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Sunday, November 11, 2012

PASS Summit 2012 Thoughts and Ruminations

"Sir, I think you have a problem with your brain being missing" - Zoe, Firely, "The Train Job"
The quote above is a little how I feel after this past week in Seattle at PASS Summit 2012. This was my second PASS Summit (many thanks to my boss for sending me out for another great week of education. My brain is so overloaded with information, I'm beginning to feel like it isn't there at all.

I learned last year a few things that were very helpful for me this year. Last year I struggled with notepads and pens and then trying not to lose all the pieces of paper I had acquired after I got home.

In the last 8 months or so I bought myself an iPad. Not really being a fan of Apple's soft keyboard I got myself a bluetooth keyboard/case to go with it. Saw at least one person with the ZAGGFolio case, my personal preference is the Airbender from New Trent. Used it heavily all week long in combination with Evernote as the note taking app and it worked brilliantly.

A downside to the conference was the wifi - while it seemed to work brilliantly for anything that didn't require an SSL connection (with the sole exception, oddly enough, of the session review site, couldn't get that to work on my iPad at all), I couldn't make an SSL connection to anything.

A new change this year was using the Guidebook site for electronic recording of speaker review forms. Even with the tablet access issue, I was able to use my phone to record session reviews with ease.

I was fortunate enough to also be there for both Pre Cons on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday, Argenis Fernandez and Robert Davis talked about Best Practices for DBA's. While they covered some topics that I had already researched well and implemented, there were still lots of ideas for things to look at. I also met a new friend on Monday, a DBA from Singapore who I will be sure to follow up with this week.

Had a brief moment to introduce myself to Argenis and thank him for his assistance on Twitter. Whenever I post to #sqlhelp he usually has some good input.

On Tuesday I decided to spend the day with Allen White and go over some detail in Powershell. As a complete Powershell novice, I was very impressed at the things that can be done with this language.

I will need to look into getting this framework installed on all my servers and seeing just what I can leverage from it.

Tuesday evening was a great time to catch up with a former colleague of mine from my previous employer (if you saw the Princess wandering around on Thursday, it was her) and also got to meet face to face with one of my customers for the first time.

I tend to skip the Keynotes because I'm just not that excited by the whiz bang new features that Microsoft has to offer as they are announced - because I know I won't see any of them for a long time anyway, and it gives me a couple of hours in the morning to catch up on email and tend to any issues before hitting the sessions.

Highlights of Wednesday's sessions, for me, were Erin Stellato's morning session on DBCC options, Bob Dylan (Brent Ozar) doing a Lightning Talk on the war going on inside tempdb and the fabulous afternoon session with Tom LaRock and Tim Chapman (Choose your own adventure). For those who weren't there, this was a cleverly designed session where Tim and Tom had concocted a poorly performing system. The scenario was - the server is slow and we can't work. Every minute the server is in this state, it's costing the company $250,000. Fix it.

They would ask for suggestions of what to look at from the room and then follow it up with "Why that? What will that tell you, what are you looking for".

There was some controlled chaos in some parts, with people yelling out all sorts of ideas but it was a brilliant concept for a session. Kudos to you, gentlemen.

Wednesday evening was the amazing Hard Rock Cafe Karaoke. Note for next time, if you want to sing, be up there early - by the time I had imbibed enough liquid courage to put my name down, the list was full. The live band were amazing and the performances by the attendees were (for the most part :) ) pretty amazing as well. One thing I did learn was that I have apparently led a musically sheltered life because I had never heard Creep by Radiohead before - and I heard it twice that night (and once more the following night at EMP). Big thanks to Pragmatic Worx, HP and Microsoft for sponsoring that one.

Thursday's highlights included a session from Brad Mcgehee on OS tuning and Brent Ozar's session on his sp_Blitz script. The new features in this new version give me high hopes that I might get some insights into tracking down a recurring process at my shop that locks the database to high heaven at the start of every month (I really didn't know you could pull execution plans out of the DMV's and place them in a free tool and get information on the parameters and what not out of it). Very excited about looking more into that at the start of next month.

The look on Brent's face after the session when my question started with "I have this really old COBOL based app that connects to SQL Server" was worth the price of admission.

Finally Friday came and topped off the week with some good tips from Kevin Kline on virtualization. We really don't virtualize database servers (they tend to be physical boxes) but I'm looking forward to digging more into this area.

There was so much to learn this week that it is going to take weeks to go through it all on every server and work out just what improvements can possibly be made.

Favorite session of the week is probably a split between Tom/Tim's "Choose Your Own Adventure" session or Brent's "sp_Blitz". If I had to choose, I think Tom and Tim would come out on top by a hair.

Next year, the Summit is off to North Carolina and I don't know if I'll be making it (we seem to be taking a direction more and more to Oracle in the future and less and less on SQL Server, and if that trend continues, I'll likely be investing more in Oracle education than in SQL Server)

Still, all in all a great week of education. Next on the list is the Rocky Mountain Oracle User Group Training Days in Denver in February. Same kind of thing as PASS Summit, for for Oracle (and always a great couple of days of training)! If you do Oracle, can't recommend this conference highly enough, go take a peek at for full information.

Many thanks to the organizers, the Board of Directors and the volunteers who made this all possible.