up-keep’ and community leadership/involvement.

What you define as community success

Why public speaking at SQL events is so important.

I would love to learn how you guys structure your days and manage everything that you do (working, speaking, blogging, training). What are your personal stories, how did you get to where you are today, and what have you learned along the way?

Your Answers Help Us Build the Agenda – and the Community

As I wrote five years ago in my post Rock Stars, Normal People, and You, building a successful community means reaching out to those around you, giving back, and propelling the community forward. It’s been so exciting to hold these events and see the graduates go on to do amazing things for themselves and the community.

This year’s FreeCon is about finding 50 people who are excited to keep pushing the boundaries of community, and then us all helping each other fill in the gaps to multiply our efforts.

#SQLPASS #Summit14 Keynote LiveBlog: Dr. Rimma Nehme

8:25AM Pacific: Goooood morning Seattle! It’s time for day 2 of the PASS Summit, and this morning we’ve got a technical keynote lined up. I’m a much bigger fan of these than the day 1 marketing keynotes.

Dr. Rimma Nehme from the Microsoft Gray Systems Lab is talking Cloud Databases 101. Here’s the abstract:

Cloud computing has emerged as an extremely successful paradigm for deploying applications. Scalability, elasticity, pay-per-use pricing, and economies of scale are some of the major reasons for the successful and widespread adoption of cloud. A cloud database is a type of database service that is built, deployed and delivered through a cloud platform. In this talk, I’ll give rapid introduction to cloud databases: what they are, where they came from, how they are implemented, and give a rough taxonomy. We’ll look at some of the specific examples of the cloud databases running out there in the wild and the latest state-of-the-art cloud database research.

I’ll be liveblogging it this morning, taking notes. I’m not going to transcribe it line-by-line because these technical keynotes are typically much more … technical … and you can watch the session live on PASS TV anyway.

Refresh the page every few minutes to see the updated notes at the bottom of this page.

8:31AM – The SQLPASS PASSion Award goes to Andrey Korshikov, who’s done all kinds of Russian event organizations in the last few years. Sounds really cool.

Andrey Korshikov

Andrey Korshikov

8:35AM – The next PASS Summit will be back in Seattle again on Oct 27-30th, 2015.

8:36AM – Dr. Rimma Nehme taking the stage.

8:42AM – The clicker isn’t working. Who cares. Confession: before the keynote, she said to me, “You’d better go easy on me.” I told her she has nothing to fear because I love technical keynotes. Yes, dear readers, I’m a softie for keynotes that aren’t trying to sell me things, only teach me things. That’s why we try to do the presentations we do as a company, too. Help by teaching.

8:44AM – Cloud computing characteristics: on-demand self-service, location transparent resource pooling, ubiquitous network access, rapid elasticity, and measured service with pay per use. (See, this is how you kick ass with a technical keynote – that one slide alone teaches everyone in the room something, and it’s accessible at all levels. That slide is awesome.)

8:46AM – Quick & easy deployment means that you can be agile with shorter development cycles and no need to wait for provisioning. Technically, you can do this on-premise in large corporations, but the beauty of the cloud is that it brings large-company IT scale without the red tape and red P&L statements.

8:48AM – “Storage costs are rapidly approaching zero.” For example, Amazon Prime’s free unlimited photo storage is a great example of this – companies can make enough off the storage of your data that they don’t mind eating the storage costs. Think of it as banks that can sit on your money and make money with it – cloud utilities can sit on your data and use it for interesting revenue purposes. While that makes a lot of the geeks in the room feel a little dirty, the public seems to feel it’s a fair tradeoff.

8:50AM – Showing Microsoft’s container-based data center in Chicago.

8:53AM – Dr. Nehme is explaining how container-based data centers improve power efficiency by letting servers run hotter, plus cool them down with more ecological methods like evaporative cooling. Again, this is how you do a killer database keynote – show concepts that are very interesting to your audience regardless of their expertise. Most of the audience has something in common, but not enough expertise on that topic. Play to that, and you can keep them entertained and educated.

8:57AM – Explaining PaaS, IaaS, SaaS etc by breaking them down into infrastructure, platform, software, and applications (Office). I’d love to see a pop quiz to know how many people know the differences between those. That’s our job as data professionals – we do need to know these – and I think a lot of us don’t. (I’m talking about you, dear reader.)

9:00AM – Explaining them with Pizza as a Service as an example.

9:08AM – Dr. Nehme’s focusing on virtualizing SQL Server in the cloud with shared resources. My notes will be less frequent here because I think the topic is covered online pretty well in a lot of resources (not to mention her talk) and I’m not going to add a lot of value here. Nothing against the talk – this actually gets to the heart of what I mentioned earlier, that so many folks need to understand more about services.

9:16AM – “Container-based hardware is 99.9% reliable, but we need 99.99% software.” That means you have to expect whole containers and data centers to fail, and assume you’ll need redundant data centers with the same services and databases. It’s thinking about reliability at a much higher level – for example, you might not bother with redundant power supplies or fans in a server. You can save a lot on power and cooling for the whole data center.

9:18AM – To achieve reliability in this mixed scenario (99.9 vs 99.99), Azure DBs have a primary database, plus three replicas. (It’s not explicitly stated on the slide, but you would assume there would be one or two in the same data center, plus one or two in other data centers or regions, based on how much you want to pay for geo-redundancy.

9:20AM – Each SQL DB node has one database, and multiple tenants are in that same database. They’re just logically separated – they all share the same data file and log file, but that’s not visible to you as a consumer.

9:24AM – “The number of DBAs is significantly smaller than the demand.” This is totally true – all of us are overworked, and there’s plenty more DBA jobs. The cloud (just like virtualization) is designed to offload work from you.

9:26AM – “Do the cost/benefit analysis.” This is one of the tough things for DBAs – most of us aren’t able to precisely identify the costs with on-premise databases. The cloud makes that way easier.

9:27AM – Dr. Nehme is wrapping up, and thanking Dr. DeWitt, who just took the stage. Great job!

SQL Server Query Store

I spend most of my day tuning SQL Server to make it go faster. I’m usually called in after the fact, when the app has become intolerably slow.

One of the first things I ask is, “What’s changed?”

Nobody ever knows with any sense of accuracy.

I understand – until now, SQL Server hasn’t shipped with any kind of change detection or tracking for common execution plan problems.

How We Manage Queries and Plans in SQL Server 2014

A good performance tuner uses tools like sp_BlitzCache®Opserver, and Plan Explorer to identify their top resource-using queries and examine their execution plans. They’re intimately familiar with those plans and how they look today, and the tuner makes ongoing efforts to improve the shape of those plans.

Those tools look at execution plans exposed in dynamic management views and functions, the internal instrumentation tables of SQL Server. Unfortunately, those views clear out whenever SQL Server is restarted. Or the plan cache is cleared. Or statistics get updated. Or you come under memory pressure. Or …you get the picture.

If a query suddenly gets a bad plan and rockets to the top of the resource utilization charts, the tuner examines the root cause of the variation, but she’s often unable to see the prior version of the plan. Sometimes a growing amount of data in one of those tables will influence the optimizer into picking a different execution plan, or maybe someone made an ill-advised sp_configure change. Ideally, we work on the query, statistics, indexes, and sp_configure settings to get the plan back where it needs to be.

The hard part here is that we often have no idea what the plan looked like before. Sure, if we’ve got the budget to get fancy, we install performance monitoring software that tracks the execution plans of all our queries over time.

Even when we know what the plan looked like before, it’s not always easy to get SQL Server to change the execution plan. We end up using tricks like plan guides and hints to get the plan we want. I used to see plan guides as a tool of the devil, but I’ve lived long enough to see myself become the villain.

The SQL Server Query Store: Putting Your Plans on Layaway

Enter a recently declassified session at the PASS Summit. On Wednesday, November 5, Conor Cunningham will unveil the Query Store:

Have you ever come in to work only to have the boss come tell you that your main site is down and the database is “broken”?  Fixing query performance problems can be rough, especially in high-pressure situations.  Microsoft has developed a feature to help customers gain significantly easier insight into production systems and to be able to quickly fix cases where a new plan choice from the query optimizer has undesired performance consequences.  This talk introduces the Query Store, explains the architecture, and shows how it can be used to solve real-world performance problems.  It will now be possible to ask questions like “show me what query plans have changed since yesterday” and to quickly ask the optimizer to “go back” to the query plan that was working fine for you previously.

This is where things get a little tricky for me as an MVP. If I have any advance knowledge of something, I can’t confirm or deny it, and I certainly can’t blog about it. Buuuut…I can read the abstract, put on my thinking cap, and talk about it in terms of what’s already public.

Reading that abstract, you can infer that:

  • SQL Server’s new Query Store will cache queries and execution plans even after they’ve changed (like due to a statistics change on a table)
  • These changes may even persist beyond a SQL Server restart (meaning they’ll have to be written to disk somewhere)
  • The current and prior plans will be exposed in a DMV for you to query (meaning you might be able to roll your own alerts when a plan changes so you can check out whether it’s better or worse)

So the questions you might ask would be:

  • Will this functionality work with read-only databases? Think AlwaysOn Availability Group readable secondaries, or servers used as log shipping reporting boxes.
  • Will it work with plans that are not normally cached? Think trivial plans or Optimize for Ad Hoc Workloads.
  • What happens if you guide a query into an execution plan, and changes to the database mean the plan is no longer valid? Think dropping indexes.
  • Will you be able to see what the query would look like without the frozen plan? Think about adding new indexes or updating stats on a table, and wanting to see whether the new plan would be better or worse without endangering running queries.
  • If the Query Store data is written into the database itself, will the execution plans flow through to other servers? Think AlwaysOn AG secondaries and development servers that are restored from production. This is especially tricky if the feature is considered an Enterprise Edition feature, and thereby restricts the ability to restore the database onto a Standard Edition box like compression & index partitioning.

And of course, will it be Enterprise-only or included in Standard Edition, and what will the release date be? Those last ones are outside of Conor’s control, obviously, but you should still ask them. And then tell me what the answer is when you find out, because I don’t know either.

This Is Gonna Be Big.

I love features like this because everybody wins. It doesn’t require changes to existing applications, it doesn’t require attention out of the box, and it just gives more tools to performance tuners like me.

I don’t usually recommend that PASS attendees sit in forward-looking sessions that cover features that may not be in your hands for quite a while. In this case, I’m making an exception: attend Conor’s session. He’s one hell of a smart guy, and he has incredibly elegant ways of answering questions with honesty and insight. I’m publishing this blog post a little early because I want you to start thinking about the feature and how you’d use it in your line of work. That’ll prep you to ask Conor better questions, and you’ll get the most out of this great opportunity.

Enjoy it, jerks, because I’m giving a lightning talk at the same time. I swear, if you do performance tuning and I see you in my talk instead of Conor’s, I’m gonna make you take over my talk so I can go watch Conor.

Update 10:30AM Pacific: after a discussion on Twitter, Argenis Fernandez and I put some money down. If Query Store is fully functional in Standard Edition, I’ll donate $250 to Doctors Without Borders 2.0. If it’s only fully functional in Enterprise Edition, Argenis will donate $250. Everybody wins! Well, except Express Edition users.

Preparing for the #SQLPASS 2014 Keynote

Every year, when I attend the PASS Summit conference, I liveblog the announcements. Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane:

PASS 2013 keynote announcements:

  • SQL Server 2014 CTP2, the last preview before the official release
  • You could deploy in-memory OLTP (Hekaton) without rebuilding your application (which just simply wasn’t true)
  • AlwaysOn AG secondaries in Windows Azure
  • Backup to Windows Azure
  • Data files in Windows Azure
  • Office365 PowerQuery – the ability to use plain English queries against your data

PASS 2012 keynote announcements:

  • In-memory OLTP (Hekaton) feature
  • Hadoop integration coming at some point
  • SQL 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse
  • HDInsight and PolyBase

So, looking back – which of these features are you using?

Yeah, me too. And at first, I thought that sucked.

But I’ve Been Doing Keynotes Wrong.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

In preparation for this year’s keynotes, I looked back and got really frustrated. Every year, new features were trotted out, and I got really frustrated because they didn’t make any real-world sense. I blogged angrily about how these features wouldn’t ever catch on with the mainstream.

But Microsoft is playing a different game.

Microsoft is treating keynotes the way car manufacturers treated car shows back in the 1950s-1960s. It wasn’t about showing people what they’d be buying in the showroom next year – it was about a race to the top of technology, showing off that your brand was thinking farther ahead than anybody else.

Nobody’s actually putting their on-premise SQL Server’s data files in Windows Azure. It’s surreal, the same way flying cars are surreal. But who cares? This year, I’m embracing the wild and the fantastic. Bring on the turbine-powered databases that don’t even allow me to change indexes. Show me iPad-based BI that will probably never ship. For one keynote, I’m going to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the make-believe.

And I’ll be tweeting my reactions from @DBAreactions.

Change Your #SQLPASS Password Right Now.

What you need to do: log into and change your password. If you use the same password anywhere else, change it on all of those sites immediately as well.

Why you need to do it: anytime you ever logged into or, or updated your password, or created an account, your password (along with everything else) went unencrypted between your computer and PASS’s web servers. Anyone sniffing network packets along the way saw your username, email, password, etc in clear text. (Think about what a security gold mine this would have been for someone sniffing WiFi at a SQLSaturday or the PASS Summit.) There’s a nice side benefit for updating your account – you also become eligible to vote in the current PASS elections.

Who you need to thank: the vulnerability was discovered by George Stocker on Friday, and PASS HQ finished the fixes & testing on Saturday. That’s a fantastic turnaround time – kudos to PASS for reacting so fast!

Who you should blame: yourself, for not noticing for years that you were putting login information into a web site that wasn’t using https. What kind of data professional are you, anyway? You’re probably even using that same password on multiple web sites, or heaven forbid, your company email. Get it together and use 1Password or LastPass.

Who you should not blame: the current PASS Board of Directors because this has likely been in place ever since PASS set up their current web site, and the current management inherited this little surprise. (You know how it goes – it’s like your ancient SQL Server 2000 in the corner where everybody knows the SA password.)

SSL test results for - click here to rerun the test, takes about 30 seconds

SSL test results for – click here to rerun the test, takes about 30 seconds

What’s still left to do: PASS needs to clearly, concisely communicate the severity of this issue to members as well – I really wish they’d set all passwords in the database to null, and force everybody to go through the password-reset process. The SSL setup still needs some work, as shown in the SSL tests, but considering the whole thing was done in 24 hours, it’s one heck of a good first step. ( also fails that test.)

Where to go for more information: logged-in PASS members can ask PASS public questions in their blog post comments, email privately, or ask questions here in the comments.

Our Sessions at the #SQLPASS Summit 2014

The session list has been published, and we’re excited to say all of us have been selected to speak at the PASS Summit again this year. Here’s our sessions:

Are Your Indexes Hurting You or Helping You? – Jes Schultz Borland – Queries need your help! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make great decisions about what indexes are best for your workload. In this session, we’ll review the difference between clustered and nonclustered indexes, show when to use included columns, understand what sargability means, and introduce statistics. You’ll leave this session with the ability to confidently determine why, or why not, SQL Server uses your indexes when executing queries.

Developers: Who Needs a DBA? – Brent Ozar – You store data in SQL Server, but you don’t have enough work to keep a full-time DBA busy. In just one session, you’ll learn the basics of performance troubleshooting, backup, index tuning, and security. Brent Ozar, recovering developer, will teach you the basic care and feeding of a Microsoft SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2012, or 2014 instance and give you scripts to keep you out of trouble.


Dynamic SQL: Build Fast, Flexible Queries – Jeremiah Peschka – Dynamic SQL is a misunderstood and much maligned part of a DBA’s tool kit – it can be used to solve difficult business problems, respond to diverse data needs, and alleviate performance problems. Many DBAs reject dynamic SQL outright as a potential source of SQL injections, being poorly performing, or just for being a hacky solution in general. Not so! Jeremiah Peschka has been making extensive use of dynamic SQL throughout his career to solve a variety of problems. In this session, we’ll be dispelling these misconceptions and demonstrating how dynamic SQL can become a part of every DBA’s tool kit.

From Minutes to Milliseconds: High-Performance SSRS Tuning – Doug Lane – Even though you’re an experienced report developer or administrator, performance tuning for SQL Server Reporting Services still feels as bewildering and hopeless as folding a fitted bed sheet. You’ve made your data sets smaller and timeouts longer, but it’s not enough to remove the slowness dragging down your reporting environment. In this session, you’ll learn how design and configuration choices put pressure on your report server and techniques to relieve that pressure. You’ll see how to configure your Reporting Services databases for speed, streamline your subscription schedules, and use caching for high-demand reports. You’ll also learn some design strategies to lighten your report processing load. If you want to maximize the speed of your Reporting Services environment and minimize the pain of performance tuning, this session is for you.

Lightning Talk: Conquer CXPACKET and Master MAXDOP – Brent Ozar – CXPACKET waits don’t mean you should set MAXDOP = 1. Microsoft Certified Master Brent Ozar will boil it all down and simplify CXPACKET to show you the real problem – and what you should do about it – in one quick 10-minute Lightning Talk.

Why Does SQL Server Keep Asking For This Index? – Kendra Little – SQL Server says you’d really benefit from an index, but you’d like to know why. Kendra Little will give you scripts to find which queries are asking for a specific missing index. You’ll learn to predict how a new index will change read patterns on the table, whether you need to add the exact index SQL Server is requesting, and how to measure performance improvements from your index changes. If you’re comfortable querying SQL Server’s missing index DMVs and looking at an execution plan here and there, this session is for you.

World’s Worst Performance Tuning Techniques – Kendra Little – Could one of your tricks for making queries faster be way off base? Kendra Little is a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server and a performance tuning consultant, which means she’s learned lots of lessons from her mistakes. In this session, you will learn how to stop obsessively updating or creating statistics, find alternatives to forcing an index, and deal with an addiction to ‘recompile’ hints.

Pre-Conference Session: psych! We didn’t get picked for an official pre-con this year (I know, right?) so we’re building our own lunar lander. Stay tuned – we’ll get things ironed out in the next week or two so you can make your official plans.

Alaska has a SQL Server User Group!

Alaska is on the PASS map!

Alaska is on the PASS map!

I’m really stoked to share the news: Alaska (my home state) finally has a PASS Chapter of its own! The group just got started last December, and officially welcomed into the PASS organization at the end of January. While they don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account yet, they do have a website and a YouTube channel.

The group meets every month and draws about twenty attendees, according to Chapter Leader Greg Burns. (Greg also runs the local SharePoint user group, which has about eighty members.) The audience is a mix of DBAs and developers, mostly.

Curious. Why would I mention the audience?

Because Greg is running a PASS Chapter for the first time, he could use a lot of help. He’s looking for speakers — remote or in-person — to present at upcoming meetings. If you’re interested in presenting to the group remotely, or just looking for an excuse to visit by far the largest state in the union…[prolonged eye contact with Texas]…just drop Greg a line at AlaskaSQL(at)

But wait, there’s more! If you’re a current or former PASS Chapter leader, you probably have some great tips on how to structure meetings, build membership, advertise your group, line up sponsors, and other things it takes to grow a user group. Rather than flood Greg’s inbox with your collective wisdom, let’s assemble them here in the comments so they’re all in one place. I can think of no better way to welcome Alaska to the SQL Server community than to show them how much we help each other.

#SQLPASS #Summit13 Women in Technology Lunch – Live!

Welcome to the second day of #SQLPASS #Summit13! I’ve been having a blast this week – presenting a precon with Brent and Kendra, watching great speakers like Erin Stellato and Bob Ward, chatting at the Community Zone, and walking the vendor booths.

Today is one of my favorite events – the annual Women In Technology Luncheon! Our topic is Beyond Stereotypes: Equality, Gender Neutrality, and Valuing Team Diversity. We have a great panel – Erin Stellato, Rob Farley, Cindy Gross, Kevin Kline, and Gail Shaw. This is an incredibly diverse and brilliant group! 

12:10 pm – Tom LaRock is kicking off the event! He introduces our moderator, Mickey Stuewe. She reminds us to ask questions and follow along on Twitter using the #passwit hashtag. 

12:12 – Today we’re talking about diversity – making sure everyone is included. Mickey introduces the panelists! Cindy Gross is an MCM and member of AzureCAT. Rob Farley is a business owner and MCM and MVP, and outgoing PASS board member. Kevin Kline, pass president of PASS, MVP, and author – and father of several daughters! Erin Stellato is an MVP and brilliant consultant. Gail Shaw is an MCM and MVP, and contributes to the community in many ways. 

12:14 – Our first question is about fitting in. Gail tells us she doesn’t always fit in – not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a geek. She spends her weekends playing D&D! (I played many years ago. I loved it. I want to do it again!) 

12:15 – Have you experienced subtle cultural differences that make it hard to fit in? Rob says he does see people who exclude others because they are different. But that’s not him. In any environment where there is a large number of the same people, it can happen that there are assumptions. Let’s not forget about religious differences as a form of diversity and exclusion as well – important to remember at a large, international event like this too! Remember to tell people how you value them. 

12:19 – Cindy, how can you tell when you’re being treated differently, and why? She’ll go to a coworker or friend and ask for advice. She has a group of people she can go to for a second opinion. “When I react to something, would I react that way if it came from someone else?” is what she often asks. 

Kevin: There’s a lot of interesting scientific research going on right now. The average person can know about 150 people really well. Beyond that, stereotypes can save time. “They’re like the index pages in a database” gets a good laugh. He talks about the difference between introverts and extroverts. Introverts will internalize and be introspective about comments made towards them. Follow Cindy’s advice – talk to others about a situation or comment that was made and get their advice about it. 

12:26 – Kevin, how do you explain that you think you’ve been treated differently to your boss? Database professionals will spend a lot of time debugging code and resolving problems, but we don’t spend enough time figuring out the people we work with. Why do they get up in the morning? What drives them? Talk to your boss. If you ask them if you made a molehill into a mountain, and he or she says yes, you did – think of it in one of two ways. They could have a very different set of values from you. Or, we may not have properly expressed how this behavior affects our values. You need to have your own “values statement” – and share that with your boss, and even coworkers. (What I hear is: we need to realize that although our job is technology, we work with PEOPLE. You have to be willing to understand and talk to PEOPLE.) 

12:33 – Rob, how do you deal with being on a team when you’re excluded? If you see someone being excluded, you have to speak up. If you see a situation that is wrong and you don’t say something about it, it doesn’t help. You’ll be wracked by guilt. Stand up and be the person who champions what is right. 

Gail says that if the person you call friends are the ones that say you need to change, you might need to redefine who your friends are. She recently had to “break up” with a friend because she wanted Gail to be something she wasn’t. She wasn’t accepting. Sometimes it’s best to burn those bridges. Find friends that are interested in who YOU are and who listen to your concerns. 

12:40 – Cindy says there is so much more than just gender that we need to take into consideration. It could be so many things – your personality, what you support politically or socially. We all have our own stereotypes, too. 

Gail says that she has many male, geek friends. They feel excluded because they would rather stay in and play a card game instead of going to a football game. It’s not just women who feel this. 

12:45 – Erin, how do you establish and build relationships with coworkers in a diverse setting? You have to look at how you build any relationship – you build a common ground. You share interests and beliefs. Find common ground with your coworkers – we can all find something. You have to grow and celebrate that. Use the common ground to make your team better. “You can lead without being the leader.” Reach out to every member of your team – even if a “boss” isn’t doing so. Any good relationship takes time – and that’s OK, you just need to accept that. Find people’s strengths and celebrate the diversity. 

Kevin: Even if you don’t have an opinion on a topic, say that. Don’t say nothing. People take silence as you don’t care, or you agree with what is going on. Introverts will often be quiet, and let extroverts run the show – even when it’s, “Where do we go for lunch?” 

12:50 – What techniques have you seen to make events more inclusive in a professional setting? Kevin says when PASS was being founded, they didn’t have the resources other groups did – like money. They had to be better at people. “The antidote to swagger is humility.” 

12:55 – Best part of the day! Questions from the audience! 

Question from online – how do we celebrate conclusions vs. milestones? Rob says we need to recognize that different people celebrate different things. Even here this week, some people come to Summit to see friends. Some come to work on their career. Some come for specific sessions. We are all different. Recognize that we all need to celebrate – support others in the way they choose to do so. 

“How do we foster compassion in the workplace? There’s a feeling that compassion is the antithesis of a successful team.” Kevin – there’s a ton of research in how to make teams work faster, but what about “how do we make this team higher quality?” Someone has to start by demonstrating it – one person. You have to get the people with influence and authority to model those behaviors. Erin reminds us, “You can lead even if you aren’t the leader.” And if it bothers you that much, sometimes, you may be at the wrong company. If you can’t affect change, you may need to leave. 

“What is the best way to disarm someone who is applying a stereotype to you?” Gail says, there is something in common between you. Be polite. Find that something in common and work from there. You’ll never get someone to stop applying a stereotype by bashing your head against it. Cindy adds that if you try to take it head-on and convince that person that YOU aren’t that stereotype, you’re not solving that problem. The stereotype will still be in that person’s head. Rob says, on the inside, have pity for them. They are missing out on who you actually are. Care for them. Try to get to know them for who they are. 

“I was walking around the expo yesterday and had a conversation. You’re a woman, in technology, you’re a foreigner, you’re an athlete – how are you going to succeed in this industry? How would have you answered?” Erin says, “I would have said, “How am I NOT going to succeed?”” Gail would have said, “Who are you to tell me I’m not going to succeed?” Cindy had a professor call her into his office right before graduation. He commented on her hair color and told her she wouldn’t succeed in the real world. Now look at her! What other people think is irrelevant. 

1:12 – We could talk about this all day, but what is our call to action? 

Gail – take a look in the mirror and make sure you’re not the one doing it. Don’t be the problem. 

Rob – love people back regardless of how they are treating you. Don’t be part of the stereotype. 

Wow, this was inspiring! Thank you to our panelists for being on stage and sharing your experiences. Thank you to those who stepped up and asked questions. Thank you to the audience, both in person and online. I look forward to next year’s event! 

#SQLPASS #Summit2013 Professor DeWitt Keynote

This morning at the PASS Summit, we have the pleasure of listening to Professor David DeWitt talk about Hekaton internals.

I’m actually not going to liveblog this – I’m going to sit back and take in the presentation as an attendee because it’s going to be so damn good, and I’m not going to be able to do justice to it in a live blog post. I need to explain why.

Yesterday, a few of us bloggers were given an advance question-and-answer session with him to talk about – well, whatever. Here’s what I asked him, and keep in mind that the answers are paraphrased. I took notes as fast as I could, and it’s possible probable guaranteed that I misheard things, so don’t take this as a word-for-word transcription. I’m trying to maintain the spirit of what he said.

BGO: Out of your accomplishments this year, what are you the most proud of?

Shipping PDWv2 with Polybase.

Seeing Hekaton emerge in SQL Server 2014 CTP2. I didn’t have ownership of that project at the very beginning – I got it after 3 months – and then I owned it for a year and a half. Seeing it come out the door was exciting.

Professional driver on closed course.

Professional driver on closed course.

I’ve been working on this keynote since July 1st. I went canoeing in the Arctic in 1st of August, and I had to have it done by then, so the month of July was spent banging the talk out. In 75 minutes with 77 slides (with complex animations), I’m trying to explain to the PASS Summit audience something that I would normally cover a couple of lectures to students. It’s going to be complex.

Hekaton is totally different than the relational engine. How Hekaton stores data is just as different from the regular engine as the column store engine is different. Just as we saw Apollo’s column store indexing folded into the mainstream engine over time, we may fold in Hekaton improvements over time too.

BGO: What do you enjoy about speaking at Summit?

The high of doing this. It’s a very appreciative audience, unlike an undergraduate audience. <laughter> In a college environment, I don’t really want people to have laptops in class. They’re probably shopping online.

PASS is a great environment where you can tell people are here because they want to learn voluntarily. It’s all volunteers. Volunteers make such a big commitment to the event.

At the same time, it’s not all fun. There are periods like 2 weeks before where I’m incredibly stressed out. Two years ago I got a 5 on my session feedback evaluations, and then last year I got a 3. What am I going to get this year? I’m really stressed about that.

(Note from Brent: I really do get the vibe that DeWitt cares passionately about the session materials and how PASS attendees receive it. He’s not under fire from Microsoft to produce amazing materials – he is just totally self-motivated to beat expectations of the audience.)

BGO: What’s the toughest part about your job?

Not being able to ship stuff as fast as I want. I’m not at a startup. I’ve come to appreciate what it means to be part of a company that prides itself on delivering really high quality software. SQL Server has a sterling reputation for really high quality. I’ve learned so much about the testing process.

In the upcoming release of PDW, we’ve got a feature coming, and it’s really important to me. It’s what most people would consider a small thing, but it’s very important to me. Unfortunately, we can’t enable it – we can’t ship it to the public because we don’t have enough time to test it. That’s frustrating, but it’s fair, and the bar for testing PDW isn’t even as high as regular SQL Server testing. The bar for SQL Server engine testing is incredibly high.

I could do with 2-3x the number of resources than I have.

I’m old enough to get Medicare, but I still have lots of good ideas. Mike Stonebraker turned 70 this fall. Mike was my graduate TA for my first graduate class. I’ve known him for 40 years. He’s had a lot of successful startups, and he doesn’t need to work, but he has 4 startups and still goes to work every day.

BGO: Is there anything you regret not doing?

I’m envious of Stonebraker and all the startups he’s done.

I was part of Vertica, so I’ve never worked on the Microsoft column store stuff because of non-competes. But being part of a startup would be really gratifying. It takes guts, has challenges, and I’m not sure I would have been successful, but that’s the one thing I regret.

And I wish I would have been better at mathematics.

BGO: What’s the one thing you want people to take away from the keynote?

Building Hekaton was really a serious long term endeavor. We’ve been at it a full 5 years. It was a big deal. It could be the basis for a lot of new SQL products down the road.

For relational database storage, columnar stuff was really the first chink in the armor. It’s processed in vectors, the vectors get combined with bit masking, we use a lot of different query processing techniques. More chinks are coming.

Look at what’s happening with computer hardware, specifically memory prices. There’s a chance technology will drive us to a place where we have large amounts of memory, some non-volatile RAM, we may end up with database systems whose databases are all in memory or near memory (NVRAM). In the next 10-20 years, the Hekaton approach of memory-intensive, core-intensive approach could become the de facto way of storing data as opposed to the disk-based product (the way SQL Server stores data & logs today).

My hope is that people will take those slides and study them carefully for the exam. <laughter> I want them to read them closely and understand why we did it this way.

BGO: So it sounds like it’s not a one-and-done feature like so many others we’ve seen. Development is actively ongoing, and there’s still more investments being made here?

Apollo (column store indexes) came out in SQL Server 2012, and in SQL Server 2014, it’s v2 with updates and investments. PDW v2 is out with more features – except for that one small feature that’s my favorite that we can’t ship. These storage investments aren’t one-and-done – we’re focusing on these.

Hekaton CTP 1 had hash indexes only, and CTP2 adds B-tree indexes. There’s a white paper coming out on the index types we’ll support.

We have lots of exciting things in the language hopper for Hekaton. We’re broadening the language and data type support in Hekaton V2.

BGO: Can I quote you on that? I want to make sure I can actually blog that Hekaton V2 is going to have expanded language support.

<discussions> Yes.

My thoughts on what’s about to go down

For the keynote, DeWitt’s tackling something really challenging. How do you teach database internals – and not just regular internals, but really all-new internals – to a very wide audience? In this room, we’ve got database administrators, BI developers, database developers, and managers. Many of us in here don’t regularly work with latching problems in SQL Server’s current engine, much less a new one.

I admire what he’s trying to achieve, and having read the slide deck, I admire how he’s going to do it. The snark department is going to make fun of his clip art, but pay close attention. In the next 75 minutes, you’re going to learn internals of both the current engine and the Hekaton one. You’re probably not going to deploy Hekaton v1 for existing applications, but if Microsoft continues making payments on this vision, you’re probably going to want v2. Today’s session will explain why.

Watch it live starting at 8:15AM Eastern on PASS’s streaming web site.