SQL in the City Pasadena 2013 Review

So here is my quick lunchtime conversation review on SITC 2013 Pasadena.

First, traffic sucked (as usual in southern California) and I arrived halfway through the keynote lecture.  This is ok because it was mostly Red Gate slanging their product Deployment Manager.  I took this opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a danish.

Once the talk finished, the fun begins:

Query Performance Tuning in the Cloud – So originally when I posted the preview, I had much different expectations for this talk.  I thought it would be filled with great new ideas on optimizing and making things run faster, however, it wasn’t.  The same principles as always, mostly, make your transactions short, sweet and slim.  Despite the expectation let down, Grant Fitchey is a very entertaining lecturer and this session was an excellent introduction into Azure.  I’ve missed the boat on Microsoft Azure, but after this session, I’m extremely interested in pursuing more hands on and practical applications for SQL in the cloud.

Database Build and Release – This was a great talk.  Ernest Hwang (not Red Gate) gave a run down on how he uses SQL Source Control, and Jenkins CI.  So during this talk the importance of having a framework was laid down, and really the great thing here was seeing Jenkins in action for the first time.  I was extremely impressed at how it was able to push releases of code, log them and run unit tests.  This opened up a whole new world of research for  me and I am extremely excited.

Best Practices for Database Deployment – During this talk DBA Grant Fitchey and Developer David Simner teamed up to present great reasons for why a framework and a set of processes should be defined for deployments.  Although this is not a new idea, there were some great tips on how to deploy using SQL Source Control, and Deployment Manager.  Grant stressed the notion that the DBA should work closely with the Developers, or at least a lead Developer.  I’ve been banging my head on the wall with my previous employment situation where the Development team was completely separated from the Infrastructure team.  During this session, I was able to reaffirm where the role of the DBA really lies in a fast paced development shop, and although a DBA will always bridge the two worlds of infrastructure and dev, the DBA needs to maintain an equal presence in both shops.

Lunchtime – damn, this was great, all you can eat sandwich spread, with various delicacies such as…potato salad.  I was happy, and full.  I nabbed a seat between a few randoms, and had some great lunchtime conversation.  It was especially interesting to hear that other people did not wear as many hats and I was wearing previously, and at times were somewhat astounded at the roles and parts I played, which astounded me equally at hearing that other people do not wear that many hats and play the parts that I do.  Sadly, I did not see the desert table until it was too late, 3 sandwiches later, I was having a second cup of coffee.

The Encryption Primer – This was my first session with Steve Jones, and his seriousness/humor blend was great.  Encryption is cool, and in my opinion encryption can be rather complex.  During this session I realized that Encryption cannot and should not be outside of the DBA tool belt, and that I will be recommending it’s use in various environments that I am part of.  Steve Jones did not “dumb” down a complex subject, and he presented exactly how I thought encryption would present (yeah…I stayed awake).  This was one of the best sessions of the day and I definitely took quite a bit from this one.

SQL Server Tips and Tricks – Ike Ellis.  Who?  Well a SQL Server MVP in San Diego that has an abundance of great tips when it comes to SQL everything.  This was a very interactive session and because I was sitting in the front row I was able to test my knowledge on questions being asked of the crowd.  One thing I noted…answering in front of a large group of people is not that bad, but definitely requires some practice in getting used to.  None the less, this was a fun session, a little less serious than the previous talks, and definitely much lighter to digest than the Encryption primer.  Two things that were IMO the highlight of his presentation, morguefile.com and lavishbootstrap.com, two great tools for adding a little bit of design to reports.  I was a little disappointed that we didnt get through all the tips in the limited amount of time, I would have enjoyed this session more if Ike had been given more time.  Ike was definitely entertaining, knowledgable and somewhat inspirational.  I’ll be adding him to my blogroll.

Automating Common DBA Tasks – This was the end of the day session, and you could tell the crowd and the speaker Grant Fitchey were feeling it.  The Demo’s that grant had prepared didnt seem to run, but even though, he was able to still keep the audience involved and entertained.  The message during this session was really just “DBAs, please for the love of god, learn Powershell and automate.”  I’ve been screaming this for sometime, and I even tried making it a requirement of our infrastructure team at my previous employer.  Powershell has so many great features that allow for automating mundane tasks.  I created a script called Ask Chaka (I’m slowly preparing this for public release), where Powershell generates pretty html pages that give me all the info I require about all my known SQL Servers.  This has been such a great tool to use in the mornings so that I can enjoy a cup of joe.

After party – Ok, so after the last talk, the schwag was thrown full force at the attendees.  Two Red Gate books per person!  This was probably the highlight of the day, I was able to snag Grant Fitchey’s SQL Server Execution Plans, and Sebastian Meine’s Fundamentals of SQL Server 2012 Replication.  They also threw me a usb flash drive (I can never have enough of these laying around), a T-shirt (another great item) and they had free beer for everyone (sadly I don’t drink, especially before a 2 hour commute home)

All things considered, SITC 2013 was an awesome experience, and I would definitely go again.  Conferences like this are a great place for DBAs to geek out together, and also a great place for DBAs to sharpen their skills.  I would recommend that if you are a professional that is serious about your career, you start attending conferences or talks on a regular basis.  I was able to ask questions that could only be answered by fellow DBAs as well as give answers to other people seeking advice.

Great show Red Gate.


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