Category Archives: SQL Server

The PASS Data Community Summit

I’m looking forward to attending the PASS Data Community Summit this year in Seattle, Washington. I’m also glad to have the opportunity to speak with fellow Microsoft MVPs Josh Higginbotham and Dr. Victoria Holt on a panel around Transformation and Innovation: Why the database must be included hosted by Steve Jones

In looking at this year’s lineup of speakers and sessions, several ones stand out to me. From a Sr. Level perspective, I’d like to tap into a few sessions:

Automate your Data Quality Validation by Aaron Nelson

Extend Azure DevOps to Take your CI/CD to the Extremes by David Bojsen

Overall, I do like how the tracks are broken out within the session catalog to give a sense of what they look like:

  • Analytics
  • Architecture
  • Database Management
  • Development
  • DE&I
  • Professional Development

It’s great to see some of my good friends, and new speakers I haven’t heard from yet regarding pre-cons. You should check them out and can do so here. Below are a few of my favorites.

The keynotes as well look to be shaping up to be something special:

It will be much fun and excellent content this year. As always, happy to chat if you see me; this event is one I’ve attended, spoken at, and volunteered for since 2011. I look forward to seeing everyone there.

The Power of User Groups

AzureDataCommunity

Fascination has always been with me when thinking of developing local talent. It has helped me immensely in my career both as an attendee, presenter, chapter leader, and more. One can glean immense value from becoming involved in a local UG (user group), whether by the connections made in networking, friendships formed, or learning something new that can help you on your journey.

This post isn’t one to talk about the past and looking at the rearview mirror, but seeing something tremendous and looking through the windshield. That phrase was told to me recently by a mentor, and it stuck with me. For those that aren’t aware, Microsoft has done a great job at intertwining a global network for user groups to come together and share knowledge to further impact communities.

Helpful Links:

  1. Can submit your group here – https://t.co/IzONhUQqel?amp=1
  2. Can submit your event here – https://t.co/0cE0sA5rbF?amp=1
  3. Find a user group on meetup – https://t.co/uRBu6utV5N?amp=1
  4. Upcoming community event list – https://t.co/IzONhUQqel?amp=1
  5. FAQ’s for the Azure Data Community – Azure Data Community FAQs – Microsoft Tech Community

This statement provides an in depth belief of what is starting to transcend community events globally in this arena:

We are Community Owned, Microsoft Empowered. Group leaders own their group, membership lists, content, etc. In that way we aren’t a governing umbrella organization. We’re a network of user groups with a common goal.

The Azure Data Community will continue to grow worldwide, and I challenge you to become involved in your local area. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in leadership at a local level and a global level in years past; nothing is more rewarding to see and help others continue to grow on their journey.

T-SQL Tuesday #135: The outstanding tools of the trade that make your job awesome

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on a T-SQL Tuesday topic and glad to see the topic being discussed by Mike Bronowski (blog) on tools.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for companies that have allowed me to utilize some pretty nice tools. Whether they are vendor or community-related there are a plethora of options for all platforms and prices.

Some of the ones that I have a special place for can be found here, but I’ll specifically name a few below:

Forums

SSIS

Maintenance / Performance Tools

Utility Tools

Red Gate Tools

SQL Sentry Tools

PowerShell Tools

One thing outside of the above I like to look at periodically are mentors. These morph over time and have a unique ebb and flow about them based on where you are at in your life, career, or journey. Solidifying some good mentors can become just as valuable an asset as a physical tool in your toolbelt.

Thank you, Mike for hosting this month!

What is T-SQL Tuesday

If you want to learn the what, when, how or why to T-SQL Tuesday you can click here for more information.

T-SQL-Tuesday

Release Your Inner Synapse

I don’t know about you, but as Microsoft has produced the Azure Synapse platform, I see a plethora of needs that could be fulfilled by it. Being in a financial institution I am constantly reminded of the world we live in now and the real need and desired for all things data.

The Azure Synapse platform is a complete platform for analytics which blends data warehousing needs, data integration, and big data into one end to end single service at a cloud scale.

Now more than ever data is at the forefront of business. It is the lifeblood to most and as the digital economy continues to expand at an exponential rate technology will need to keep pace. “Without analytics, data is a cost center, not a resource” I think that statement provides great insight into the future of businesses and data itself. If you stop and think about it, data in general, will either make or break you in most cases from a business perspective, and we are only as good as the information we take in at any given time.

Below is a high overview of what the Analytics Service offers:

As companies start need data at an unprecedented pace we find that having a one-stop shop offering for your data will become a game changer and give companies an edge. What does this unified experience look like for you?

I have many opinions about the platform, but what I like a lot about it is the ability to support multiple programming languages such as Python, .NET, SQL, and others. This combined with having integrations in AI, Machine learning, and business intelligence all on the same unified platform continues to set the bar high for future enhancements.

As you can see from the above figure the Analytics runtimes for SQL and Spark. Being able to have insights into shared data lakes opens several doors for businesses to take advantage of analytics like never before.

Security is also a big proponent of Azure Synapse. From automated threat detection to always-on data encryption; to column-level security you will find that there is an elaborate methodology in keeping your data safe and secured. One thing I still would like to check out is the Dynamic Data Masking that Azure Synapse supports.

If you haven’t checked into Azure Synapse yet I encourage you to do so. As you get acclimated and dive into it you will find quickly that you are in control of your data allowing you to query your data on your terms.

Additional resources to help you get started are:

Azure Synapse Analytics

Azure Synapse Documentation

Get Started with Azure Synapse Analytics

Friend of Redgate 2020

Last week I was excited to receive an email from Redgate notifying me that I have been renewed for another year as a Friend of Redgate. Our shop has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to utilize some of these products

As for the Friend of Redgate program it has been an amazing journey with Redgate. Six years ago they decided to take a chance on me, and am thankful that they did. Together, we have learned a lot together and I’m constantly realizing how much a program like this continues to make an impact for the community. I think Redgate sums it up pretty well:

“Our Friends are all experts on the Microsoft Data Platform, know Redgate and our tools and share our commitment to the community.

Over the last 20 years, our Friends have worked with us to create a whole host of learning content, solve problems on the forums, and develop even better software for our users. Their recommendations have also enabled us to reach and help more data professionals across the world.

The Friends of Redgate are an integral part of the Redgate team; generously sharing their time, expertise and insights with us. We’re hugely grateful for all their support and look forward to collaborating with the group, and helping them in any way we can, for many years to come.”

I look forward to serving the community, and this program continues to allow me an avenue in making a difference. Thanks Redgate for the opportunity!!

Friend of Redgate 2019

The crew at Redgate has deemed me worthy enough to be in their Friend of Redgate program for another year. I continue to be honored an humbled to be a part of something in which I believe in.

“The Friends of Redgate program is an exclusive group of influential and active community members, such as popular blog writers, speakers, consultants, as well as Microsoft Data Platform MVPs.”

Back in 2011 I was new to PASS, I attended my first PASS Summit and was just figuring out what the SQL Community was. Redgate was the first company to allow me to be part of a program such as this, and for that I am grateful.

I, personally, have been a product user of Redgate for many years and look forward to much continued success in the products that they produce. If you get time go check them out.

Thanks Redgate; it is an honor and privilege!!

SQL Saturday Louisville–Bout That Time

SQL Saturday Louisville is less than a week away!! A lot of hard work has gone into putting on this event by some great organizers and volunteers. It has been awesome to be part of the journey with them. You can check out the event homepage here and if your keen on checking out the schedule then you can check that out here

Fortunate this year to be co-presenting a lunch session with Justin Randall (b|t) “Break Through Your Data Performance Barriers with SentryOne” It’s going to be a fun time as we look into a case study that our shop partnered with them on – going to be an epic time!!

This year will be our 10th event and while I have been a part of these for the last three years I would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment and just thank the many who paved the way for our local community to get to where we are now. If you are coming to the event; please do look around and when you see a volunteer please give them a hearty thank you – believe me; it does go a long way.

Big thanks to our sponsors below for helping support us this year!

180 – Is It Time For A Turnaround?

What needs to change? The challenge to explore is are there things in your current day to day that needs to change? Maybe there are some habits, things, processes that need to be turned around. One of the most difficult things about turning around in my mind is acknowledging the fact that you were actually going the wrong way. What….we make mistakes…..nope, never, nuh uh. Admitting to that is not often an easy task.

We may uncover some inefficiencies in your processes at work, we might discover that the direction we’ve been heading in leads to a dead end, or we may even get to that point where we say, “yeah it’s time for a turn around”. It’s then you begin to start to look for that exit ramp; you look for the place where you can turn your flicker (turn signal for some of you) on so you can get off the journey you are on and go a different route.

How do you turn around? Sometimes our pride makes it hard in admitting the road we have been on isn’t the right road we should be taking. We don’t like using the word humble because it makes you feel vulnerable or weak. In my past experiences in technology, and I’ve been doing this now for 18 years is that there is usually always something we (I) could have been doing better.

The path you are on may feel right and other people are taking it, and because it feels right it is unnatural to do a 180; a different direction than what others are doing – it’s not natural.

When is the last time you yourself have said the words I’m sorry? If you haven’t in a while then yeah it’s unnatural. C’mon you know what I’m talking about. You run into these people everywhere; the ones that think their way is always the right way. They call you stupid or point out your mistakes 24/7 telling you how ignorant you are. Or you run into someone who says you won’t be worth anything why are you even trying. Entertain me for a minute and what if that same person did a 180; they didn’t give you a heads up and came up to you and told you that they were sorry. It’s a different road.

This is all well and good Chris but what about you? Ha, well my friend I’ve been taken several exit ramps over the years to turn around. Both professionally and personally. This post is more on the technical side of the house so, there are some things that maybe we can do differently in our day to day work that may cause us a 180-degree turnaround.

  • Backup plans
  • Maintenance
  • Life Cycle Management
  • Documentation (sigh, yeah I need to look at this one)
  • Platform Upgrades
  • Communication (this could be a topic in and of itself and in my mind should be a continual work in progress)
  • Hiring guidelines
  • Career Pathing
  • The security model for databases
  • Disaster Recovery

The above is not an all-inclusive list but it’s a start. Some of the ways that have helped me over the years and may help you in tackling such an initiative are:

Think Progress, not perfection  – this is a big deal because if you are like me you’d like everything to be perfect. You may find yourself using the term “Never Again”. I challenge you to let go of that mentality and you claim victory one day at a time.  If you mess up one day; and you will. It will be okay. You can’t change yesterday, but today is a new beginning.

Think future, not past – yes the past is important because it is full of lessons learned. With that said the past can’t keep you chained; instead focus on the future of where you are going; where your team is going, and where your shop is going.

Think training, not trying – this may sound weird coming from me because I do believe you should try. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m focused on training yourself for the tasks at hand. Example; if I wanted to go try for the Olympics and I go out and try my chances of succeeding aren’t very high. Why? cause I haven’t trained for it. Then if I look at my day job at the shop if I am trying to do something without training for it am I being efficient enough?

So, I ask this question – is it time for a turnaround? I get to work with a lot of tech people locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. I hear a lot that this would have been nice to know a long time ago and it’s too late now. I’m too far in my career. You don’t want to take that exit ramp because of the unknown. My own personal opinion it’s never too late to make a turnaround.

Now I don’t know the road you’ve been on I can only speak for myself. All I am presenting here is that if you are at a point where you know there needs to be a turn around don’t be afraid to take it. Keep fighting the good fight and make a difference wherever you are.

Interview With Matt Gordon

I’ve been wanting to share a little bit about Matt’s story for a while now and this past week I reached out to him to see if he’d be up for an interview for the blog. As is usually the case he was happy to oblige. I’ve known Matt for, O gosh, a couple of years now. Met him when he first came down from Lexington to speak at our Louisville SQL and Power BI User Group. It’s pretty awesome to see how he’s grown over that amount of time not just as a data professional but also as a speaker.

Check out the interview below:

Tell us your name, what you do, and how you got started as a data professional?

My name is Matt Gordon (b|t) and I’m a Data Platform Solution Architect for DMI. Basically, I’m a data architect and consultant in our Data Platform & Analytics group. While I had done basic maintenance on SQL Server machines for a year or so before this happened, my real start as a data professional was thanks to a wonderful manager of mine. I was working as a support analyst for an enterprise asset management software company and we had a reporting platform that allowed customers to write their own queries against their data that we hosted. As you might imagine, those queries did not always perform well and several of our customers wanted help tuning them. My manager thought I would do well with that, I did decently with it, fell in love with data, and here we are.

I see you speak a lot at SQL Saturday’s; what would you say to someone who is just starting out speaking and wants to get involved?

I would say that there is no better feeling than helping your fellow data professionals solve a problem or think through an issue in a new way. I would also say that involvement in the PASS community will benefit your career and personal knowledge base in ways that you can’t even fathom at this point in time. It certainly has mine.

That said, the one thing I would say to somebody starting out is not to let anything stand in your way. As an example, when I was younger, I stuttered. It would have been easy for me to duck any community involvement and public speaking (and for years I did, even as I attended SQL Saturdays and PASS Summits) by saying that nobody would want to hear me talk. I wasn’t a good enough public speaker, I didn’t know enough, other people knew more. Maybe all of that is true, but people have told me that my community talks have helped them and that feeling is invaluable. If you need any further motivation, just read Mr. Yates tweets every morning!

If you could go back in time; what would you tell your younger self in regards to being a data professional?

I would tell myself to never settle for a title and never stop learning. Don’t say “I’m a developer” or “I’m a DBA” and decide that’s all you will ever be. I completely understand that job roles sometimes aren’t fluid at all – I’ve had my fair share of jobs like that through the years. Being involved in computing (and data specifically), however, almost demands a certain amount of continuing education. I wish I had understood that earlier in my career but I’m glad that I understand it now. I happily pass that advice on to my younger self.

What advice do you have for new data professionals coming into the community?

Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to people who you think are “famous”. There are people in the community who will likely hear about via blogs, webinars, etc. Those people, in almost every case, are just normal people looking to help folks within the community. Whether they’ve headlined a pre-con, spoken at PASS Summit, been on a podcast, etc. they want to teach people what they know and how they came to know it.

I was very intimidated by this for a couple of years until I had a technical issue at my job that really had me perplexed. I happened to be going to Summit so I made a point to go outside my comfort zone and talk to somebody I didn’t know in hopes of resolving the issue. I spoke to Denny Cherry (b|t) on the exhibition floor near his booth and he gave me incredibly useful advice that set me on the path to resolving the issue. Denny was “SQL famous” (and he still is) but he listened and was kind to me despite the number of people queued up to barrage him with questions. In my experience, most names in the Microsoft data community live up to this standard.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I played street hockey in college at the Clemson Street Hockey Club (on sneakers). As much as I enjoy hockey thanks to sending half of my formative years in the Chicago area (go Blackhawks!), I can only skate well enough to stand up on skates and make slow circles around the rink. Ice hockey was never going to be an option for me. That is the only time in my life I was ever able to play competitive hockey and I did manage to score one goal. It was against my roommate, we’re still friends to this day, and it still bugs him when I bring it up!

Conclusion

One thing I am a big supporter and fan of is how integral the local user groups are all over the world are. I probably would have run into Matt somewhere down the road whether it was at an event or conference, but meeting him at a local user group is a story that runs rampant in the SQL community. Being able to meet, cultivate, and grow friendships as such it a key proponent of keeping our community fresh and alive.

Matt, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and share a little bit about yourself. I look forward to watching you for many years to come as you continue to impact others in the community, including myself.

What The Doctor Ordered

I recently went to our local pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions. There was one for my boy and one for me; at the time I didn’t think much of it to check. I had seen the last name on the slip for both and moved onward with the business of the day. What I didn’t realize is that I had picked up a totally different prescription for a gentleman with the same last name as me for something that had nothing to do with me.

A number of emotions ran through my mind some not so good, but some actually made me think of my day to day routine and work as a SQL Data Professional:

◾ What was the root cause of how the issue occurred?

◾ Was it a manual process or automated?

◾ What processes are in place for this to not happen?

◾ Security in general (information was on the slip for the other gentleman)?

◾ What could have been the outcome based on taking the prescription?

Sure, I’m human, and you bet I was frustrated by the situation. The questions above come into play every day if we look around. Think about it for a minute if you will. How many times are we going about the business of the day and truly aren’t paying attention? Or maybe we are working on an issue at work or in a shop and giving an issue a “what for” only to come to find out we weren’t correctly diagnosing the root cause of the issue, to begin with.

What is the root cause of how the issue occurred?

This seems like a logical question we would ask when dealing with a scenario. I’m guilty at times for triaging quickly and moving on; it is only when I step back and look at the true issue at hand will it then become extinct and truly eradicated. A wise boss I have once told me to always look for and identify the root cause; sure you will have to remedy the problem, but to truly fix the problem you need to address it at times further upstream. There will be times where you are not the one to fix the root cause and guess what? That’s okay. Yep – it is okay but you do your due diligence and bring that to the attention of others who may be able to fix that root issue.

Was it a manual process or automated?

For anyone who knows me knows that I love automation. Some may look at this as it pushing me out of a job. Quite the opposite for me; it has helped me to become more efficient and streamline many mundane daily activities. When I first became active in the SQL community six years ago I came upon a post by John Sansom (B|T) that dealt with automation. The concept has stuck with me and I am glad it did. Look around you in your daily routine; what can you automate? What should you automate? What processes can you enhance that will allow you to become more innovative in other areas?

What processes are in place for this not happen?

If you, dear reader, don’t get anything out of this post then I hope you tune into this section. If you identify a problem address it or get it addressed; too many times I’ve seen issues just get swept under the rug only to have the same problem happen again for the next data professional to fix. As I type this I’m even taking inventory of my own practices. Always have the mindset of making your practices better; don’t become stagnant. If you become stagnant then you are not innovating. Challenge yourself daily to make an impact – you be the game changer.

Security in general?

How many times have you seen security become an afterthought? I’ve seen it my whole career; it can quickly become the end of a project. Or better yet, if you work with a lot of installs and vendors, you will have the fun ability to just make everything SA. That should do the trick; just let me hop on your network and do whatever I want to do for the install. As a data professional and more specifically since I am a DBA, it is your duty to protect the information you are responsible for. Security is something that you should take seriously from day one. Do not make this an afterthought; if you do then the repercussions could be detrimental to any business.

What could have been the outcome based on taking the prescription?

As you work through any issues think about the outcome of what you are doing and the impact you will make. If you are changing architecture or schema how will that affect something else down the line? Maybe you just throw in an index not knowing if it will work better or affect something else down the line. Backups????? Eh, who needs them. Let’s just shut those things off. Oh yeah, I have backups but I’ve never restored one (don’t let this be you).

These are all scenarios I’ve seen over and over again. Think about working into your daily routine and thought mentality to think about the outcome of what is being done and the impact it will have on other business functions.

Conclusion

As we move through our daily routines and become frustrated at times with issues think about these 5 questions. They are simple in essence; don’t overcomplicate things. Look for the root cause and think about how to address it properly so it does not continue to happen. Don’t sweep issues under the rug. I still remember the saying from when I was growing up ingrained in me and I’m sure some of you have heard it as well ~ “Don’t put things off until tomorrow what you can get done today.”