End of PASS Summit 2014 summary.

The PASS Summit is now behind us and it was both an exciting and exhausting week of learning from some of the best and brightest people in the SQL Server community. Not only did I pick up a number of new skills that I know will make me a better DBA, I have number of new tools to add to my toolkit and some new practices that I’m going to look into implementing into our daily operations. It was also nice bonus to learn that many of the things I already have on my TODO list are similar to what others have successfully implemented on their own work and their environments. Obviously I’ve been on right track, if not always, at least most of the time 🙂

EMP Museum
Guitar Statue at the EMP Museum
Unfortunately the long days (I pretty much had sessions running from 8AM to 6PM almost every day) and the time difference to back home made me hit the sack rather early every evening. Because of this I missed some of the evening networking activities and the opportunities to better explore Seattle. The only official social event I did attend to was the Community Appreciation party held in the EMP Museum and even then our groups was back at the hotel by 10PM. That museum was awesome though, especially for a nerd like me! If you’re ever in Seattle, I encourage you to check it out.

The sessions attended on thursday and friday

For thursday the first thing on the schedule was the keynote from Dr. Rimma Nehme from the Microsoft’s Gray Systems Lab. The topic of the keynote was the Cloud Database and she obviously knew very well what she was talking about, despite of that she could the basic concepts rather well. I believe that anyone listening to her now has an idea what Cloud Database is all about.

Besides the keynote I attended both DBA and Developer sessions on thursday. To mention the two that I found most useful there was Paul Randals “Advanced Data Recovery Techniques” where he did horrible, horrible things to innocent databases and then going through and showing the steps to recover data from them. The other one that I found very educational was the “5 Execution Plan Patterns to Watch For.”

On friday the day started with a Microsoft session where they introduced the new functionality on SQL Server 2014 online operations (such as index rebuilds and partition switching), the other memorable session of the day was Gail Shaws session about cardinality estimations. In that session I got a better understanding of what they are, how they work currently and what’s been changed in SQL Server 2014.

The summary

During the week I participated in two excellent pre-conference sessions that lasted a day, 2 keynotes and 14 regular 75 minutes sessions over a course of three days. I also got around to the exhibitors hall to check some interesting database products from vendors like RedGate and SQLSentry (who are offering their Plan Explorer for free, btw!).

From the PASS Summit 2013 I had learned a few things to make this years experience even better. In previous PASS Summit I was bit overwhelmed by the session offering, so now I did a bit of optimizing by picking a “theme” for this year. I decided that I wanted to learn more about execution plans, how they are formed by the engine, how they’re used and how they should be interpreted and then chose the majority of the sessions accordingly to this theme. Rest of the sessions I chose were to build up some old and new DBA skills as well as to get some insights on what new features the latest version of SQL Server has to offer.

I also changed how I wrote session notes a bit this year by doing them in Finnish. At least for me the process of translating what was said from English to Finnish helped me to get the better grasp of the subject. I did write several pages worth of notes and during the breaks I wrote up a short section called “key takeaways” in top of each page. The idea behind this is that when I’m later going through them I can instantly see what the important things in each session were.

For making notes I used my personal Asus Transformer T100, a Windows 8.1 Tablet with a combined keyboard docking station and USB hard drive. As for software I chose to use Microsoft OneNote, mostly because my cellphone has the Office Lens installed and it integrates nicely to OneNote, allowing me to quickly add pictures/screenshots from the sessions to my notes. Pretty much the only issue with this setup was that the Office Lens lacks zoom, so you had to sit rather close to the screen to get decent screenshots.

To finish my post I have to say that the week was long and the travelling not so pleasant experience, yet it was very much worth it. Hopefully I’ll get to go again next year, maybe I’ll even be better prepared for the time difference 🙂

Author: Mika Sutinen

Hi, My name is Mika Sutinen and I'm a Senior Database Administrator for a company called Tieto. I've been working in IT-industry for two decades and I've spend most of my career working with healthcare information systems. I've worked with SQL Server for most of my career, starting with version 6.5 a long, long time ago. My other interests are high availability, everything related to performance (testing, monitoring, etc), Windows operating systems and I'm currently learning more about Azure.

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