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PASS 2009 Tuesday Breakouts

There are 160 breakout sessions this year at the PASS Community Summit in Seattle, with 14 different sessions going on in any given time slot.  This means that there is a really good chance that you will find something of interest to attend during every session time slot.  This also means that there is a good chance that there will be more than one thing that you want to attend at a time.  And since I still haven’t found that cloning lab that Graz was talking about, I’m glad that most of these sessions are being recorded and will be available on the conference DVD and on the PASS website for attendees to review after the Summit is over.

Sometimes it was hard to choose which particular session to attend.  Currently I am playing quite the multi-faceted role of manager, app developer, database developer, and DBA, so I could probably pick up something valuable from every session this year.  But, since I am in the early phase of developing an intense Reporting Services project which is closely related to our first significant use of a hierarchical model which will have some sparsely populated columns, tied to a security management system, all being rolled out on brand new 64-bit Windows Server 2008 / SQL Server 2008 boxes, I used that to guide me this week.  So you might imagine that I was particularly interested in anything relating to the hierarchical model, including the new HierarchyID datatype, anything having to do with advanced Reporting Services configuration and security, and sessions on new features in SQL Server 2008 like SPARSE columns.  Oh and did I mention a project slated for next year that looks (to my untrained eye) a lot like the Bill of Materials problem, which coincidentally, there was a session with that in its name.

I started Tuesday (day 1 of the main conference) with Wayne Snyder’s presentation on Reporting Services in the Enterprise and picked up a few critical tips, especially as it relates to Report Builder 2.0 and some potential pitfalls we would have run right into because we have already anticipated the need for ad-hoc reporting on top of the whiz-bang system we are building.  For example, it is pretty easy for your users to accidentally produce a CROSS JOIN or Cartesian Product result set.  Also some good tips about Subscriptions and security including the reminder that when the Subscription is executed, it runs under the security context of the Reporting Services service account which probably does not have the same permissions as the user who created the subscription or who is targeted to be receiving the subscription.  This can lead to unexpected results if you use Windows Integrated Security for your data source connections and if the code is expecting to use the user’s identity to provide row-level security.

After lunch I went to a session entitled Solving the Bill of Materials Problem which is a problem I will be tackling next year, but which also promised some discussion of HierarchyID, and I’m currently debating whether to use HierarchyID in my current project as well as next year’s task.  The speaker in this session (John Cook) is of the definite opinion that HierarchID may be well suited to simple tree hierarchies; it is not the best solution for the BOM problem.  Good to know and also picked up references to some additional resources to research and decide what is best for our particular needs.

In the next time slot, I slipped on my DBA hat and went to listen to Grant Fritchey talk about how to use the Database Management Views that are new in SQL 2005 and 2008 as a shortcut to query tuning.  I learned a lot from that session, not the least of which is that I have a lot more to learn.  But I must say that it is pretty darn cool that you can issue a SELECT statement to find out about the other queries that are happening right now.

For the last session of the day, I goofed up my schedule and room assignments; and by the time I got it all straightened out, I decided I was better off taking a break and catching up on some work email and other stuff.  Also had a chance to sit and chat with Joe Webb for a while, which was a treat.

Overall, it was a greatly rewarding and valuable day.  All the things that I learned in this one day would make the whole event worthwhile.

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