As I have mentioned in the past, the PASS Summit is probably one of the most beneficial events in the SQL Server community for a database professional.  This year’s event took place in Seattle, Washington from November 3-7, 2014.  I attended this year’s summit and wanted to do a quick recap of my activities.

Pre-Conference Sessions

  • Performance Troubleshooting Using waits and Latches (Paul Randall) – I really enjoyed this session and he provided some great advice, such as don’t always assume that the symptom equals the root cause of the problem and don’t do knee jerk performance troubleshooting. Other items that were covered included: how to start your performance troubleshooting using waits, components of the scheduler, latches, spinlocks, some useful startup flags (1118, 3226), various solutions to wait problems, and some real world examples. (http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/paul/category/wait-stats/)
  • Troubleshoot Customer Performance Problems Like a Microsoft Engineer (Tim Chapman, Denzil Ribeiro) – This session was interesting because of the depth we got into concerning the PSSDiag and SQLdiag manager tools (http://diagmanager.codeplex.com/) and how that can be used with SQLNexus (http://sqlnexus.codeplex.com/). Additionally, they discussed the waits and queues methodology (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc966413.aspx), certain Perfmon counters to collect, and the Performance Dashboard Reports (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29063).

Sessions – Wednesday

  • Keynote – This can be watched online at PASSTV (http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014/PASStv.aspx). One of the demos I was amazed by involved using a Microsoft kinetic as a heat sensor for tracking people in a store.  The idea was to see which products got the most activity.  This was done as a real-time in-store analysis.
  • Make SQL Server Pop with PowerShell (Robert Cain) – This was a great starter session for those new to PowerShell. However, I was hoping for a little more depth with what can be done.  He showed some nice demos regarding SQLPS (provider) versus SMO.  He made the suggestion that SMO will usually be faster, since SQLPS is built on top of SMO. (http://arcanecode.com/)
  • Right-Sizing Your SQL Server Virtual Machine (David Klee) – This session can be watched online at PASSTV. This presentation had no real demos.  The speaker did mention a target date of the end of the year for the beta release of a FREE standalone utility to run on your SQL Servers that will profile the performance trends of the server and present an estimation of the “right” amount of CPU and memory needed to balance the VM’s performance with the VM’s size.  (http://www.davidklee.net/)
  • Real World Lessons about Starting a Consulting Company (Brian Knight) – I really liked this session that focused on professional development, and he discussed many of his successes and failures with his own company (http://pragmaticworks.com/). The interaction between the speaker and some in the audience that have already started down this path was invaluable.  Additionally, he made some really useful suggestions, such as having a portfolio instead of a resume only, and focusing on what makes you different rather than just trying to compete on price.
  • Dealing with Multipurpose Procs and PSP the RIGHT Way! (Kimberly Tripp) – This session can be watched online at PASSTV. The speaker had amazing energy, even at the end of the day.  This session focused on the problem of getting bad query plans when stored procedures have a variety of uses.  The solution she highlighted dealt with using dynamic SQL (sp_executesql: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms188001.aspx) and recompiling, using OPTION (RECOMPILE), for portions of the code that have unstable parameters.

Sessions – Thursday

  • Keynote – This presentation dealt with cloud databases and can be watched online at PASSTV (http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014/PASStv.aspx).
  • Optimizing SQL Server Performance in a Virtual Environment (Denny Cherry) – This session explained a lot of the terminology of virtual environments and why certain areas are important. It included: balloon and memory drivers, deduplication (which for the OS is good, but not so good for SQL), tiered storage, separate disks, data spread across aggregates, and large page allocations.
  • Advanced Data Recovery Techniques (Paul Randall) – I feel like this session was a must see, and thankfully it is available on PASSTV. This session dealt with recovering from corruption when DBCC repair can’t help you.  He showed many different techniques, including using hex editors (i.e. XVI32 and HxD), using DBCC WRITEPAGE, and recovering data from non-clustered indexes.
  • Inside SQL Server I/O (Bob Ward) – This was a very deep double session. It was definitely a 500 level session.  He went deep into the IO system, displaying the call stack, and what makes up IO.  It was definitely a session I will need to go over again, but it also gave some amazing insight into the internals of SQL Server IO.  (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/psssql/)

Sessions – Friday

  • Dynamic SQL: Build Fast, Flexible Queries (Jeremiah Peschka) – This session was similar to another one I attended earlier. As the title suggested, he focused on using dynamic SQL, and highlighted the differences between using EXEC versus sp_executesql, using newline character for readability, and commenting code for debugging.
  • Going Asynchronous with Service Broker (Jonathan Kehayias) – This was the last session I attended and it can be viewed on PASSTV. Although, I have never had to support an implementation of service broker for a company’s developed application, the speaker showed how easily it can be used to solve real world problems. (http://sqlperformance.com/2014/03/sql-performance/intro-to-service-broker)

As you can tell, I really enjoyed my time at the PASS Summit this year.  In addition to the sessions I attended, I was able to meet up with old friends.  This included the one who introduced me to database systems.  Additionally, I was able to have lunch with some Microsoft executives and the SQLCAT team (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sqlcat/), and enjoy some of the many the receptions (i.e. welcome, exhibitors, community, vendor, etc.).

** Please Note ** If you were not able to make it to the PASS Summit, you can still benefit from some select sessions from PASSTV (http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014/PASStv.aspx).  On that site, you can watch the keynotes, individual sessions, and interviews from some very influential members of the SQL Server community.

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