Tag Archives: PASS Summit

5 Days of PASS – Day 1


It is now the morning after the night before, having completed the official first day of the PASS Summit 2014. It is nice to be back in Seattle and America after not being able to travel last year so it has been particularly great to catch up with a couple of old friends and ex-colleagues. I actually arrived in the States on Saturday evening (two days ago) where I met up with my good friend Régis Baccaro at the Airport, and then later we had a nice meal and drinks with the most excellent Ruben Pertusa Lopez and a bunch of other SolidQ guys (at the Taphouse -of course).

Sunday was an extra special day for me because I finally got to visit CenturyLink field, and watch the Seahawks after so many years of promising myself I would go. That’s my bucket list item #1 ticked of the list! Also along for the ride as my guests of honor were PASS Community evangelist Karla Landrum and SQL Server guru Rodney Landrum -which was my way of saying thank you for their support over the years. We have for a long time enjoyed bending each others ears about all matters of community and while I think it is fair to say we do not necessarily agree on every single matter we discuss, there is no doubting the passion we each feel for the SQL Community at large and long may that continue. Also along for the ride was Les Reading, who having previously worked on a short contract for him several years ago, is someone I like and respect highly. It is also great to see and hear how well he is doing in his new current role.

Seahawks start

The game ended 30 – 24 with a Seahawks win, and I absolutely loved the experience.

Monday was officially the beginnning of the PASS Summit for me, as I attended Kalen Delaney’s IN-MEMORY OLTP INTERNALS: HOW IS A 30X PERFORMANCE BOOST POSSIBLE? [DBA-398-P] pre-conference session. I have always been a massive fan of Kalen and her work, but I confess I didn’t really feel that I got out from the session what I wanted. This is partly (I believe) due to the fact that my jet-lag was kicking in towards the end and the aircon was sending a bit of a chill on my head (which was an unpleasant distraction), but I also think that since becoming an MCM I am finding it harder and harder to find sessions that I can get maximum value from. I believe this is partly due to the way that I go about my training and I like to be able to stop, rewind and go over certain key points and focus into them more. This is obviously an impossible ask with a pre-conference session and one of many reasons why I wish PASS would go back to recording them. Doing so would suddenly increase the value of attending (to have the right to buy) tenfold.

Finally in the evening I met up again with my good friend Martin Schoombee who I’ve known for a good couple of years. Again we initially hit the Taphouse and finally headed to a swanky Restaurant where two of our party decided to order…. Burger and fries! There is only so much POSH you can but into a Burger, but I confess it did look nice all the same and the fries tasted amazing.

Seahawks game

The only major downside to my trip so far has been that I am not very well and have felt a little sick since arriving. I am of course putting on a British Stiff Upper Lip and continuing to enjoy my time here but seriously hope that my feeling of sickness does not last much longer.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my day ahead today in which I will be attending several community engagements and also catching up with some work. Hope you are all having a great time at the Summit too and hope to bump into you at some point.

Bye for now,


See also in this series:
7 Days of PASS – Day 6
5 Days of PASS – Day 5
5 Days of PASS – Day 4
5 Days of PASS – Day 3
5 Days of PASS – Day 2

See you in Charlotte!

Well it is that time of year again where the results of the PASS Summit 2013 session selections become public. This year was of course a very difficult one to get selected since (I believe) a record number of submissions were received -but thankfully I still managed to knock one session (out of four) into the back of the net. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the other selected Speakers (especially if this is your first time at the Summit) and commiserations to all those who were not successful on this occasion. I know the usual inquests and finger pointing will naturally ensue by a small handful of people who feel personally aggrieved that they weren’t successful, but believe me when I say that the process is as fair as I could expect, but not without room for improvement (more on this very soon in a follow up post).

Essentially you should take heart in the fact that whilst the selected schedule *might* have been better by your inclusion (yes we know you are awesome and have written a gazillion books and are a respected MVP/ MCM and Certified Guru), but at least someone else will get the opportunity to shine (and hopefully be awesome too). Ultimately (in my opinion) the Summit is about a team effort so we should be nothing but pleased for them and take our failures in good grace.


The Summit 2013 marks my third year at the biggest SQL Server Conference in the World as a speaker in any capacity, my second appearance giving a regular session and is the third regular session in total that I will have presented there (I gave two last year). It will also be my fourth as an attendee. I have been very grateful to have presented two lightning talks in total at the last two Conferences and I am always very humbled to get chosen in any capacity and grateful to the people who make this happen. I would also like to give a very quick shout out to my good friend Niko Neugebauer who I was hoping to co-present a Personal Development session with. Unfortunately this session was not chosen which is a big loss for the Summit in my humble opinion since (for me at least) Niko oozes #awesomesauce and I think our session would have ROCKED! Still perhaps another time and I keep my fingers eternally crossed that Niko (blog|twitter) is successful at next years Summit if not sooner. If anyone deserves payback for all his HARD community efforts and major recognition for his abilities, he is your man!

I shall be presenting on one of my favorite subjects -SQL Server Concurrency. Those of you who follow me a little closer than is healthy 🙂 will already be aware, last year I presented a session titled “READPAST & Furious: Transactions, Locking, and Isolation (DBA-309)” which focussed on some of SQL Server’s crazy behaviors and concurrency basics. My session this year is called “Lock, Block and Two Smoking Barrels – SQL Server Concurrency” and will follow along similar lines looking at even more SQL Server crazy behaviors but focus in a little bit more depth on transactional processing theory and contrast SQL Server’s Pessimistic and Optimistic isolation levels and how they may help/ hinder/ make no difference to the concurrency of your environment. The “Two Smoking Barrels” referred to in the title is of course a direct reference to SNAPSHOT Isolation Level and READ COMMITTED Snapshot Isolation -the optimistic implementation of READ COMMITTED Isolation Level. Yes we are sure to focus more on these two optimistic bad boys. I hope you can manage to come to my session, I think we will have a blast!

If you are interested, the following is the session abstract:-

SQL Server is a high performance relational engine and provides a highly scalable database platform but due to its complexity and bad programming practices can be prone to serious concurrency problems, unexpected behaviors, lost updates and much more!
In SQL Server 2005, two optimistic concurrency mechanisms were introduced and touted as the solution to all our problems. Now in SQL Server 2012 (and beyond) even more have followed, but many challenges and problems still remain.

Let’s take a long look into the world of SQL Server concurrency and investigate Pessimistic and Optimistic isolation understanding how they work, when you should use them, and more importantly when they can go very wrong.

Don’t be staring down the wrong end of SQL Server’s two Smoking Barrels and join me for this revealing and thought provoking presentation.

Change and make a difference

Let me tell you a story…

It is a drizzly night in November and I am sat with a bunch of people I have never met before. They are all eating and I am not (one too many Whiskys the night before). They all appear to know each other and are vigorously moving from subject to subject with enthusiasm and I am listening intently to the conversation but not really saying too much. I am probably the only Englishman in the entire bar -or at least, if I am not alone, there can’t be many of us there. To be honest I am not even sure whether that would really make a difference, for I am still relatively poor at introducing myself to strangers and, as I sit there feeling a little bit like a fish out of water everyone else is a fish in water. The date is Sunday 7th November 2010 and I am sitting in a bar called Lowell’s in a place known as Pike’s Place Market in a city called Seattle for a convention called the PASS Summit.

Going to Lowell’s

The fact that I am even sat here is a minor miracle, and really completely out of character but this is going to be the start of something I tell myself -the new me, and I am going to start to learn to socialize (like a human being) -like everyone else seems to do …effortlessly. I had registered for the “Sunday Night Meetup” hosted by Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and am intent on using the opportunity for a new beginning and actually making the effort to meet new people rather than let them be the ones to approach me whilst I hide behind my hard exterior. As Sunday evening drew nearer I started to get cold feet. ‘Why it’s only an Eventbrite ticket, it doesn’t really matter to anyone if I don’t come’ I told myself -‘Besides, I’d have an even better time by myself stuck at the hotel bar on my own (at worst) or have a talkative stranger drop by and chat for a bit (hopefully)’.

The depressing reality of that sunk in. ‘NO I AM GOING!’ I decided. I will go, have something to eat, maybe have a couple of drinks and perhaps even learn the skills of communication like I always wished I could. In the worst case scenario, if it didn’t really go to plan, I could make my excuses and leave early with the added bonus that I would have eaten and had a drink… So I went.

Whilst sat there listening, on my right I had a young lady called Jessica Moss (blog|twitter) and on my opposite right a lady called Pam Shaw (blog|twitter). Pam was talking about the SQLSaturday movement, how it all began, where it is all going and what things need to change. Her enthusiasm and passion for SQLSaturdays immediately raised my interest and I soaked up the conversation. Whilst I sat there my mind wandered and I started to wonder if this could ever work in the U.K. and decided there and then that I wanted to host one. However there was only one small problem in my eyes. Even though several weeks ago I had just given my first ever presentation to a major event prior to heading off to the PASS Summit, for me the experience was a rather insular and miserable affair in that I didn’t really know anyone and they didn’t know me. In short I felt very lost as a speaker. I didn’t really know what to expect and the way the events work from a speaker’s perspective. I remember walking into the “Speaker room” for the very first time and it felt very much like I had entered the Slaughtered Lamb (from the American Werewolf in London film) and felt very much like the person I really was – a nobody. I digress slightly, but the point is that in Seattle, having listened to the conversation for a while I realised that in order for me to really be able to host one of these events I would have to have a slightly bigger profile than I had (something > zero) and so on my return back to the U.K. I didn’t mention my ambitions again to anyone and patiently waited.

Over the next year or so I worked very hard on my “social self” and made it my goal to present as much as possible to work on this side of me, share knowledge with others and to gain knowledge in the process. It was a win-win situation all around.  I have since gone on to present at many major and small events over the last couple of years and now feel completely at home just arriving in a new City of a new Country, giving a presentation, talking and socialising with people and returning home again. My self-development is certainly not fait accompli but I believe I have made significant progress. Even more importantly I have got to know who are the right people to ask for things and I eventually submitted my desire to host a SQLSaturday for Cambridge. Unfortunately when I did so the timing was not quite right it and I was asked to patiently wait on the wings until it would be possible to give it the green light. I will confess that at this stage I gave up all hope and as months passed by I believed it would not happen.

Then… joy of joys… several months ago an email arrived in my Inbox asking me if I still wanted to host an event. The reply probably took me around 10 seconds to send. It was of course a massive ‘YES!’.

I want you to know that by one simple action (going to Lowell’s) set off a chain of events and you could do the same. I am no longer “afraid” to approach you if you are a stranger and say hello or talk about the Weather, I have realised that ambitions can be fulfilled and today feel like almost anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.

If you are able to, I really hope to see you at SQLSaturday #162 Cambridge and if not then please make sure you say hello to me at SQLRally Dallas, the SQL 2012 Summit in Seattle, SQLBits or many of the other SQLSaturdays and user groups that I hope to be at. I would also like to extend a huge thank you Pam Shaw whose enthusiasm and continued support for the SQL Community has been the spark for something new and exciting and to Niko Neugebauer (blog|twitter) and his SQLSaturday #115 Lisbon team for giving me a huge welcome and amazing insight into the running of his event which inspired me and provided a template model that I hope to replicate where possible. I would also like to thank SQLSaturday and SQLPASS for allowing me to do this, but most of all I want to thank Karla Landrum (twitter|blog) for her unwavering support and dedication to the task in hand. Thank you all!

Remember that everything you do, everything you say, everyone you meet and everywhere you go has the power to touch and change your and other peoples lives. Be mindful of this and once in a while try to change a little!

SQLRally and beyond

I am almost ashamed to say that I have let over a month pass since my last post and truth be told I have come close a few times without never actually pressing that submit button.

I shan’t bore you with my excuses or reasons for my inactivity but what matters is I’m back!

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of noise about SQLRally Dallas and I felt that I wanted to share my own personal experience with you about this rather unique event (in Orlando) -for it quite literary changed my life.

Six years or so ago I joined a company with big hopes and promises and after starting a small family (and growing it further after joining) I was looking for a period of stability and a platform to learn, improve and share my skills. In short, I knew that come what may, as good or bad as things might get, I was there for the long haul.

Not long after joining, my skills and talent for other technologies were recognised and when the need for a specialized “crack” team supporting a critical troublesome in-house application, I was identified as their man. This position (I was told) would be permanent and was absolutely vital to the running of the company operation. There was one small problem -I didn’t want it and regretfully declined. My reasons were many but I had joined the company as a SQL Server SME and saw the very broad set of skills required to support one single application platform as a regression in my ever growing expertise in SQL Server (and increasing knowledge in Oracle) and did my best to explain this.

Unfortunately for me, the Technical Director at the time (let’s give him a fictitious name of Dennis) told me in no uncertain terms that this would be the last time I ever refused him. Three months into my new job, everything had turned sour overnight simply due to me being good at what I do.

Years would pass and with each new year would bring a new job offer somewhere else for an ever increasing Salary, but I would always find a reason not to take it -probably the thought of repeating the same mistakes again was always the biggest reason to avoid saying yes.

Then something happened.

Although I have been helping in forums and the like on and off for a long period of time which you can read a little more about in this post (Standing upon the shoulders of Giants) I always felt that I had more to give, more to share, more to say and more to learn. I decided to submit my first ever public presentation to SQLBits 7 and surprisingly managed to secure a speaking slot! As daunting as the whole thing was, I think I managed to pull it off -and if nothing else I know that I learned LOADS during my weeks and weeks of hard graft of preparation putting it all together.

About a month or so later I took a week off work and self-financed a trip to the SQLPASS 2010 Summit (my very first time) and met some absolutely amazingly talented people which is probably another story for another time.

Whilst in Seattle I decided that should the opportunity arise, I wanted to attempt a presentation in America and would submit and hope for the best. SQLRally Orlando was announced and my submissions went in. Although I didn’t make the first cut, my submission received the joint highest votes for the runners up and quite incredibly I was eventually selected as a wildcard! Totally brilliant and I was thrilled!

This time (unlike Seattle) I thought I would approach Dennis and see if my company would like to contribute in any way since there would be obvious technical benefits to the organization. The response did not surprise me. He said that my speaking and attending sessions at SQLRally (or anywhere else) had absolutely no benefit to the company at all. I have never forgotten the impact that sentence made upon me. The situation was made even more ironic when a few days later I was assigned to an important scalability project (for someone had personally requested that I should be the resource).

…… The title of my presentation : “Orders of magnitude-Scaling your SQL Server Data“.

Like the SQLPASS Summit, I fully financed my trip to SQLRally and used a week of my holiday entitlement and came to a decision. I realised that however much I tried to improve myself socially and technically (and help others), Dennis would never support my efforts in any way. A few days later I received a permanent job offer from another firm offering a substantial salary increase (almost double) and I ……….turned it down!

SQLRally helped me realize that the only person holding me back was myself and It was time for me make the jump. I quit and left for Orlando to give my presentation. On my return, I secured work and now when I need to finance any speaking or training events, the only person I need to convince is myself.

But what of SQLRally? I loved giving my presentation, it was very hard work preparing for it but I learned more than I can put into words at hopefully managed to communicate some of that knowledge across. From a non-speaking perspective, if you have never been to a SQL Server event and can get to Dallas then you are going to LOVE it. SQLRally is smaller than the Summit and full of lots of first timers and many regulars who will embrace you and make you feel completely at home.

Attending SQLRally could be your first steps towards something amazing. I hope you take them, and if you do, I look forward to meeting you someday soon and hopefully share a nice cold beer.

You can read more about my exploits at SQLRally here and here.

What has happened to me since my return?

Going forward I am currently :-

Dennis, I think you made a mistake with me but I know you would never be able to admit it. I sincerely thank you for every single day I spent praying for deliverance. You made me realize that if I wanted something strong enough I could go out there and get it. Through your neglect, you encouraged me to meet people LIKE me. You have given me hope and for that, I will never forget you.

NOLOCK hits Mythbusters!

Exactly one month to this very day I wrote the article “When should you use NOLOCK?” which explained exactly when the use of the READUNCOMMITTED isolation level was acceptable and when it wasn’t. I also revealed that it not only takes out a Schema Stability (Sch-S) lock on the object (which is documented in Books Online for the hint) but also took out a special Shared (S) Bulk Operation lock when used on heaps. This latter behaviour is not even mentioned in Books Online for the hint and as far as I know, has never been documented or mentioned anywhere else before.

I therefore asked Paul Randal to check out my aforementioned blog post to confirm that I wasn’t going mad, and thankfully he confirmed that I wasn’t and that it was in fact expected behaviour. He also thanked me for giving him the idea for his final myth for his “More DBA Mythbusters(DBA-316-S)” session which he performed yesterday in which he gave and explanation of these behaviours. So I not only encourage you to check out my post, but to get hold of the PASS Summit 2011 DVD set and have a watch!

My idea hits Mythbusters!

Community is driving SQL to success

Well the keynote speech has begun, Ted Kummert is on stage and the focus at the beginning has been very much on the Community and SQL Azure. It is clear to me that Microsoft recognize the value of our amazing community -and they should because together we are helping to shape that future of this product into something that is becoming truly amazing. There was a time when Oracle DBA’s used to look down on SQL Server, but now they are worried and are desperately trying to get up to speed.

Ted Kummert on Stage

All the arguments that used to be given with respect to the supposed “failings” of our database platform have been slowly eroded away -a good example of this is our concurrency model. Microsoft have not only addressed criticisms and failings of our pessimistic concurrency model by constantly tweaking and providing various concurrency mechanisms such as database snapshots and scale-out strategies but have now provided optimistic concurrency by providing the new ISOLATION LEVEL as of SQL 2005 (Snapshot Isolation) and even gave us an optimistic implementation of READ COMMITTED isolation.

Whilst I am still undecided about the short term success of SQL Azure, one thing I know for sure is that through all of US this product is only going to become an even more amazing product. Join us and together we can make something special!

My Alarm clock worked…

So the time is around 7:30 am and I managed to get out of bed for my second official appointment of the PASS Summit 2011 and things are getting warmed up. I’m sat here on the front row of the Blogger table whilst to my left I have Brent Ozar, Aaron Bertrand and to my right Wes Brown and the Midnight DBA’s. If that wasn’t enough in front of me I have Stacia Misner and behind me I have Wendy Dance and Glen Berry! I don’t know how I managed this gig but it feels really good and it is an absolute pleasure to be part of it all.

Room is starting to fill…

Well that’s my first post for the day, onto writing the next one!