SQL Intersection 2016 (Orlando FL)

For my training this year, I went to SQL Intersection (https://devintersection.com/) in Orlando, Florida from April 18-22, 2016. This was a new experience for me since I normally attend the SQL PASS conference in Seattle, Washington (http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2016/Welcome.aspx). And there were some things I really liked and others not so much. For example, I really liked the weather (sunny and in the 80’s), the high quality of speakers, and the smaller conference size. However, because of being a smaller conference there were less sessions to choose from, less after-hours activities, and a large portion of the conference attendees were developers and not specifically SQL professionals, so the networking was different.

Pre-Conference Session

  • 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, various solutions to wait problems, and some real world examples. (http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/paul/category/wait-stats/)

Sessions – Tuesday

  • Keynote: Microsoft Cloud (Scott Guthrie) – Microsoft’s cloud services seemed to be an underlying theme of this conference. The speaker presented some amazing things regarding different companies’ experiences using Azure and how the newly acquired company, Xamarin (https://www.xamarin.com/), can be used to help with the development and testing processes for mobile devices.
  • SQL Server 2016 New Feature Overview (Tim Chapman) – This session provided a high level overview of many of the new features of SQL Server 2016: maintenance plans, backup and restore extended events, new cardinality estimator, memory grants hints, multiple tempdb files on install, new alter database options, new T-SQL and DMV’s, column compression, in-memory optimizations and functions, live query monitoring, query store, temporal tables, JSON, row level security, dynamic data masking, load balancing for Availability Groups, stretch databases, backups to Azure, and Always encrypted.
  • SQL Server Tuning When You Can’t Fix the Queries (Brent Ozar) – I really liked this energetic presentation. The speaker mentioned that you might choose to use batch requests per second and wait time per second as the key indicators for performance. He advocated using his own stored procedure, sp_askBrent (https://www.brentozar.com/askbrent/) to troubleshoot slow performance. Additionally, he suggested an easy approach to understand from the business or management what you can change and what you cannot change in order to improve performance. Afterwards, he reviewed some common wait types and their resolutions. His basic plan of action was to: tune queries, tune indexes, add more memory, and make storage faster.
  • Corruption Survival Techniques (Paul Randall) – I always feel like taking a session on corruption is a must for every DBA, and I don’t think anyone does it better than this speaker. He emphasized that corruption will always happen and we need to know what we are doing or else we could make it worse. Additionally, he mentioned that we must perform root cause analysis or else it may re-occur. In order to find it early, we should have IO alerts set (823, 824, 825) and Checkdb running regularly. Also, he emphasized the need to have a disaster recovery run book. (http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/paul/category/corruption/)
  • Keynote: Do You Know Data in the Microsoft Cloud? (Bob Ward) – This was a good session that explored many of the technical details of Microsoft’s cloud services, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), SQL Database, SQL Data Warehouse, DocumentDB, HDInsight, Data Lake analytics, and Data Factory.

Sessions – Wednesday

  • Keynote: Go to There and Back Again (Douglas Crockford) – This presentation focused on the development of programming languages and what he thought would be next big ideas. This speaker is probably best known for popularizing JSON. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Crockford)
  • New Features with SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services (David Pless) – I was really excited about this session and I think the speaker covered many of the features well. The Reporting Services team has a nice blog that covers many of the things he did: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/sqlrsteamblog/.
  • Integrating Azure into Your Data Platform (Grant Fritchey) – I feel like this session was a balanced view of using Azure. He made the case for some who may be good candidates for using Azure, such as “greenfield” stuff, small shops, and global companies with distributed systems. He then talked through using active directory, virtual machines, and setting up network, monitoring, and other basics.
  • DevOps with Team Foundation Services and Azure (Karl Rissland) – This was a well-developed presentation that focused on the people, the process, and the tools to make DevOps work. He mentioned some of the cultural impediments between IT groups (i.e. UI, integration, data, infrastructure) and how each focuses on a different purpose from change to stability. The technologies he used in his demos were: PowerShell, PowerShell DSC, Azure ARM templates, VSTS, and Azure.

Sessions – Thursday

  • Keynote: A Day in the Life of the Data Scientist (Buck Woody) – This might have been one of my favorite presentations, as he broke down the job of a data scientist into a few parts. (https://buckwoody.wordpress.com/)
  • Inside the SQL Server Query Store (Bob Ward) – This session featured some great technical content that made me excited to migrate to SQL Server 2016. I feel like the Query Store is a game changer and it was explored in some detail. Some of the subjects that were touched upon were: query execution over time, reporting of completed and failed queries, storing of compiled queries and plans and stats, the query store data model – including plan store and runtime stats, compilation and execution statistics, UTC dates, and maintenance.
  • Scripting in SSIS (Tim Mitchell) – This session highlighted the creating of custom code to extend the capabilities of SSIS, using SSIS expressions, script task, script component, and PowerShell. (https://www.timmitchell.net/)
  • Keynote: SQL Intersection Closing Panel & RunAs Radio Recording Basically, we were audience for the radio show, RunAs Radio (http://runasradio.com/)

Post-Conference Session

  • Leveraging SQL Server in the Cloud (Jeremiah Peschka and Brent Ozar) – This workshop compared Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) and some of the pros and cons of each. Also, we went through some exercises to help us think through our decisions of how to leverage the cloud given certain situations and features that would be required. Again, it was stressed that a hybrid approach may work best.

So, I did enjoy my first experience with the SQL Intersection conference. Although it was a little different than what I was used to, it provided a high level of training and was in a nice location.

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