Category Archives: SQL University

Creative Writing Week: Documentation

First off, welcome back class! So this week we’re talking about writing. As a DBA or a developer you are going to be asked at some point to perform a necessary evil called documentation. Why is this evil? Well, it’s not really evil but it is not one of the more glamorous parts of the job, yet it is one of the most essential. Good documentation is everything! Without documentation you can spend all the time in the world developing the greatest system on earth, utilizing some of the most complex and beautiful code ever written but when something eventually (and it will) break, you’re going to be expected to be the one to fix it.

“But I’m working on this really important production issue, I can’t stop everything just to troubleshoot a system I put into production 3 years ago and can’t remember half the things I put into it!” Ah, but if you had only documented it someone else could be supporting the system and you could be blissfully working on the here and now. When we talk about documentation, however, that word means different things to different people. Let’s go over some of the different aspects of documentation within a system and why they are important.

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SQL University Feedback

Well the new year is here and I’m currently planning what’s next for SQL University this semester. I’m hoping to have a few more additions in staff as well as add some more interactive options to get everyone involved! I’ll have more details in the coming weeks about that. In the meantime I have setup a feedback form for SQL University. If you can, please take a minute to fill out this form. This feedback lets me know what we’re doing wrong/right and what you would like to see in the future. Thank you!

Feedback survey click here

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SQL University: Indexes

Good day students! Unfortunately your professor who was supposed to cover indexes (that’s a pun, you’ll learn why in the following lessons) fell ill so we had to call in a guest professor. I’m honored to introduce to you professor Gail Shaw (Blog | Interview)! Gail has written a series of articles on indexes at SQLServerCentral.com. In order to read these articles you will have to create an account, don’t worry it’s free and HIGHLY recommended as SQL Server Central has some of the best SQL material around!

So without further ado, here are your indexing lessons for the week:

Introduction to Indexes

The Clustered Index

The Non-Clustered Index

Supplemental indexing material:

Additional Indexing articles by Gail Shaw (from her blog) Recommended Reading

Index Primer-Just what statistics are Kept? (author: Josef Richberg)

A big “thank you” again to Gail for giving us permission to add her work to the SQL University curriculum! Don’t forget to head over to the basketball court and let coach Tom Larock help you put your newfound skills to the test.

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SQL University History Week III: The Future == You

First off I apologize wholeheartedly about the lateness of this post. Turns out I have a day job as well (go figure!). Anyhow thus far we’ve talked about the past in the history of SQL Server, we’ve discussed the present state of affairs in PASS and the events currently going on in the state of SQL Server knowledge and development, and now we’re going to discuss the future and that future is you!

Ok that last line came off a bit hokey but seriously folks, you really ARE the future of SQL Server and PASS. This year we’ve seen some great strides with PASS with the re-branding and refocusing of the Virtual Chapters. The Virtual Chapters, as was mentioned in the last article, are chapters that meet online and are focused on several aspects of SQL Server such as Administration, Application Development, Women in Technology, Virtualization, etc. Another thing that we learned through recent PASS elections campaign madness process is just how passionate we can be about our organization. We’ve also seen the passion from members come forth in form of blog posts such as Brent Ozar’s post ‘What Community Means to Me‘.

Getting Involved

But that covers how others feel and contribute, how do you fit in? Well first off get involved! Be it something as small as communicating with others via your social network of choice (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) start connecting with other SQL professionals. I know, for me, the relationships I’ve fostered via Twitter have been invaluable for me. I’ve found that not only it pays off for day to day questions but it also makes it much easier to transition to meeting folks “in meatspace” such as PASS Summit, SQLSaturday or user group events. Which brings me to my next point, local user groups are great resources. You can check the PASS Chapters website to see the list of the official PASS chapters all over the world. For those not familiar with user groups, these are groups that meet on a regular basis (typically about once a month) and they share information and network on particular topics. In our case we have user groups that are SQL Server focused (database administrators, developers, architects, etc.) as well as groups dedicated to SQL Server Business Intelligence. Attending user groups is a fantastic way to arm yourself with knowledge for free (as well as food and swag, hehe) as at these meetings the usual meeting structure includes having someone come in and speak on a particular topic to the group. In addition to the learning you get from these presentations you can get so much more by networking with your fellow SQL peers. This is a fantastic way to solve real-world problems as others in your field share problems and solutions they’re working on or have come across. No matter what your level of SQL expertise be it someone who has never even opened SQL Server before or someone who has been working with the product for 10+ years I highly encourage you to participate in your local user groups.

If there is no chapter in your area you can set one up yourself. Worried you need to be a SQL guru to do so? Let me alleviate your worries and tell you you don’t. One of the best stories I heard this year came from Bonnie Allard ( Twitter | LinkedIn), the chapter leader of the Spacecoast SQL Server User group. Bonnie actually came into SQL Server with no prior experience so in order to learn it she setup her own test systems at home and just kept playing with the product to get herself familiarized with it. After attending a SQLSaturday event, Bonnie decided to setup a SQL User group in her area (they are located in Melbourne, Florida) as the next closest group was Orlando which was over an hour away. Although the group is small Bonnie has shown great dedication to her craft, PASS and the SQL Community as a whole. If you are interested in setting up a group contact your local Regional Mentor to get started. You can find the regional mentors by clicking on your respective region on the Chapters page. If you have any questions you can contact Blythe Morrow (Email), the Communities coordinator for PASS Headquarters, and she’ll connect you to the proper folks.

Volunteer Work

So we’ve talked about PASS as a whole as well as the local level branches of PASS in local user groups but how else can you continue to pitch in? Well PASS is a global organization and they are always in need of good volunteers to pitch in be it something as simple as helping them put together a PowerPoint for a keynote or as much as volunteering at the Summit to help guide attendees around. Volunteers are the lifeline of PASS and so they can always use as many as possible to help out! If you’re interested in volunteering check out the Volunteers page at the PASS website or contact Blythe Morrow  for more opportunities.

Just Do It!

Bottom line is you don’t need to be a Super person with 100+ titles to be involved. Best way to get started is to just do it! Many of the SQL experts you see in the community started off just like you. One of the greatest things about being part of the PASS and SQL community is that you get so much more in return the more you put in to it. So get out there and volunteer, speak, blog, tweet, whatever as long as you get involved! Maybe I’ll see you at the Summit next year and you can relay your own story of how you setup a new PASS chapter or how you got involved with PASS, I’d love to hear them all.

Update: Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter), PASS Board Member and all-around awesome guy, just posted a blog about volunteering with PASS which you should definitely check out.

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SQL University History Week II: Current Events

pass_logo Welcome back students! In our last lesson we covered the history of SQL Server, the product. This is important stuff to know in order to understand the evolution of the technology you’re working with. SQL Server has made many strides and it continues to do so to this day. Today’s lesson we’re going to cover current events. The reason we’re covering current events is because this past week was the annual conference for PASS called the PASS Community Summit. PASS Summit Unite 2009 is the largest, most focused, and intensive Microsoft SQL Server conference in the world.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well you might be asking yourself: What is PASS? I’m glad you asked! PASS stands for the Professional Association of SQL Server. PASS is an independent, not-for-profit association, dedicated to supporting, educating, and promoting the Microsoft SQL Server community. From local user groups and special interest groups (Virtual Chapters) to webcasts and the annual PASS Community Summit – the largest gathering of SQL Server professionals in the world – PASS is dedicated to helping its members Connect, Share, and Learn by:

  • Facilitating member networking and exchange of information through our websites, Chapters, annual Summits, regional and local events, and virtual communities
  • Working with Microsoft to influence the evolution of SQL Server products and services
  • Delivering high quality, up-to-date, technical content, presentations, and other educational material for professional development

PASS was founded in 1999 by Microsoft and CA and continues to enjoy executive level endorsement from both organizations. As the number one user community for Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft looks to the PASS community for valued feedback, input, and inspiration. (Source: About PASS)

If you’ve been following anyone in the SQL community either via Twitter, reading SQL blogs, or browsing around any SQL-related forums you may have noticed a very large buzz in the community about the conference this week. There’s very good reason for this: The PASS Summit is the Superbowl of SQL Conferences (or World Cup for my international friends). This is the one conference during the year where folks from all over the world unite in one place and share their SQL skills, experiences and friendships. The motto for PASS is Connect, Learn, Share and that’s definitely what the Summit embodies. I personally have never been but this year I followed along via Twitter and it almost felt like I was there (Twitter is even funnier when you see the after-hours activities like Karaoke).

There have been a slew of blog posts about why the Summit (and I stress that the conference is called Summit, the organization is called PASS but many mistakingly refer to the conference as just PASS) is so great to attend. This post will try to not turn into one giant PASS Summit commercial but its hard not to gush over how awesome it is when you see all the knowledge shared and how the community rallies together. Suffice to say the annual conference is definitely worth your time and money to try and attend.

Beyond the conference PASS offers much more to the community. As a professional association they offer education resources for all members. How does one become a member? Don’t worry, it’s free and everyone is invited to join! Just follow this link to register. So what kind of learning resources does PASS offer? Well for starters the website offers links to resources to just about anything you can think of from technical articles, webcasts, tips/tricks from the experts, newsletters, tips/resources for speakers and much more. But the website is just the tip of the iceberg! PASS truly is a worldwide organization and that fact can be seen through the proliferation of local and regional SQL Server User groups. PASS has chapters all over the world and with each passing year it keeps growing! You can check the PASS Chapters page and check your region to see if there is a user group in your area. If there isn’t a user group located near you then guess what? You can establish one yourself! To get started on that journey check out the page on what steps are needed to set one up and become an official PASS chapter!

PASS Chatpers Worldwide as of 2009
PASS Chatpers Worldwide as of 2009

Another great resource PASS has established in the past year has been the proliferation of Virtual Chapters (formerly called Special Interest Groups or SIGS). These virtual chapters each have a focus on a different aspect of SQL Server such as Business Intelligence, Application Development, Professional Development, Virtualization, Women in Technology, Performance and Database Administration. These Virtual Chapters act just like local chapters in that they meet on a regular basis but rather than meeting in a physical location they meet online via LiveMeeting. These meetings are great and open to everyone. At these meetings they have someone in the community do a one-hour presentation (much like you would see at a conference or a local user group meeting). These are fantastic, and best of all free, learning resources which helps you advance your knowledge and career!

Another great item to come out of the PASS umbrella are the free, local training events called SQLSaturday. These are free 0ne-day training events modeled after code camp events. At SQLSaturday there are several tracks based on different aspects of SQL Server (i.e. Administration, BI, Development etc.). These events attract speakers from all over and gives a chance for attendees to not only learn about SQL Server and PASS but gives them a taste of the community as well. If you’re interested go check out their events page and see if there is one scheduled for your area!

While there are many, many learning resources for SQL Server out there such as SQL Server Central, SQLShare and SQLServerpedia, know that we are all united when it comes to PASS since we are all members of the same fraternity of data professionals.

In our last class for this week I’ll cover the future of SQL Server, PASS and you!

Continue on to part III

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SQL University: History Week Pt. 1

stockxchng-history-lesson-3-by-lusi Well this is going to be an interesting week as we have the PASS Summit going on. What’s the PASS Summit? What’s PASS? Why are the people on Twitter so excited about #sqlpass? Well by the end of the week my hope is you’ll have an understanding of where the Microsoft SQL Server (the product) came from, where its going, what PASS is and why its important to us.

So the past few weeks you’ve been working with Microsoft SQL Server. Some of you may have worked with it for years and others may be using it for the first time. So how did this fantastic relational database product come to be? Microsoft SQL Server’s humble beginnings started in 1989 with the release of SQL Server 1.0. This was Microsoft’s first entry in to the database market and the product’s codebase was based on Sybase SQL Server 3.0 code.Eventually Sybase and Microsoft went their separate ways. Starting from version SQL Server 7.0, released in 1998, the codebase was re-written from the legacy Sybase code.

In 2000 Microsoft released the first version that did away with the previous numbering scheme and was released as (and the originality award goes to…) SQL 2000. This product marked the first time the product was available with an edition aimed at the IA-64 architecture. The IA-64 version of SQL 2000 was available some time after the x86 version. It was also a little finicky, being more prone to crashes than the x86 edition (thanks to Gail Shaw for this info!). This evolution of the product also saw the introduction of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) as an add-on in 2004. Reporting Services would re-emerge in SQL Server 2005 with many improvements in regards to end-user tools, self-service ad-hoc reporting and ease-of-usability. This release also gave us a built-in ETL (extract,transform,load) tool called Data Transformation Services (DTS).

For the 2005 release, SQL Server 2005 was considered a revolutionary release by many. Quite a few things were overhauled and improved upon. The Enterprise Manager was replaced by the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). SSMS is basically a Visual Studio shell with SQL Server components built in which made for a cohesive development/management environment for users. As well as getting a new management interface there were huge new features and enhancements to the database engine itself. SQL Server 2005 was the first SQL Server to include support for managing XML data types. Some other improvements 2005 brought were better indexing algorithms, better recovery systems, Dynamic Management Views, instant file initialization, better security (granular role/schema/object permissions), introduction of SQL CLR which allows developers to use native .NET code within SQL Server (assuming your DBA allows it, hehehe). Another huge change in this release was the replacement of DTS with a far superior and more polished ETL solution in SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS).

The most recent iteration of the product is SQL Server 2008. This version built upon the leaps from its previous release and improved upon them. These improvements came in the form of new features such as Policy-Based Management, the Performance Data Collector, data compression, resource governor (which allows dba’s to restrict resources for certain queries), transparent data encryption, data auditing, server group management in the form of the Central Management Server, the introduction of the MERGE statement, introduction of LINQ, support for geospatial data, filtered indexes, new DATE/TIME data types (until this point date/time was one column and together, this release allowed you to separate the two), BI improvements, and much more.

So what’s next? Glad you asked! The next announced release is referred to as SQL Server 2008 R2. This release offers mostly higher spec bumps (such as support for more processors, more memory, etc.) but also offers a few new feature additions as well. Some of these new features include Master Data Services, SQL Server Utility (a new way of managing databases as Data-Tier Applications), Data-Tier Application capabilities (DAC), PowerPivot (formerly known as Project Gemini) and more. Here’s a full list of all the various improvements available in the R2 release.

Note: This article was heavily drawn upon entries from Wikipedia. Click here to read the full SQL Server entry from there.

Continue on to part II

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SQL University:Computer Lab at SQLServerbeta.com

Good afternoon students, this is just a quick announcement to let you know that SQL University (sort of) is offering a computer lab for students to cut their teeth on SQL 2008 technology. I say sort of because this lab is actually offered via a partnership with PASS, Maximum ASP, and DELL Computers at http://www.sqlserverbeta.com .

The labs offer up a virtual sandbox environment where you can discover and practice everything you learn here in a dedicated hosted environment! Here’s the lab description:

The beta team has created a Microsoft® Hyper-V™ based private cloud to host individual instances of Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 on which you can perform your experiments.  You will have access to a Hyper-V instance and SA rights to a SQL Server Instance. The instance is available to you for three continuous hours and you are welcome to come back and use the beta instance as often as you like.
 
We have included the following sample databases for you to perform your experiment upon:
  • Adventure Works 2008 OLTP
  • Adventure Works 2008 DW
  • Adventure Works 2008 AS
  • Adventure Works 2008 LT

We will be adding additional labs in the coming months in preparation for the release of SQL Server 2008 R2, so check back often.

So how do you get in on this great deal? Well just head on over to http://www.sqlserverbeta.com and Register!

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SQL University: Basketball program!

Tom LaRock aka SQLRockstar
Tom LaRock aka SQLRockstar

Exciting news for SQL University today, we have now named Tom LaRock (Blog | Twitter) our head basketball coach at SQL University! A basketball program? For a virtual University? How’s that going to work? Well Tom details his plans in his blog post but here’s the general idea:

Each week Tom will hand-pick 5 players in the SQL community to put on the hardwood for that week. Think of them as Dream Team of the topic we’re covering that week. If I’m feeling saucy over the weekends I may Photoshop trading cards of each player he selects. We’ll see how everything plays out.

Practice! Practice! Practice! Tom will be coming up with practice drills for you students to follow to hone your newfound educational skills on the topic of the week. Just think of it as homework only with Coach Tom yelling at your to drag your butt back up the court and play some Defense!

I’m excited to see how this all pans out as it adds a nice dynamic to SQL University!

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SQL University:Fall 2009 Syllabus

Listed below is the Fall 2009 Syllabus for SQL University. Please refer back here often as weekly topics/presenters/dates may be subject to change. Each week each professor is asked to present between 2 and 3 articles on a given topic. The days where you see as Optional are listed in case the presenter that week chooses to take advantage of that 3rd day.

For links to each session please check the main SQL University page.

Date Topic Presenter
9/29/2009 Basic Tools Jorge Segarra
10/1/2009 Basic Tools Pt2 Jorge Segarra
10/5/2009 Backups/Restores: Recovery Models Argenis Fernandez
10/7/2009 Backups/Restores: Backups Argenis Fernandez
10/9/2009 Backups/Restores: Restores
10/12/2009 Basic Admin Tasks I
Wendy Pastrick
10/14/2009 Basic Admin Tasks II
Jeremiah Peschka
10/16/2009 Optional
10/19/2009 SQL Internals I
Wendy Pastrick/Jeremiah P.
10/21/2009 SQL Internals II
Wendy Pastrick/Jeremiah P.
10/23/2009 Optional
10/26/2009 Security K. Brian Kelley
10/28/2009 Security K. Brian Kelley
10/30/2009 Optional
11/2/2009 History Week Jorge Segarra
11/4/2009 History Week Jorge Segarra
11/6/2009 Optional
11/9/2009 Indexes/Performance Tuning Josef Richberg
11/11/2009 Indexes/Performance Tuning Josef Richberg
11/13/2009 Optional
11/16/2009 Troubleshooting tips/techniques Chuck Lathrope
11/18/2009 Troubleshooting tips/techniques Chuck Lathrope
11/20/2009 Optional TBD
11/23/2009 Intro to BI: Reporting Govinds Yadav
11/25/2009 Intro to BI: Reporting Govinds Yadav
11/27/2009 Optional
11/30/2009 Intro to SSIS Josef Richberg
12/2/2009 Intro to SSIS Josef Richberg
12/4/2009 <<OPEN>>
12/7/2009 Replication Kendal Van Dyke
12/9/2009 Replication Kendal Van Dyke
12/11/2009 Optional
12/14/2009 Advanced Dev. I Govinds Yadav
12/16/2009 Advanced Dev II Govinds Yadav
12/18/2009 Advanced Dev III Govinds Yadav
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SQL University:Faculty and Bookstore

Good morning everyone! I just wanted to pass along this announcement that we now our page up for our inaugural faculty for SQL University. You can find the Faculty page here. Yesterday we unveiled our new SQL University bookstore. At the bookstore you can find book titles that are highly recommended by fellow DBA’s, developers and database professionals from around the world. In the future we will also be adding things such as various tools for you to try out so stay tuned for those.

Another announcement is that tonight at 8pm EST Tom LaRock (Blog | Twitter) will be holding his weekly broadcast on UStream for the PASS Elections. We have chosen this forum as our press conference as the invitation has been extended to him to become SQL University’s athletic director. What does that job entail? Well come join us in the broadcast and find out as its going to be a REALLY exciting dynamic to SQL University!

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