Big up to Karla!

I'm sad

I’m sad

Well the day I’ve been dreading for the last few weeks has finally arrived, and it is with great sadness and joy to read Karla’s announcement that she will be leaving her current role in the PASS family. Sadness because Karla has not only become a great friend and ally over the years (and I will deeply miss her in doing what she does), but joyous because I know that she is moving on to the next successful phase of her life story -one in which she can rightly reap the rewards of her brilliance.

In the beginning

I don’t know how it happened, but I somehow managed to miss Karla at the PASS Summit in 2010 during my first ever visit to Seattle. Stranger still was that I did not bump into her during my (first “International”) speaking gig at SQLRally Orlando in 2011 either. So my first time meeting Karla in person was at SQLBits in 2011, which was apparently not too long after she had joined PASS proper in her Community Evangelist role (although she did it so well, you would have thought she had been doing it for 20 years).

I’ve told her this before, but the minute I’d met her I knew that she was someone who I wanted to be friends with. I could tell she was a DO-ER. A no-nonsense, no bullsh*t professional. A straight talker. But most of all, she was very approachable, warm and had a wicked sense of humour and infectious laugh. There are very few people on this planet (when I see them) that suddenly everything seems good with the world, but Karla is most definitely one of them.

Thanks boss!

Over the years since our first meeting we have worked together professionally for many years. Karla was instrumental in helping me launch the UK’s first SQLSaturday (SQLSaturday Cambridge) in 2012 and I can say with hand on heart, that without her support in doing so, it could not have happened. I also went on to serve my 2-year term as UK Regional Mentor amongst other things. I would jokingly call her (and regard her) as “my boss”, but one who did not pay me! Being close to Karla was reward enough, for the time that I spent with her discussing or participating in community activities controlled by her, were usually very successful and happy occasions.

From our professional relationship, we have grown a friendship and I know that there is a huge number of you who will also echo my feelings. She is never scared to tell me that I am talking nonsense when she disagrees with anything I may say, but can do so without being condescending. She also has broad shoulders and can listen to my criticism (or moaning) without taking things personally, and people like her are rare indeed. She has helped support me through the good times and the bad times in equal measure, and for that I feel incredibly privelaged to have known her.

It’s not the end

Now I know what you are thinking. This post is reading a little bit like an obitury. The reason for this is simple. When Karla leaves her current role at PASS we are all losing someone special, and someone who “has our back”. It is natural for me to but feel sad at this loss, but I am also happy and encouraged that she is returning to a technical role with the possibility that she will still be part of our community, and we all will benefit from that. Either way, I will not stop having a private moan to Karla about anything that is annoying me no matter where she goes (you cannot escape me Karla!).

Karla has been pivotal in helping me grow, develop and succeed during her tenure at PASS and is leaving some very big boots to fill. I hope you (like me) will wish her the best of luck with the future and thank her for everything she has done for us and SQLSaturdays, PASS and the SQL Community at large.

Karla you’re the best!

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Using the new Azure Dashboard favourites and tiles

The new Azure Portal represents a huge improvement over the old Classic Azure Portal in terms of User eXperience and performance.

If you were used to the old portal you’ll most probably have got to like the quirks and simplicity, but the new portal has a lot to offer and does a great job in providing a more customised and colourful end-user experience.

In this post I shall discuss some of the functionality that will make your Azure UX experience more productive and enjoyable.

Favourites sidebar

Favourites can be dragged up or down to your preferred position.


The Portal sidebar at first seems like a cluttered mess, but what items appear on it is completely under your control.

The items on display can be removed (or added) by clicking on the the Browse option and navigating to the item you wish to add/ remove.

When the item in question is visible in the browse list, you can simply tick the star (to its right) to add as a favourite (see below) -the star is highlighted yellow to add as a favourite or cleared to remove from your favourites bar.


The favourite will be placed at the bottom of your sidebar list, but you can order these simply by hovering your mouse pointer over them and dragging and dropping into position.

Once you have customized your menu to your satisfaction it is worth minimizing the favourites list by clicking on the minimize button just beneath the Microsoft Azure logo. This will hide (or display) the favourite titles leaving only the icons on your screen real estate.

Navigation bar

Your Azure experience will consist of many click-select-click-select operations and each time you will navigate further and further down the resource tree in order to make changes required to your resources. This could pose a problem when trying to step back up the tree if it wasn’t for the presence of the Menu Ribbon (found at the top of the Azure Portal). Every sub-menu that is selected will cause a new item to appear to the right of the ribbon (see below).

menu ribbon

In order to step or jump back one or more levels, simply click at that specific item on the tree. If the ribbon cannot fit all the item names on the screen, it will place the earlier ones into a drop down menu accessible by clicking the far left back-arrows item (as seen in the ribbon above).


Tiles are cool right? Well they are even cooler when you can move them around and resize them (just like Windows 8-10).


In order to drag a tile somewhere else within the dashboard surface area you can either switch the dashboard into edit mode by clicking edit on the Portal Menu ribbon, or hover the mouse pointer over the tile you wish to move until its menu bar appears. Simply drag the tile to the position you desire (other tiles will automatically adjust their position to accommodate). You will probably get better mileage from laying the tiles to fit either a vertical or horizontal layout if you commonly use different screen orientations.

select tileFrom this menu it is also possible to remove the tile (by clicking the close cross) or by clicking the ellipses (three dots!) and selecting Unpin from dashboard option from its drop-down menu.

The ellipses menu option will also provide the ability to resize the tile but tile sizing is tile sensitive. In other-words specific tile types can only be resized to specific dimensions (or not at all). For instance, a Virtual Machine tile can be resized only to 1×1, 2×1 and 2×2 dimensions but subscription tiles cannot be resized at all. Once you have selected the tile dimensions from the ellipses drop down menu click the Done button at the top of the Azure Portal.

Newly created resources will be automatically added (by default) onto the Azure dashboard (unless you deselect that option on creation). If you have existing resources you wish to add to the dashboard, simply search for the one you want and select the ellipses option to its right in the resource list and select Pin to dashboard.


If you are not crazy about the default colours used in the Azure Portal you can easily change to another pre-defined theme by clicking the settings settings button on the Portal Menu ribbon. This will give you the option to select (currently) 1 of 4 themes, turn Animations on or off and enable or disable Toast notifications. Personally I like the default theme and I don’t really see any point in turning off animations or toast notifications, but you can if you want to…


microsoft azureIf you are busy making changes to different resources, one useful feature to assist navigation is the history recorder. It will remember the last 10 previous locations visited in the Azure Portal. These can be accessed by the drop-down list (located next to the Microsoft Azure logo). I think it is a shame that this list does not remove duplicates, nor is the list size (currently) configurable, but you may find it an easy way to travel around to commonly accessed resources and options.

Well that concludes my introductory post on the new Azure Portal UX, and if you have any other tips then I would really love to hear them!

Posted in Cloud Computing, SQLServerPedia Syndication | Tagged | Leave a comment

Goodbye Oracle VC but hello…


<insert your own metaphor>

It is with a tinge of sadness that we announce the Oracle Virtual Chapter is no more, but do not despair, all is not lost!


Around 14 months ago the leadership of the Oracle Virtual Chapter changed hands after it had laid dormant for approximately the same length of time as from then to now. Back then PASS were not entirely convinced that there was an audience or market for this Chapter, but we discussed our vision for it’s future and for a time the VC had a stay of execution.

The revised vision for the Oracle Virtual Chapter was to encourage understanding of Oracle based technologies for a Microsoft audience, so we hoped to cover integration topics (for instance SSIS ETL from Oracle data sources) and even showcasing certain Oracle features and contrasting SQL features (i.e. what rocks or fails in each Data Platform) with a view that this could help encourage discussion.

We are still excited by this vision but I think the key problems remain:

  • How do you “sell” Oracle Technology Training to a Microsoft Community?
  • Is there a need for Oracle Technical Training in a Microsoft Community?
  • Should we be trying to “sell” Oracle Technology Training to a Microsoft Community?

The “how” was always going to be a difficult question to answer but in many ways I think is largely dictated by the more important question of need. If there is no need for training then the how you “sell” it will fail regardless. It became quite apparent early on in our efforts to start the ball rolling again that there was a distinct lack of interest in Oracle within the SQLPASS Community if social media responses (or lack of) to our messages was anything to go by. Even during presentations I would talk about the re-launching of the Oracle Virtual Chapter and receive blank stares -and only ever had one single person show an interest during all this time. I could only conclude that the need for Oracle training within the Microsoft (SQL) community was far less than I had expected.

I found the question whether we should even be attempting to “sell” Oracle Technology to a Microsoft Community the hardest one to answer. While many of us work in Multi-Database Platform environments, there is no getting away from the fact that this Community is first and foremost Microsoft centric and exists (in part) because of the funding and support of Microsoft. However it was unlikely that we would help Oracle marketing shift more units (over SQL) since we were mostly trying to speak to an audience with existing and heavy Microsoft deployments. Therefore even though I am sure Microsoft would not see the Virtual Chapter as a conflict of interest in any way, there is no doubting that it is/ was an unusual fit to the existing Virtual Chapter Portfolio.

So ultimately we always ended up coming back to the question of relevance. We believe that the OracleVC is no longer as relevant to PASS’s Microsoft centric audience in the same way that it may have been 5 or 10 years ago. The Microsoft Data Platform has grown so large and integrated (and partnered) with other platforms and technologies (such as Hadoop) that suddenly most of us are either stepping firmly in one camp or the other (at least it feels this way) and integrating or utilizing other technologies into that stack where required or necessary, but obviously there are always exceptions.

The Future

With a shrinking potential audience we have decided to move with the times and change things so the Virtual Chapter has a purpose to exist. First we set out some basic goals that we wanted to address.

The new Virtual Chapter:

  • Must be Microsoft Data Platform centric
  • Must have a potential (existing) PASS audience
  • Should incorporate some of the original revised vision (integration, compare and contrast)
  • Should provide something different but relevant

In the end we came up with the mission statement that the VC would:

“cover all technologies and solutions that may be integrated with (or used alongside) the MS Technology stack, in order to complement or improve existing solutions”

…these may include 3rd parties or pure MS product deployments.

Sessions we could cover might include:

  • AlwaysOn Availability Group hybrid deployments using Azure
  • Big data solutions – contrasting Hortonworks, Cloudera and HDInsight
  • (or even) SSIS ETL from Oracle data sources!

…So you see, the Oracle side of things is not entirely dead and obviously there is lots of room and scope for cross over with existing VCs and we think this is a good thing. It means that there should be a captive audience and (just as important) speakers.

PASS_VC_Hybrid_smallAfter lots of head scratching, there was only ever one name that seemed a right fit…Hybrid Virtual Chapter. Coincidently our existing DNA-like logo feels like a perfect fit for this new name so at least that is one thing that can remain the same. So for now I would like to thank everyone who has worked on the Oracle VC in the past and in particular would like to thank Wendy Pastrick (b|t) and Elizabeth Jeffs for their immense patience and understanding over the years while we attempt to move things forward. This time our aim is to succeed. Wish us luck!


Posted in Community, Events, Personal Development, SQLServerPedia Syndication | Tagged | 6 Comments