Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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PASS 2009 Thursday – Part 2

Had another great day of training on Thursday at the PASS Summit.  After the fantastic keynote by David DeWitt, I went to a breakout session by Joe Webb on Data Driven Subscriptions in Reporting Services.  We already use Data Driven Subscriptions in my company, but I figured I could always learn something new, and besides, Joe is a good presenter.  Unfortunately I could not stay through the whole session because I had to leave early to get ready for the Meet the Chapters event at the lunch.  I was hosting the table for the Professional Development Virtual Chapter that we just launched.

The Meet the Chapters lunch was fun and I had great conversations with several people who stopped by.  I think that the virtual chapter format is really going to help fill a gap for people who would like to participate with PASS more, but due to scheduling conflicts or geographical barriers, just can’t make it to their local chapter.  I am working out some of the kinks for our first virtual meeting.  Keep an eye on our website for the details.  And come back to the site to continue the conversation even after the meeting is long over.

After lunch, I went to the session entitled Achieving Work-Life Balance which was a panel discussion and Q&A with some members of the Women in Technology Virtual Chapter.  Specifically, the panel consisted of Denise McInerney, Wendy Pastrick, and Meredith Ryan Smith.  Since I know both Denise and Wendy from past PASS Summits, I thought it would be fun to sit in on their session.  And don’t think that this topic, like the subject of Women in Technology overall, is just for women.  This topic is of significant interest to me now that I have a family, and the demands for my time at work are increasing, too.  Back when I was single, work-life balance was pretty much whatever I wanted it to be.  But now that I’m married and have a 1 1/2 year old and a second on the way; if I decide to hang out at the office for a couple of extra hours because I’m “in the zone” and I want to keep on running, it has a lot greater impact than just having to pick up something to eat on the way home.  It likely means that I won’t see my daughter before she goes to sleep, I may not see my wife before she goes to sleep, I don’t get to spend quality time with either of them that I really enjoy, and that’s just the surface stuff.  There are a lot of other relationship effects that can come out of that, especially if it happens a lot.  So, I went to the session and picked up some great tips.  Most valuable, I think, was the reminder to manage expectations and communicate, communicate, communicate!  Wendy had a great analogy about marriage being like an ongoing contract negotiation.  Another good point was to break work tasks down to the simplest components that you can so that you are not necessarily the only one who can do it.  Sometimes it is hard for us in technology to delegate, but if you never do find a way to spread the work, then balance will likely be very elusive.  It makes me think of the verse, “For what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul (or family)?”

The next session I went to was put on by members of the SQL CAT team on the topic of SharePoint on SQL Server.  There were several very practical bits of advice such as being sure to set the NTFS Allocation Unit size to 64K (the default is 4K); putting TempDB on the fastest drives and the content database Transaction Log files on the next fastest.  They also recommend limiting (soft limit) the content databases to a size of 100GB, primarily for the purposes of backup and restore SLAs.  And they gave a warning to not create any new database columns or indexes in the SharePoint databases, and to use the SharePoint tools to index columns if desired.  There was one more thing that I made note of, and you’ll want to verify this for yourself because I may have misunderstood, but I believe they said that SharePoint 2010 will only run on 64-bit machines.

The last session that I went to has turned out to be the one that sparked the most work and the most benefit immediately upon my return to the office.  The session was Denny Cherry’s Storage for the DBA.  I almost didn’t go because it was the last session of the summit and frankly I was pretty drained.  And I was concerned that this might get really technical and I’d be in over my head.  But fortunately, it was just the right level for me.  I learned some important jargon, a few key concepts, and most importantly, I learned some important questions to ask.  As it turns out, we were right in the middle of re-provisioning our first SAN in the company, and there was some doubt that it had been configured properly for our needs; primarily because of the lack of involvement that my team had in any discussions about our needs.  When I got back to the office, I was armed with the right questions to ask of our tech team and the consultant that helped them set it up, and I understood the jargon to use and the jargon they used in their responses, and I was able to determine that the disk arrays needed to be completely reconfigured.  With a little more research based on my new knowledge, I was able to work with the team to understand what we really needed, and to back up my gut instinct with facts.  After that, both my boss and I are far more confident that we will end up with equipment that is configured to meet our needs properly.  I am by no means a SAN configuration specialist after just 75 minutes of training, but I learned just enough to get us back on track.  How do you calculate the ROI on something like that?  It’s HUGE!  Again, another example of how just one session at PASS can justify the cost of the whole event.