Interview – Stacia Varga

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Stacia Varga (b | t): Stacia Varga

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Stacia: I think projecting out the evolution of SQL Server even a couple of years from now, let alone 5 years, is difficult to do, given the more rapid pace of release cycles of the product along with changes in computing architectures both on-prem and in the cloud. I’m not sure I would say that the technology would be “more” cloud-focused, either. Instead, I think it’s safe to say that the ability to move between on-prem and the cloud will be more seamless because the trade-offs will not be due to feature differences between the platforms. In my opinion, marketplace demand will ultimately determine whether the cloud version should ever surpass the on-prem version of SQL Server in terms of features and functions.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Stacia: Much of the work I do (classroom training, video training, conference events, books, and mentoring my clients) revolves around helping people learn how to work with technology effectively. In many cases, people learn enough not only to solve a problem their organization is facing (which is very rewarding for me to be a part of), but they also are able to advance their careers. I’m very pleased when I hear of the positive impact my work has had on someone at a personal level. Of this group, some wind up with the confidence and the knowledge to contribute to the SQL Server community as well, and that makes me proudest of all.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Stacia: Taking this question at face value, I really can’t recommend non-technical/non-fiction to an audience I don’t know. I’m a consultant, so my stock answer… it depends. I’d ask an individual what topics they like, and then I could make a recommendation based on my experience! I have a wide variety of interests (too many according to my husband), so I’m sure I’d come up with something. As for technical books, I tend to focus on topics and authors related to the business intelligence and analytics aspects of the Microsoft data platform. Anything written by Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari, Chris Webb, Paul Turley, Dejan Sarka, and Jen Stirrup are the first to come to mind. I’ve also been reading books on data visualization theory, data science, R, Python, Hadoop, and big data in general.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Stacia: This is a difficult question to answer because everyone’s circumstances in terms of opportunity and interests are different. There is no right or wrong answer here. I think everyone should have some familiarity with the various technologies – maybe not inch-deep level, but enough to understand where a technology fits into the stack, what it’s good for and what it’s not good for, what impact its use is going to have (for better or worse) on the overall architecture and/or database engine, etc. Is that half-inch or three-quarters? I don’t know. The key to career, in my opinion, is doing what you love and being of service to your team and your organization. If that means expanding your skills to cover other areas, go for it. If it means being the absolute best at one thing, go for it. And recognize that the answer changes over time and place.

Interview – Steve Jones

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Steve Jones (b | t): Steve Jones

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Steve: SQL Server is advancing so rapidly, that I struggle to think where we might be five years from now. I certainly expect that we’ll have 4 more versions by 2022 and be on v18. With the pressure to add features to sell new versions, I expect Microsoft to both push the envelope of SQL Server with new concepts, but also add many more under-developed, unfinished, and perhaps abandoned features.

There will definitely be a greater cloud focus, with new concepts like Stretch DB that seek to build a hybrid approach. I’m not sure how much greater adoption we’ll see, as pricing and usefulness might limit adoption, as has happened with StretchDB.

I do expect a convergence of technologies, with more of the Cognitive Services being integrated into SQL Server, likely as function calls, and requiring some connection to Azure from your local instance. Again, there will be lots of concerns here, but many of the instances in a company might not contain any sensitive information and be used almost as application servers for some specific purpose.

I do think a more intelligent optimizer and additional tuning options will come from integrating a SQL Server database with the Azure cloud to make more recommendations, perhaps even ways that queries might be better constructed while returning the same results.

Lastly, I think that some of the CosmosDB technologies will merge with SQL Server and I’d expect that we will see (in Azure first), easy connections to consume or query other APIs in SQL Server. I’m actually surprised that MongoDB wasn’t included ahead of graph in SQL Server 2017, but I expect it to come.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Steve: I don’t want to waffle, but yes and no. The traditional DBA that needs to manage a certain number of instances and ensure they perform well, with 90% of their time spent on administrative tasks is likely to diminish. These days many sysadmins are becoming more capable of building SQL Server instances on demand, using tools like Chef, Puppet, and DSC. At the same time, many development tools are taking over some of the complexity of building applications against SQL Server.

This doesn’t mean either of these groups can do a better job than a focused DBA, but there’s a bar of value for the job. I think far too many DBAs aren’t focused on the value they provide and instead focus on doing a job that’s needed. As the need might erode, or the value over some other tool/framework/person diminishes, I can see that companies might choose to not hire additional DBAs, not replace DBAs that leave, or even look to move DBAs to new jobs.

That being said, many companies are very slow to change and I expect there will be traditional DBAs in many companies in five years if they have them today.

My concern is that far too many DBAs are complacent today and not improving or adding skills that may be important if they need to change employers.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Steve: I’m most proud of building a community at SQLServerCentral. I constantly hear from people how the site has helped them at some point in their careers. While I’ve written and spoken many times, it’s the collective community coming together at SQLServerCentral that has really touched many others. I’m proud and honored to have been a the steward of the site for so many years.

A close second would be the creation of SQL Saturday. That was originally Andy Warren’s idea, one that I wasn’t confident would succeed, but it’s grown in a way I never foresaw. I’m glad I supported Andy and I try to continue to support the franchise today under the PASS brand.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Steve: I read a lot. For a few years I used to track books I read and managed to complete over 100 in a year a few times. That became too cumbersome, especially during international travel when I might finish a book or two on a plane and forget to write a short review. My interests vary, though I lean towards more fiction as a release and break from a busy life.

For technical books, I’m reading R in a Nutshell now, which isn’t a great read. It’s tough to go through and delves more into the technical aspects of the language aspects rather than teaching more practical uses. Still, it’s a good background.

My technical recommendations would be:

For other books, I think a variety is good. I’ll give a couple recommendations in different genres that people might enjoy:

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Steve: I dislike this view of your career, or really much of the world around us. Things are more complex and nuanced than doing x or y. I see my children, and many others, often viewing an issue or choice as between two ends of a spectrum when there are many choices between those ends.

Between being a mile wide/inch deep and inch wide/mile deep there are many other places. I would say that you should view your career in two ways. First, as I hear in yoga constantly (often as I struggle to maintain some posture), impermanence is a part of our world. Making a decision about what to learn or improve in your career isn’t a lifelong decision. Don’t be paralyzed by the weight of a decision on what to learn. Whether you choose to focus more on the engine or expand to ETL/SSIS, you can change your mind.

Second, I would recommend that you continue to move forward, but try to evaluate what you’re learning periodically to determine if it’s a good fit for you. The fit can be that this technology advances your career (or gives you options) or that you enjoy it. Either one of those is a win for you.

To give you a better answer, I’d aim to do two things at any one time. One, deepen some aspect of what you know well. I think I know quite a bit about the engine, but I also realize there is a lot I don’t know. I’m not even sure of the volume of what I don’t know. It’s possible there’s more I need to learn than I know now.

Second, I always think gaining knowledge about new areas is a good idea. I’ll never know if I find some technology interesting. I also never know when some problem might be related to what I know. I’ve found that my knowledge of networking, storage, C, email protocols, and more have helped me solve a problem whose issue wasn’t related.

Andy Warren and I once debated the idea of learning and how much can you learn in a year. We decided that a focused individual, working full time, could likely pick up 2 skills in a year with 100 hours of work. Most of us could manage 50 hours and one “advanced intermediate” level of skill if we try. More than that is tough, but possible if you are really motived.

Above all, strive for balance. We work to live, not live to work.

Interview – Pedro Lopes

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Pedro Lopes (b | t): Pedro Lopes

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Pedro: Definitely will – the cloud is here to stay. PaaS and SaaS models add a lot of flexibility to business and operations, and the elasticity to adjust to volatile workloads is unparalleled in cloud as compared to an on-premise data center. The 1st wave is non-critical workloads moving to the cloud, but we are already seeing trends of customers wanting to use Azure for critical workloads, namely now that cloud vendors (namely Azure) are compliant with more security certifications. Azure Managed Instance is also step in this direction, allowing a database layer of an app to just lift and shift to Azure maintaining the concept and manageability of a SQL Server instance.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Pedro: Traditional, as in running backups and such? Yes it will be eliminated, and that’s a good thing. Those are repetitive tasks that should be automated anyway. However, the role of a DBA as a shepherd of the database service, devoting skills to performance tuning, security management is far from over. And with new capabilities coming to the engine (R, PolyBase, engine now running on Linux) that require integration, a DBA role is centerstage in this regard. So in summary, a DBA won’t get replaced, if a DBA keeps updating its skills to continue to be relevant. Isn’t it the same in any job?

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Pedro: personally, because it is rooted in one of the most recurrent topics in the community, is the work we’ve been doing to make query troubleshooting so much easier, with all the showplan diagnostics we’ve been adding (link) – and we’re are not done :)

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Pedro: Technical books, I still keep the Internals series at hand. But the tech world is evolving at a pace tech books don’t remain relevant for long. For example I’ve been dedicating some of my time to making sure SQL Server online documentation keeps updated and relevant – it’s like writing a book that you need to go back to every couple months. Most of internals stuff is available at this quick URL.

Non-technical, I’ve just started on What Happened by Hillary Clinton, and I’d recommend Hit Refresh by Satya also.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Pedro: Very difficult to answer: remain vigilant, remain relevant. I just had a good friend and colleague move from a role where he was solely dedicated to Storage Engine, to a more architectural role where he needs to gain deal with breadth rather than depth. What I mean is, don’t be oblivious to the world racing by you, at the very least, if you are deep in Engine like you say, make sure Azure, BI and such are not completely strange to you.

Interview – Tim Mitchell

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Tim Mitchell (b | t):Tim Mitchell

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Tim: The data world is certainly going to be more cloud-focused, and that doesn’t just apply to SQL Server. The value proposition of using cloud services – time to market, scalability, cost – is clear, and I see more and more of my clients moving at least part of their data workloads to the cloud. The future of data processing and storage is in hybrid solutions (cloud + on prem), and the successful data professional will learn how to fluently speak hybrid.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Tim: Eliminated? Definitely not. However, the DBA role is evolving, and those who are successful will have to adapt to keep up. There was a time when a person could make a decent living just monitoring backups and rebuilding indexes, but these days it’s far too easy to outsource or automate that type of work. The DBA of the future must learn how best to use automation to eliminate unnecessary manual work, and will have a better big-picture understanding of how the business uses the data he/she monitors and protects.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Tim: I’m proud of the body of work I have contributed to the SQL Server community, not just one single accomplishment. I was delighted to serve as a mentor for several up-and-coming data professionals, several of whom are now themselves very active as contributors to the SQL Server community. I was honored to serve on my local SQL Server user group board for two terms (four years), and am proud to have accomplished a great deal in that role, including securing tax-exempt status for the group. I’m proud to have published over 300 blog posts, and I often get positive feedback from others that these posts helped them to solve specific technical problems. I have delivered presentations at over 100 technical events around the world, and am honored to have been able to share some of the lessons I learned with thousands of fellow technical professionals. My hope is that my contributions will inspire others to contribute to the SQL Server community to continue the cycle of giving back.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Tim: A few of my favorite nontechnical books are The Secrets of Consulting, The Four-Hour Work Week, and The Dip. When I’m reading just for fun, I usually lean toward Stephen King or John Grisham.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Tim: As with most career guidance questions, I’ll answer this one with It Depends. There are folks who will be successful as generalists, and others carve out niches as specialists. In my journey, I started off as a generalist – not just SQL Server, but I dabbled in software development, network administration, hardware, and other disciplines. By starting off as a generalist and later evolving into a specialist, I know a lot about the few areas I specialize in and enough about the periphery (hardware, networking, etc.) to be aware of the impact and risk of the technical decisions I make when I build a solution. Becoming a specialist worked best for me, but I know a lot of folks who have successful careers as SQL Server generalists. Both are important to the development and support of a data architecture.

How To STIG SQL Server 2016

I was recently asked about STIG’ing a database server running SQL Server 2016. I checked DISA’s website and, to my surprise, they have not yet released an official STIG checklist for SQL Server 2016. The latest edition they have a STIG for is SQL Server 2014.

In fact, if you go to their website’s “master list“, and scroll down to “Microsoft SQL Server 2016 FAQ“, the link will direct you to the following FAQ page (image below):

How To STIG SQL Server 2016

So there you have it. Until DISA releases their official SQL Server 2016 STIGs, you can use the current SQL Server 2014 STIGs to harden SQL Server 2016.

Fair enough.

IEPTO2: Performance Tuning and Optimization – Part 2 (Competition)

Paul Randal, of SQLSkills, recently announced a chance to win a free seat in their 5-day IEPTO1 or IEPTO2 classes in October (2017). You can sign up for their SQL Insider’s newsletter here.

I was extremely fortunate to attend IEPTO1 back in Spring 2015 and blogged about it here.

This blog post is hopefully to win a free seat in IEPTO2.

Why I want to attend IEPTO2 taught by SQLSkills

After attending IEPTO1, I was confident enough to interview and get a job that treasured employees that seek knowledge in their field. At the recommendation of Tim Radney, of SQLSkills, I created this blog, purchased my very first heavy-duty laptop (Dell M6800, 32GB RAM, 1.5TB SSD, etc) to create a lab environment, and did all the IEPTO1 homework that Kimberly and Paul suggested we do.

I want to attend IEPTO2 because in my current job, I am the SQL Server Engineer solely in charge of deploying a high available solution, using Windows Server Failover Cluster and SQL Server, as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (F35) program. I want to dive deeper into SQL Server!

Why I’ll make the best use of the knowledge I’ll get from being in the class

Since everything is being built from scratch, the knowledge I would get from IEPTO2 would directly relate to my current job. Topics such as Module 2 (IO concepts), Module 3 (Storage) and Module 4 (SQLOS / CPU) would help me tremendously in the production build-out of the SQL Server environment. I could literally put to use what I learned as soon as I got back from attending IEPTO2. What perfect timing for a chance to win!

What my favorite performance tuning challenge is

My favorite performance tuning challenge is index tuning. When it comes to performance tuning indexes, I have to admit that I need more experience/knowledge. It’s still my favorite though because I know how HUGE of a difference having the right indexes make in performance! I remember a story Kimberly told (during IEPTO1) about a client that had the wrong indexes. and were having horrible performance. Once she tuned the indexes, the SQL Server was blazing fast! I love that type of stuff!

[UPDATE: 08/14/2017 – Congratulations to all the winners!]

Adding Scalability to MySQL for Benefits That Go Beyond Performance

(This is a guest blog post by Tony Branson (t | b). Tony is a Database Load Balancing Senior Analyst at ScaleArc.)

Are you struggling to keep your systems up and running as your online applications continue to grow popular? Is your service always available and equipped to meet the requirements of performance scalability? Does your platform ensure failure recovery without losing data? Whether you are a small startup or a globally renowned brand, customers expect that your systems remain available and accessible round the clock. When you store every single transaction for millions of users and manage more than a hundred thousand queries every second, your database should be designed with scalability in mind.

The widely adopted master/slave model does help enterprises to ensure availability and uninterrupted connectivity but when it comes to transactional support, this approach lacks performance scalability. There are several other reasons that make MySQL a preferred database management system like:

  • The flexibility of open source
  • Ease of Use
  • Solid data security layers
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Compatibility with major operating systems

But when a MySQL master-slave cluster is used to achieve the goal of high-availability and scalability, the complex sharding strategy can prove to be a tricky task.

Dynamic load balancing technology lets you handle even high loads rapidly and reliably without needing any modifications to your database. It automatically manages your traffic while ensuring the highest performance for your applications. It ensures complete consistency between replicas, facilitates faster failover and permits the shutdown of nodes for maintenance without affecting the service. MySQL server load balancing lets you scale your application, supports heavy traffic and identifies unhealthy VM instances while adding healthy ones by routing the traffic to virtual machines that are in close proximity. You can use a load balancing solution for query routing and prevent service outages by directing report queries to their designated servers.

When Your MySQL Deployment Needs to Go Beyond A Single Instance

Database load balancing facilitates uninterrupted use of MySQL even as organizations continue to grow while simplifying the tasks of your IT support team. It eliminates the issues arising due to vendor lock-in and the hassles of having to switch between systems. Load balancing lets you capitalize on unlimited horizontal scalability especially if your business processes run on MySQL entirely. Database load balancing not only addresses the issues arising due to the paucity of technical resources but also facilitates scalable MySQL deployments both in cloud and on premise.

Saving Statistics Early On

Monitoring is essential but if your legacy monitoring system is sending false positives frequently, it can leave your system administrators numb. This makes it important to capture all the metrics to facilitate timely actions when problems crop up as workloads change.

Too Much Configuration Tweaking Can Degrade Performance

DBAs typically spend most of their time tweaking configurations but it rarely works to optimize server performance. Don’t rely on the defaults that are shipped with your MySQL as they are outdated and don’t fit your unique circumstances. Using the server tuning tools rarely makes sense as they often come coded with inaccurate advice that is seldom right.

A Quick Solution to Scaling MySQL

Modify your MySQL application to update the connections to one IP or port connections to another using a code update and then divert the “update” connections to the master database and the “read” connections to a virtual server. Use a load balancing solution that uses least connections across the slave servers so that all the connections are routed to a single IP. Sharding is another well-established and reliable approach to scaling a MySQL database as it is easy to manage and completely transparent.

While MySQL efficiently performs the replication work it fails to balance load and distribute the queries among multiple servers. It may or may not be able to offer a low-latency environment. A load balancing software integrates replication aware routing so you can specify a delayed threshold without making any changes to your application. This approach is sure to optimize database performance and increase availability.

Interview – Kevin Kline

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Kevin Kline (b | t):

Kevin Kline
Kevin Kline

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Kevin: A few distinct but interrelated evolutions are occurring simultaneously. First, Microsoft now cares most about owning the enterprise data center no matter whose technology was originally in there. So you’re going to see a lot more support from Microsoft in the area of open-source technologies that were previously anathema. You’ve already seen SQL Server on Linux, but why stop there? There’s considerable mindshare behind PostgreSQL, MySQL, etc. Microsoft wants to serve its customers on all of those platforms. Second, cloud is indisputably a “thing” to be reckoned with. If you’re a SQL Server DBA and you’re not catching up on cloud technologies, then you’re definitely falling behind. And don’t forget, in the cloud, poorly performing SQL code and applications cost the company money. So you’d be well served to start learning as much as you can about tuning SQL Servers. Third, the data science disciplines are a “thing” as well. Microsoft is building out these offerings as an adjuct to SQL Server with each new release and sometimes without a new release. One of the great things about the cloud is that it reduces the need for old fashioned skills of DBAs of the 1990’s. If you switch your energies from maintaining those skills into learning a bit more about ML and data science algorithms, you’ll be much more valuable to the business where you’re employed. Finally, the pace of innovation will continue to accelerate. Microsoft has truly mastered a new paradigm of software development. That means new features and capabilities will continue to roll out with regularity. As a person who’s tried hard to keep up the pace, I find it a struggle. For me, this has two implications: A) You’d best specialize so that you don’t go crazy with all of the new things to learn, and B) if you aren’t at least studying a little bit every day, you’re probably complacently settling for obsolescence.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Kevin: First of all, there will be DBAs doing exactly what they’re doing now even 20 years from now. That’s reality. I still talk to many people every year who develop apps in COBOL for mainframes. I’ve heard a lot of pronouncements that “X technology is dead!” In truth, most popular technologies never truly die. They just fade away bit by bit in a process that takes a long, long time. Heck, they only turned off TTY services for the deaf in the last couple years. That’s a telegraph era technology!

However, our profession certainly isn’t standing still. In many ways, the DBA will be more important than ever. But the DBA of tomorrow will be a lot different than the DBA of today. Most DBAs I know are pretty good at coding SQL, but not great. You’ll have to pursue mastery to stay relevant. Many DBAs of today aren’t really specialists in the knowledge domain of the organizations they work for. That’ll have to change if the DBA wants to add value to data science and data visualization projects. I guess what I’m getting at is that many organizations are getting better at collecting data, but they still have almost no idea how to turn that data into actionable information. The DBA of the future will be able to assist on those kinds of projects.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Kevin: I’m most proud of being a founder of the international PASS organization and being its president from 2004-2008. I was president for two terms for a very simple reason, we were on the verge of extinction and needed consistent, focused leadership to survive those difficult times. When I say “leadership”, I don’t mean myself. I mean the team of leaders we’d assembled at that time – Wayne Snyder, Joe Webb, Bill Graziano, Rick Heiges, and others. The entire team was laser-focused on making the organization survive and thrive. When I attend the PASS Summit today, with its many thousands of attendees and many hundreds of speakers and dozens of monthly webinars, I like to think “I was one of the few who dug the well that watered this beautiful garden”. :-)

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Kevin: I read a LOT of non-fiction books. One such book I’d recommend is “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jarrod Diamond. The book is a masterclass in the connectedness and long chain of cause-and-effect in the human experience. The book was inspired by the question “Why did Western civilization achieve salience in the last few centuries when other civilizations were far more advanced in other earlier epochs?” The short answer is guns, germs, and steel – guns that won wars, germs which we Westerners were immune to but wiped out tens of millions in other civilizations, and steel with its advanced prerequisites in chemistry, metallurgy and supply chains. He then proceeds to answer the even deeper question of “Why did Western civilization get those things before others?”, which is the riddle to be solved. I also love: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Godel Escher Bach, Connections, The Story of English, The Checklist Manifesto and most everything that David Ambrose has written (Band of Brothers, Undaunted Courage).

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Kevin: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Strive for mastery. Invest yourself in deliberate practice, frequently engage in experimentation, and read voraciously. To do this effectively, you can’t be a generalist. The good news is that the experts command a higher wage and better billing rates. ? If an analogy helps, thinks about professional sports teams going through their annual draft. They don’t say “We’d like a good all-around player”. They say “We want the best power hitter / running back / defender we can get”. They want someone who is singularly talented. Now, if you’re good at more than one thing, more power to you. But you’re not even going to be in consideration for the great jobs if you’re not an A+ player in one of the important specialties of your field. Strive for mastery.

Interview – Argenis Fernandez

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Argenis Fernandez (b | t):

Argenis Fernandez
Argenis Fernandez

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Argenis: I see SQL Server continuing to gain ground and becoming even more prevalent than it is today. SQL Server on Linux will be HUGE. It already is with more than 1M Docker repo pulls.

And SQL Server is today and will be everywhere. Cloud, On-Prem, your laptop. Now that it runs on Docker a lot of developers will love to have a local instance they can develop on – for free. Quick and easy. Microsoft has REALLY turned around from how things were pre-Satya. I’m loving it. I do feel that SQL Server could use a little more love on the “size of data” realm. Meaning, handling terabytes or data in SQL Server should be “easier” than it is today. And I think sooner than later Microsoft will acknowledge that and work on features to handle that scale problem..

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Argenis: I’m not sure that we even have a great definition of what a “Traditional SQL Server DBA” is.

Let me give you an example: If you’re babysitting a reindex or DBCC process every weekend, trust me when I tell you – you WILL be rendered irrelevant. Maybe not next month, but at some point you will be. You need to provide value to your employer by automating everything that can be automated, and help your business achieve better outcomes by not only keeping the lights on…but so much more. You need to figure what that “so much more” means for your company.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Argenis: Quite honestly, Argenis Without Borders 2.0, when we raised over $25K for Doctors Without Borders. Not a technical achievement, but something that actually touches lives in peril.

I owe a lot of that success story to my good friend and fellow troublemaker Kirsten Benzel.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Argenis: I only read…stuff on the Internet. I’m too much of an ADHD victim to read a book all the way through. I have read quite a few, but it’s not something I do frequently.

Catch up on blogs, twitter, and really good sites like, for example, SQLPerformance.com. It’s time well invested.

If you want to get a feel for what the startup world is like and innovations taking place constantly, be sure to check Hacker News.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Argenis: That really depends. I consider myself mostly focused on the DB Engine, but I became a pretty knowledgeable person in the storage realm in the last two years since I joined Pure Storage. That combination has proven to be very good for my career. So I’d say…just find something you love and be really good at it. If you want to be a good generalist, you can be successful at that. If you’re bored and twiddling your thumbs all day, find something that’s intellectually satisfying.

And surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Not that intelligence is contagious, but ideas and conversations spark good changes in your brain…embrace your inner geek!

Interview – Denny Cherry

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Denny Cherry (b | t):

Denny Cherry
Denny Cherry

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Denny: For a lot of people things are definitely going to be more cloud focused. Some companies will stay on-premises for a variety of reasons, but for a lot of people moving to the cloud is going to become a reality. The cloud isn’t that scary. It’s a little different, but that’s about it. Looking at Azure SQL DB, it’s basically just SQL Server. It does most of what normal SQL Server does, it runs queries, etc. There’s just less patching and day to day management that needs to be done because Microsoft is taking care of that for you.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Denny: No, I don’t see the role of the traditional DBA being replaced. Evolving? Absolutely. But not being replaced.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Denny: The best thing I think I’ve done for the SQL Server community would probably be getting Speaker Idol up and running at the PASS Summit. This gives new speakers who aren’t well known to the committee a chance to get in front of an audience at the PASS summit, get feedback from some great presenters (the judges) and one of them gets a slot the next year at the summit.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Denny: It’s been a really long time since I’ve sat down a read a book, technical or not. For technical knowledge I just Google these days. If you had to make me pick a book, then I’d go with Kevin Kline’s T-SQL book from 200 years ago (or something like that). It should be on every data platform person’s shelf.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Denny: I would still say focus on one area of SQL Server, but broaden how you work with that component. Myself I’m an engine/HA/performance tuning guy. I basically never touch SSAS, SSRS, SSIS, etc. I can install all those things, but that’s about it. But because of how I understand how the engine works, I have a better understanding than most about how SQL DB in Azure works compared to RDS in Amazon for example. So while I’d stayed fairly narrow in SQL Server terms, I’ve been able to spread out a bit outside of the database engine so that I can see it in more global or enterprise deployment terms. The traditional DBA isn’t going anywhere, and there will be people who only deal with on-premises deployments for years and make good money. But there’s lots of money to be made in this cloudy world as well.