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SQL Saturday #94 Wrapup

So take one part road trip, one part awesome community event, one part hanging out with friends old and new, blend thoroughly, and you get my weekend at SQL Saturday #94 – Salt Lake City. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun the SQL community is, but I love it and can’t wait to get more.

As stated previously, I was asked to do my security presentation, which was nice because after four times presenting the session is very comfortable. (I’m going to need to stop submitting it, though, so I can present on other topics.) The session went smoothly and I finished 5 minutes early, but there was good engagement from the audience, with plenty of questions and folks who stayed after to talk more about the topic.

The event itself was run in conjunction with a code camp event and, while that got the bulk of attendees, I felt like we had a nice sized audience for the SQL sessions. Things seemed to run pretty smoothly and (I don’t think) we had any major crises going on. Attendees floated between both floors, so it was nice to get a good cross section. Also, the code camp brought in a lot of open source and non-Windows people, which added to the variety. We even had a session about MySQL! (which I unfortunately had to miss because it was up against my own session)

Besides attending my own presentation, I sat in on a couple others:

  • Mitch Bottel (b|t) spoke on Policy Based Management and Central Management Server, a topic I’ve been dancing around lately. It was good to get his take on it and he gave a good enough taste that many of us in the room were excited to take what he had taught us back to our workplaces.
  • Chad Crawford had a fantastic presentation on partitioning. While I’ve got experience with the topic, Chad really gave a good foundation of all the principles of table partitioning and enough practical knowledge to get folks started implementing it.
  • Ben Miller (b) had a solid session on SQLPSX for Powershell. This is a topic I’m really excited about because there are a lot of management possibilities out there for shell scripting. I saw enough of SQLPSX to know that it’s going to make my life a lot easier once I start piecing together my own scripts.

Outside of the presentations, we also had a nice chance to hang out. Randy Knight(w|t) and his wonderful wife were incredibly generous by entertaining a group of us Friday night at his house with conversation, cheesecake, and ice cream cake. T Jay Belt (b|t) was an awesome host, putting 5 of us in Colorado up in his camper. Then, on top of all of this, the both of them took a group of us up in the mountains after the event to wind down with some barbecue, a campfire, and beer on a comfortable Saturday evening. Really, I can’t think these guys enough for what they did for this event.

Thanks to the vendors who supported the event as well. It’s because of these fine folks that we can have these events, so don’t hesitate to chat with them at these events. The tools they offer have definitely helped me out managing my environments and they can save you a lot of time, too. The reason they invest in the community is because their success is determined by our success, so they want to see all of us do well.

Finally, big huge gigantic thanks go out to Pat Wright (b|t) and his crew for putting this all together. Hosting a SQL Saturday is a non-trivial event and really can take it out of you, but the benefits are huge. It’s what I love about being a SQL Server guy, because we have this awesome grass roots effort to share and learn to everyone who is involved in our technology. I came out of this event with half a dozen new friends (technical contacts, sure, but I consider ’em friends first), additional speaking experience, and some new info about technical topics. If you haven’t had a chance to participate in something like this, take some time and figure out where your local user group meets. Check out the SQL Saturday website and get involved. Once you do, you’ll not only see your career take off, but you’ll have a sh*t-ton of fun doing it.

After all, that’s what’s happening for me!

SQL Saturday #94

First off, I apologize for not posting for a while.  I’ve switched jobs and have been spending the time getting sorted at the new job.  On the one hand, it’s exciting to move into a new environment and learn new things.  However, it’s also been oddly comfortable, since it’s all SQL Server.  Anyway, more on that later.

I found out yesterday that I’ll be presenting at SQL Saturday #94.  Hurrah!  I’m very happy the Salt Lake City folks have given me a chance to present.  Unfortunately, I present opposite to Doug Lane, but at least I won’t have to worry about him heckling me.

For those wondering, I’ll be doing my security presentation again.  For those curious, it’s definitely a beginner presentation, but it was well recieved at all the Colorado groups.  I was even told by a DBA of 20+ years that he got something new out of it.  Hopefully you will to!

Managing and Auditing SQL Server Permissions

When your boss asks you who has access to your databases, do you break out into a cold sweat? Or, instead, are you worried about those other people who might have ‘sa’ access to your server and might be causing trouble on your server? Either way, as DBAs we need to be able to audit our SQL Server security. This presentation will give you a general overview of the different types of roles that you can use to manage access, what they mean, and how we look at the security gremlins hiding under the covers of our databases.

I look forward to seeing you in Salt Lake City!

It’s a heterogeneous world

Here’s my big “DUH” statement to kick things off with: The information technology world is one of constant change. Shocking, I know! For most of this, it’s why we love the business. There’s always something new to learn and fresh challenges to solve.

But it’s also a world where the old things don’t go away. I’m sure many of us have stories of having to keep some Access application afloat or supporting a legacy website that had most of the back end hard coded. When companies make investments, they want to get the most of that investment that they can, which means platforms will stay around for years because it’s to resource intensive to replace things that are already working.

This is especially noticeable if you work in a company that grows by acquisition. Rarely do different company’s have the same systems, so every acquisition means having to adapt to a new set of software. I’ve had to deal with acquisitions in every job I’ve worked in, and through that period, I’ve had to support 5 different database platforms. My focus has always been on SQL Server, but I’ve had to learn to adapt to these other technologies in order to support either a migration, a legacy application, or a proof of concept system.

So what am I getting at here? Mostly, that it’s important to not become to focused or attached to any one platform, particularly when it comes to databases. Only the very lucky will work with one only SQL Server (or another database system) for their entire careers. Here’s a couple tips to keep in mind so that you don’t short circuit yourself when challenged with a new system.

Be Flexible

If a new technology comes into the company, don’t be afraid to take it on. As far as databases go, you have a couple things working in your advantage. While some of the underlying mechanics may be different, such as storage and memory use, many of the fundamental concepts are the same. You’re still going to have tables, keys, and indexes. You’re still going to need to take backups, update statistics, manage access. Chances are that this is most of what you will be required to do to support a new platform, so don’t be intimidated by how “foreign” a new system might be.

Be Aware

The next stage beyond flexibility is awareness. How many database systems can you name? Three? Four? Even if you just know the names of some other systems, you’ll have an edge. Take some time and research what else is available. Once you know some names, you can then take it a step further and get a general idea of the capabilities of these platforms, as well as what separates them from each other. If you can get to the point where you can describe a platform in a paragraph, not only will you be more comfortable learning to support a new system, you can also provide high level feedback on transitioning a platform into your enterprise.

Be Ready

Don’t get blindsided by a new situation. If you can get ahead of the game and at least have cursory knowledge of how to do things in a different database system, your life will be a whole lot easier. Expand on your basic knowledge and take time to figure out how to do some of the basics, like:

  • Taking a backup
  • Creating a database
  • Importing/exporting data

You never know if or when you will need to do any of these tasks. You don’t need to be a certified expert, but if you take the time to at least experiment with other platforms, then you won’t feel like you’re floundering for a life preserver when a new acquisition gets thrown at you. If you don’t know some of the basics when you have a new database thrust upon you, make it a priority to learn these things first, taking all the basic tasks you perform on the database you’re familiar with and find out how to do them with the new technology.

As data professionals, we are expected to do our part for the company and take on these new challenges. Don’t be afraid of having to adapt to other database solutions. From my perspective, this is a great way to be the hero for your department, simply by taking a little time to get ahead of the game. And by knowing more about other technologies, you are also prepared to help plan your company’s acquisition and integration efforts, ultimately furthering your career and preparing yourself for the next stage.