Category: Uncategorized

I’m Speaking at SQL Saturday Cincinnati!

I’m Speaking at SQL Saturday Cincinnati!

It’s been a busy month since I last blogged for T-SQL Tuesday #99, but I’m hopeful that my blogging will get a bit more regular once I get through this weekend – and an exciting weekend it will be!

I’ve been fortunate enough to be selected to give both a full-day pre-conference session and a regular session at this weekend’s SQL Saturday Cincinnati. The full-day pre-conference session is on Friday, 3/16/18, and it’s titled “Modernize Your Data Warehouse with Big Data” and I’m presenting it with my colleague Warren Sifre (t). I’m really looking forward to my initial effort at a full-day pre-con!

My regular session is a veteran of a few SQL Saturdays now and it always generates good discussion in the room so I’m hoping for a good turnout and good questions! It’s titled “How to Keep Your Database Servers Out of the News” and I’m looking forward to presenting it at this first edition of SQL Saturday Cincinnati on Saturday, 3/17/18.

I believe the event has reached capacity, but just in case some folks have cancelled, go ahead and register for it here. I hope to see you there!

I’m also hoping to be able to announce soon several speaking engagements in the May/June timeframe. I can’t do so yet, but I’m looking forward to sharing those with my readers, so watch this space if you’re interested in where in the world I’ll be later this spring!

T-SQL Tuesday 99: Racing Brings Me #sqlibrium

T-SQL Tuesday 99: Racing Brings Me #sqlibrium

Thanks to Aaron Bertrand (b|t) for hosting this month’s edition of T-SQL Tuesday, the 99th in the blog party series, and for an interesting topic choice for this edition. You can find Aaron’s T-SQL Tuesday #99 introductory post here, but Aaron gave us a choice this time around: share a passion of ours with the SQL community or write about a favorite/most annoying T-SQL bad habit. While I gave some thought to the technical post, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to talk about my love for racing and how much I enjoy getting to actually drive a race car a few times each year. Since thinking about, talking about, and planning for racing does help bring some balance to my life, #sqlibrium as Drew coined the term, let’s talk for a few minutes about how cool (and yes, relaxing) it is to drive race cars once in a while.

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” – Ernest Hemingway

I was a big enough racing dork when I was a kid that I had a t-shirt with this on it when I was in elementary school. I honestly don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to look at, read about, or drive race cars. However, if this post turns into “Matt waxes poetically about racing”, it will be about 5,000 words long and incredibly boring to everybody but me. Put much more simply, while a lot of people look for relaxation from a good hike or a relaxing day on the beach, my beach is at a racetrack. Whether I’m watching the cars, working on them, or driving them, it has a way of clearing my head unlike anywhere else. For the sake of brevity(-ish), I’ll focus the rest of this blog on my on-track exploits, such as they are.

File_003

As you can see, we take this racing stuff quite seriously. The picture is of me waiting on the grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June 2017 before taking to the track for the first of two races. The grid marshals thought it would be funny to give us silly umbrellas to block the sun while we waited – and it was.

That said, this picture does a decent job of showing what my Formula First looks like up close. For those that are interested in the technical specs (which is likely very few of you), the basics are that Formula Firsts are 1600cc air-cooled Volkswagen engines mated to purpose-built open wheel chassis riding on Hoosier R60 tires. Hoosier has been a great sponsor of our U.S. Formula First Championship, which is a 5-6 weekend series that is currently in its 12th year of competition this year. We run at great tracks all over the eastern half of the U.S., from Road America in Wisconsin, to Watkins Glen in New York, to Road Atlanta in Georgia. If you’d like to read more information on the series (and see some great videos), the link is here.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the car and the series that I race in, you’re probably wondering “what cool stuff have you done in these cars, Matt?”. Now, some of you asking that question may think cool stuff is “what have you won?” and others may think cool stuff is “what have you crashed into?”. I’ll cover both angles before we wrap up this blog, but if you’re just here for the crashes, here’s a picture of a crash I just missed at Indy last year (thanks to Brian Schell for the image).

indy_crash_edited

First, what have I won? I’ve been fortunate enough to win trophies and take podiums (finishing in the top 3) at places like Indy, Watkins Glen, and Road America. Road America (in Elkhart Lake, WI) was my favorite race track (other than Indy) growing up and it still is, which makes this next story particularly frustrating even though it happened 12 years ago. After doing a couple weekends in 2005, I committed to running a full Formula First season in 2006. I went to Road America in the top 3 in championship points and was looking to have a great weekend. I qualified 2nd for the our race on Saturday but, near the end of the first lap, the right-front suspension spectacularly came apart, ending my day quite early and giving my right hand a gnarly bruise to boot. I went into Sunday morning’s qualifying hopeful but still frustrated and qualified 5th – then a clutch problem reared its ugly head towards the end of the session. That sent the crew into a massive thrash to get the clutch replaced, an effort that was completed just minutes before we had to head to grid for the race.

Once the race started, the car was really good. I could run comfortably in the draft and started picking off cars and working my way up the order. With 3 laps to go, I passed for the lead and was leading for the first time in my career! The other driver and I traded the lead (and fast laps) back and forth over those last few laps and, on the last lap, I exited the final turn (turn 14) in the lead. I didn’t get the best launch off the corner, though, and the other driver had a run on me. I put on a within-the-rules blocking move but ended up losing the race by roughly the length of the nose of the car. I was crushed, especially as my wife and dad were there to see it. The picture below was taken just after the race while the top 3 finishers waited in line to make sure our cars met minimum weight. I’m still in the car chatting with the guy who beat me. My wife, as you can see, was not thrilled with the loss (she’s a bit competitive)!

roadamerica_2006_postrace

Our series’ next race that season was at Nelson Ledges in Ohio, and after a solid finish during the Saturday race, I was involved in a nasty crash near the end of Sunday qualifying. I was hit from behind by another driver after sliding through the first turn, and that contact resulted in his left side tires bouncing off my roll bar and then my helmet and him flipping end over end numerous times. The impact cracked the shell of my helmet, so I was incredibly fortunate to only be checked out for a concussion and treated for bruises and scrapes – that could have been far, far worse and it really put the previous race’s frustration into perspective. It did not, though, knock any sense into me and I’ve continued racing through the years (except for a break when the kids were born) as time and budget allowed.

I could go on for hours, but this ~1000 words is long enough. As I said, the racetrack is my beach. I love it and it must be in my blood, because I don’t remember not loving it. Based on the picture below (taken after my 3rd place finish at Indy in 2017), one of my kids might end up writing this same blog post in several years’ time. Thanks for reading – hopefully I’ll see you at the track.

indy_podium_kids

tsql2sday-300x300

 

They Let An Impostor Speak at PASS Summit?

They Let An Impostor Speak at PASS Summit?

Earlier this week the folks at PASS reached out to last year’s speakers asking us to share a story of how speaking at PASS impacted us professionally or personally. The first idea that popped into my head was to blog about how speaking at PASS Summit lends you a bit of unique professional credibility in the SQL Server/Microsoft Data Platform world – because it absolutely does. That said, I figured a lot of folks would blog, tweet, or make videos around exactly that subject and likely handle it more creatively that I would have. So, while speaking at PASS Summit has definitely had a positive impact on me professionally, I decided to blog about what I believe the biggest impact of my speaking at PASS Summit 2017 has been – a weapon I can use to battle impostor syndrome. I saw myself as the impostor I mentioned in the title of this blog.

If you’re unfamiliar with impostor syndrome, it is described (via Wikipedia) as “…a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud””. As I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know more and more people in the SQL community over the last few years, I realize that many, if not most, speakers suffer from impostor syndrome. This is true for both first-time speakers and even speakers who would all consider “rockstars” in the community. I remember sitting in a speaker room at a SQL Saturday last year and hearing one of the presenters wonder aloud (as they left the room to give their session) “Is this the day these people figure out I have no idea what I’m talking about?”. I’ve certainly battled this and, while it’s gratifying to realize others struggle with this, that’s not necessarily particular helpful to keeping that “impostor” voice quiet!

When I received the email that I had been selected to speak at PASS Summit 2017 I was sitting with my kids as they finished some homework. They were initially quite alarmed when I screamed and ran down the hallway with my arms in the air. Once I came back to them and explained why I was so excited they looked at me with blank stares for a while until my son said “so people are actually going to pay to hear you talk?”. He was shocked! That was also when it really began to sink in for me what a big deal this was going to be.

While I am always incredibly gratified and humbled when I’m selected to speak at any event, my previous speaking experience has been confined to SQL Saturdays and user groups. Those are wonderful opportunities but, as I often joke at the beginning of my sessions, “you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth from me” because those events are free to attend. If I disappointed an attendee at one of those (and I’m sure I have), I haven’t cost them any money.

While people often describe Summit as a “massive SQL Saturday”, the fact that people were spending their own (or their company’s) hard-earned money to attend ratcheted up the pressure for me. That said, once the talk was complete and I had fielded questions (and some compliments) from the folks that attended, that pressure transformed into some measure of validation. The fact that people spent money to be there and that 60-70 of them took the time to attend and applaud my talk was validating and invigorating to me. Now, when that impostor syndrome voice on my head gets louder, I can remind it that I spoke at PASS Summit. And I hope do it again to keep that voice at bay!

Old Habits Cost You Money

Old Habits Cost You Money

As a consultant, I spend a lot of time with customers whose most significant pain point is what they’re spending on SQL Server licensing. In general, they’re all facing a similar scenario: they’ve found an architecture that works for them and as they scale that out for new clients or new users they continue purchasing the same servers (with the same version and edition of SQL Server) that’s always worked. While there’s nothing wrong with that, eventually management starts asking some questions:

  1. Why do we need all these servers when IT says they’re barely using any CPU?
  2. What do all these servers do?
  3. Why we are using X-year-old software?

As DBAs (especially those of us who wear the architect hat as well), we’re in a constant battle between priorities 1 and 1A: ensuring maximum uptime for our customers and spending the least amount of money to achieve that uptime. Settling for an older architecture on an old version of SQL Server does a great job fulfilling priority 1 but, generally, a poor job fulfilling priority 1A. The more money we spend on licensing, the less we have to spend on training, new hardware, etc.

It’s incumbent on us to keep abreast of the evolution in the SQL Server universe. As we’ve seen, Microsoft has massively accelerated the pace of their development in the SQL Server space, whether we’re talking about the database engine itself or Azure SQL Database or something in-between.

Can your company save money and provide required uptime by a move to Azure? Do you need to upgrade to SQL Server 2016 SP1 but downgrade to Standard now that in-memory OLTP, advanced compression, and greater partitioning functionality no longer require Enterprise Edition? Do you need to use something like ScaleArc to ensure you’re leveraging your complete Always On availability group investment?

This blog would be thousands of words long if I delved into every single option, but my point is a simple one. As things in the SQL Server universe change by the month rather than by the year, we all need to keep up with the latest developments and think about how they might make our job easier and/or our architecture less expensive to license and maintain so our company can spend more money on their most valuable resource – us!

Read blogs, follow SQL Server experts on Twitter, attend SQL Saturdays, and make plans to attend PASS Summit so you can stay on the cutting edge of cost-saving developments. If regular operations and maintenance keep you from having the time to reevaluate your architecture, engage a Microsoft data platform consultant (like me!) to help you in that evolution. We all know old habits die hard, but they can cost you and your company valuable resources as well. Engage with the community to help break out of those old habits (and learn cool things too)!

We Interrupt This SQL Server Programming To Bring You Racing from Indy

We Interrupt This SQL Server Programming To Bring You Racing from Indy

I generally use this blog to let people know about community events where I’m speaking, pass along Microsoft Data Platform-related technical information I’ve found useful, or to participate in T-SQL Tuesday blog parties. For the next few days, however, this blog is going to be home to my updates from my racing debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’m driving in the Open Wheel World Challenge this weekend and, honestly, I lack the words to describe how cool this is.

Every racing driver (or at least every one that grew up in the Midwest of the United States) dreamed of crossing that yard of bricks in any car. The fact that I am able to run at Indy this weekend, in my own car, with family and good friends supporting me is honestly hard to believe. Hopefully we have a good, clean weekend.

After this Sunday, I plan to revert to more disciplined technical blogging. For the next few days, though, I will update this blog with racing updates as often as I am able. If you’d prefer to follow along on Instagram, please search the hashtags #jaygoracing and #sqlatspeed. Talk to you from the track!

SQL Saturday #652 (Atlanta) – I’m Speaking!

SQL Saturday #652 (Atlanta) – I’m Speaking!

Usually my view of Atlanta is quite similar to the image above – as a Delta Medallion member and frequent traveler I see the airport in Atlanta quite a bit. That said, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday 652 in Atlanta on Saturday, July 15. If you haven’t registered, they’re getting closer and closer to capacity so please register here before it’s too late!

I’m looking forward to ramping up my blogging next month, but the current priority is prepping my race car for its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a little over two weeks at the Open Wheel World Challenge. Please forgive the brevity of this blog, but rest assured both the technical and racing content on this blog will ramp up quite a bit in the next several weeks. For now, go register for SQL Saturday Atlanta if you’re in the area and I hope to see you either there or at Indy!

My Racing Season Begins! (kind of)

My Racing Season Begins! (kind of)

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk racing very much on the blog here, but hopefully that is about to change. My Formula First (in the image) had its engine delivered to Autowerks in New Jersey for rebuilding before the 2017 season.

More excitingly, my 2017 season begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (yes, I bolded it – it’s just that exciting) with the Open Wheel World Challenge. When I get my engine back later this spring I look forward to blogging about its re-installation in the car and our preparations for an event that will be, at minimum, something 9-year-old me would have never believed. I’ll be racing at Indy this summer! To be continued…

My Rookie SQL Saturday Outing

My Rookie SQL Saturday Outing

Last Saturday (8/6/16) I had the pleasure of doing my first community presentation at SQL Saturday 531 in Louisville, KY. During a great speakers’ dinner Friday night at Brick House Tavern + Tap I had the opportunity to meet a few members of the #sqlfamily and get some solid advice for my rookie presentation the next day.

My presentation the next day went fairly smoothly despite a visit from the demo demons (courtesy of what seemed to be a flaky system hooked up to the projector) that deprived my session of some of the demos I intended to present. I genuinely appreciated each and every person that attended the session and I hope the Always On tips and tricks I shared are or will be a help to their organizations.

In short, if you’re not attending SQL Saturdays, why not? It’s tons of free training from experienced people and you’ll meet good people as well. And, if you’ve attended a few SQL Saturdays (as I have) and have tips and information to share, why not try your hand at presenting? It was a rewarding, invigorating experience and I can’t wait to present again in the near future.

If I still haven’t convinced you to involve yourself in SQL Saturdays, check out Chris Yates’ blog for a great breakdown of why SQL Saturdays can be one of the best investments you can make in your career.