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February 2017
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This year SQLBits is returning to Telford, UK, on April 5-8, 2017. I'll be there, presenting on Friday, and enjoying the show the rest of the time. If you haven't ever been to the event, it's a fantastic, fun, casual event with attendees from all over the world coming to learn, teach, and get excited about SQL Server. The event isn't the largest SQL Server event, but it's got the best atmosphere and doesn't have all the hassles of some other events.

I've attended most of the SQL Server conferences in the world, and if I had to choose only one to go to, it would be SQL Bits. The others are good, but SQLBits is my favorite. I've been many times, and I've watched the event grow over the years. With the venue moving from year to year, it's also a chance to experience different venues and locations in the UK.

Read the rest of "Lots of Learning at SQL Bits"

Direct download: sqlbits_27_v1456.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Gitlab had a database problem recently. I'm sure you read about it. There have been commentaries from many people, including Brent Ozar and Mike Walsh. There are many ways to look at this outage and data loss (the extent of which is not known), but I'd like to stop and focus on a couple items that I think stand out: competence and care. I don't know how we prevent problems, but I certainly think these items are worth pondering.

First, there is the question of competence. I have no idea what the skills or experience are for the GitLab staff that responded to the event. They certainly seem to understand something about replication or backup, but are they skilled enough to understand deeply about the mechanics of PostgreSQL (or their scripting) to determine where things were broken? I have no idea, and without more information I don't question competence. The thing to be aware of, whether for this incident or your own, are the people working the problem well enough trained to deal with the issues. Perhaps most important, do they realize when they have reached the limit of their expertise? Do they know when (and are they willing to) to call in someone else or contact a support resource?

Read the rest of "Problems With Database Problems"

Direct download: problemsdbproblems_25_v1454.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

I wrote the Five Year Plan in mid 2013. In it, I noted there was a prediction that IT departments wouldn't exist in 5 years, meaning in mid 2018. That's a year and a half away. Is that a possibility?

I don't think so. The more I work in the technology world, the more I see a need for humans to help manage the systems and data. The systems are complex, the small details of getting a platform up and running are varied and not standardized across any two companies, and I can't envision a complete self-service world. As easy as the Azure or AWS consoles can be, the mindset of those platforms still expects a technical person to choose options and provision systems. After all, how many of your non-technical friends understand what geo-redundancy is?

Read the rest of "Moving Through Five Years"

Direct download: fiveyears_24_V1453.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

The ideas of DevOps are a mixture of principles, ideas, recommendations, tools, processes, attitudes, and more. There isn't any  one way to implement a DevOps process, and plenty of people have been working in what many would consider a DevOps environment without calling it that. I really like Donovan Brown's definition: " DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users."

That sums it up nicely, but what are some of the "value" items that we can deliver to our customers? Today I want to discuss one of these: security.

Read the rest of "Why Devops? For Better Security"

Direct download: devops_sec_23_v1452.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

One of the interesting things I saw in the recent GitLab outage and data loss was the fact that none of their backups were available. They use PostgreSQL and I'm not familiar with the ways in which the modern PostgreSQL engine handles backups or the options you have, so I'm not knocking either GitLab or PostgreSQL. It's possible one or the other had fewer options than we do with SQL Server with our full, differential, log, and filegroup backups, all during live database activity.

There was a live stream and a Google Doc open during the incident, showing the response by their employees (and plenty of Hacker News comments). Kudos to GitLab for their bravery and transparency in showcasing their mistakes and choices. I've been in similar situations, and the war room can be chaotic and stressful. There have been no shortage of times when someone makes a mistake under pressure and we scramble to recover from the damage. I've made those mistakes and understand how they happen when you get desperate and are tired. This is one reason I've usually insisted that when an incident is declared, I immediately send at least one person home to rest. I never know what time I'll need to get them back.

"Backups Aren't Backups Until a Restore Is Made"

Direct download: backuprestore_22.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Amazon has been an amazing digital company in the last twenty years. I remember making my first order from them, unsure of whether the online bookstore would work better than browsing locally, or if I'd even get my books. I watched them transform into a great shipping company that could sell anything, to a digital reading company with the Kindle, and even an amazing cloud hosting provider with world class programming platforms. At each stage, Amazon has grown to become even more efficient and seductive, slowly gaining more of my business over the years.

Whether you like the business model and practices of Amazon or not, part of the reason Amazon has become a successful company is that they have an incredible software development process and great developers, both of which have produced a software stack that is very impressive. Apart from their web site, which is impressive, they host their Amazon Web Services, which is a dizzying array of services that can be purchased by anyone, at any time, and get some software up and running quickly. Even if you look at their free tier, it's very impressive in the number and type of services, including database access.

Read the rest of "A View of the Cloud"

Direct download: viewcloud_21_v1450.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

The SQL Server platform has grown tremendously since I started working with SQL Server v4.2. We've had various subsystems added, lots of enhancements, and even new languages. There have also been a few parts of the platform that have been discontinued, such as Notification Services and English Query. There are items that are deprecated, though far fewer that have actually been discontinued from the product. I'm not sure if I think that's better or worse for all of us.

Apart from the deprecated, discontinued, and removed features, there are also lots of features in the platform that are stale. They receive very little development, and perhaps are very lightly featured on the What's New pages. Or they never get any development from version to version.

Read the rest of "Your Favorite Feature that Needs Work"

Direct download: improvefeature_20_v1449.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Will we have the IoUT (Internet of Useful Things? As some have said, the IoS (Internet of Sh**e) is really what we have because of the poorly built, poorly secured hardware and software devices. It seems that almost every month I see new devices introduced in the consumer space, most of which aren't well designed for widespread use, and certainly aren't very durable. There are, of course, exceptions, including a few I'd like, but for the most part, the rush to market means that many of the IoT devices sold aren't much better than most of the home built Kickstarter projects. That's not to say Kickstarter (or Indiegogo or any other site) doesn't produce good products, just that some aren't.

We've got an infographic from Website Guide today that you can examine. It's an interesting item, which is why I published it. There are a lot of great possible applications for IoT style devices. Plenty of businesses and industries are seeing the benefits of using sensors and devices that are (semi-) smart and connected to a network. Using well written applications, companies can come up with new ways of gathering and using information. When these systems are well designed, this can result in lower costs, higher sales (or usage), happier customers, or all three.

Read the rest of "The Great and Powerful Internet of Things"

Direct download: IoT_19_v1448.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

I was helping someone recently clear up some confusion about the encryption structure of their TDE databases. This individual wasn't sure about how the various keys were used, which ones needed to be backed up, and which keys needed to be restored. As this was an online discussion, anyone could read the posts and add their own thoughts. There was a point where one person chimed in that the process was really easy and anyone should be able to complete it.

I do think that working with TDE is easy, but I also think that its easy for me because I have experience and practice with the technology. There are nuances to undestanding how the piece fit together and what needs to happen in order to ensure your system operates smoothly during both deployment and in disaster recovery situations. Since mistakes can result in lost data, I understand why people might feel intimidated or nervous, but once they practice a few skills and gain knowledge, I find they get the confidence to proceed.

Read the rest of "A Wide Variation in Skill"

Direct download: wideskills_18_v1447.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

I was reading a short piece from Mike Fal recently and it struck a chord with me. I started working with computers as a developer, really a hack programmer as a kid. Friends and I would build small games or hack existing ones to change things. Eventually I was paid to write code, and moved into data work because the pay was better. That was 25 years ago, and I haven't regretted the change since. In fact, I've enjoyed working with data.

Even as I managed data, I always ended up writing some code. Not code, code, like an application that others could use to accomplish a task (though I have often done a touch of that), but rather code to help me as a DBA. I had code to check servers and record values. I had code to move backup files around and generate restore scripts. I had code that would build reports for other DBAs. Some of this code are queries, some are more complex scripts in PoSH (or older VBScript), some could be C# or some other language, but it's all code. Fundamentally, the code isn't much different from the code that application developers write and deploy to clients, web servers, or mobile devices.

Read the rest of "The New DBA is a Developer"

Direct download: dbaisdev_17_v1446.mp3
Category:Editorial -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

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