Author: sqlatspeed

Why I Am Running for PASS Board

Simply put, becoming involved in PASS events and the broader organization itself has changed my personal and professional life for the better in a massive way. I want this organization, and the community it represents, to be around for many years so it can provide to others the same opportunities that it provided to me. This year and this pandemic have presented massive, but not insurmountable, challenges to this organization and its future. I want to be a part of channeling everyone’s clear passion for the this community into clear-eyed and clearly communicated decisions that will put PASS on a firm footing for years to come. Connecting, sharing, and learning has never been more important. Let us do what we can to ensure that PASS is here to serve the community for years to come.

If you’ve arrived here from my campaign website on PASS.org, you’ll likely recognize that as my campaign platform statement. I’d like to expound on that, my background in this organization, and a bit more.

Before becoming aware of PASS Summit sometime in 2012, and attending my first Summit in 2013, I thought my life was a DBA would be an endless search of Google and Bing searches in pursuit of a solution for whatever our latest fire alarm issue was about. I didn’t know that there was a community out there to help, and I was intensely shy by nature, so that lack of awareness on my part was infinitely more comfortable for me. That said, we had encountered some difficult issues in our Always On Availability Group implementations and I read a blog mentioning the Microsoft Clinic at PASS Summit 2013. I told my boss that I needed to be there to discuss our list of issues with the engineers and, thankfully, he approved me for the trip. Not only were our issues resolved in the clinic, but my eyes were opened to an entire community of data professionals from different parts of the data platform world and different parts of the real world as well. My first Summit experience honestly blew my mind even though I stuck with the experienced introvert plan of never talking to anybody other than the folks at the clinic and never sharing a table with anybody at every meal. My curiosity had definitely been piqued.

From there, contacts I made at the next PASS Summit (where I actually talked to some people) led me to make some additional contacts at a SQL Saturday that led to me getting a job in consulting. My consulting job mandated that I present a webinar or a live session once a quarter to maintain visibility of the company and myself. Despite my occasional stutter and intense fear of public speaking, I started building sessions to present at virtual and in-person events. As those sessions improved in cohesion and quality, doors were opened to speak at events of many different sizes in different regions of the country and, eventually, all over the world. I was also awarded as a Microsoft Data Platform MVP in 2018 – something not even in the realm of possibility for me when I first became involved in PASS.

I owe nearly all of my professional success, my friendships around the world, and my ability to help mentor and elevate others in this community to PASS and its members. I want it to survive and thrive and I want to be part of the solution so we can, collectively, elevate so many others. Thank you for reading and, if offered, I appreciate your support and vote in the PASS Board elections.

Data Platform Discovery Day – How To Help

Data Platform Discovery Day – How To Help

Stuart Moore (@napalmgram on Twitter) and I are proud to announce the first edition of Data Platform Discovery Day, happening for US-based timezones on April 29 and European timezones on April 30. What is it, you are likely asking?

Data Platform Discovery Day is a one-day virtual conference intended for folks looking to make a career change or data platform beginners wishing to expand their skill sets into areas beyond the one in which they work currently. It is a grassroots, community-driven day where well-regarded speakers will be presenting introductory, 100-level sessions on topics across the Microsoft Data Platform. Whether your interest lies in database performance, data visualization, or data development we intend to have material across the spectrum that helps you expand your burgeoning skill sets or introduces you to your new career in data for the first time.

We’re currently looking for speakers for the US and EU events so please visit the main link at https://dataplatformdiscoveryday.com/. We’re also looking for a few session moderators as well – feel free to reach out to Stuart or myself (@sqlatspeed) directly if you’d like to help with that.

Above all, stay home, stay safe, and we’ll speak to you virtually at the end of the month.

Gift Received: The Bravery of Vulnerability (T-SQL Tuesday #121)

Gift Received: The Bravery of Vulnerability (T-SQL Tuesday #121)

Thanks to Mala Mahadevan (b | t) for this wonderful T-SQL Tuesday topic for December: Gifts Received For This Year. While I started a new job this year (as an Architect for Insight Digital Innovation) that I am very thankful for and is a direct result of community involvement, that’s not the 2019 gift that I wish to commemorate. That said, it’s awesome to read the volume of posts from people whose professional lives progressed this year!

My post for this T-SQL Tuesday, the 121st edition, will be simple and to the point. The biggest gift that I’ve received this year is the emotional, personal bravery that’s been on display in our community this year. That’s certainly not new to 2019 but it’s been especially meaningful to me during this year. There are a number of stereotypical descriptions about data professional and data-curious folks but, in a year where I’ve struggled with some personal issues, it’s been absolutely inspiring to see how some prominent people within the Microsoft data platform community have put themselves out there publicly.

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Whether it’s a blog delving into personal issues, or a tweet displaying some vulnerability, or professional development sessions at community events that are deeply personal, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a small part in a community with people willing to speak openly about the personal issues that may (or may not) affect their professional lives. When you are fairly reserved, as I am, seeing other people call attention to issues that you are also dealing with is a greater gift than a free book, t-shirt, or some new bit of technical knowledge.

On this note, I want to call special attention to two sessions at SQL Saturday Charlotte (which happened this past Saturday, December 7, 2019) that helped a lot of people. Tracy Boggiano (b | t) spoke about “Mental Illness in Tech” and how it may be more common than you think and Donna Ellis Wilson (t) spoke about how “Failure Needs To Be An Option” and the lessons you can learn from it. These sessions helped some people who will tweet, blog, etc. about how it helped them but, more importantly, it helped other people who will never acknowledge how much these sessions met them where they were at and helped them through issues in their own life.

For 2019, I am thankful for Donna, Tracy, and many others who take the time to sympathize, empathize, and speak to fellow members of our community about their own struggles. The bravery of vulnerability is not an easy thing to execute and/or embrace, but the folks in our community that are doing it are an asset to us all. If you’re celebrating a holiday during this season, I hope you find it restful and relaxing. Cheers!

Racing Toward SQL Saturday Charlotte

Racing Toward SQL Saturday Charlotte

You knew I couldn’t start a blog post about speaking in Charlotte without a racing picture, right? I wanted to take a minute over this holiday weekend to remind my readers, especially those in the southeastern US, that SQL Saturday Charlotte is closing in on us. The 2019 edition of #SQLSatCLT is on Saturday, December 7. This year’s edition also sees us at a new venue – the Cone Center on the campus of UNC Charlotte. The most exciting part of this year’s venue is that speakers and participants no longer run the risk of being attacked by violent geese (😁), as this helpful warning sign alerted us to a couple years ago!

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I’m excited to be presenting my Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Logic Apps session (with a bit of Power BI) entitled “Feelings Quantified: Scoring, Storing, and Exploring Social Media Sentiment”. I really enjoy presenting this session and it’s my hope that it opens people’s eyes to the many cool and valuable things data professionals can do that may not be pure data work. Things like Cognitive Services can bring more value to a company’s data by helping it generate actionable insights and we’ll talk about that in this session. We’ll also talk a little bit of soccer as well, as it was a soccer podcast that actually got me into the world of Cognitive Services and Logic Apps.

Enough about me – I hope to see you at SQL Saturday Charlotte. The registration link is here and I’ll see you there on Saturday, December 7th!

T-SQL Tuesday #119: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

T-SQL Tuesday #119: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Alex Yates (b | t) is hosting this T-SQL Tuesday (the 119th edition) and has given us a broad and interesting topic to work with this month. Alex has asked us to write about something in our IT career about which we’ve changed our mind. Several topics, both technical and non-technical, ran through my mind but I landed on something that’s quite a bit more personal and open than I’m inclined to be.

My path to a career in IT began as a Computer Information Systems major at Clemson University (go Tigers!). While the CIS program provided me an excellent computer science education, nearly all of the work in the program was individual development projects. This was fine for me because I was, as nearly all 18-year-olds are, sure that I was going to be a rock star developer and that I didn’t need help or assistance from anyone. My early CS grades were a clear indication that I was not nearly as smart as I thought I was, of course!

Nevertheless, as I began my professional career as a general IT person I was working on a lot of solo projects and, despite my GPA, still believing that I was pretty darn smart and didn’t need help from anybody. It wasn’t until I got into application support for a company in Greenville, SC – and was part of a strong team – that I realized what I had been missing.

What I had been missing was two-fold: 1) you learn much more much faster when you’re surrounded by smart people and 2) at some point in your life you will need the support of a team/community for professional and personal challenges that you will face. I was not wired to understand this at first, but with the benefit of hindsight and experience I’ve realized the value of making connections outside of yourself.

I’m wired to be shy. I’m an introvert. I used to stutter (and still do once in a while). For a long time, making connections to other people in social settings ranked just above “playing in traffic” on the list of things I wanted to do. My educational career and early professional career kept me in my individual comfort zone. As I started to progress in my career and was forced to be part of a team, though, I realized how much more information I was gathering when working as part of a group. As my career led me to data platform consulting, I began to realize how important it was to have a group of friends and a network with diverse interests and pursuits within the data community. I’ve learned a tremendous amount connecting with people far smarter than I am and I’d like to think I’ve helped some folks along the way as well.

My journey and my advice above is probably not earth-shattering and probably not unique with the community. What has been earth-shattering and unexpected, at least from my point of view, is the help I’ve received from the community that I never expected to get. As a few of my readers know, I’ve definitely struggled with my mental health over the last couple of years. Left to my own devices, I likely would have crawled into a figurative hole, tried to grind out enough work to not get fired, and done my best to maintain that status quo, such as it is/was.

However, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some friends within the Microsoft data platform community that were there for me to listen, to relate, to empathize, and to encourage. I am 100% not built to accept that kind of help but I am grateful for it and, truthfully, it has been essential. Obviously, like any community, our community has its share of bad apples and I’m not minimizing the negative experiences I know some folks have had. I do want to share, though, the positive experiences that I’ve had breaking out of my comfort zone on a personal level and working to make those connections.

Simply put, I’ve gotten by with a little help from my friends. Involving myself, personally and professionally, in this community represents a complete 180 degree mindset change from younger me but I’m thankful for it. I’d encourage you to also involve yourself in community initiatives and events at a level where you are comfortable and I sincerely hope your experiences are as positive as mine. Click here to link back to Alex’s original post – thanks for reading mine!

 

#DPS10: My Travels to India Inspired Me

#DPS10: My Travels to India Inspired Me

I set a personal goal for 2019 to push my boundaries travel-wise. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to speak at SQL Saturdays and data-related conferences in and around Europe over the past couple of years and, for 2019, I wanted to expand my travels to somewhere beyond North America and Europe. To that end, I was honored to be selected by the Data Platform Geeks team to present two regular sessions and a chalk talk at this year’s Data Platform Summit (known by its #DPS10 hashtag). I also appreciate the diversity of the topics, as I presented on high availability in Azure, Cognitive Services, and Azure Logic Apps.

As you may have noted, my motivation for speaking at this conference was fairly selfish. I’ve always wanted to travel to India and it’s always good to present to and meet with people within the Microsoft data platform community. That said, as soon as I arrived at #DPS10, I felt immediately grateful for the opportunity to be there and participate in the event. The enthusiasm of everyone involved, from pickup at the airport to the keynote to the sessions, was overwhelming. I’ve certainly had professional and personal challenges over the last year and change, and those can take a toll on you, but I was instantly invigorated by how motivated everyone involved in the conference was to expand their knowledge of all the areas of the Microsoft data platform.

Honestly, I’ve struggled to find the words for how positive an experience this was (thus the blog happens nearly 3 weeks after I returned). Simply put, the team behind Data Platform Summit does a first-class job making speakers feel welcome and engaging attendees. If you get the chance to participate in future Data Platform Summits in, don’t hesitate to accept that opportunity. I certainly hope to be back someday and hopefully I’ll see you there!

Gonna Blog Like It’s 1999 (Hello, Past Me)

Gonna Blog Like It’s 1999 (Hello, Past Me)

Fellow IDERA ACE Mohammad Darab (b | t) presents this month T-SQL Tuesday blog party and the topic is absolutely wonderful for an introspective introvert like me: “Dear 20 Year Old Self”. Seeing as I am 40 years of age as I write this, 20 year old me existed in 1999 which was, thankfully, referred to in the Prince song that the title of this post references (I was getting desperate for a title). 20 year old me thought he had it all figured out, so I thank Mohammad for the opportunity to set 1999 Matt straight. Without further ado, here’s the letter to 20 year old me…tsql2sday-150x150

Greetings, 1999 Matt! Congrats on the sweet 8 GB hard drive you just bought. In 20 years, even the free thumb drives you get at conferences where you’re speaking (crazy I know, but we’ll get to that) will be larger than that and you’ll have a phone with 32x that amount of storage. Also, Clemson will have won two national championships in college football but not with Tommy Bowden (who you are very excited Clemson just hired but wasn’t the answer to our championship drought). In some ways, the future is pretty cool. But I’m not here to damage the space time continuum or give you a leg up in the NCAA championship future pools in Vegas. I’m here to give you advice. Here it is in semi-bulleted form since I still like that format and know you like it too:

Don’t Be So Dogmatic

You think you have it all figured out right now. While that confidence can be healthy and may serve you well off and on in the future, you’re wrong about a lot of things. Your world is small. Most of the people you know look like you and have similar experiences to your own. That’s fine, but seek out people from different backgrounds who can broaden your horizons. They will enrich your life and make you a better person. You are capable of critical thinking – apply that ability to examine the world and people around you and make the choices that make sense to you. Those choices may not be preferred by the people and structures around you but as your horizons expand your self-confidence will come from your comfort with yourself and your place in the world and not what you think you know. Make an effort to be a good person and present in the lives of those around you – being “right” doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think.

Learn More About Data

You think you are going to be an application developer when you grow up. You’re currently working your way through Clemson as a part-time general IT person but you really have no exposure to a database at all. If somebody submits an Access or Oracle ticket to the help desk, take it and run with it. Before you know it, much of the technical world will revolve around data. Those with the ability to understand, visualize, and explain where that data came from, why it’s important, and the value it can add will be in high demand and compensated fairly decently for their knowledge and adaptability in a rapidly changing world. You already know about as much C and C++ as you will ever need in the future, but take every data-related course you can take even if you think it’s beyond you. All the knowledge you absorb about data and data structures will be very important to you in the future.

You will work with new languages and platforms nearly all the time 20 years from now. Learn how to learn and learn how to study now and you’ll be in a good position once you graduate (yes, you do graduate eventually). And, no, your GPA really doesn’t matter so don’t stress about the letter grades.

Trust Those That Believe In You

Those friends of yours that believed in you enough to put you in charge of a student newspaper saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. They saw somebody who could represent an organization not just in writing but in person. Sure, you may stutter or stumble over a sound or letter now and then – so what?

When you were paralyzed with fear to speak in front of any group of people, no matter how large, you needed to take that challenge head on instead of finding every excuse to hide in the corner and stay quiet. Fear of embarrassment held you back for a long time and cost you opportunities. Your friends believed in you despite the flaws you perceived in your “public persona”. You’ll eventually find people in your professional life who share the belief in you that those crazy college friends of yours had and those colleagues will change your life. They will set you on a path to work and speak to audiences all over the world about what you do with data and how you can help them in their work and it will be fantastic. Don’t wait 17 years to take to heart the belief that others have in you even when you may profoundly lack that belief in yourself.

Have a good one, 1999 Matt! The next twenty years contain some very cool things and do whatever you can to remember those things and share them with those around you. You’ll also end up really liking soccer, so be prepared for that.

Sincerely, 

Future Matt

Back to Back at #SQLSatJax

Back to Back at #SQLSatJax

Fresh off a wonderful weekend of #sqlfamily and data community time at Data in Devon in Exeter, England last weekend, I find myself in northeast Florida this weekend as opposed to southwest England. I’ll be presenting two sessions at SQL Saturday Jacksonville and spending a bit of time at the SQL Clinic as well. I was fortunate enough to be selected to speak here last year as well and it’s always fun to fun to come an event for the second year running – plus it allowed me to give this post a title that kinda sorta rhymes!

It means a lot to speak here in Jacksonville for a couple of reasons. Considering that I have never lived in the Jacksonville area, it’s a place that’s been oddly significant at a couple of points in my life. My wife and I went to Ponte Vedra Beach on our honeymoon and spent a wonderful few days in this area. Then, my first job as a data consultant was at Pragmatic Works, which is headquartered in metro Jacksonville. In fact, the first Pragmatic Works holiday party that my wife and I attended gave us a chance to head back for a quick lunch visit to the resort where we honeymooned and take the picture below that shows two things: 1) I have a beautiful and photogenic wife and 2) I am really not very good at taking selfies.

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Anyhow, I am guessing you did not click on this post to see pictures of me, you clicked through to get information on my sessions at SQL Saturday Jacksonville. My first session is at 10:15 in the Gamoor room (4-1705) and it’s entitled Azure-d Availability: Scaling SQL Server to the Cloud. This is a relatively new session of mine but I’ve received some good feedback so I’m looking forward to presenting it here in Florida tomorrow.

My second session is at 12:45 in the Fondor room (51-1209) and, in another bit of Jacksonville-related nostalgia for me, this session began life as the very first webinar and very first SQL Saturday talk that I ever delivered. The session is called Top 5 Tips to Keep Always On AGs Humming and Users Happy and it will help anybody who is learning how to administer Always On Availability Groups or anybody who needs a refresher on some of the ways AGs can bite you if you don’t feed and care for them properly. This session has changed a lot over the years, as I like to think I’ve gotten a little better at this speaking thing, but I’m always a little bit extra excited to deliver this session.

I’ll wrap up my day at the SQL Clinic from 1:45 – 2:15 so feel free to drop by there if you have questions about anything from my sessions or just any SQL Server or Microsoft Data Platform-related questions. I’m really thankful to be a part of this wonderful weekend of friends and #sqlfamily – register here if you’d like to be a part of it!

Downloadable Demos from Data In Devon

Downloadable Demos from Data In Devon

I am honored to be speaking at Data in Devon today presenting my “Where Should My Data Live (and Why)?” session here at the conference in Exeter, England. I’ve created this quick post just to give attendees the opportunity to download the steps for the demos I typically do during a longer session slot. I’ve also included a link to the presentation itself as well. If you’ve arrived at this page, welcome and thanks for attending my session!

Demo Steps

Slides

A Ye Olde Way to Break Stretch Database

A Ye Olde Way to Break Stretch Database

I’m really excited to be publishing a real live technical blog post! I have fun blogging about speaking, travel for speaking, and racing, but I’m looking forward to my new professional opportunities lending themselves to more technical blogs on a variety of data platform topics. I’m really looking forward to blogging on some more cutting-edge data platform topics as well, but for today I have a bit of a blog about a SQL Server feature that doesn’t get a lot of love. We can debate all the reasons for why stretch database hasn’t seen a lot of use, but it’s still there and still an interesting feature to play with.

Recently I had the pleasure of putting together a proof-of-concept for a customer who was looking into using Stretch Database to offload a large amount of archive data into Azure rather than their own datacenter(s). This particular application had some tables that were created nearly 15 years ago (a fact that will become relevant shortly). Enabling Stretch Database is covered well in the Microsoft document here so I’ll skip straight to the error I was getting.

I noticed when I enabled Stretch Database (via the wizard) some tables were starting to migrate completely normally and some were not. I began querying sys.dm_db_rda_migration_status (a DMV used for monitoring Stretch Database operations) and saw that all of the tables that were not moving were registering error 7320 in the error_number column of that DMV. A quick search on the error revealed the following text of the generic error: Cannot execute the query “%ls” against OLE DB provider “%ls” for linked server “%ls”. %ls. Not very helpful, is it? It was at this point we contacted Microsoft support because we thought we’d found a bug – some tables were migrating correctly and some weren’t, even though they’d all been configured for stretch the same way via the wizard. Our support ticket went between Azure SQL Database support and SQL Server support before we were connected with a solid engineer who assisted in troubleshooting but was unable to find anything incorrect in the tables or the way Stretch Database was configured.

We were at a loss but he recommended another review of the SQL Server error log to see if there was anything untoward there at all that we had missed in our previous reviews. What I noticed in that final review was that we were occasionally seeing errors relating to ANSI_NULLS settings in the error log. Cross-referencing that with the times the Stretch Database migration process was attempting to kick off on the erroring tables revealed that something to do with ANSI_NULLS was breaking Stretch Database migration. But what?

I relayed this information to the support engineer and he contacted the development team to ask what ANSI_NULLS had to do with Stretch Database migration throwing an error related to linked servers – an odd chain of errors. They replied and said that if a table was created with the ANSI_NULLS setting set to OFF then the Stretch Database migration process will throw that linked server error. These tables, due to their age I mentioned earlier, were created with that setting set to OFF. Problem solved! (Although changing the ANSI_NULLS setting for hundreds of related tables is its own set of challenges that should be its very own blog post). In better news, the support engineer submitted a request to the docs team to clearly document this previously undocumented issue.

I realize, given the minimal adoption of Stretch Database, this blog post may be targeted towards a limited audience. That said, if it helps just one person avoid the issues that I ran into and save hours or days of work to figure this out, it is a huge help to somebody! If that somebody is you, cheers!

As always, thanks for reading and come back soon – there will be much more content here as 2019 rolls on.