Dear Diary - Day 1 at SQL PASS Summit 2009

SQL Server

The day started out with "Bruce" Wayne Snyder providing opening remarks at the PASS Summit 2009 and finished with "Batman Returns" on the AMC channel. In between was a festival of SQL Server know-how and networking. A great day. The Keynote started out with Bob Muglia, President of Server and Tools Business at Microsoft presenting on the past, present and future of SQL Server. Back on January 13th 1988 Bob was with Bill Gates in NYC when they announced the first version of Microsoft SQL Server in conjunction with Sybase. It was a blast from the past to hear it was delivered on both 5 1/4" and 3 1/2" floppy disks. A great deal has happened since then. Bob showed us SQL Server 2008 R2 running on Windows 2008 Server R2 on an IBM x3950 M2 Server with 192 processors. (I was not quite sure why the server was on display on the stage with various trees and shrubbery, some form of camouflage perhaps?). He also announced a new world-record TPC-E benchmark result running on a Unisys ES7000 Model 7600R Enterprise Server setting a performance record of 2,012 tpsE (transactions per second for the TPC-E benchmark) on a 96-core Xeon platform, the first result on a server with more than 64 cores. Impressive stuff. Edwin Yen, Senior Product Manager of the Virtualization team at Microsoft then demoed the "Live Migration" feature of Windows 2008 Server R2 with Hyper-V. He showed a SQL Server, running with an active load, being moved to another node without skipping a beat using System Center VM Manager 2008 R2. Very cool. Ted Kummert, Senior VP SQL Server, then confirmed the release of SQL Server 2008 R2 for the first half of 2010 and announced a new CTP to be available this month. After the keynote, I attended the SQLCAT (Microsoft's SQL Customer Advisory Team) session on Security and Compliance. Denny Lee outlined how SQL Server 2008 supports mechanisms for compliance with requirements for SOX, PCI, HIPAA etc. Il-Sung Lee walked through PCI (Payment Credit Industry) requirements and how SQL Server 2008 supported them through features like Transparent Data Encryption, Audit, Policy Based Management, Change Data Capture etc. A customer testimony from Harvard Medical School on HIPAA compliance was next showing proactive ways of tracking and preventing the 100+ attacks they receive per day. This helped me understand how customers in these industries have to configure SQL Server and continously audit and monitor for security compliance. At lunch, we had the "Birds of a Feather" sessions which meant that many lunch tables were setup for particular subjects with a subject matter expert hosting each one. I had my meal at the "Failover Clustering" table hosted by Christian Bolton of Microsoft SQL Server development. I wanted to know more about suggested strategies for upgrade from SQL 2005 to 2008 for Clusters. There was a wealth of knowledge at the table and the concensus was that the rolling upgrade to SQL 2008 was a smooth process since you could upgrade the passive node first, then failover to upgrade the other node with minimal downtime. As always there is the side-by-side migration option too. We were also joined by Ahmed Bisht who gave us the low down on Windows 2008 Server R2 Clustering and the new Validation Wizard that allows a cluster to be qualified more easily. This was a great way to spend the lunch break. After lunch, I attended a session on Database Mirroring 2008 by Paul Bertucci, author of the SQL Server Unleashed books. This was excellent since the presentation went into sufficient detail with real-life examples and scenarios that were tried and tested. Paul had to struggle a bit to fend off questions that would be answered later so he could get through the materials. He showed that DB Mirroring 2008 was around 50% faster than 2005 due to compression of log records and provided the justification for an upgrade right there and then. He also showed how the Mirror database could be used for reporting using a Snapshot database. Combining Clustering with an asynchronous Mirror was an interesting option as well as combining Mirroring with Replication, all supported. Because of some room and time changes, I was forced into some exercise between floors 4 and 6 but eventually found my way to Craig Utley's session on SSAS 2005/2008 Best Practices. This was a well attended session and Craig guided us through some demos highlighting Attribute Relationships, Aggregation Design and efficient MDX. He let us know that SSAS 2005 was limited to 20 million rows per partition but now SSAS 2008 can support 300+ million rows. Whew! Final session of the day was with Joe Yong of Scalability Experts on Consolidation and Virtualization. Joe focused on emphasizing the difference between the two, as many vendors use the terms together. He has worked on many Consolidation projects (which may or may not have included Virtualization) with as many as 5000 servers. The most poinient slide was one with a picture of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg was the technology which is clearly visible and available. Below the water line were the more difficult issues such as security, management, administration and the most difficult, yes, people. Political friction can cause any project to fail so Executive sponsorship is a must. Although Virtualization in production with SQL Server is possible now with products like Hyper-V and VMWare, Joe's message was one of caution. Make sure your objectives can be fully met by the technology and the organizational infrastructure. I was pleased to hear that training was a critical component of any consolidation effort. Drinks and appetizers at the Exhibitor Reception were well received. It is always fun to tour the vendor booths to see the latest demos of products that support SQL Server. I especially enjoyed Red Gate's SQLPrompt intellisense add-in to SSMS. It makes Microsoft's version look pale in comparison, it really does. Microsoft themselves had several demo stations so the PowerPivot feature of Excel 2010 that supports operating with 100+ milion rows from SQL Server impressed too. Dell gave away a laptop at the end of the day. I won a rubber duck from Idera. What can I say?...I was happy. Roll on tomorrow... cheers Brian

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