SQL Saturday #320 Raleigh in Review

This past Saturday, September 6th, I had the privilege of attending SQL Saturday #320, in Raleigh, NC. It was a great day. The highlight of the event was the #sqlfamily. I had several rewarding conversations with members of our community and the dedication of the volunteers, TriPASS User Group, and contributions of the sponsors made the entire day amazing. But, of course, we can’t forget the speakers. Here’s some comments on the sessions that I attended.

Tempdb Parasites!

Unfortunately, I stepped into Jason Hall’s session on tempdb a bit late. I was only able to catch the questions and answers section but I’m happy to have caught that much. When data professionals start talking about real world problems, gems of knowledge start falling from the sky. For me, trace flags 1117 and 1118 were the two gems I picked up. Trace flag 1117 tells the SQL Server instance that all database filegroups should grow all of their files evenly. This is helpful for keeping tempdb files at the same size as each other which prevents disproportionate usage of the files. Trace flag 1118 tells SQL Server to allocate full extents only. This allows tempdb to allocate 64kb for each object created which can help with performance since tempdb so frequently writes and disposes of objects.

Managing Very Large Databases with SQL Server

Brian Craigg delivered a great session, chock full of great information. I look forward to finding the slide decks for the event and specifically for this session. Brian’s session targeted the differences between managing databases smaller than 1 TB with that of managing VLDBs. There were several areas covered such as backup optimization, disk usage, consistency checks, and corruption. However, my main take-aways were on SAN snapshots and page level corruption recovery. I look forward to seeing this same session again, there was too much for me to take notes on it all.

Goodbye Next, Next, Next. Hello Automated Installs

The next session that I attended was of particular interest for me. Over my years as a DBA I have burned many hours installing SQL Server. Like the session title says, I hated the, “Next, Next, Next,” part. This is the reason that I wrote my first script to generate the config.ini files necessary for conducting unattended installs. At that time, I was less aware of how large the #sqlfamily was and what was available in the community. I refined my original script a bit and eventually named it QS Config and published it for public view. I must admit, however, that SQL Server Fine Build, which I later discovered, is much more full featured. Brian Davis, now a lead contributor to the Fine Build project, was presenting and I have a full page of notes on the features and capabilities of the application.

Manage SQL Server Efficiently w/PowerShell Remoting

It’s easy to see that there was a trend of great content last weekend. Allen White did not disappoint either. Most notably, Allen’s session was full of positive energy. Of the sessions I attended he tied for first place in the area of technical speaking, but more about Jessica Moss in a bit. I was most impressed with his ability to handle conflict during his presentation. There was some lack of faith in the value of PowerShell remoting near the beginning of the session but Allen handled the interaction with ease and ensured that he proved the technology’s value by the time the hour was complete. I will say that PowerShell remoting was something that I was already familiar with but I could tell that many in the audience were eager to take the knowledge gained and put it in their toolboxes.

Lights, Camera, Action: Creating and Delivering Technical Presentations

As promised, here we get back to Jessica M. Moss. I couldn’t help but stop by Jessica’s session for a number of reasons. Not only is Jessica a Virginia local, like myself, and I look forward to seeing her at the Hampton Roads SQL Server User Group, but I happened to be listening to episode 29 of People Talking Tech as I drove down to Raleigh. Jessica guest stared in that episode and briefly discussed this session, peaking my interest. I then was introduced to her during lunch and several people highly recommended her session and praised her presentation abilities. Needless to say, Jessica lived up to the hype. While she was teaching us how to structure our presentations and giving tips on how to keep the audience engaged, I was paying close attention to her actions. She was not only giving us amazing advice but she was proving the value of that advice with her own behaviors. I recommend this session to anyone, whether you are planning on giving technical presentations or are ready to be persuaded to do so.

Optimizing Protected Indexes

Chris Bell‘s session closed out my day and stood out for three reasons. First was his use of analogies comparing encryption methods to bread, salt, and a safety deposit box. I felt that some of my more computer illiterate family members would walk out of this intermediate talk on encryption actually understanding everything that he was covering. Next was Chris’ catchy quotes and one liners such as this one. The audience was engaged and laughing along with him. Finally, I profited greatly from this session. I have used Transparent Data Encryption and hashed values in large production environments before but I have only had an opportunity to work with column level encryption in test environments. While lacking real world experience with that piece, I never knew how dramatic the performance hit can be if you don’t handle your indexes correctly and write your queries to suit the non-deterministic nature of column level encryption. Chris broke down this danger clearly, demonstrated the solution, and definitively proved the benefits.

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