#SQLPASS Summit 2014 Keynote LiveBlog

10:03AM – Ranga back onstage to finish things up. Thanking Pier 1 for letting them share the exploratory work. And we’re out!

10:00AM – Power BI adding a new authoring and editing mode. James removes the pie chart and replaces it on the fly. Now that is knowing your audience – nice job.

9:58AM – Demoing updated Power BI dashboards. Man, these screens are always so gorgeous – Microsoft is fantastic at reporting front end demos.

9:56AM – Oops. Looks like somebody is running out-of-date Apple software that needs an update. Note the screen.

Time for some Apple updates

Time for some Apple updates

9:54AM – “I’ve been watching the Twitter feed, and I kinda have a pulse of where people are sitting.” Talking about why Microsoft is moving to the cloud. “I can ship that service every single week.” It gives Microsoft agility.

9:50AM – Microsoft’s James Phillips takes the stage by briefly recapping his background with Couchbase. (That name has come up a few times today.) “Data is a bucket of potential.” Love that line.

James Phillips

James Phillips

9:49AM – Demoing a phone app to locate items in, you guessed it, Pier 1. Was there some kind of sponsorship deal here? I do love the opportunity to tell a single story though. Just wish they’d have tied it to a single individual’s journey through the store through the entire keynote.

9:44AM – “Using 14 lines of SQL code, you can do real-time analytics.” Uh, that is the easiest part of the entire demo. How about putting Kinects in stores, building the web front end, etc?

9:40AM – Demoing a browser-based SSIS UI for Azure Data Factory.

9:37AM – Sanjay Soni taking the stage and explaining in-store analytics demos using Kinect sensors to watch where customers go using a heat map.

Sanjay Soni taking the stage to do another Pier 1 demo

Sanjay Soni taking the stage to do another Pier 1 demo

9:35AM – Apparently the “wave” trick had absolutely nothing to do with the session – maybe some kind of ice-breaker? This keynote has now gone completely surreal. He’s now moved on to machine learning. No segue whatsoever.

9:32AM – Joseph Sirosh, machine learning guy at Microsoft, starts by having the community applaud themselves. And now he’s teaching us to do the wave. Uh, okay.

9:30AM – Demoing a restore of the local portion of the database. Even restoring a database got applause. Tells you how desperately rough that first stretch of the keynote was.

9:26AM – Demoing stretch tables: 750mm rows of data in Azure, plus 1mm rows of data stored locally on the SQL Server. It’s one table, with data stored both in the cloud and local storage. You can still query it as if it was entirely local.

Demoing stretch tables in Azure

Demoing stretch tables in Azure

9:22AM – Showing a demo of a Hekaton memory-optimized table, plus a nonclustered columnstore index built atop it. This is genuinely new.

Mike Zwilling's demo of a nonclustered columnstore index atop a Hekaton table

Mike Zwilling’s demo of a nonclustered columnstore index atop a Hekaton table

9:20AM – “What if you could run analytics directly on the transactional data?” Doing a live demo of a new way to run your reports in production.

9:18AM – Ranga announces a preview coming at some point in the future. “And that’s the announcement.” Literally one clap, and it was from the blogger’s table. This is bombing bad.

9:15AM – Uh, big problem here. Ranga just said Stack Overflow is using Microsoft SQL Server’s in-memory technologies. That is simply flat out wrong – Stack does not use Hekaton, Buffer Pool Extensions, or anything like that. Just plain old SQL Server tables. Very disappointing. If you’re at PASS, look for Nick Craver, one of their database gurus who’s here at the conference.

9:12AM – Now talking about something near and dear to my heart: how Stack Overflow is pushing limits.

9:10AM – To recap the demo, Azure SQL Database does geo-replication and sharding.

9:06AM – The utter and complete dead silence in the room tells a bigger story than the demo. This is just not what people come to PASS to see. If you think about the hourly rate of these attendees, even at just $100 per hour, this is one expensive bomb.

8:58AM – Quite possibly the most underwhelming demo I’ve ever seen. If you want to impress a room full of data professionals, you’re gonna need something better than a search box.

8:56AM – Pier 1 folks up to demo searching for orange pumpkins.

Tracy Dougherty doing Pier 1 demo

Tracy Dougherty doing Pier 1 demo

8:52AM – “The cloud enables consistency.” Errr, that’s not usually how that works. Usually the cloud enables eventual consistency, whereas on-prem enables consistency. I know that’s not the message he’s aiming for – he’s talking about the same data being available everywhere – but it’s just an odd choice of words.

8:49AM – Discussing Microsoft’s data platform as a way to manage all kinds of data sources. This is actually a huge edge for Microsoft – they have the Swiss Army knife of databases. Sure, you could argue that particular platforms do various parts much better – you don’t want to run a restaurant on a Swiss Army knife – but this is one hell of a powerful Swiss Army knife.

8:45AM – Ranga’s off to a really odd start. He starts by talking about Women in Technology and says “We’ll do our best,” and then segues into an odd story about his wife refusing to use online maps. Really, really awkward.

8:41AM – Microsoft’s T.K. Ranga Rengarajan taking the stage.

Ranga Taking the Stage

Ranga Taking the Stage

8:39AM – Watching several minutes of videos about people and stuff. No clapping. Hmm.

8:34AM – Tom’s a natural up on stage, totally relaxed.

Tom LaRock at PASS Summit

Tom LaRock at PASS Summit

8:33AM – Thanking the folks who help make the event possible: sponsors and volunteers.

8:31AM – Hands-on training sessions for 50 people per workshop are available here at PASS. Good reason to come to the conference instead of just playing along online – convince your boss by explaining that you can’t really get this hands-on experience anywhere else as easily.

8:27AM – PASS has provided 1.3 million hours of training in fiscal year 2014. (Would be interesting to see that broken out as free versus paid, and national versus local user group chapters.

8:22AM – PASS President Tom LaRock taking the stage and welcoming folks from 50 countries, 2,000 companies.

PASS President Tom LaRock

PASS President Tom LaRock

8:18AM – From the official press release: “The PASS Summit 2014 has 3,941 delegates as of last night and 1,959 pre-conference registrations across 56 countries for a total of 5,900 registrations.” The registrations number is always a little tricky because it counts pre-con attendees multiple times, but that delegates number is phenomenal. Nearly 4,000 folks is a lot! This is far and above the biggest Microsoft data event.

8:16AM – Folks are coming in and taking seats.

8:00AM Pacific – Good morning from the Blogger’s Table at the Seattle Convention Center. It’s day 1 of the PASS Summit 2014, the biggest international conference for SQL Server professionals. A few thousand data geeks are gathered here to connect, learn, and share.

The keynote session is about to start, and here’s how this works: I’m going to be editing this blog post during the keynote, adding my thoughts and analysis of the morning’s announcements. I’ll update it every few minutes, so you can refresh this page and the news will be up at the top.

You can watch the keynote live on PASS TV to follow along.

Here’s the abstract:

Evolving Microsoft’s Data Platform – The Journey to Cloud Continues

Data is the new currency and businesses are hungrier than ever to harness its power to transform and accelerate their business. A recent IDC study shows that business that are investing in harnessing the power of their data will capture a portion of the expected $1.6 trillion dollar top line revenue growth over the coming four years. SQL Server and the broader Microsoft data platform with the help of the PASS community are driving this data transformation in organizations of all sizes across the globe to capture this revenue opportunity.

In this session you will hear from the Microsoft Data Platform engineering leadership team about recent innovations and the journey ahead for Microsoft’s data platform. Learn first-hand how customers are accelerating their business through the many innovations included in SQL Server 2014 from ground breaking in-memory technologies to new highly efficient hybrid cloud scenarios. See how customers are revolutionizing their business with new insights using Power BI and Azure Machine Learning and Azure HDInsight services. Learn about the investments were are making Microsoft Azure across IAAS and PAAS to make it the best cloud hosting service for your database applications.

Ignore the first paragraph, which appears to be written for salespeople attending the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, not the Professional Association for SQL Server PASS Summit. The second paragraph – not to mention the neato changes at Microsoft lately – offer a glimmer of hope for us geeks. If Microsoft wants to win market share away from Amazon’s huge lead, they’re going to have to bring out features and services that compete. The terms “investments” and “journey ahead” implies that we’ll be hearing about future features in Azure and SQL Server vNext.

Let’s see what they’re announcing today – and remember, like I wrote last week, my new perspective today is a chillaxed 1960s car show attendee. Bring on the flying cars.

For the latest updates, refresh this page and check the top.

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.

Our #SQLPASS Schedule (And a Downloadable Calendar)

Want to see our sessions in Seattle? Add all of our calendar events to our schedule:

Or if you’d rather add individual events:

Kendra Little – World’s Worst Performance Tuning Techniques
Wednesday 1:30PM – 2:45PM, Room 6A

Brent Ozar – CXPACKET and MAXDOP Lightning Talk
Wednesday 3PM-4:15PM, Room 606

Kendra Little – Why Does SQL Server Keep Asking for this Index?
Thursday 3PM-4:15PM, Room 6C

Brent Ozar – Developers: Who Needs a DBA?
Thursday 5PM-6:15PM, Room 6C

Doug Lane – From Minutes to Milliseconds: High-Performance SSRS Tuning
Friday 8AM-9:15AM, Room 6A

Jeremiah Peschka – Dynamic SQL: Build Fast, Flexible Queries
Friday 8AM-9:15AM, Room 6B

Jes Schultz Borland – Are Your Indexes Hurting or Helping You?
Friday 10:15AM-11:30AM, Room 618-620

What Does the #SQLPASS Board of Directors Do?

The PASS Board of Directors election is coming up, so I sat down with Allen Kinsel (Blog@AllenKinsel) to get some insight. Allen knows first-hand.

Brent: The PASS Board of Directors election is coming. What exactly do Board members do?

allen-kinselAllen: Board Members set the direction and future vision for the organization. In a more perfect world they might solely be responsible for the strategic direction of the organization much as a typical corporate board of directors is but, because of the unique nature of the organization if a particular director has a passion for how a certain area of PASS should be different they can become quite tactical and put in the actual work to accomplish their goals.

Is it a full time job? How much commitment is involved?

Since it’s an unpaid position, thankfully it is not a full time job. The commitment level is what each director makes of it. If a director has a real passion for something and wants to get it done, they can invest literally as much time as they have to give In order to further their agenda. Otherwise the commitments are typically a few hours a week on average.

How many people are on the Board, and what kinds of backgrounds do they come from?

There are 14 members of the board though only 6 are directly elected by the membership. There are 4 additional board members placed from the founding partners (CA/Microsoft) and an additional 4 on the executive that are elected by the board every other year. The backgrounds of board members change after every election cycle but, typically about the only thing they all have in common is a love of SQL Server. Otherwise board members come from all backgrounds: technical, management, DBA’s, developers, Full time employees, consultants etc…

You’ve been on the Board – what was your favorite part?

My favorite part was certainly my final year of my term where I was able to make significant changes to the way PASS supports chapters and their leaders. Laying out a vision for enabling chapters to have a toolset that rivaled the tools we currently give SQL Saturday leaders and then executing on that vision and seeing how much easier it made new chapter leaders jobs was quite rewarding. I believe that given the support and another year the tools would have fully delivered their initial promise of being everything chapter leaders needed to run a chapter efficiently.

What do you think makes a good Board member?

Many things can add up to make a good Board member but if I had to put one thing on the list, it would be passion. For a person to be truly successful and get things done on the board they need passion. Passion fuels all the other needed aspects of the job. If I could add a second thing to that list it would be experience. As with all things, experience matters. Since experience on a board level is not the easiest thing to find on a resume, the first year serving for most board members can be quite daunting while attempting to find their way.

If you’re a community member looking at a ballot, how do you pick names? Most readers aren’t lucky enough to know people on the ballot personally.

If it is feasible voters should educate themselves on which candidates share their ideals through prior to voting. If that’s not feasible I would suggest a second good option is relying on the nominations committee’s vetting process to guide how your cast votes. Prior to being put on the ballot the candidates are vetted by a community led group (the nominations committee). Based on their rankings the candidates are listed on the ballot in the order of who they believe will be best for the position.

If somebody wanted to run for the Board a few years from now, what would you recommend they do to start building experience for it?

I’d recommend that they volunteer, get involved and participate in the #sqlfamily any way that they can. In order to truly understand the needs of the community you have to have the pulse of the community and a very effective way to do that is through participation.

51 Questions About Your Conference Session Submission

Jeremiah and I presenting in Atlanta

Jeremiah and I presenting in Atlanta

This weekend, emails went out to folks who’d submitted their sessions for the PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte.

If you’re bummed, listen up. I know what it feels like to get turned down because I got turned down the first couple of times I submitted, too. The blessing and the curse of the SQL Server community is that there’s so many people who want to help others – but of course this makes it harder to get your place up on the stage. It’s only going to get worse/better as more people continue to discover the community.

Whether you got a good email or a bad one, your work is just beginning. Either you’re prepping for this October, or you need to start prepping for the next conference. In either case, here’s 51 questions you need to ask yourself about your abstract, your material, and your delivery.

  1. What pain is bringing the attendee to this session?
  2. How are they going to relieve that pain when they get back to the office?
  3. What does the attendee know already coming in?
  4. Who should not attend this session?
  5. Reading your abstract, are the answers to the above four questions crystal clear?
  6. What did you learn from Adam Machanic’s post Capturing Attention?
  7. Did your abstract take one thing off before it left the house?
  8. If you search the web for your abstract title, what comes up?
  9. Who else do you expect will submit on a similar topic?
  10. How will you show your own personality and expertise in the abstract?
  11. Of ProBlogger’s 52 Types of Blog Posts, which one matches your planned sessions?
  12. What other types of sessions from that list could you use to surprise and delight attendees?
  13. Are you teaching why or how?
  14. How would a handout make it easier for attendees to learn your lessons?
  15. What visualization would bring your session to life?
  16. Could you contract out a local design student or company to build it for you?
  17. Are you presenting to teach or to impress?
  18. Have you gotten feedback on your abstract from a proven speaker you trust?
  19. If a teacher graded your presentation, would you get an A?
  20. On that 24-point scale, what would it take to succeed at a national conference?
  21. What topics are you going to avoid entirely in order to save time?
  22. How often have you rehearsed this presentation before giving it to a local user group?
  23. Have you given this presentation before at local user groups and SQLSaturdays?
  24. Did you record the session (either video or audio)?
  25. Did you watch the recording to see where you can improve the material and your delivery?
  26. What questions did the attendees ask at those sessions?
  27. What feedback did the attendees give at the user group or SQLSaturday?
  28. How will you use that feedback to improve your session?
  29. If you gave attendees a test at the end of your session, what questions would be on it?
  30. If your session was a movie, what genre would it be?
  31. What other movies would be sitting next to it in the store?
  32. Who would play the leading role?
  33. What are three words you want attendees to use to describe your session?
  34. How do your abstract, material, and delivery inspire those three words?
  35. Have you clearly attributed ownership to the code and pictures in your session?
  36. If nobody asks any questions at all, will you still be able to fill the time slot?
  37. If you get many questions, which slides/sections can you skip without losing meaning?
  38. Where will you post all of the resources for your session?
  39. If people have a question while reading those resources, how will they contact you?
  40. If this session was a module in an all-day training class, what would the other modules be?
  41. What’s the worst thing that could happen in your session?
  42. How will you recover if that thing happens?
  43. Can you form an instant community of your attendees using a Twitter hash tag or chat room?
  44. What would your session look like with no demos whatsoever?
  45. What would your session look like as 100% demos and no slides?
  46. If you started the session with a question, what would that question be?
  47. What’s the easiest, simplest way for the attendee to learn the lessons?
  48. Could you get the presentation’s learning lessons across with a blog post or series?
  49. When you ask people why they linked to your post, what do they say they found compelling?
  50. What questions did readers ask in the comments?
  51. What’s stopping you from writing that blog post right now to gauge reader interest?

No, really. What’s stopping you? Don’t think for one moment that attendees will skip your session because they’ve read your work. It’s the exact opposite: readers come to your session because they like your work. Whether PASS told you yes or no, start writing your blog posts right now to find out what works and what doesn’t.

#SQLPASS Summit Keynote Liveblog Day 2

Good morning ladies and gentlemen! The conference hall is filling up in Seattle, and it’s time to crank up another blow-by-blow commentary.  I’ll be updating this blog every few minutes with what’s happening here at the PASS Summit.  For a refresher, check out the liveblog of yesterday’s keynote.

PASS Summit Keynote Stage

PASS Summit Keynote Stage

8:20AM – People settled in and the room’s going dark. I’ve got a much longer zoom lens today, so I can’t really capture what’s happening in the crowd, but now I’ll be able to zoom in on the sweating faces when demos break. (No, I won’t.)

8:23AM – PASS Executive Vice President Douglas McDowell taking the stage. He’s covering financial details, and he’s excited about it.

Douglas McDowell

Douglas McDowell

8:24AM – On track to be an $8mm organization this year, up about 40% from last year, 80% from two years ago. Some of this is probably due to the economy gradually recovering, but wow, what a great quick growth.

8:25AM – “We’re a nonprofit.  We’re not trying to capture profits – we’re reinvesting them in the community.”

8:27AM – Douglas says this conference is a bargain compared to other conferences.  Well, yeah, but that’s because the speakers aren’t paid, and they have to pay their own travel, hotel, meals, etc.  Other conferences don’t do that, and we’re already starting to see senior speakers pull out of the Summit.  It’d be a shame if that continued.

Revenue & Expense Growth

Revenue & Expense Growth

8:33AM – Welcoming new Board of Directors members Wendy Pastrick, James Rowland-Jones, and Sri Sridharan.  They’ll be serving 2-year terms from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014. Big thanks to outgoing board members Allen Kinsel and Kendal Van Dyke.

8:34AM – “We’re volunteers. You know what volunteers are good at? Dropping the ball.” I haven’t said this til know, but this keynote isn’t going particularly well.

8:35AM – VP of Marketing Tom LaRock taking the stage to give out the PASSion award for 2012.  Two changes in the award – added an Outstanding Volunteer of the Month award, and something else.

Tom LaRock

Tom LaRock

8:40AM – The PASSion Award winner for 2012 is Jen Stirrup! Congratulations.

Jen Stirrup - PASSion Award Winner for 2012

Jen Stirrup – PASSion Award Winner for 2012

8:41AM – Tom explains that the Board members have little black books where they’re writing down attendee feedback to improve the conference.

8:42AM – Improved communications: forums, town halls, Twitter chats, social media, feedback site, new communications platform, and more.

8:43AM – PASS Summit 2013 registration open now with an early bird discount at $1,095 until January 4, 2013.  The Summit will be October 15-18, but it’s not clear what that means because they also say there’s 3 days of in-depth training.  The 15th-18th is 4 days.

8:44AM – Lots of companies have sent over 5 employees to the Summit this year, some as many as 30-40.

Companies that sent 5 or more employees to the Summit

Companies that sent 5 or more employees to the Summit

8:46AM – Karaoke with a live band, SQLRockeraoke, tonight at the EMP Museum party.  Tom will be doing a group singalong to Careless Whisper.

8:49AM – Taking the stage, Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft.

Quentin Clark talking about election analysis

Quentin Clark talking about election analysis

8:54AM – Hotels putting RFID chips into the hotel keys.  It’s a better experience for guests – easier room access – but also lets hotels spy on which guests are using the restaurant, the gym, the pool, etc.

8:55AM – The discussion then goes into Facebook, and BI moments. This might just be our Contoso Frozen Yogurt Moment coming up.

8:59AM – The room is dead. No applause, some awkward coughing. Twitter’s lighting up that this stuff just isn’t interesting to DBAs and it’s not telling a good story.  Zzzz.

9:02AM – Julie onstage to do a demo of PASS Cinemas.

Quentin and Julie

Quentin and Julie

9:10AM – Showing various pieces of technology but not actually doing any work. We got Hadoop, PDW, Azure, and enterprise data warehouses in about 3 minutes.

9:13AM – Apparently big data means small fonts. Seriously, what the hell, Microsoft?!? We complain about this every year. Demos are tedious enough in a room this big, but gimme a break. If we can’t read the screen, we get really pissed off. Value our time.

9:18AM – Body language onstage says it all. Demos are failing, bad patter, even the presenters seem bored. The room is just dead.

Body language says it all here.

Body language says it all here.

9:22AM – Demo is still just absolutely crawling. I’m cashing out mentally here. If I was watching from home, I’d have bailed fifteen minutes ago.

9:36AM – There’s a vibrant discussion going on in Twitter about how bad this keynote sucks.  Is it as bad as the fake Tina Turner that sang Simply the Best a few years ago?  What about the year when a vendor speaker kept saying, “Yadda yadda yadda”?  Tough call, but it’s definitely in the bottom.  The material may be vaguely useful, but it’s presented in tiny fonts on a big screen, totally unusable, and no cohesive story.  There’s bugs and missteps all through the demo.  The air’s totally dead, and the audience is quiet.  It’s horrendous.

With that, I’m signing off and leaving.  I don’t do this often – it’s the first time I can remember leaving a keynote – but my time is more valuable than this. I’m heading out for coffee.

#SQLPASS Summit Keynote Liveblog – Day 1

PASS Summit Keynote Day 1

PASS Summit Keynote Day 1

Good morning, folks! Lights, camera, action – it’s time for the first keynote presentation at the Professional Association for SQL Server Summit.  It’s the annual international conference for Microsoft database folks.  This year it’s in Seattle, Washington again.

Over the next two hours, I’ll be expanding this post with minute-by-minute notes of what’s being covered by Microsoft and the PASS executives.  You can refresh this page and see the latest notes.  Enjoy!

You can watch the keynote over the web here.

8:13AM – People filing in, lots of folks surrounding the blogger table. Tough to ignore all the cool people while I’m getting set up. Ah, dear reader, the sacrifices I make for you. 😉

8:15AM – PASS’s Kathy Blomstrom has informed us that “As of this morning, PASS Summit 2012 had 3,894 delegates – up 13% from last year’s previous record attendance – and 1,717 pre-conference registrations across 57 countries for a total of 5,611 registrations.”

8:19AM – PASS President Bill Graziano is taking the stage to talk about the numbers and what makes PASS successful – grassroots community involvement around the world.

PASS President Bill Graziano

PASS President Bill Graziano

8:22AM – Bill: “We are 12,000 – excuse me, make that 120,000 people strong.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

8:23AM – The PASS Board will be holding another open session this year for Q&A.  It’s important for the community to continue to be open and accept the tough questions, and I’m glad they continue to open the kimono.  Wait, maybe I don’t want to see inside that kimono, heh.

8:28AM – SQLRally Nordic will hold their third event in November 2013.  No SQLRally in the US mentioned yet – it was put on hold earlier this year.

8:29AM – Over 543,000 hours of training delivered by the community for the community this year.  (This is calculated with attendee numbers – if one person leads a one-hour sess

8:31AM – The first PASS Business Analytics Conference will be held in Chicago April 10-12, 2013.

8:31AM – Microsoft announcing their new in-memory database technology, Project Hekaton.  This didn’t come from the stage – @JamieT caught it.  Excerpt:

Furthering Microsoft’s commitment to deliver in-memory solutions as part of our data platform, today we are introducing Project codenamed “Hekaton,” available in the next major release of SQL Server. Currently in private technology preview with a small set of customers, “Hekaton” will complete Microsoft’s portfolio of in-memory capabilities across analytics and transactional scenarios. It will provide breakthrough performance gains of up to 50 times, and because it will be built into SQL Server, customers won’t need to buy specialized hardware or software and will be able to easily migrate existing applications to benefit from the dramatic gains in performance.

8:36AM – SQL Server 2012 SP1 out today.

8:39AM – Ted Kummert taking the stage. He’s Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Data Platform Group. He usually leads the Microsoft part of the Day 1 keynote and hands demos off to individual Microsofties.

8:40AM – Ted: “I continue to be impressed by how this community invests in itself.” That’s a great way of saying it – we’re all trying to improve our skills and improve those around us to increase our overall value.

Ted Kummert onstage at SQLPASS

Ted Kummert onstage at SQLPASS

8:42AM – Officially announcing SQL Server 2012 SP1 available today. (I caught this earlier in the press release.) Interesting that there’s absolutely no applause for this.

8:43AM – Showing a video of attendees talking about the change they’ve seen in their career and what they’re excited about for the future.  Looks like it was taken at a feedback group in the last couple of days with a combination of customers, consultants, and MVPs.

8:46AM – Starting to talk about big data.  “Approaching the tipping point.”  Talking about how we need to reason over large amounts of data every time we serve people a page.  This is where I start to get a little twitchy – the other way to think about big data is sloppy programming, but I digress.  There *is* legitimate big data, but if you reason over large datasets for each web page you serve, you’re doing it wrong.

8:49AM – Microsoft Research worked with hospitals to conquer the re-admittance problem: patients that had to come back to the hospital to get their problems solved.  They used machine learning to give patients better care to reduce return visits. Or as I like to call it, “euthanasia.”

8:50AM – “If the full dataset fits in memory, amazing transformations are possible.” Ayup. This should not be news to any database professional, let alone any database manufacturer, and it’s a little frustrating that we’d be reacting to this in the next version of SQL Server rather than, say, 2008.  I don’t envy Microsoft’s challenges in predicting the future, but this one seems a little obvious.

Project Hekaton

Project Hekaton

8:56AM – Demoing SQL Server Classic up against Hekaton.  Classic is running 2,000 transactions per second, but running into latching problems.  (Latching often means a lack of indexes.) This already sounds like a cooked demo specially created to show how fitting stuff in memory AND applying the right indexes makes things faster.  Moving it to Hekaton got a 10x improvement at around 20,000 transactions per second.

8:59AM – By modifying the stored proc, we’re up over 60,0000 transactions per second.  They didn’t cover what the modifications are, and I’ll leave that to you to think about.

9:01AM – Demoing column store indexes as a way to show performance improvements by keeping data in memory.  This works in SQL Server 2012, but coming in the next major release, they’ve added two new improvements: it’s updatable, and it can be the clustered index.  It’ll be interesting to see how they describe the differences between these to end users, and how the licensing will work.  These scream Enterprise Edition only.

9:04AM – Rick from online gaming company BWin talking about using Project Hekaton to improve their session state database. They were maxed out at around 15k transactions per second – and yes, these guys really optimize the bejeezus out of their stuff.  They’re been able to hit over 250k transactions per second with Hekaton.

9:06AM – Over 1.5mm units of the in-memory database in customers’ hands.  They’re referring to the in-memory columnar analytics stuff, which includes Excel, so that’s a little tricky – but it’s such an awesome time in technology when this kind of technology is available to end users on their laptops.

9:08AM – Ted says they’re building a lot around the Apache Hadoop infrastructure and they want you to be able to leverage everything that the Hadoop ecosystem provides.  “This may not be technology that you’re familiar with, but I’d encourage you to discover them and use the samples.”  Microsoft needs you, dear reader, to keep your skills current so Microsoft can bring you new tools and you can adopt ’em.  No pressure – I’m just sayin’.

9:10AM – SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse will be coming in H1 2013, and it lowers costs by using Windows 2012 Storage Spaces. Christian Kleinerman onstage to demo it.

Christian Kleinerman and Ted Kummert

Christian Kleinerman and Ted Kummert

9:16AM – Christian Kleinerman demoing a 1PB data warehouse query finishing in under two seconds. It’s tough to do justice to this kind of thing in a 5-minute demo.  Like Kummert says, it’s a heck of a tough audience, and we take a lot of this with grains of salt.  There’s no mention of the hardware performance, storage performance, number of columns in the table that we’re not selecting, etc.

9:18AM – Official SQL Server 2012 SP1 download link here.

9:20AM – Microsoft went to Dr. David DeWitt with a question – how should the query processor change?  The answer was PolyBase, a new breakthrough in data processing for queries over relational and Hadoop data, in place.

9:21AM – Demoing Microsoft HDInsight’s web-based console using JavaScript or Hive.  That’s cool, but people don’t know T-SQL – so that’s where PolyBase comes in.  Create an external table in SQL Server (kinda like a linked server) and you can query it with T-SQL.

9:28AM – A few very awkward “BI moment” phrases which bombed.  Now showing a Great Western Bank customer video talking about how quickly they were able to recoup their BI investment in a 30TB data warehouse.  “BI makes heroes, and there’s not a lot of tools that can do that.”  I think that’s a great quote for executives, but not in a room full of developers.  Visual Studio makes heroes too.

9:30AM – Ted: “Excel is now the complete end user BI tool.”  Die, Access.  Die in a fire.

9:32AM – Amir Netz onstage! He’s the wild card of the demo crew.

Amir Netz preparing to demo Excel 2013

Amir Netz preparing to demo Excel 2013

9:33AM – Demoing data visualization with Bing maps inside Excel.  Looks absolutely gorgeous – except for the freakin’ CAPS LOCK MENUS. Jeebus, these things bother me.  But yeah, this is a great visualization tool, and if I was an SSRS person, I’d be worried.  The same guys who love handling data in Access will love bypassing the BI crew by building their own tools in Excel.

9:37AM – Visualizing data by combining the movie award data with 11mm tweets to see when people were tweeting about movies.  Counts terms extraction by actors and actresses – Brad Pitt versus George Clooney, etc.  “Imagine that you’re a brand manager – actor names are brand names.”

9:42AM – Not much going on here. Just showing Excel moving charts. While Amir Netz is upbeat and fun, he isn’t really communicating anything technical here.

9:49AM – Audience clapping wildly, biggest applause so far, for transparent images of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. This is a little…awkward?  The PASS folks unveiled a new code of conduct aimed at avoiding harassment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone complained about the appropriateness of these.

9:51AM – And we’re done! Off to a day of learnin’.

Want More? Check Out Day 2’s Liveblog.

Conference Speakers – Check Your Room Size

When you’re speaking at a conference, try to get the room schedules long before the event day.  Right now, the PASS Summit conference schedule is available, and each speaker’s room is listed.

Then, check out the building’s floorplan – in this case, the Washington State Convention Center’s floorplans page.  Check out the seating capacity for your room.

My audience (right before they walked out)

My audience (right before they walked out)

You don’t have to think about filling the room or imagining the audience in their underwear, but knowing the size of the room can help you mentally prepare yourself for what you’ll be facing.  I take different approaches in different room sizes.

In small rooms (for under 30 people), I look every single person in the eye and make sure they’re following along.  When I’m losing somebody, I’ll prompt them for questions and change my presentation pace.  I can make faces to illustrate my disbelief or happiness with a particular point, and I know everyone will see it.

In mid-size rooms (for 30-100 people), I’ll try to take the pulse of the audience by looking around.  I’m less able to change the presentation pace based on facial expressions – and I’m less able to use my own facial expressions as a presentation tool.  Repeating audience questions becomes critical here because people on one side of the room can’t hear questions from the other side.

In rooms designed for over a hundred people, I have to be more animated.  People farther back can’t see my facial expressions at all, and I need to convey more things via audible cues.  My visual cues have to consist of giant hand waving and pointing.

When I know the room size ahead of time, I can even adapt the presentation to work better.  For example, in large rooms, I’ll use visual punch lines on the slides rather than trying to tell a story with my facial expressions.  In addition, the bigger the room, the bigger the font – I can’t rely on projectors to convey small bullet points in a 500-person room.

Note that the room size – not the number of attendees – dictates your approach.  If you’re in a giant room, it doesn’t matter if less than 30 people show up – you still have to use the big-room delivery style.  And don’t judge your success based on the percentage of empty seats – that’s the success of the meeting planner, not you.  It’s their job to pick the right room size for each presentation.  Jeremiah and I are both in the monster 6E ballroom that holds over a thousand people.  They’re betting that a whole lot of people want to hear me talk about AlwaysOn Availability Groups and him talk about A Developer’s Guide to Dangerous Queries!