Dear Diary - SQL PASS in Seattle – Day 1

Last week I attended the SQL PASS Summit conference in Seattle and enjoyed every minute. "A kid in a candy store" is how I describe it. Where else can we find out about new features, hidden features, future features, hints and tips and then network with database professionals from all over the world as well as many of the local Microsoft developers? Let's look at day 1...

My first session was presented by Itzik Ben-Gan on the T-SQL enhancements in SQL Server 2008. He writes the "Black Belt T-SQL" article every month in SQL Server magazine and has written several books on the subject. He is a great presenter with a dry wit but most of all, he knows his stuff. He walked us through enhancements like the MERGE statement, row constructors and Table Valued Parameters while handling interactive questions. To answer a question, he would jump into the code and test it out live. Normally a risky practice, this takes a level of expertise and confidence that is rare. A great session.

I then had lunch with a couple of Microsoft developers in the SQL documentation team.  I let them know that Books Online is, in my opinion, the best online help system out there. Looks like the quarterly updates may become monthly, which is good news. Keep adding more real examples that we can copy, paste and test, was the message I conveyed. Even the experts use Books Online. Keep up the good work.

After lunch, I attended "Big Data: Working with Terabytes in SQL Server" with Andrew Novick. He showed us how to implement a daily load scenario using data partitioning to get huge performance gains with a multi-terabyte Data Warehouse. I found this very useful with good demos but I must admit, I talked with some advanced DBAs dealing with large databases that were a bit disappointed. Maybe the name of the session should have mentioned partitioning as the solution.

Next was "SQL Server 2008 Failover Clustering" with Max Verun from Microsoft. This session was standing room only a full 15 minutes before the start time. PASS, to their credit, announced straight away that this session would therefore be repeated on Friday due to this demand. There have been many changes to setting up a SQL Server Failover cluster in 2008 so this was a very important session. One thing that is interesting is that you can actually have a single node SQL cluster in 2008. Not that this is particularly useful, but is a by-product of the new install sequence which now has you install each node separately due to the issues with remote installs in past releases. Rolling upgrades are now supported with a typical total downtime of around 2 minutes. This got a round of spontaneous applause. You can now have up to 16 nodes in a Failover Cluster with the Enterprise Edition using Windows Server 2008 EE. The Standard Edition still supports 2 node clusters.

Next there were 5 sessions that peaked my interest out of the usual 12 choices. The one that got my vote was the one that meant I did not have to fight the crowds.  I just stayed in my seat and waited for the presenters to switch. Great idea. The session was "Upgrading to SQL Server 2008: Lessons Learned and recommended practices" with Joe Yong of Scalability Experts and was standing room only again. Real life experience is the key to an excellent session for me. Joe could answer all the difficult questions because he has already done hundreds of real upgrades with customers. He also showed us a free download tool that supplements the Upgrade Advisor called SQL Server Upgrade Assistant. It's a clever tool that analyses application code and compares execution across releases by using SQL Profiler traces and its replay feature.

The day finished up with the Exhibitor Reception sponsored by Dell. This is where attendees could relax and network with each other and also meet vendors that support SQL Server in a variety of ways. Microsoft developers were also there in abundance wearing brown polo shirts to make them conspicuous and open to questions and feedback. Of course, plenty of food and drink was nearby. I was proud that Global Knowledge had a booth, being a sponsor of the conference. It shows what a good conference this is, when even interacting with the vendors is fun and meaningful.

Come 8:30pm, I was very tired but happy. A great day.

Cheers

Brian

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