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Rick Heiges

News about SQL Server and the SQL Server Community

  • New Article: A Look at StretchDB - a New Feature in SQL Server 2016

    My article on the new StretchDB feature in SQL Server 2016 is now available.  StretchDB allows you to have a table in your database to be partially on-prem and partially in Azure. If you have a database with a lot of historical data that doesn't change, this feature may be a good fit for your situation. I hope that you enjoy the article.


  • Heading to SQL Sat NYC!

    I will be speaking at SQL Sat 380 in NYC on the topic of Basic Performance Monitoring with Perfmon.  I have delivered this session many times and is usually well attended.  The session is geared for the person who has heard of Perfmon but not used it.  This is very much a 100 level offering.

    The last time that I was in NYC for a large SQL Server event was just about 10 years ago.  It was the "Get Ready for SQL Server 2005 Roadshow" that was sponsored by Microsoft, PASS, and SQL Server Magazine.  The cost was $99 for a whole day; about 450 people attended.  There were 3 tracks - DBA, Dev, and BI.  Scalability Experts did the DBA track, Solid Quality Learning (as it was known back then) had the BI Track, and Dev Mentor had the Dev track.

    Although I attended many of these Road Shows and eventually presented the DBA track at some locations, I learned a lot from the audience.  I still do.  The questions that are asked really provide an opportunity for learning.  You can also see patterns start to emerge over time from questions.  For example, one question that was asked often was "Can I mirror a database to another instance on the same box?".  The first couple of times that I heard the question, my instinct was "Yes, but why? You are defeating the purpose when you do this.".  When so many people ask this question, you have to dig deeper.  In essence, what a lot of people were saying was this - "I trust my hardware a lot more than I trust your software in terms of uptime".  Servers were becoming more and more fault tolerant with spare power supplies, fans, hard drives, etc.  This increased reliability.  From one point of view, being able to mirror to another instance on the same box was just another level of redundancy.

    When you attend a SQL Saturday or other event, please don't hesitate to ask a question.  It just might be the same question that others have and it helps everyone learn more. 

    Also, the speakers at SQL Saturday events are giving up their Saturday too.  A great way to thank the speaker is to provide written feedback on the evaluation forms.  This is almost like gold to the speakers.

    If you are in the NYC area on May 30th, I encourage you to attend.  The event is almost "Sold Out". so be sure to register today! 

    See you there!


  • New Article: Row Level Security for SQL

    Recently, Tech Target was nice enough to ask me to start writing a series of articles for their website.  I have often made good use of articles on their family of websites. I hope that the articles that I compose will prove helpful as well.

    I chose Row Level Security(RLS) for my first article for several reasons.  First, I think it makes sense that an organization wants to maintain control as much as possible over the data it possesses. Now that I work for DB Best, Migrations from another Data Platform to SQL Server or Azure is part of the regular business that we do. Oracle and DB2 offer their take on RLS and now SQL Server has another feature that makes it easier for the transition.  RLS is currently in "Preview" on Azure SQL Databases and is scheduled to be part of the new features in SQL Server 2016.

    Here is a link to my article.  I hope that you enjoy it! 

  • New Challenges Ahead!

    I just joined the team at DB Best Technologies as a Principal Solutions Architect.  Check out their website at  DB Best is probably best known for providing the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) tool and associated support for it.  The SSMA tool was just recently updated to provide support for migrations from DB2.  The other data platforms supported by SSMA are Oracle, Sybase, and even Access.  Not only can the SSMA tool help an organization migrate to SQL Server on-prem, but also to the cloud even to a SQL Azure Database.  

    Migrations are only a portion of DB Best’s portfolio of services. Consolidation, Private/Public/Hybrid Cloud, Upgrades, BI, Big Data, and Mobile Development are other services that are offered.  Part of my role is to work with customers to determine how to best optimize their experience with SQL Server, Azure, and other IT assets.  For example, I might be working with a customer who is migrating to SQL Server and I would enlighten them on the Possibilities of the environment that they are migrating to such as leveraging the Analytic and Reporting Tools that are part of the SQL Server ecosystem.

    I have always enjoyed seeing that lightbulb go off in someone’s head as I describe a concept or idea that fits their needs.  Before entering the consulting world full time over 10 year ago, I was on the full-time faculty at High Point University.  Seeing those lightbulbs go off is very satisfying and is probably one of the reasons why I became so involved in the SQL Server Community years ago.

    In this new role, I look forward to having the lightbulb lighting up over my head as I encounter new environments and hope to continue to light up other people’s lightbulbs on a continuous basis.



  • PASS Program Committee - Comments and Action

    Once again, I am serving on the PASS Program Committee this year for the App Dev Track.  As we are about to start the reviewing process, I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.  Last year, we had approximately 200 abstracts to review.  It should be a similar volume this year.  For me, abstracts usually go into three piles - Excellent, Very Good, and Good.  There are only a few "Excellent" ones and a few "Good" ones with most being "Very Good".  There is a numerical rating system that is used, but I am using verbal descriptions here. I made it through about 130 abstracts last year and I entered a comment on every one that I reviewed.  Sometimes my comments were brief, but with a large number of abstracts and limited time, I did what I could.  Some on our committee were very complete in making comments which also helped when we had our conference call to discuss them.  My goal this year is to be more complete with comments and to get through more abstracts.

    As we discuss and rank the abstracts, we have some criteria that tries to keep things in balance.  We might get 5 Excellent abstracts for a particular subtopic, but obviously we only have a limited number of slots and can't select all 5 as other subtopic areas would not get attention.  When the selected abstracts are announced, I'm sure that a debate will surface over the process.  The process isn't perfect, but it has worked well for the Summit in the past getting some of the best content for the attendees.  Also, the committee members are looking at the abstracts "blindly" as the submitter's name is not disclosed to us.  Submitters take time to craft their abstracts and have a lot of personal pride in there.  It is hard for anyone to take a rejection and not feel personally jilted - especially if there is little to no explanation of why or how it could be improved.

    If you receive a rejection this year (and odds are that you will), I'd like to offer a suggestion to channel your passion in other areas besides an online debate.  PASS has a plethora of Virtual Chapters that need content.  Local Chapters are also in need of speakers and great content.  Some chapters even do remote presentations so that you don't need to travel.  SQL Saturdays are another great avenue for delivering content and are a lot of fun as well. Find another avenue to get your content delivered and show that evil Program Committee just how bad we messed up.  :-)

  • After Ten Years...

    Life goes on and sometimes it is just time to move on.  I am no longer with Scalability Experts.  Looking back at all of the time that I spent with them, I realize how fortunate that I was to be part of it.

    I am writing this because I wanted to thank Scalability Experts for supporting me in my involvement in the SQL Server Community.  When I first joined SE 10 years ago, I was very involved in PASS with my role as a Board Member.  As a PASS BoD member, there can be some huge demands on your time and talent.  We had three in-person meetings a year plus the Summit which required my physical presence; we also had the European Conference in Germany that year.  In addition, we also had a series of phone calls and of course email threads and conference calls which also took up countless hours.  Through all of this, SE worked with me so that I could serve the community.  If you are considering running for the Board of Directors for PASS, I hope that you are lucky enough to have an employment situation like mine that will allow you to fully participate with Board activities.  Even after my time on the BoD ended, SE continued to support my involvement with PASS.

    As a consultant, travel is part of the job.  Primarily, my travel was domestic, but I did travel to a few places outside the USA that I would not have even considered.  Iceland – One of the “Get Ready for SQL Server 2005” Roadshows got me to this location.  It was June, so the sun didn’t set until about 3am as I recall.  I really enjoyed my time there and would love to go again.  South Africa – I led a Compatibility lab for ISVs over three days.  I wish that I could have had an extra day or two there for a safari.  I also learned that a robot here is a traffic signal light.  Lisbon – Another stop on the Roadshow which was a lot of fun.  I learned that Lisbon was the main port to get to America until an Earthquake/Fire/Tsunami event left the city in devastation.  The city reminded me of San Francisco.  These are a few places that I would not have visited without working for SE.

    Another part of the consultant lifestyle is working with a lot of different customers and environments.  This is why “It Depends” is such a perfect answer to so many questions.  It truly does depend on the situation / business requirements.  I got to see this first hand.  I don’t think that I ever dreaded going to any of my customers, but there are a few customers that I worked with over the years that I really enjoyed working with.  In no particular order, they are General Mills, Mayo Clinic, Blackbaud, Disney Parks, and Chase.  When I visit a customer, I often ask myself would I recommend working here to a close friend.  These are the ones that really stood out to me.

    I will remember all of the good times and friends that I made while at Scalability Experts and truly thank them for supporting me with my involvement in the community.


  • Where do 100-Level Sessions belong at PASS?

    Now that the PASS Summit 2014 is over, I remember having a hard time deciding which sessions to attend and can't wait for the USB to arrive.  This year, I was on the Program Committee for the first time ever.  I would recommend the experience to all speakers or potential speakers at some point.  I know with the explosion of SQL Saturday events that many more people have had to wrestle with how to choose content.  The Program Committee has the main goal of selecting the content that will drive people to the Summit.  There is a set of criteria that influences the the final selection that includes "Balance".  Balance among many items such as # of new speakers, topics/subtopics, and level to mention a few. 

    During the Summit, I like to ask questions of attendees about their experience and often ask specific questions arond the content they are consuming.  One attendee that I have seen for many years keeps coming back to the Summit for the 400-500 level sessions; he just wishes that we'd have more of them.  I also make a special effort to ask First Timers about their experience as well and their thoughts around the level of content.  The general response form this group is "Awsome!", but then I dig in a little deeper and ask about level.  For this population, they are very happy with the 200-300 level material for the most part.  A couple that I spoke with are very happy with 100 level because they are just so new to their role. But I did have some of the First Timers tell me that they avoid 100 level because they can get that material elsewhere.

    I started to think about this a bit.  Does 100 level content belong at the PASS Summit?  IMHO, it depends... If there is a new technology/feature that needs introduction, then yes I believe 100 content can be valuable at the Summit.  Topics such as Normalization Basics or Indexing Basics should not be at the Summit because that material should have been covered at a SQL Saturday, Chapter Meeting, or Webinar.  Is that it? No, I believe the track of the Summit that could benefit from more introductory sessions would be the Professional Development track.  The reason I see that it is beneficial for lower level content at the Summit it has a "Data Professional" spin and many of us don't think about some of these topics on a daily basis.  I attended 2.5 Prof Dev sessions last week and gave a 10 Minute Lightning Talk on Interviewing.  The information that was presented was not all that deep from my point of view, but it generated some good discussions.

    Is there any other track at the PASS Summit where 100 level topics are appropriate or do they all belong somewhere else?

  • Keep Your Eyes to the Skies

    Recently, a partner of Scalability  Experts asked me to write a blog relating to the Day 1 Keynote of PASS Summit 2014.  Here is a link to the post.






  • Are you ready for PASS Summit 2014?

    I wanted to re-publish an old blog post that is still fairly accurate.  It is actually a summary of blog posts I did back in 2011.

     A great deal of the information is still relevant. I hope that you find the information useful and to see you at the PASS Summit 2014!

  • Speaking at Richmond SQL Saturday!

    I am looking forward to my trip to Richmond, VA this coming weekend!  I will be able to meet up with some of my peeps from the area plus be able to deliver a presentation that is still in the works as we are still testing .

    The presentation is based on some work that I have been doing with Fusion-IO and the MTC Chicago on the develpment of several white papers.  Essentially, we are looking at the impact of Fusion-IO cards on two features in SQL Server 2014 - BPE and In-Memory OLTP. This is definitely a work in progress, but I truly believe that the attendees will gain some insight into these features as we explore what we have uncovered thus far.

    If you are in the area, be sure not to miss SQL Saturday #277 in Richmond!

  • Looking Back at PASS Summit 2013 - Location

    Now that it has been a few weeks since the Summit, I wanted to look back at the location "experiment".

    Convention Center - It seemed to work well for the conference.  There were quite a few areas in the area where you could sit down and get some work down or have a discussion.  For the larger welcome reception the first night, I really liked the different areas.  If you wanted to enjoy the Quiz Bowl, the ballroom area was set up nicely with big screens so that everyone could see and hear.  The area right outside the ballroom and the outside patio area were good for people who wanted to have a conversation among friends while enjoying food and drink.  The light rail system came right through the middle of the convention center.  I wasn't crazy about this becasue it meant some extra walking to get from some breakout rooms to others.  I also did not like being limited to two sets of escalators to get to/from the Expo Hall.  I really liked the wide aisles in the Expo Hall as it helped to prevent traffic jams.  The food provided here was in line with other convention center food.

    Hotels - I booked my room late and had to stay a few more blocks away.  It was about 10-15 minute walk, but it was easy and good exercise for me.  Generally the prices for hotel rooms seemed fair for a downtown location, but an attendee could have a choice if booking the hotel early enough.

    Food / Drink - Much of the time away from the Convention Center is spent in a restaurant / bar / tavern.  There were lots of choices within easy walking distance.  Our friends at SQL Sentry provided a shuttle for attendees to get to all of the "hot spots" in Charlotte.  I found the shuttle to be of great value and added to the summit experience.  Thanks SQL Sentry!

    Attendees - Location also has an impact on where the attendees come from.  I know that I personally met quite a few folks from NC that would most likely not be at the Summit in Seattle.  I also spoke to a group of 7 folks from the same company that drove an extended van from Ohio to get to the Summit. I myself chose PASS in 2001 over several other conferences because it was scheduled to be in Orlando.  Location definitely has a big impact on where attendees come from.

    Microsoft Involvement - I knew going in that the number of Microsoft Folks would be considerably less than in Seattle.  It just makes sense.  I still had some great interaction with MSFT folks, but I missed having off-beat conversations with developers who were just there for the day.  In the MSFT area in the Expo hall, there was an area for Chalk Talks.  I would spend more time here next year as I got to hear more from Conor Cunningham and David DeWitt at this venue.

    IMHO, Charlotte is a viable option for future Summits.  There are lots of things to consider when selecting a site.  Looking back at the other non-Seattle Locations that we have been, I would put Charlotte at the top of the list.  I would probably shy away from the Gaylord properties like the ones we used in Orlando and Dallas.  At that point in time for the size of the Summit, those locations worked, but would be too small now.  The PASS Summit has conintued to grow each year.  It is not far-fetched to think that a larger venue like those used by TechEd will be the only viable option inthe future. I think this was good to get out of Seattle for a year, but Seattle should be the primary "home" for the Summit with an occasional alternate site every 3-4 years.

  • Webcast: What to Expect at the PASS Summit 2013 - Oct 3, 2013 @ 12:30pm EDT

    It has been confirmed that I will be delivering a webcast on "What to Expect at the PASS SUmmit 2013" on Oct 3, 2013 at 12:30pm ET.  Here is the link to register for the event.

    This is targeted at First Time Attendees of the summit, but all are welcome to join.  This webcast will go over items such as:

    • How to Decode the Session Code
    • Meal Planning
    • Seating and Summit Ambassadors
    • Other Offerings : SQL Clinic, Labs, Community Zone, Luncheons, etc.
    • Odss and Ends

    This information is designed to take some of the "unknown" out of the equation for the attendee.  Please let all First Time Attendees know about this webcast.  And, it will be recorded and posted ASAP in case you can't join me for the Live Event.

  • What to Expect at the PASS Summit 2013

    Next week, I am tentatively planning a webcast on Oct 3, 2013 @ 12:30pm ET as I have done over the past couple of years aimed at First Time Attendees.  Once I get things confirmed, I will post a link for registration.  I updated my PPT Deck with the new information and realized that most of the message and events / timings are similar to the past two years. 

    I first did this webcast in 2011 and created a series of companion blog posts that are still very relevant for this year.  Naturally, some references to locations and specifics to Seattle will not apply, but much of the information is consistent with this year's Summit and can still provide guidance to new attendees.  So I am providing links to the blog posts below from 2011 and hope that they will be this year's attendees.

    1. General Overview
    2. Planning Your Learning Itinerary
    3. Meals
    4. More Than Just Sessions - And Be Prepared
    5. Networking
    6. After Hours
    7. Social Networking Tools
    8. Logistics
  • PASS - Regional Seats First

    After thinking about how to cast my votes for the PASS Election, I thought about the process and how one could get confused (and even upset) if the process for seating successful candidates was not already laid out.  I found this on the PASS Elections site which proved to be helpful.  The scenario that I thought of was the following....

    Person A (US/Canada) - 20 votes

    Person B (EMEA) - 19 votes

    Person C (EMEA) - 18 votes

    Person D (US/Canada) - 17 votes

    Person E (US/Canada) - 16 votes)

    If Regional Seats are awarded first (as the process states now)...

    Person A - US/Canada Seat, Person B - EMEA Seat, Person C - Open Seat

    If Open Seats are awarded first (not the current process)....

    Person A - Open Seat, Peson B - EMEA Seat, Person D - US/Canada Seat

    I am not advocating for one process over the other.  I am just pointing out that this type of situation was provided for in the processs adopted by the BoD.  Good information to have before the votes are counted.  :-)

  • PASS Candidates Announced and Campaign Time Has Begun

    Today was the official announcement of the Candidates and the official start of the Campaign.  PASS Campaigns sure have changed a lot since I originally ran for a seat (and lost) in 2002.  The process has changed to become more rigorous in the Nomination stage.  This is a very good thing because in my view, there are no bad choices when the NomCom does their job.  I am of the opinion that all of the candidates are fully qualified to serve PASS well. Thanks to the NomCom, I now have some tough decisions to make.  :-)

    There are three seats available this time.  One is designated for US/Canada. Another is designated for EMEA.  And another is not assigned so any of the candidates could win.  Each PASS Member in Good Standing (You will know if you aren't) can vote for up to three candidates.  You cannot vote for the same candidate 3 times. If someone votes for three candidates from EMEA, one of their choices will not win a seat.  Likewise if someone votes for three candidates from US/Canada, one of their choices will not win a seat.  It really forces you to think about potentially voting for someone that you may not be as familiar with.  Or you could just vote for your favorite three regardless of region.  I haven't decided what to do yet as far as how to cast all of my votes except for one.

    I read each and every candidate application and platform this morning.  I care very much about PASS and want to see the best advocates for PASS and the community continue the success story, so I take this seriously.  I must admit that after reviewing the information, I felt like I had a much better picture of the candidates.  I am enthusiatically supporting Allen Kinsel for the Board of Directors of PASS.  I was fortunate to serve with Allen on the Board at the end of my service on the Board.  Although we did not agree on all of the discussions, I found that he articualted his point of view effectively in the Board Room and was a tireless worker.  I know that Allen works a real day job (and not a consulting position), but I can't remember him ever pushing something off because his work was too busy.  In my experience, he put a priority on serving PASS and the SQL Community at large.  And we have not had that many non-consultant types on the Board.  Allen brings a unique perspective from that angle.

    In closing, I hope that all PASS Members will take advantage of the campaigning activities this week and read the Candidate applications and platforms.  I know that I am still undecided about my two other votes and plan on following the campaign closely this week so that I can make my decision.  We are fortunate that a PASS campaign is one that celebrates the strong points of each candidate and frowns upon putting the other candidate down.  Just because I support one candidate, does not mean that I am against another.  It just means that some choices are not easy, but decisions need to be made.  Go Find your Candidate!  Happy Campaigning!

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