Saturday, January 19, 2019

If you want to see a cool ten-minute, "lightning" demo of how you can use PowerShell and Excel together to analyze data or produce nice reports, watch this YouTube video, from 7:47 to 18:22. This is presented by Doug Finke, the author of the Import-Excel PowerShell module.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/08/24

The highlights for this week have been a few videos from the free-to-view PASS Summit 2016 archive, available at

Managing SaaS Application Databases with Elastic Jobs: SQL Agent and More for Azure SQL Database, presented by Deborah Dove

  • Essentially, "Elastic Jobs" is SQL Agent for Azure SQL. She also talks about "Elastic Query", which allows you to run queries on all of your databases, or a specific subset of them.

Azure Data Services: Spotlight on Azure SQL Database, presented by Debora Dove

  • I think that this is a good introduction to Azure SQL and it covers Elastic Pools. I'm sure that I learned a few things. One thing that bothers ms is the low query/minute ceilings for the various offerings.

Design Patterns for SaaS Applications with Azure SQL Database, presented by Bill Gibson
  • If you are going multi-tenant, sharding and employing Elastic Pools seems to be the only sane choice.
  • "Most of our customers are compute-bound, not storage-bound."
  • There are various clever things you can do with pools and tagging.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/08/17

The summer has been busy and my Azure training schedule has suffered. Here are a few highlights from the last few weeks of study.

The following are presentations that occurred during SQLPASS Summit 2016. I can't  link to these presentations directly because they are behind a paywall (though it is free to subscribe):

Backup and Restore SQL Server Databases in Microsoft Azure, presented by Andy McDermid and Pinal Dave
This presentation is about Virtual Machines, not SQL Azure. My takeaways were:
  • Segregating data, log, tempdb and backup locations is still recommended practice.
  • The "backup to URL" feature can be useful because frees up a disk because it is not needed to hold backup files and writing to a URL doesn't count as bandwidth usage against your VM disks. "Backup to URL" can stripe the data just like writing "regular files" can. You need to ensure that the costs associated with the (required) Azure Storage Account make sense.
  • You can stripe VM disks for performance, but remember that VM sizing has rate-limits on the disk performance. If striping provides capacity that exceeds those rate-limits, you won't get the performance benefit that you expect.

Virtual SQL Servers. Actual Performance, presented by David Klee

Klee is always worth listening to, though his client's systems are much bigger than anything I've seen. My takeaways were:
  • Your virtual sockets should look like your physical sockets. Put everything inside of a NUMA node, if you can.
  • Always consider: "What if my VM gets moved to a host with a different processor configuration?"
  • Paraphrased: "Changed from 1x16 (socket x core) to 2x8 and the performance went up 25%"
  • Paraphrased: "A client had every VM set to 64 vCPU. Changing from 64 vCPUs to 4 vCPUs got a throughput 3.5 times higher than anything the client had seen up to that point".
  • Turn off "hot-add CPU" because it disables proper NUMA configuration.
  • Hypervisors generally ignore hyper-thread "cores" until the server is really loaded up. That level of load should not happen often. Therefore, there is little use in turning HT off in the BIOS.
  • If your storage does compression, rely on that and turn off SQL Server's data compression.
  • Virtual Disk Controllers (VDCs) are still a problem. Creating additional (non-default) VDCs and spreading your IO load around is recommended.
  • As always, test any change to make sure that you get what you expect.

SQL Server in Azure VM: Best Practices, Latest Features, and Roadmap, presented by Luis Vargas

SQL Server High Availability & Disaster Recovery in Windows Azure, presented by Lous Vargas, Sanjay Misra, et al

Both of these were very good, with some overlap. I liked the first one so much (which Vargas presents "solo"), I watched the second one when I noticed that he was one of the presenters. My takeaways were:
  • You are better off using storage pools, not MDF/NDF files, for striping and performance.
  • Licensing seems to only get more complex as time goes by.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/07/21

I found a version of my favorite SSDT presentation (from PASS Summit 2016) on YouTube. On YouTube, it is named "Continuous Integration with SQL Server Data Tools", presented by Jon Boulineau for the Nashville SQL Server Users Group.

This seems to be an earlier (?) version of a presentation called "Agile Development Fundamentals: Continuous Integration with SSDT", given at a SQL Saturday. In an earlier blog post, I named the PASS version of the presentation as "my new favorite SSDT video". Both presentations were done by the same person and seem to be the same content. The sound on the YouTube version isn't as good as the PASS Summit version, but you do not have to go through the PASS sign-up process to see it. (Though I do recommend PASS for anyone who wants to know how SQL Server works or how Microsoft expects you to use it.)

Jon goes over several things, including an introduction to SSDT, the test project feature and deploying builds. It's just over an hour long.

According to Microsoft's Certification Planning web site, I am officially a "Microsoft Certified Professional", having passed the following exams:
  • Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 Databases
  • Implementing a Data Warehouse
I'm going to need to evaluate what exam(s) to take next. The versions of SQL Server that I'm tested on are getting old and dusty but I need more Azure in my (professional) life.

I have started the "Azure 215x: Cloud Administration" course. Partly, I am interested in how edX runs it's online courses. I've taken a few other thing online over the years. I tend to do better with self-directed learning. The course is not very long, just a few hours, but I'm going to drag my feet until August starts in order to maximize the free time I have to use Azure tools. (There is a free account level for 12 months, but the minimum granularity seems to be "one month", so I'll dilly-dally for a week.)

Microsoft is now saying that you can get security patches for SQL Server 2008 for free after extended support ends on 7/9/2019. The catch is that you have to move your SQL Server 2008 instance to Azure. IOW, they are dangling extended lifetime for existing SQL Server 2008 applications in front of organizations in order to get more people onto their cloud systems.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/07/07

I do not have much to report this week.

I've started the Microsoft Professional Cloud Administration course over at I've only done the very first units and have yet to form an opinion.

I'll be looking at learning a few things about Confluence in the upcoming weeks,as well.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/30

Over the last two weeks, I've been watching PASS Summit 2016 videos. No particular presentation really stands out and I've been watching presentations that cover topics outside of my core competencies, so I haven't been keeping an inventory.

I've signed up for an edX course on Azure. I expect this to take up all of my training time budget for the next few months. I've taken short online courses before, including Rhetoric, Learning and Spanish, but this will be my first time taking an edX course. Those low-intensity courses and required only a few hours a week, while (IIRC) the edX course materials state that I should budget 12 hours a week for the next three months. I'm excited to see how a more demanding course will work out.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/16

I have finished watching the PowerShell + DevOps Global Summit 2018 presentations on YouTube that caught my interest. If you have any interest in applied PowerShell, I suggest that you have a look at their playlist. there are nearly 60 presentations and I'm sure that something in there will interest you. If not, has many other presentations.

After finishing up the PowerShell presentations, I went looking for some good tutorials on Jira. I found a lot of marketing, but I didn't find much on useful, implementable details. Some of that seems to be due to Jira being flexible enough to do whatever you want. That's great, but my problem is that I'm not at the point where I know what I want. I will just endeavor to persevere on this front. 

For the past week or two, I've been spending more time with Trello than I had been. I had a ten minute look at Kanbanflow, which seems like a worthy competitor to Trello. All of this activity is the fault of my reading The Phoenix Project, which re-ignited my interest in thinking about work strategically.

The fact of the matter is that you can turn many information tools into a rough Kanban-style task manager. I use OneNote to do task management. I have been using methods based on GTD since I read David Allen's book many years ago, but I've been moving towards Kanban. (A benefit of using OneNote is that my notes on my tasks become part of what I search when I say to myself "Didn't I do this before?". If something is buried in Trello, I might not find it so easily. I might not even think to search Trello.) You could use text files in some folders for a crude task list. The web sites start to shine when you need to work as part of a team or need better reporting.

I also did a little DFS research, because I am curious as to how that works even though it isn't really my bread-and-butter. One of the things I learned was that DFS was introduced in Windows Server 2003. I thought that DFS was a more recent innovation and (maybe Windows Server 2008). It is good to know things. 

I've started looking through the SQLPASS Summit 2016 presentations. I identified about 60 presentations that looked interesting. I've started going through them. The stand-out presentation so far is Agile Development Fundamentals: Continuous Integration with SSDT, which was presented by Jon Boulineau. This is my new favorite "How to do SSDT" presentation. It covers SSDT basics, testing and deployment. I have been using SSDT since the days of "Data Dude" back around 2008 (or earlier) and I need to improve my use of SSDT to match Jon's.

(I can't publish direct links to the SQLPASS site because of the way their site is built. You will just have to log into the SQLPASS site and search for Jon's work.)

I have said this before, but I'll say it again: If you have any interest in SQL Server, you should join SQLPASS. They don't bother you very much and you will get access to hours and hours of free SQL presentations. Yes, much of the content is "old", but SQL Server doesn't move that fast and "older" doesn't mean "obsolete". I would avoid anything earlier than SQL Server 2014, unless you stuck on an older platform.The quality and focus of the SQLPASS presentations tends to be better than what you find randomly searching around on YouTube. Additionally, you don't have to weed out as many introductory presentations for newbies. Even if you are "just an analyst", there are enough presentations on reporting technologies for you to find something that you can use.

I am still finishing up Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise. I found the chapter discussing the 1976 Swine Flu incident interesting as I kind-of-just-barely remember that time.