Monday, October 8, 2012

SQL in the City - Austin

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Red Gate's SQL in the City conference as it rolled through Austin. I was excited when I first learned about this event as it generated good buzz in other cities. They have marketed it a little like a touring rock band; with 'tour stops' and concert Tees. If you are interested in attending, there are still some more stops. To find out, go visit the SQL in the City website.

What is SQL in the City?

SQL in the City is Red Gate's version of community SQL Server training. I remember learning during SQL Rally that Red Gate would no longer be participating in SQL Saturdays. At first, I was disappointed, but after I heard their reasoning, I totally understand where they are coming from.

In a nutshell, there are too many SQL Saturday events and only so many dollars...er, pounds they have to spare for sponsoring community events. Consider most of their staff is located in England, so travel costs are a serious consideration. So they decided to create their own event as a way to get a better return for their time and money.

Sessions
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at attending a vendor-specific training event. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the content. Red Gate has a wide range of products that span just about every angle of SQL Server you could imagine. The keynote by CEO Simon Galbraith gave us an nice overview and short history of Red Gate and their mission.

Keynote Speech
While some of the sessions did include references to Red Gate Tools, I didn't find it to be overwhelmingly so. Out of the five sessions I attended, only one felt like a bit of a sales pitch. But even so, I was excited to learn about the features it had and was instantly thinking of how I could use it at work. Also, there was a reasonable mix of non-Red Gate presentations available.

Highlights

Steve Jones
I was particularly excited about seeing Steve Jones speak. I met him briefly at SQL Saturday Dallas last year, but missed his session due to scheduling conflicts. He gave two very nice presentations about Database Maintenance and Disaster Planning. It was great listening to his stories about DBA glory and adventure. I always love listening to how people approach the human side of the job. Also, he revealed that you can always sell him your unused ACL tickets.

Grant Fritchey

Grant Fritchey gave a nice talk about using SQL Virtual Restore as part of your development sandbox environment. While I was aware of this product, I never knew exactly how it worked. I was impressed at what all you could do with it. At a high level, it works similarly to SQL Database Snapshots, but using a backup file as the basis. So you are able to make edits and updates against your virtual database and the changes are kept track of in a diff file of sorts, and the base data is read from the backup file. And, multiple people can have multiple copies of the database going at the same time. Very nice!

To finish out the day, I attended sessions from some hometown heroes. Namely, Jim Murphy and Wes Brown.

Wes Brown & Jim Murphy

Jim took us through an interactive demo of SQL 2012's Always On Mirroring. He showed us how to get the basic setup running. Then, he had a live application running against the principal database as well as the mirror. From there, he simulated a failover and showed how Always On handles transferring the database back and forth. This is some cool stuff.

To finish the day, I checked out Wes' presentation on all things storage. While I have seen a couple of his other presentations, I always come away learning something new. For me, this was how to look for clues to see if your IO performance problem lies with SQL Server, the SAN, or the Network connections between the two. Time to go chat with my SAN Admin...

Substanence, Schwag, and Shiner

Like any good conference, SQL in the City provided us with a tasty breakfast, plenty of snacks, and a surprisingly good lunch. After the conference was over, they had free books, T shirts, and most important of all, cold Shiner Bock!

Mingle Like You Mean It

The happy hour was a nice treat. It gave attendees a chance to mingle with one another, hunt down a presenter for one last pesky question, or to pick the brains of the Red Gaters for some more insight into their tools.



Check the Tour Dates

SQL in the City is a good community event and provides some great training for a nice price. If you see them coming to your town, sign up and tell your friends. Yes, this is a vendor-sponsored event so there is a certain focus on Red Gate's tools. However, I felt I got an in-depth introduction to the breadth of their offerings and how they can be applied to your SQL problems.

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