Category Archives: SQL Server

Being a Speaker

Back in 2013 I attended my first PASS Summit. I was a first timer and Bill Fellows was my “big brother.” I had no clue what I was getting myself into. This is my story on how I became a speaker.

At my first summit, thanks to Bill, I was meeting people just about from the moment I got there. Bill knew lots of people. He’s tall and bald and hard to miss. And wears shorts. Everywhere. Regardless of temperature.

Where was I…oh yeah…speaking. While at summit that year I met and talked to many people. A few of them asked me “Have you ever thought about speaking?” I politely replied that I hadn’t, but I really wanted to ask them if they had forgotten their medication that day, or if they needed to be examined by a professional. Me – a speaker. LOLOLOLOLOLOL! Bless their hearts!

But then I thought about it. Why not speak? What would I talk about? What was something cool that I had done that people would want to know about? Could I do this? I showed people how to properly gift wrap a present in speech class (oh yes I did…and there is a right way…and you’re probably doing it wrong) – could I teach them something that would actually have some career benefit?

Yes. Yes I could.

I started to think about what I could talk about. I submitted a session to a SQL Saturday event later in 2013…and I was not selected. I didn’t know it at the time but I had picked a topic that was rather niche and would not have a real following. I found this out when I went to the event (yes, I still went…I was going to this one regardless) and talked to the organizers. This also allowed them to know who I was, so when I submitted again, they would be able to put a face with the name.

The following year I submitted a panel to a different SQL Saturday…and they picked it! This allowed me to get my feet wet while having some other more seasoned speakers there to help drive the conversation. In the weeks leading up to the event, we met and ironed out the details of what we would talk about. During those meetings I learned a lot from them, and they helped make that first session for me a success.

As a speaker, there are good days…and not good days.

A few months later I did my first solo session – and it did not go well. This was a tough pill to swallow. What happened? Simply put, my session didn’t reflect my abstract. I was disappointed in myself. It takes a few days for me to get over things like this, but since this was my first solo attempt, it really made me question whether or not I wanted to do this. Could I be good at this? I went home and re-wrote the session. Then looked at it and re-wrote it again. The next time I gave this session it went much better, and my feedback reflected it.

I love things that challenge me. Speaking does this, and does it in ways I would have never imagined. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter where I am for the foreseeable future, I will be speaking.

Speaking has taken my love of learning new things to the next level. Not only am I learning for the sake of a problem or making a business case for something, but now I am learning with a goal or being able to facilitate the learning of others. When I refine my skills, my session material gets better too.

My passions have found an outlet with speaking. It’s thrilling and sometimes frustrating. When you are speaking you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you have a lot of questions from the audience. Other times you have none. Sometimes you don’t know the answer. As much as you practice, it doesn’t change the fact that as many times as you give a certain session, no two of those are alike because no two audiences are alike. The one thing that is consistent is that the more times I am able to speak, the more people I am able to reach and help improve their SQL Server skill sets or adopt a new skill set with PowerShell. I don’t know where speaking is going to take me, but for now, I’m down for the ride to find out.


If you are interested in speaking, and would like to find out more, here are a few blog posts I found on this subject.

Paul Randal (via Grant Fritchey) – I think this one lays it out pretty good.

Cathrine Wilhelmsen – A really good post on when things don’t go as you had hoped.

Thomas La Rock – Once upon a time, he was a mere SQL fanboi.

Kevin Hill – On starting to speak and then after his first time speaking at SQL Saturday.

These are what I could find. If you have a blog post on speaking leave a comment and I can add you. ๐Ÿ™‚

T-SQL Tuesday #100 – Predicting the Future!

For this T-SQL Tuesday we are asked to look into our crystal SQL Server ball and predict what will be happening at the time of T-SQL Tuesday #200. I went to the garage, dug that thing out, cleaned it up, and boy it had a lot to say!

Assuming we’re all friends here, and there is some fun to be had with this…

T-SQL and JSON had a baby. All queries in SSMS resemble a hybrid of the two languages.

SSDT has been replaced by VSDT. Nothing has really changed but the acronym. As always, you can still expect some things to break when you do updates.

Microsoft bought NHibernate. You still have all the same issues as before but now you post them to Microsoft Party (it replaced Collaborate…after that replaced Connect) and actually watch them not get fixed. And you can’t post work-arounds in MS Party (so it’s not much of a party).

MS NHibernate still generates SQL queries that are long and redundant, but it’s not handling the TSQL-JSON baby very well. So there’s that.

Microsoft acquired ActiveBatch and it is now called SQL Server Batch and has replaced SQL Server Agent for scheduling jobs in SQL Server 2026. Consequently, companies have been reluctant to upgrade from SQL Server 2023 (especially the ones that have used ActiveBatch).

For the companies that are upgrading, they have found that calling PowerShell scripts from scheduled tasks to be a good way to bypass using SQL Server Batch. Increase the in the demand for DBA’s with extensive PowerShell experience sky rockets!

The rumors back in 2018 proved to be unfounded – DBA’s are still in high demand. All the talk of SQL Server tuning itself turned out to be DTA 2.0.

Microsoft brought back the MCM. And then killed it again the next year.

Azure has been replaced by Rainbow. Data is no longer in the “cloud” – it is in “rainbows.” Pricing is based on the colors of the rainbow and the color names are garnet, citron, lemon, lime, azure, and violet.

PASS still exists. Due to some bylaw changes, elections have not been held since 2019. Grant Fritchey [B|T] is still president and attends meetings remotely from his nursing home.

Just kidding – Grant’s not in a nursing home. That’s just where he says he is. There was some backlash when PASS did away with SQL Saturday events. Grant’s really in witness protection and goes by the name Thomas LaRock [B|T].


Thanks to Adam Machanic [B|T]ย for hosting the T-SQL Tuesday this month, and for coming up with this whole thing to inspire all of us to write more and continue to share knowledge. While there was absolutely no knowledge in this post, I do hope that I got a giggle from at least one person.

 

Quick and Dirty UPDATE STATS Job with T-SQL and PowerShell

When performance issues rear their pretty little heads I tend to look at the simplest things last. I am the person who is looking at the code first – because in many cases, if your code was better we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Whether it’s a series of nested views or one single user-defined function that doesn’t play well with the optimizer, there is usually something in the code itself that is contributing to the performance issue.

But what about the times when it isn’t the code or you can’t touch the code (I’m looking at you NHibernate…and all of your red-headed step-child offshoots and fellow ORMs). What about the cases when the poor performance situation only occurs periodically, or once a week on the same day, every week, and while you can see the slow-downs in your queries, and all of your waits and plans, the source of the problem isn’t any particular smoking gun – it’s lots of guns, firing off at random times, and the casualties are in your interfaces that depend on the data from the queries.

The one thing I don’t immediately go to is UPDATE STATS – and I should be looking at this. It’s something easy to run and if you still have issues, you have ruled it out.

Over estimation on rows = bad times for the optimizer.

In this case, I ran UPDATE STATS on one table in particular and immediately saw a marked improvement in my test query.

Ahhhh….much better.

This morning I ran the same query and things were back to where they were with performance. This was somewhat disheartening, but the troubleshooting must continue.

But what about auto-update stats? Is this on? Yes, but auto update statistics is only going to update based on a percentage sample of the records in the table. If your table contains millions of records, you may not be updating your statistics sufficiently to see an improvement. I am updating statistics with a FULL SCAN of the table. For larger tables, this may take some time, but you may also see a difference in your execution plan versus only updating statistics based on a sample.

In an effort to rule out whether or not statistics are definitely a factor, I want to UPDATE STATS on all the tables in my query, and at a specific time – sometime the day before we expect our slowdown to occur. I also want to be able to easily see how long the process ran and the duration of the update for each table. I could write all this to a table, and maybe I will do this later, but viewing this from job history is what I want right now – it is easy to look at and easy for everyone else to find and see as well.

Creating a job with multiple steps can sometimes be a bit painful and tedious, if the job is going to have A LOT of steps. With PowerShell, a server name and a database, I can dynamically create this job.

The result from this is a job that will update statistics on your list of tables, one at a time. All you have to do from there is give it a schedule.

All those steps…courtesy of the magic that is POWERSHELL!

For this script, I was getting my list of tables based on a specific query that was problematic. If you are doing this for a stored procedure, you can query for the list of dependent tables instead, and instead of hard coding the tables in this code, pass in the name of your stored procedure and get the list that way.

I hope if you have a situation where some one-off stats updates are needed you find this script to be useful. As always, comments and feedback are appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Blocking – I Saw What YOU Did and I Know Who YOU Are!

When I was growing up I remember my mom talking about an old, scary, movie that she saw when she was young. In the movie some teenagers were making prank phone calls saying “I saw what you did and I know who you are.” One of the calls happened to be made to a guy that just killed his wife. Joan Crawford played a woman that was romantically inclined to said murderer. She eventually meets her demise when he stabs her because she knew about the first murder.

How every DBA feels when there is blocking

While blocking in SQL server might not be a felony offense (it isn’t…but it should be – WHO’S WITH ME?) as the DBA you not only want to know what is being blocked, but also who is doing the blocking and what in the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks they are doing.

At SQL Saturday Orlando I talked about this very thing and the query I defer to for the information.

IMA GONNA HUNT U DOWN!

It might look complicated but it is actually very simple – query sys.sysprocesses with a cross apply using the sql_handle to get the text of the query, and then an outer apply with the same query again but you are joining to the blocking spid so you can get the text for the query that is doing the blocking. Beyond that, you can filter on various columns and refine your output

WHY ARE YOU BLOCKING YOURSELF? WHY ARE YOU BLOCKING YOURSELF? WHY ARE YOU BLOCKING YOURSELF?

Of course, I know you can’t run this without the code (and I know that’s why you’re here…because I SAW WHAT YOU DID!)

If you are looking for a good way to troubleshoot blocking I hope this helps. If you have some folks running queries that are making you stabby, run this, find out what is going on, and then remove their access try to help them so they aren’t making you stabby any more. Then tell them they need to buy you a beverage because they are still alive.

It’s About Time for…#SQLSatOrlando!

Next week I am returning to Orlando not only to visit the mouse at his house, but also to speak at SQL Saturday Orlando! Last year was my first time there and I had a great time. This also happened after the event was pushed back to November 2016 because of Hurricane Matthew.

This year I will talking about deadlocking and blocking – something that is an issue for so many DBAs. Whether this issue is indexes or bad code…or you have been trying in use indexes to cover up bad code, blocks and deadlocks can happen in even the best environments under the right circumstances. If you are going to be at SQL Saturday Orlando come to my session where we will talk about detecting and preventing these arch enemies of the DBA!

Wanna Get the Kids Interested in Coding? Make it a Game. Literally!

Former co-worker and friend Daniel Janik is trying do something that I will eventually have to do – get a teenager interested in something that can lead to a career.

Iโ€™ve been teaching my 17 yr old SQL Server and other various topics. I have quite a bit of experience training technology and speaking but it never fails; after about 5 minutes his eyes glaze over and he nods and โ€œumhumsโ€ and then starts checking his phone.

I have one nephew that is already intrigued by the PowerShell that I am doing and seems to have a genuine desire to write code. This makes me SOOOOOOOO HAPPY! My hope is that he is able to continue what he is learning now and migrate into a skill set that will afford him a good career. And if he happens to maybe “hack” into something that he shouldn’t have, I will help with his bail, smother him with hugs and kisses and tell him “OMG…I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!”

Check out Daniel’s blog post, download the game and give it a whirl. I plan on showing my nephews this to get the opinions of the younger, not-a-teenager set. I doubt my niece will be interested in this right now…unless there was a Disney princess in there with the sea monsters. I will leave it to Daniel to incorporate that in the 2.0 version.ย ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Holy Blocking Chains, Batman – I’m Speaking at PASS Summit!

For the first time ever I will doing a general session at PASS Summit this year.

Waiting for an email with news one way or the other last week was angst ridden, to say the least. After receiving no notification with the first wave on Tuesday, I got even more anxious and tried to occupy myself with work and other things. I didn’t want to get excited over something that wasn’t even a thing yet.

Then late Friday – acceptance.

Yeah, that’s right. ME!

It didn’t sink in right away. I had myself so convinced I wasn’t going to get selected. Maybe my head and heart were still bracing for the disappointment that was not to happen. Why would I be thinking this way? This is the third time I have submitted and the first time I have had a general session accepted. I did have the opportunity of doing a lightning talk last year. I also got to compete in Speaker Idol, which was an amazing and valuable experience that is only available to those that have not done a general session before. More on this later.

The first year I submitted I had been writing abstracts the same way I normally did for SQL Saturday events, not knowing there was more involved for a PASS Summit abstract. I logged in and was about to fill out everything for each of my sessions when I saw all these fields to fill out that I didn’t know about. I quickly got things written for them, along with my main abstracts, and submitted.

But I didn’t get selected.

The next year PASS offered a program for feedback on Summit abstracts. I thought “Yes, this is great! I will write my abstracts, get feedback, and I will be speaking at Summit this year!”

But I didn’t get selected for a general session.

Both times I was disappointed. Both times I did a fair amount of sulking and grumbling, but I am only human. In these cases, my best was beat out by others that were better. Kind of a hard pill to swallow, but I think these challenges are what make us who we are – IT professionals that are constantly striving to improve our own skills while creating content that will convey knowledge and better the SQL Server community.

Last year however, I was selected for a lightning talk and I finally got to participate in Speaker Idol. Doing my lightning talk on How to Keep Your DBA from KILLING YOU was fun and a great experience.

Speaker Idol? Wow…how do I put this? If you are a new speaker, and have not spoken at PASS Summit before (general session or better), throw your name in the hat for this! If selected, you will have the opportunity to get up and present something in five minutes, and get immediate feedback from a panel of judges, who also happen to be well known and experienced speakers in the SQL community. When this was first done in 2014, I heard about the brutality of the first round, so I made sure I was there for the subsequent rounds. Your audience for this? Mostly speakers or aspiring speakers. Don’t be surprised if the final round is standing room only. Or if there are acrobatics (lookin’ at you, Rob).

Moving on to 2017…

Earlier this year it was announced that the Summit selection process was changing yet again. There would be no feedback to speakers and you were also limited to submitting three sessions. There was also a list of topics, with some marked as “hot topics” or topics that PASS really wanted content on. It was also stated that they wanted new content. That session you had been peddling to every SQL Saturday that would have you? Not new content.

I took all this info and combined it with a ramped-up abstract writing and review process. What is ramped-up? Reading the sessions that were selected last year, and having a reviewer that is a seasoned PASS Summit speaker. It also helped that my reviewer was super critical. Once it was announced that submissions were being accepted I logged in and grabbed all the sections that I would need to fill out and got started on my abstracts, outlining details before writing anything. There was even one session I outlined while on a plane, that I looked at later to write up and decided it was COMPLETE GARBAGE…AND WHAT WAS I THINKING???

What did I learn from the PASS Summit submission and selection process this year?

  • Review, review, review. Write them early, review, come back later and review again. Have other experienced PASS Summit speakers review your abstracts. Don’t like their feedback or think they are being mean? Ummmm….they are trying to help you get your abstract to a level that is worthy of PASS Summit. LISTEN TO THEM!!! And buy them a beer.
  • Nothing is guaranteed. In a previous blog post I told y’all how to pull all the submitted session into a table and even gave you some PowerShell code to do it. I was able to compare that to the list of speakers selected and there were some amazing people that have spoken and PASS Summit before that didn’t make the cut this year. Sessions are reviewed and selected by human beings. This is a gamble, and regardless of how good of an abstract you have, you are at the mercy of the session review committee and what they feel is good enough for Summit. This is a monumental task, but they hunker down and get it done so that all of us can have an amazing selection of sessions to pick from.

I hope I get to see everyone at PASS Summit this year, whether or not they are speaking. Out of the conferences that I have been to over the years, I have found PASS Summit to not only be the best of them, but it was where I discovered that the #SQLFamily thing is real. If you are open to it, you can get hooked into groups that will welcome you and include you all because you are there for the same reason they are – to expand your knowledge and career in the area of SQL Server.

See y’all in October!

Speaking – SQL Saturday Baton Rouge!

This Saturday will mark the fourth year that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday Baton Rouge at LSU.ย Out of all the SQL Saturday events I have participated in since 2014, Baton Rouge is one of the few that I have been to every year since. Houston is another one…and actually, these may be the only ones only because they have had an event every year.

Not only am I speaking on Automation with PowerShell and Deadlocks and Blocking, but I am also participating in a panel discussion on Careers in IT. I’m excited to be invited along with some of the other speakers to be a part of this. Looking back on my own school days, I knew I would have a career in IT, but little did I know I would detour from a path in development to the world of SQL Server, and becoming a DBA.

How do they make this happen? Work. Lots of hard work. After helping with SQL Saturday Dallas 2015, joining the NTSSUG board in 2016, and then having an organizing role in 2016, I found out how much goes into the planning of these events. If you have attended a SQL Saturday or you are going to in the future, be sure to say “THANK YOU!” to all the organizers and sponsors. If you want to get more involved in the SQL Server community, SQL Saturday is a great way to do that – just show up at the event, find an organizer and tell them that the SQL Kitten sent you to be their humble servant volunteer for the day…or you could just say you want to volunteer and leave out the other stuff because it might make it weird.

Blogging reboot and PowerShell – Get System Information

After whining about not blogging enough, I am going to do something about this. Whether it is PowerShell or SQL, simple or complex, I know that others can benefit from my knowledge and expand their skill sets.

And you are like “That’s great Amy…where’s the PowerShell we are here for?” Ok, Ok….keep your drawers on! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Recently I was tasked with gathering the system information from all of the servers at a client. Another opportunity for some PowerShell dominance.

With this script you can generate system information files and save them to a specified location. It makes sure a connection can be made to the server first, and then outputs the file. The files are created one at a time, so if you pass in a longer list of servers, you shouldn’t crash your machine. From my testing, this will take some time to run as these files don’t output quickly. Despite that, the output is worth it. This can be modified to pull your list of servers from a file or from a Central Management Server (CMS) instance.

Hope you find this useful. Happy PowerShellin’ ๐Ÿ™‚

Podcast with SQL Data Partners

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Carlos Chacon with SQL Data Partners and found out he had a podcast (I know…I live under a rock…with cats). He asked if I was interested in being on said podcast – ummmm…yes, please! Click here (Episode 33) if you wanna go listen to the podcast or here if they get all up in your grill about streaming stuff at the office and you wanna just read the transcript. Thanks to Carlos for the opportunity! Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚