PASS

As previously mentioned I went to the pass community summit, two pre-conferences, various evening events, etc. The next week I spent exploring the northwest some and spending time with my family for Thanksgiving (but that is another post).  There were many presentations that I wish I would have gotten the chance to go to… although I think I will be getting the DVD so I should be able to see them that way.  As is, here is the run down of items that I attended:

Monday:

Advanced T-SQL Querying and Programming in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and 2008 (Itzik Ben-Gan)

This was an absolutely fantastic class.  Although I knew most of the material presented, just the ability to see how it is that Itzik breaks down a problem was worth the price of admission.  Furthermore, this was a good refresher course on a lot of the items that I had read in the 2005 Query and Programming books a while back.

Evening – A bit of walking around, some monday night football, some reading, and the cheesecake factory 😛

I enjoyed this evening quite a bit.  There was no pressure to do anything, I didn’t have any family to meet up with, and I got to wander around aimlessly in a city which I am beginning to like more and more.  I think I will have to seriously consider Seattle or the surrounding area for relocation one of these years… I knew that I loved the northwest, but I thought it was mainly Portland and the Columbia river gorge.

Tuesday:

Designing, Planning, and Tuning a Scalable BI Solution (Erik Veerman)

This was a decent course.  I don’t know how much I took away from it in as much as we are only using SSIS in our shop and I don’t have much control over a lot of the physical hardware aspects of the operation.  As is, I feel like I learned a lot of things about items which I am not certain I’ll get to use.  Overall, I would still consider this a decent class.

Evening – Reception event followed by a meeting with the SQL Forum Moderators as well as Ed Lehman and Jeremy Kelley of Microsoft.

This night started out with a so-so reception event.  I wasn’t entirely thrilled, but then, it wasn’t terrible either.  I had a good time talking with a few guys from Sweden for an hour or two as well as meeting up with the first person I actually knew when Johnathan Kehayias showed up. 

I then had a great time meeting up with the SQL Forum Moderators and a couple of the guys from Microsoft.  The only two people that I knew from previous real life experience were Johnathan and Arnie Rowland.  Every time I am introduced to any of the forum guys it seems like everyone has a good time.  I really enjoyed all of the discussions we had relating to the forums, life and everything.

Wednesday:

Keynote (Ted Kummert)

The keynote was decent.  There was some VERY cheesy introductions with a clip of easy rider followed by the Wayne Snyder sitting on a motorcycle.  Afterwards, we got to see a few items which are planned for release in the future with Gemini and Project Madison.  Gemini is billed as self-service BI, which sounds both brilliant and fatally flawed at the same time.  We’ll see.

Metadata Integration of Microsoft SSIS, SSAS and SSRS and Popular Modeling and Design Tools (Christian Bremeau and John Fiedrich)

By far the worst session I experienced the whole week.  This was TERRIBLE!  Nothing more than a sales pitch of a product that is not available for public consumption.  This was a plea for us, the conference goers, to attempt to convince microsoft to include their product.  Awful.  I really wish that I had gone to Brian Knights SSIS presentation here…

BI Power Hour (Donald Farmer, et al)

This was a fun presentation which Donald Farmer had little to do with, other than serving as a host of sorts.  Still there were neat presentations showing how you can use monopoly, battleship, a cost-benefit calculator of dating, and what food to buy two picky twins – All using aspects of the BI Stack.  Overall I would say most of this was way over the top and kind of pointless, but still very fun.  My favorite part of the presentation would have to be the part where one of the speakers was demonstrating building a mobile app, pulled out his APPLE I-PHONE, which Launched OPERA with a front page of GOOGLE! Classic!

Identifying Performance Bottlenecks (Joe Webb)

Joe was one of the gentlemen who attended our SQL Forum Moderators get together, so, when I saw he was giving a few presentations I decided I would head to them as they seemed to tie into items I was interested in.  This presentation was packed and deservedly so.  He gave a brief rundown of quite a few performance tips, most of which I have looked into on my own before, but not all at once.  I will need to go back and download these slides as I am sure that there will be quite a few items which will be helpful to remind people about around the office.

Building an SSIS Management Framework (Rushabh Mehta and Jessica Moss)

I wish that I had been able to attend this session when I was first learning SSIS.  This session was definitely one of the best of the conference.  Unfortunately I had already spent many, many, many painstaking hours gathering up most of the knowledge that was provided in a fairly small amount of time here.  As is, I still picked up a few tricks and am now starting to wonder whether or not I want to get my auditing down another grain level or not.  Something to maybe think of for the future (and there were a few things I disagreed with the presenters on, not many though).  The only thing that I was surprised at was that they didn’t really mention anything about data quality or accuracy checks in the framework.  This might have convinced me to do my own management framework presentation at an upcoming sql saturday somewhere down the road…

Evening – Exhibitor Reception and some reading

This evenings reception was fairly unremarkable.  The food was served but there was no place to sit and eat, or sit and converse with fellow conference goers.  Instead everyone was milling about.  I suppose that was the goal as they wanted you wandering from vendor to vendor…  Just not my cup of tea.  I did get a chance to meet a few more people who I had yet to run in to and that was worthwhile.  I think this is the only event that I ended up leaving early from.  I did get to finish my book that evening though 🙂

Thursday:

Keynote (Thomas Casey)

This keynote was ok.  It didn’t have any major introductions like the one from Wednesday.  It did go through and show some interesting applications with sharepoint, excel, Gemini, etc.

Creating an SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS Monitoring Solution with SSIS, SSAS and SSRS (Chris Webb)

I was expecting a lot from this session.  It left me feeling kind of let down.  Here I was hoping that someone would have come up with a freely distributable fully functioning Monitoring solution… But no.  Instead Chris ranted for a little bit that none of the vendors had yet to come up with a system for that mentioned above while in the end admitting that he ran out of time and didn’t have one either.  There was some interesting concepts in that we really are just looking at data from disparate systems which can be modeled into it’s own warehouse.  A good concept, but one which I don’t know if I will get the opportunity to put into practice for some time yet to come.

Are you Cut out to be a Consultant (Rick Heiges)

Another frustrating session.  I almost certainly should have gone to any number of other sessions.  I don’t know what I was expecting from this one, but, having zero experience on the consulting front I was curious what it might have to offer.  Instead, I was in for a very dry hour of my life being sucked away.  Nothing against the presenter, it’s just this really doesn’t sound like the kind of thing which I am interested in.

Test-Driven Development for Database Professionals (Andy Leonard)

Break it first, then build it.  I need to take a good hard look at this presentation and perhaps come up with a proposal for our environment.  We need to buckle down and start to program with testing in mind.  This one was a very good walk through of some common sense items that may not be the most common things occurring out there.

Tips and Tricks for writing better queries (Joe Webb)

Having enjoyed Joe’s early presentation quite a bit, I decided to go to another one.  Unfortunately everything kind of fell apart and he had quite a few technical difficulties.  As such, this session was really more like half a session as they tried to work things out (I say "they" like I wasn’t involved 😛 … I was, but my laptop didn’t have any databases to write queries on beyond that which I had come up with to build my presentation for sql saturday #8, so, no go until his decided that it really did like him and began to act normal again)

Evening – SQL Heroes Unite Awards and Reception

This evening was pretty fun.  The only thing I regret really is not getting up and wandering around more.  As is, I came in … grabbed just a small snack (the lines were long) and sat down at a card table to play some poker.  I looked up as they were turning the lights up and kicking people out only to realize that three hours had passed…  I wish that I had gone up and played around with some of the guitar hero stuff and tried to interact more with others.  Oh well…. I still had fun.

Friday:

Keynote (David Dewitt)

This was more of a lecture than a keynote.  A very impressive lecture.  Somehow I wish that I had had Mr. Dewitt as a professor while in school.  He went over some of the thoughts and theories on Parallel Computing as it relates to databases.  I may have been one of the only ones who thought so, but I really enjoyed this one.  In other news, John Welch, who I was sitting next to for the first few minutes of this keynote was able to walk away with not one but two top five placements in the heroes competition for his BIDSHelper and SSISUnit entries.  I feel slightly vindicated as I jump up and down expressing my views on how everyone and their grandma should be using BIDSHelper if they are using BIDS.  

Unit Testing SSIS Packages (John Welch)

Mr. Welch is someone whom I highly admire for his blog as well as his presence on the SQL Forums.  I was very happy to meet him this week and he probably felt like I was some kind of stalker as I tried to interact with him throughout the week.

Argh.  Back to this testing stuff. Well, it is something that I know that I will have to do more of.  Further, I know that I am going to have to jump up and down until my team follows suit.  This presentation was a walk through how one might begin to look at unit testing ssis packages, especially using John’s SSISUnit application.  I have downloaded this in the past, but, must admit that I have had little chance to actually start to sit down and use it for any length of time.  After this presentation I am putting it quite a bit higher on my task list for next year.

Integrating Prediction Analysis Throughout the Data Lifecycle (Donald Farmer)

I really enjoy Donald Farmer as a speaker.  He has an interesting kind of dry and sarcastic over the top humor that made all of the sessions and or keynotes which he was a part of enjoyable.  It was also kind of interesting to note how many speakers I saw in this session.  Quite a few.  I don’t know how fruitful this will be, but it gives me some insight into how useful it is to consider prediction analysis in everything that a business does.  Not just your BI cubes / reports / etc.  Everything.  Food for thought anyway.

Applying Workload Resource Governance with SQL Server 2008 (R. Loforte, B. Baryshnikov, and L. Allen)

I had a little problem with this presentation in that it was a little difficult to understand the speakers at times.  Other than that it was fairly insightful into how we can go about using the Workload Resource Governance, as well as the windows 2003 equivalent the Windows Resource Manager.  I would have to admit, this was one of the items which I was most excited to test out when I got back to the office, only to find out that we don’t have enterprise edition on that server.  Oh well, I suppose this is one to file away as perhaps next year, when I rebuild our servers we can take advantage of it or something like it.

Avoid Slow SSAS Queries: MDX Query Troubleshooting (Craig Utley)

I looked back and saw that I hadn’t taken anything on analysis service (or reporting services for that matter) and decided that I would look in here.  This presentation was ok.  I don’t know how much I’ll take away from this other than trying to keep some semblance of an idea of what analysis services / mdx queries look like, as I do not use them day to day.

Evening – Dinner with Family and Reading.

Well, the conference is over and less than an hour later it is on to the personal stuff and a week off in the northwest.  For this last evening we ate at a very nice Italian restaurant for which I have forgotten the name.  I met up with two of my cousins who live in the area and we were able to sit and talk for an hour or two, followed by my return to the westin to enjoy my terrific view for one last evening.  I also sat down and read a book that I had received at the convention, "How to become an exceptional DBA".  It was a lot of common sense items and self-help type banter.  The only thing that I can say is that it has somewhat motivated me to get back in to "learning mode" and try to finish up some of the ole tech books lying around.  I think that I will also try to pick up a few certifications this year, at least in part, because of this book (although if I were strictly following the book’s advice I probably would not be going after them… but, it is more of a self-actualization thing I guess).

All in all I would say that I had a really good time at the conference.  I think that I have learned a good amount as well as making quite a few contacts within the industry which I might one day rely on.  I was also able to finally put a face to many names that I only know from the Internet and meet quite a few of my peers throughout the industry.

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