Two weeks ago, I tagged along with Jason (@StrateSQL) to yet another SQL Saturday event. This time in Colorado Springs, CO. I hadn’t been to Colorado since I was 5, but I’ve always thought it was a beautiful state. It’s on my short list of other states I would ever consider moving to. The mountains are gorgeous, and we were lucky enough to have a fantastic view from our hotel room window.
We flew in to Colorado Springs on Friday evening. After checking in to our hotel, we stopped to say hello to a whole posse of people we knew hanging out in the hotel lobby. We then walked next store with our friends Christina Leo (@christinaleo) and Doug Lane (@thedouglane) to a restaurant called Black Eyed Pea. We walked in about a half hour before closing time (not realizing they closed so early). The service was tremendous, the giant baked potato was darn good, rolls were awesome, and $3.99 for a giant margarita? Yes please! After dinner, we went back to the hotel, hung out with some more SQL Peeps, and went to bed.
Saturday morning, we got up early, and headed to Mr. Biggs, the location for SQL Saturday. It was a very cool location for this event. I would have loved to spend time there playing laser tag, go bowling, playing pool, checking out the arcade, and driving go carts. Immediately after walking in, I noticed the awesome Speaker Gear – a red vest that said “SQL Patrol” (made to look like SKI PATROL). The team that put this event together, Chris Shaw (@SQLShaw|blog), his wife Gia (@MsSQLShaw) and a whole crew of people, did a great job! They were very creative. They brought the ski theme into every element of the day – from the banner at the door, to the speaker swag, to the map of the venue (done up like a ski mountain map).
I was volunteering as a representative of PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) with Jason Strate (Blog|@StrateSQL) and TJay Belt (@tjaybelt). We did our best to answer questions about PASS (I’m still amazed how many SQL people don’t know what it is). We used my laptop to show people the website. We also talked with people about training, networking, the PASS Summit, and twitter as a tool. While several vendors held contests during the “breaks”, our table had people asking questions, and/or hanging out. It was a lot of fun – of course, I got to meet a ton of new people which was right up my alley!
The large area where the vendor tables were set up, was also the room where meals were served, and some speakers presented. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to 5 speakers while sitting at the PASS table. While I didn’t understand everything they were talking about, I did “get” bits and pieces. I guess that is a perk of reading Jason’s blog and parts of the book on indexing that he is writing. While it was a great idea to have the vendors in this main room, I wondered if it was distracting to the speakers to have people having conversations to the back and sides of the room.
The day of speakers started with Tim Ford (@sqlagentman) presenting on his Periodic Table of Dynamic Management Objects. Being one who loves science, especially chemistry, I thought it was WAY cool the way he broke things all down. I even understood a bit of what he was talking about. Tim’s way of presenting his info was laid back and easy to understand. He even poked fun at himself a bit when he showed the whole periodic table and said “We make fun of people who’s slides look like this. There’s no way you can read it all.” He also “pimped out” Adam Machanic’s (@AdamMachanic) sp_whoisactive, saying “The best code you can use, is code someone else wrote and actively maintains. As long as you can trust it. It makes your life so much easier!” By the end of his time on stage, Tim was living his “talk show host dreams.” He jumped off the stage, and ran out into the audience to let them ask questions. Finally, Grant Fritchey (@GFritchey) was standing at the side of the stage waiting his turn to present. Tim turned the microphone over to him by saying, “Have you seen Grant? He’s big.”
Grant took the stage next. He was talking about parameter sniffing. I tweeted about it, asking “What’s that smell? It’s the parameter” (or something like that). It was re-tweeted several times. Who knew? Anyway, Grant’s style of presenting was fun. He was very casual. He could be quoted as saying “Cool” several times in his presentation (as seen in the photo). His talk was “all about the statistics.” He worked hard to get a tired audience to participate, at times asking questions such as “Are we in London?” When he got some chuckles, he said “Good, we’re awake.” While he was very dynamic in his presentation style, I didn’t understand what he was talking about (there was a lot of code in his presentation). I don’t blame him for that – I’m a preschool teacher sitting in technical training.
One thing I thought was really cool, were the built-in break times. Vendors sponsored activities such as pool and bowling tournaments, and laser tag, all for cool prizes. During this time, the vendor tables were hopping! The only thing missing during these times (especially in the afternoon) were snacks. Cookies would have been perfect about 2 hours after lunch.
The 3rd presenter in the room of vendors (and lots of other people) was Jim Murphy (@SQLMurph). I seem to not have a picture of Jim. I thought I took one, but I must have been too wrapped up in what he was saying? He was presenting about AlwaysON, a new feature of SQL Server 2012. His take on AlwaysOn? “AlwaysOn will solve: world hunger, peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” Some highlights I had written include: “Mirroring – now with clustering” and that “mirroring now includes synchronous and asynchronous; automatic failover.” Jim also said “The configuration wizard is so simple, even Quacky (Idera duck) can do it.” He had what seemed to me to be a fairly high level (read: lots of code) presentation. That said, Jason (who was also presenting on AlwaysOn later in the evening) had explained some of the features to me, so I understood what Jim was talking about (mostly) when he showed how mirroring can be used to run tests without the end users noticing outages on their servers.
After Jim wrapped up, we had lunch. Baked potato bar. Unique and tasty! One thing that didn’t happen during lunch, was the WIT panel. I was disappointed, as I was REALLY looking forward to hearing Tom LaRock (@SQLRockstar), Karen Lopez (@datachick), and Meredith Ryan-Smith (@coffegrl) speak. It ended up being more of a round table discussion with only 3-4 other people. Without it being a presentation, I was unable to join their small table of people.
Next up, was my husband, Jason Strate. He was teaching us how to be like Sherlock Holmes, and Investigate the Plan Cache. He taught us that the information in the plan cache can be really useful for pulling out specific pieces of information that you may need for performance tuning. He also cautioned that information that hasn’t been used in a while may be dumped out. Also, he pointed out that queries that haven’t finished running won’t show up in the plan cache yet. In other words, keep an eye on your plan cache. Get to know it, and check back often.
The next session I sat in on was Tom LaRock and Jason Strate together. They were using a unique new style of presenting, and I was curious. They basically broke a database, and had a room full of DBAs figure out as a group how to fix it. They had a goal to speed up the time it took for a report to run. Tom’s job was to do guide the adventure, Jason’s job was to “drive” – he clicked on items, and followed the path the group was taking. Sort of like turning the pages in a Choose Your Own Adventure Book.
As in many cases where a room full of people are problem solving, a couple of people tried to dominate the conversation. Tom did a great job of redirecting, and including everyone in the discussion. He used humor to let people know that what they were suggesting might not be the best way. Some examples, “We are costing the company 5 million dollars every minute we don’t figure out what the problem is. You could do it that way, but is it going to tell you exactly what the problem is? If not, don’t waste your time (and the company’s money).” “He does it that way because he bills by the hour. The rest of us need to solve this now.” Tom suggested that when touching base with users, point out things such as: “I see this stored procedure running, and it’s taking about 20 seconds. Is this normal?” It’s important to ask that question, because it may seem slow to them, but may actually be normal. Or, it may show them that you’ve slightly fixed the issue, and you are still working on it. His advice was also, “If you ever need to buy some time, blame the network. The Network guys blame Management for not buying the better equipment. The management will tell the people “You need to live with that performance for now.” It’s not an end-all solution, but it will buy you time to dig deeper into the issues at hand.
The final presentation of the day was from Karen Lopez. She was presenting on Contentious Database Design. She asked “Why contentious? Because people are contentious.” Her presentation was very interactive. She asked her listeners to vote (on a scale of snarkiness) on various topics. She then talked about the results of the voting, and why what the general population was doing was a good idea, or if there were better ways to do things or think about.
After raffles and wrap up of the event, we were all invited to have dinner at the hotel. There were 2 presentations during dinner. As I mentioned earlier, Jason was speaking on AlwaysOn (sponsored by SSWUG). While Jim had a much more technical presentation earlier in the day, Jason’s was much more of an overview. Jason compared availability groups to tacos, and had some interesting graphics to talk about different options/users/needs.
A dinner-time presentation was also made by Chris Randall (@cfrandall) (sponsored by SolidQ). He talked about some of the new T-SQL features in SQL Server 2012. He was very excited about what he was presenting on, and made it fun to listen to. People seemed very excited about more windows commands being able to do more things, and how simplified some things are going to become. I told Jason that if Chris had been my DBA teacher way back when, I probably would have liked it a lot more. Who knows how it could have affected my chosen career path!
The next morning, we hopped on a plane VERY early! The SQLSaturday event was a lot of fun, for reasons different than other ones I attended. I loved all the networking I got to do, and didn’t miss the fact that we didn’t party as much as we have in the past. One highlight for me, was when @SQLGlenn introduced himself to me. He told me he had read my blog post about my accident, and how he was both touched and inspired by it. Another was when Gia emailed me a couple of days later. I’m not going to go into the details of the email, but it was a huge warm fuzzy to me from one SQL Wife to another. What a great way to end a great event.