SQL Saturday Recap

I attended my first SQL Saturday event two weeks ago at SQL Saturday #47 – Phoenix and it was a day well spent. I was lucky in that the event was held about 7 miles from my house, so I really had no excuse not to go. A drawback of this, however, was that I was still close enough to home that I could run errands that I had to do at lunch, thus missing out on an opportunity to socialize with other DBAs in the area.

I attended for the full day and it went really quickly. When the last panel finished, I was surprised that the day was over. It was probably the quickest 8 hours ever.

I started off the day with Janis Griffin’s panel on Management Data Warehouse. I have toyed with this tool in the past and found it a bit confusing, so it was good to see someone go over how it works and how to set it up. She also confirmed two things I discovered: 1) you can’t really look at more than 24 hours of data at a time and 2) turning MDW on will generate about 200-300 MB of data collection a day. Make sure you have plenty of disk space! Janis works for Confio, which provides a  third party tool that provides similar functionality to MDW and she demoed that briefly as well. The panel confirmed my thoughts on MDW – it’s a nice free tool, but there are other tools out there that can do a better job (although they cost money). In my work, I ended up writing my own version of the MDW functionality I needed.

From that panel, I headed over to Colin Smith’s panel on an introduction to Powershell. I’ve only dabbled in Powershell so I was looking forward to this panel. Colin provided a good basic over view of Powershell, at least as well as could be done in 60 minutes. He showed some of the most frequently used commands and how Powershell can simplify a DBA’s life.

Next up was Denny Cherry’s SQL Server Clustering 101 panel. This, as the name implies, provided a good overview of clustering. I knew most of the information already, but it was nice to hear from someone else that my understanding was correct. (As I am pretty much self-taught, this was a common theme for me. I attended some panels where I knew the subject simply to make sure my knowledge was correct.) I thought Denny was a great presenter and it was good to meet someone in person who has helped me on Twitter. He was also the first of a couple people who I discovered have a Twitter photo that isn’t quite like how they look in real life. (He no longer has a mustache and goatee.)

I then attended another panel by Janis Griffin, this one on tuning SQL Server. She showed us the process she uses for tuning SQL queries – from collecting performance data to looking at what can be done to improve performance. Again, Confio software was demoed.

My second Powershell panel by Zach Mattson and was about using Powershell for monitoring SQL Server instances. This was the better of the two Powershell panels, in my mind, because Zach walked through some of the scripts he uses to administer his servers. He had some really good stuff. Again, with the 60 minute time limit, we couldn’t really go into the details of how each script worked, but we did get an idea of how powerful Powershell is and they types of things it can do.

My final panel of the day was again with Denny Cherry, this time regarding encryption and where data should be encrypted – at the database level, the application level, or as it travels over the network.

For a free event, SQL Saturday was amazing. I gained a ton of knowledge and would recommend going to anyone who is at all interested in SQL Server. The quality of the presenters varied – for some of the presenters, this was their first time presenting and for others, it was obvious that presenting is something they do almost professionally. Still, this was a great event and should be part of every DBA’s continuing education process.

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