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PASS Summit 2010 Recap

Last week I attended my eighth PASS Summit in nine years, and every year it is a fantastic event!  I was fortunate my first year to have a contact (Bill Graziano (blog | Twitter) from SQLTeam) that I was expecting to meet, and who got me started on a good track of making new contacts.  Each year I have made a few more, and renewed friendships from years past.  Many of the attendees agree that the pure networking opportunities are one of the best benefits of attending the Summit.  And there’s a lot of great technical stuff, too, some of the things that stick out for me this year include…

  • Pre-Con Monday: PowerShell with Allen White (blog | Twitter).  This was the first time that I attended a pre-con.  For those not familiar with the concept, the regular sessions for the conference are 75-90 minutes long.  For an extra fee, you can attend a full-day session on a single topic during a pre- or post-conference training day.  I had been meaning for several months to dive in and learn PowerShell, but just never seemed to find (or make) the time for it, so when I saw this was one of the all-day sessions, and I was planning to be there on Monday anyway, I decided to go for it.  And it was well worth it!  I definitely came out of there with a good foundation to build my own PowerShell scripts, plus several sample scripts that he showed which already cover the first four or five things I was planning to do with PowerShell anyway.  This looks like the right tool for me to build an automated version of our software deployment process, which right now contains many repeated steps.  Thanks Allen!
  • Service Broker with Denny Cherry (blog | Twitter).  I remembered reading Denny’s blog post on Using Service Broker instead of Replication, and ever since then I have been thinking about using this to populate a new reporting-focused Data Repository that we will be building in the near future.  When I saw he was doing this session, I thought it would be great to get more information and be able to ask the author questions.  When I brought this idea back to my boss, he really liked it, as we had previously been discussing doing nightly data loads, with an option to manually trigger a mid-day load if up-to-the-minute data was needed for something.  If we go the Service Broker route, we can keep the Repository current in near real-time.  Hooray!
  • DBA Mythbusters with Paul Randal (blog | Twitter).  Even though I read every one of the posts in Paul’s blog series of the same name, I had to go see the legend in person.  It was great, and I still learned something new!
  • How to Conduct Effective Meetings with Joe Webb (blog | Twitter).  I always like to sit in on a session that Joe does.  I met Joe several years ago when both he and Bill Graziano were on the PASS Board of Directors together, and we have kept in touch.  Joe is very well-spoken and has great experience with both SQL Server and business.  And we could certainly use some pointers at my work (probably yours, too) on making our meetings more effective and to run on-time.  Of course, now that I’m the Chapter Leader for the Professional Development virtual chapter, I also had to sit in on this ProfDev session and recruit Joe to do a presentation or two for the chapter next year.
  • Query Optimization with David DeWitt.  Anyone who has seen Dr. David DeWitt present the 3rd keynote at a PASS Summit over the last three years knows what a great time it is to sit and listen to him make some really complicated and advanced topic easy to understand (although it still makes your head hurt).  It still amazes me that the simple two-table join query from pubs that he used in his example can possibly have 22 million possible physical query plans.  Ouch!
  • Exhibit Hall:  This year I spent more serious time in the exhibit hall than any year past.  I have talked my boss into making a significant (for us) investment in monitoring tools next year, and this was a great opportunity to talk with all the big-hitters.  Readers of mine may recall that I fell in love with the SQL Sentry Power Suite several months ago and wrote a blog entry about it just from the trial version.  Well as things turned out, short-term budget priorities shifted, and we weren’t able to make the purchase then.  I have it in the budget for next year, but since I was going to the Summit, my boss wanted me to look at the other options to see if this was really the one that we wanted.  I spent a couple of hours talking with representatives from Red-Gate, Idera, Confio, and Quest about their offerings, and giving them each the same 3 scenarios that I wanted to be able to accomplish based on the questions and issues that arise in our company.  It was interesting to discover the different approaches or “world view” that each vendor takes to the subject of performance monitoring and troubleshooting.  I may write a separate article that goes into this in more depth, but the product that best aligned with our point of view, and met the current needs we have is still the SQL Sentry Power Suite.  I’m not saying that the others are bad or wrong or anything like that, just that the way they tackled the issue did not align as well with our particular needs as does SQL Sentry’s product.  And that was something I learned too, when you go shopping for these products, you really need to know what you want to get from them.  It’s best if you have a few example scenarios from work that you can use to test out how well each tool fits your particular needs.

Overall, another GREAT event.  I can’t wait to get the DVDs so I can sit in on a bunch of other sessions that I couldn’t get to because I was in one of the ones above.  And I can hardly wait until next year!