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.

Interview – Benjamin Nevarez

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: Benjamin Nevarez (b | t):

Benjamin Nevarez
Benjamin Nevarez

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

Benjamin: Well, I really don’t see many big changes in five years, it is a very short time. As an example we can look back a few years ago when SQL Server in-memory technologies like Hekaton and columnstore indexes were originally released. We were very excited about these technologies but later realized that they were initially released with serious limitations leaving us to wait for them to mature and become widely adopted. So I hope a wide adoption of these technologies, especially Hekaton, in the next few years.

Currently Microsoft has announced SQL Server for Linux so I hope that release is widely used within the next few years too. I confess I was very skeptical when I learned that this SQL Server version was not really a Linux port but instead the same Windows executable running on a Linux process. I know it makes perfect sense from the time-to-release point of view so we all hope doing this does not have any performance limitations. I started my career with Unix back in the 90s so it is cool be to working in this platform again. I also worked with Linux since the beginning and remember that for a few years nobody even knew what Linux was.

Regarding SQL Server version adoption, we know the market is usually a few versions behind so I would not be surprised if in five years the most popular versions are SQL Server 2014 or maybe SQL Server 2016.

Finally, although companies are using or exploring the public cloud in some way, sometimes minor, at least with the current technology, most mission critical databases will continue to run on SQL Server on-premises.

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

Benjamin: Of course not, it will evolve, actually it is always evolving, changing every day but will not be replaced. This also correlates with my earlier comment that companies will continue to use SQL Server on-premises.

By the way, isn’t the same for any other role in technology? Probably this applies to any other “traditional” technology role as well :-)

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

Benjamin: Probably my books. I’ve been an occasional blogger and I have done presentations all over the world. But the feedback from my query optimizer and query tuning books has been incredible. I’ve got e-mails and messages with great feedback from all over the world. I never expected something like it. I also just recently published a new book called “High Performance SQL Server” which I still don’t know how, Apress convinced me to call it the “Go Faster Book” :-)

As a matter of fact, writing has been a big challenge for me. Being English my second language I am extremely surprised that I ended writing books. I still remember the days when writing a 2-3 pages article was a big challenge which was even afraid to publish. I finally started blogging and was pleasantly surprised when after writing just a handful of articles about the query optimizer, Red Gate offered me to write an entire book about the subject, which was published in 2011.

I’ve also been doing SQL Server presentations all over the world. I just came back from an amazing SQLSaturday in Chile and I am scheduled to present in a conference in Brazil soon.

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

Benjamin: I haven’t read any book in a long, long time so probably I don’t have much to say here. And probably the last ones I read were technology or music related. So about SQL Server I would always recommend anything with the name Kalen Delaney or Itzik Ben-Gan on it. The late Ken Henderson was one of my favorites as well.

I recently worked on the technical review of Kalen’s new book “SQL Server Internals: In-Memory OLTP” so I know this will be an extraordinary book. And if you want to learn about query tuning and optimization and SQL Server performance in general, of course I recommend you my books :-)

Finally, anyone who would read me even a little bit on twitter or Facebook may know that more than reading, I am a huge fan of rock and roll music, so I would usually prefer listening to records, going to concerts or playing guitar.

PD. By the way, the best rock autobiography is still “The Dirt” by Motley Crue :)

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?

Benjamin: This is a tough question and one I had myself several times in my career. And probably there is not a correct answer here. Back in the late 90s while working with several database technologies I decided to specialize in SQL Server. I initially tried to cover everything SQL Server just to realize that may need to specialize even further. I remember learning SSAS and the entire BI stack but never worked much with it. Interestingly I became an advanced DTS developer because I worked in a large project using this technology but never got really advanced on its replacement, SSIS. So I think now I try to cover everything related to the SQL Server engine and perhaps specialize in query tuning and optimization and SQL Server performance in general, which no surprise are also the topics I write and present about.

Interview – Mindy Curnutt

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: Mindy Curnutt (b | t):

Mindy Curnutt
Mindy Curnutt

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

Mindy: While a lot has changed in the Microsoft Data Platform in the last 5 years, the customers I work with have not changed nearly as quickly, and I really don’t see that pattern changing much over the NEXT 5 years. To be clear, I work mostly with the transportation and logistics industry (think 18 wheelers & railroads). I see many companies attempt to maximize ROI by keeping hardware and database platform licenses as long as possible. (It’s very common for our customers to still be on SQL 2008 and SQL 2008 R2. We even have a handful that remain on SQL 2005!) There IS some adoption of cloud technologies in this particular industry, but really, they are just now starting to dip their toes into Azure and AWS. What they are adopting “in the cloud” is not their main fleet ERP, it’s the standard applications that don’t need major customization (email, project management, human resources management). For these out-of-the box applications, I see active and enthusiastic adoption of SaaS based solutions. For the larger transportation fleets in the US, their ERP systems are highly customized and have been developed over long periods of time. Their solutions are mature and very robust, and primarily based on legacy style client-server architecture. It’s just not that easy to move a full ERP ecosystem into the cloud. Add to that a demographic that generally feels that being cutting edge isn’t a priority. Five years from now I expect the majority of the large trucking company ERP platforms that run on SQL Server will still be on-prem. They may be virtualized, but they won’t be in the cloud.

On the opposite side of the coin, I think that for newly developed software, developing SaaS based products that live in the cloud is already the predominant and accepted way to do things. Software companies are not building brand new applications that have a local install or are client-server in their architecture anymore. Startups and brand new applications are almost solely using the cloud as their infrastructure. Five years from now almost all applications written between now and then will have a cloud based database backend.

Older on-premise client-server based applications will need to adapt over time or they’ll die out. That’s not going to happen in a brief 5 years, but it is a sign that’s fairly obvious to anyone paying attention. The on-premise servers eventually are going to have a mostly “Kodak Moment”. It’s not going to be in 5 years though. Maybe 15. I’ll be almost 65 then….yeah, 15 sounds good (ha ha).

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

Mindy: Not in the next 15 years. Beyond that, I have a hard time imaging what’s going to be happening with technology. I don’t know that in 2002 I could have imagined what the iPhone/Android does today. 30 years ago I certainly had no idea where we would be with technology today, it’s really astonishing if you stop and think about it a bit. But in the next 15 years…while the DBA may not need to be concerned with backups or maintenance anymore (Administrative role significantly reduced), the concept of a Data Professional, who helps design / architect for scalability, and more importantly – who understands the business, that’s going to be needed for a long time to come. Especially the business part. It’s one thing to simply tune a stored procedure or SQL statement, it’s quite another to look at what it’s doing, understand the code itself, and then question “Is that even necessary? Why are we doing that? The business doesn’t work that way.” Sometimes code is written under a false assumption or incorrect idea about how a business works. It takes a combined skillset with an understanding of both the business rules and database platform. A computer algorithm is going to have a very long way to go before it can replace that piece of what a DBA provides.

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

Mindy: That’s an awkward question because I don’t want to appear like I’m bragging. I love working with SQL Server and data. I’m very passionate about it. I’ve devoted over 20 years to it, and it’s been very rewarding. I guess the things I’m most proud of to date are:

  • Being one of the 3 Program Managers for the PASS Summit for the last 3 years in a row (2015-2017). It’s a huge amount of work, but leading teams to go through all the abstracts, choosing the presentations, balancing the program and then scheduling – I can directly see the results of all our work each time I attend Summit. It’s a very good feeling. I love my #sqlfamily.
  • Building a team of DBAs at my workplace pretty much from scratch. It’s a great team, currently 5 members, hopefully soon to be 6 (we’re looking for a new teammate, preferably out of Oklahoma City). I love mentoring them and leading them, being their champion and encouraging them. They’ve all grown so much and I feel that because of my passion for SQL Server I encourage their passion. Two of these DBAs have presented at their local SQL User Group in Cleveland now, and one of them is about to do his 2nd SQL Saturday. Almost the entire team is actively blogging publicly now (https://drcdba.com/, https://ericblinn.com/, http://iconicdba.com, http://www.sqlmason.com). It makes me really proud and happy to see them growing professionally and being excited about their career.
  • The Keynote speech I delivered at TMW and PeopleNet’s In.Sight conferece. The subject was Data Quality and Reference Data. I spoke to almost 3000 transportation industry leaders in the big ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland. I have had compliments on the speech continually since, and it’s really reaffirming. I hope to be invited to speak again this year.
  • Being elected to the Board of Directors for the North Texas SQL Server User’s Group.
  • And of course, being awarded a Microsoft Data Platform MVP.

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

Mindy: I read a lot of self-help books for things I am trying to get better at. These are my latest books I’ve been thumbing through:

  • Talk Like Ted, – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds – Carmine Gallo
  • How to Self-Publish, – a guide for Author-Preneurs – Kayla Fioravanti
  • Steal the Show, – from Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches – Michael Port
  • The 4-Hour Work Week, – escape 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich – Timothy Ferriss
  • Behind the Cloud, – the salesforce playbook – Marc Benioff
  • Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard – Chip & Dan Heath

And I just ordered this book last night, it had good reviews and it sounded interesting:

  • IBM and the Holocaust – The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation

And I love history, especially local history. I love knowing who built an old building and what a neighborhood used to be like, how the roads got to be the way they are. I live in Dallas now, and these two Dallas history related books have been fun for me to read:

  • Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker
  • Dallas-Forth Worth Freeways, Texas-Sized Ambition
    On this one, I have the table book – whoah, it’s now $299! Good grief. Fortunately, you can download each chapter in full color via PDF here

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?

Mindy: One of the things that has allowed me to excel in my career was the inch wide / mile deep approach. Suggesting that someone else do that is complicated though because it requires opportunity. It takes time to become a mile deep. Until you get to be a mile deep, what are you? (I guessing digging that mile deep trench??). How will you generate income in the meantime? I was lucky to be given the opportunity to develop my skills because I landed a job with Unisys who was invested in developing mile-deep SQL Server Scalability and Performance folks from within their ranks. They would send us off to Unisys University and different Unisys and Microsoft Performance Laboratories for multiple weeks/year for boot camp style immersive training. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

When someone needs a specialist, that’s who they call. It doesn’t make sense for a brain surgeon to also be good at oncology. Both of these are inch-wide / mile-deep specialties. People will pay more and explicitly seek out those professionals when they need one. A general practitioner on the other hand is a mile-wide and inch-deep. There are lots and lots of general practitioners. Same with Pediatricians. They still make a very good living, but they aren’t able to charge rates similar to the medical specialists. Ever gotten a bill from an anesthesiologist? It’ll make you gasp.

As far as what I think is wise. I think it’s wise to understand what makes you happy, look at the opportunities you have been presented and make a career decision based upon those things. Sometimes you don’t actually make a career “decision”, it just kind of happens. There is no right answer for everyone. Had I not been given the opportunity I was given, I could well have ended up more a generalist, you never know. Life is weird that way.

Interview – Allan Hirt

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: Allan Hirt (b | t):

Allan Hirt
Allan Hirt

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

Allan: I dislike the word “cloud” on its own, similar to how I feel about inaccurately using the word “cluster.” Are we talking about the WSFC or Pacemaker? An FCI? An AG? All of it? Something else?

When people say “the cloud” they usually mean the public cloud (Azure, Amazon, Google, et al). This is just an evolution from when companies ran and built everything. Instead of building and owning a house, it is being rented and someone else is responsible for nearly all of the day-to-day management.

I don’t see the public cloud stopping on premises deployments any time soon. Many companies who are on premises only today will have the public cloud somewhere as part of their infrastructure. Not all will, but I think we will see more hybrid solutions especially for disaster recovery. Virtualization took a long time to catch on with SQL Server deployments, and the public cloud to me is following a similar – but also faster – trajectory. I remember people who swore they’d never virtualize, and are now nearly 100% virtualized. The key thing is to put the right architecture in place to support the business, and that may be on physical servers, virtualized, private clouds, hybrid solutions that span on premises and the public cloud, or just in the public cloud.

As for SQL Server itself? Five years is one, maybe two versions from now. v.Next is already in the pipeline. It will continue to evolve and change. As is already the case, many are a version or three behind. I bet five years from now some folks will just be starting to consider SQL Server 2016..

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

Allan: If you mean what I would call a “pure” or “classic” DBA where that person basically just handles backups and basic SQL Server administrative tasks, yes, that type of DBA will be largely replaced or eliminated via automation.

The modern DBA role continues to evolve. Data is the lifeblood of companies, and someone has to take care of it. Sure, there’s DevOps which is the answer in some cases, but not in others. Outsourcing and remote DBAs have not, for the most part, replaced good DBAs in companies. Those services augment a good DBA staff or pick up the slack when a company is understaffed or lacks expertise in a specific skillset. In-house DBAs know their data and their business, and they are constantly working to make that data do more (and do it more reliably).

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

Allan: I am always humbled when a month, a year, or more later people come up to me and thank me after I did something (a talk, released a book or paper, a blog post, etc.) and they tell me how it helped them or impacted them. That’s why I do what I do.
I tend to look in forward. I don’t like to linger on the past. I try to push the envelope. Sometimes I fail, other times I succeed. Some selected highlights:

  • The SQL Server 2000 failover clustering whitepaper that, arguably more than anything, set my career in motion to where it is now.
  • Continuing to have a good relationship with Microsoft as well as companies like VMware and championing/changing/influencing to make things better for anyone using SQL Server. There’s a lot I do which I don’t talk about, but you guys see the benefits of much later on. It’s not always about the public accolades.
  • Seeing how the influence of my writing, teaching, speaking, and consulting over the years created a big interest in the availability and infrastructure aspects of SQL Server. Today more people are speaking, writing, etc. on the topic; that was not the case for many years.
  • Offering in person classes with hands on labs. They are a lot of work but for availability, you need it. Just seeing demos often times does not cut it.
  • Selling out a preconference at PASS Summit 2016, and having people come up to me asking if they can still get in even on the day I was delivering it. It is very humbling this far into my career that people still want to see and hear what I have to offer.

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

Allan: I do love to read, but don’t have the time I used to devote to it. I sometimes find time on planes, and if so, it’s usually something to do with history, music, or occasionally, business. The latest book I’ve been reading is Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff. Another outstanding book is Bill Bruford’s autobiography, which is arguably the best music-related book I have ever read and it’s well written, too.

One book I always recommend to people is Edwin Black’s IBM and the Holocaust. It should appeal to both history and tech folks, but it obviously deals with a subject that is not always the easiest for people to face head on. Even taking the horrific events it’s based on out of the picture, it is a cautionary tale and example of how data from computers was used 80 years ago.

For fiction, I’d recommend The Daily Adventures of Mixerman. Having spent time in a studio and around the music industry a bit, this is a fun view and not too far off the mark of what can happen, not unlike Spinal Tap. There’s enough even for the knobhead gear techie music person like me in this one, too.

There are two business books I’ve found useful over the past few years. Twitter is Not a Strategy by Tom Doctoroff and Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by the Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni.

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?

Allan: Before I tackle the tech aspect, there’s more to having a successful career than whatever tech skills you do or do not have. You need to also have excellent soft skills, which includes being able to present to diverse audiences. If you are not thinking about developing your non-tech skills, you should be. I’ve always said I can teach tech, but I can’t instill things like common sense, passion, or intuition. Being tech savvy means more than knowing a few features from a textbook point of view. The real world is messy.

Have a solid foundation (the wide), but be excellent at one aspect of SQL Server (or whatever else) you are passionate about (the deep). I’ve never just focused on one aspect of SQL Server. Availability encompasses many related areas, some of which are Windows Server, WSFCs, networking, security, virtualization, and storage in addition to SQL Server itself and everything that comes with that.

When you are early on in a career, it is not uncommon to be more of a generalist, but as you find where your heart lies, you can tailor your skills further. Think of your career as a journey, not a destination. It must be managed with a long term view, much like someone’s retirement funds. Where do you want to be in a few years? If you are currently having the same year of experience every year a la the movie Groundhog Day, that’s not a career. You need to experience new things and be challenged to grow. That may also involve taking some risks along the way.

Interview – Erin Stellato

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: Erin Stellao (b | t): Erin Stellato

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

Erin: Let me state that I don’t think 5 years ahead in my own life, so trying to predict changes in technology really isn’t in my comfort zone. That said, it’s 2017 and there are still a large number of companies running SQL Server 2008 and 2008R2 in production. Therefore, in 2022 I think that companies will still be running SQL Server 2014 and maybe even SQL Server 2012. I expect there will still be a box version of SQL Server that’s current, and people will still be migrating to the cloud. Will there be more solutions in the cloud, compared to on site? That might be too close to call.

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

Erin: Define traditional J I love to ask people what they do all day – whether they’re a DBA, Developer, Systems Admin, etc. I have yet to find a “typical” job description for a SQL Server DBA. I don’t see the role of data professional (credit goes to Buck Woody for that term, I think) being eliminated. As long as there’s data, there will be a DBA or similar person needed. Someone will always need to know how to put data in a database, how to keep safe, how to keep it available, and how to access it. Data just keeps growing – the “DBA role” may evolve, but as long as you like working with databases and data in some capacity, there will be a job for you.

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

Erin: Interesting question – not something I’ve ever really thought about. I think I might be most proud of being known as someone who continues to encourage people to use Extended Events instead of Trace and Profiler. There are many people that evangelize XE, I am certainly not the only one, but in terms of what I’m trying to do for the community, that’s probably it. I think I’ve exposed a fair number of people to XE, but the jury is still out on how many I’ve actually converted!

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

Erin: Reading is an escape for me. So when you say non-technical, non-fiction book I think: learning. And biographies. So…Katharine Graham’s biography, Personal History, was very good. I loved Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brené Brown, but you need to be into personal development to enjoy those (I also recommend her TedTalk, The power of vulnerability. And then some fiction books that come into my head:

The Martian by Andy Weir – great premise, lots of technical details, good humor, well written overall; the movie is really good, too

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – clever idea, a love story, and I loved the characters; don’t see the movie

The Mitch Rapp books by Vince Flynn – in the vein of Tom Clancy (whose books I also like), but with an elite fighter instead of Jack Ryan; I hope they never make them into movies

Still Alice by Lisa Genova – told from the perspective of a person with early-onset Alzheimer’s, it hits close to home, it’s heart-breaking, and it’s given me an understand I might not have found; the movie is good, the book is better.

Shantaram: A novel by Gregory David Roberts – from one of Paul Randal’s list, it gave me insight into India and a world that I cannot fathom.

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), 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?

Erin: I think what’s wise is to pursue what interests you. If you want to learn about SSRS/IS/Azure because you find it interesting, then do it. But if you do something because you “have to” or “feel you should”, then when you work with it, when you talk about it with others, when you teach it, it’s not as easy to be passionate about it. I think you can be really good at your job, even if you don’t like it. But where’s the fun in that? You can be focused or you can have a breadth of knowledge, people can succeed either way, it’s a matter of liking what you do.

Interview – Pinal Dave

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: Pinal Dave (b | t):

Pinal Dave
Pinal Dave

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

Pinal: This is a great question. I personally believe just like any other technology, in premise hosting of SQL Server will remain in place as much as the cloud adoption will grow. I do not see cloud technology replacing in-premises installation in the next 5 years. As a SQL Server Performance Tuning Consultant, I get the opportunity to work with lots of different organizations and I noticed that quite a lot of people still using the old technology as SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005. They are willing to pay a very high amount to tune their server to run faster, rather than migrating to newer versions. May be after 10 years or so we will see strong shift and focus on the cloud.

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

Pinal: DBA’s role is evolving. I see quite a lot of people talking about this subject. Just like any other role, new responsibilities and new skills are going to be added in the Role of DBA and old one will be eliminated. It is going to be like that onwards for not only DBA but all the jobs. I think it is just our fear to learn new stuff, once we overcome it, it will be easier to migrate to the new job definition of DBA.

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

Pinal: I think it has to be building my blog https://blog.sqlauthority.com. I have been blogging every single day for the last 10 years and every single day I am equally excited to learn and write new stuff.

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

Pinal: I love reading books. I pretty much read everything from fiction to business books. It is difficult to list one or two books to read so I am going to list three books, which are my all time favorite books.

  1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
  2. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  3. The Power of your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), 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?

Pinal: I can’t talk about others, but I have figured out that it is impossible to be successful as jack of all trades. I have been focusing on SQL Server Performance Tuning aspect of SQL Server for many years and I still learn something new every single time when I am going out for consultation. I think it is a good idea to know what is going around you, but it is important that you know one thing very very well. For me it is SQL Server Performance Tuning but for you, it can be any one or two things.

Interview – Aaron Bertrand

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: Aaron Bertrand (b | t):

Aaron Bertrand
Aaron Bertrand

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

Aaron: I think you will see more cloud adoption. Customers will get over some of their fears and apprehension, and the cloud service providers will find the “sweet spots” for different types of workloads and applications. However, there will always be customers that won’t trust “someone else’s computer,” or can’t – due to various industry or governmental regulations. Aside from cloud, I think with the evolution of SQL Server on Linux and Visual Studio on Mac, we’re seeing a more imaginative Microsoft that might have a few surprises for us yet.

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

Aaron: Not at all. As SQL Server branches out onto the Linux platform, and as we see our favorite platform enhanced by things like JSON, R, Polybase, and U-SQL, there will certainly be a lot of positions that will require an expansion of the traditional skill set. But that core role still has a place, even if the physical location of some of the things they manage will change. Remember that not all customers will adopt these new features or offload management to the cloud. And across the board, there will always be the need for architecture, design, tuning, and troubleshooting – software can help abstract some of these things away, but not all of them.

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

Aaron: I’ve been very fortunate to have been doing what I love for much of my career. When I was starting out, I got a lot of help from the community; to this day, I still do. I like to think that I give back at least as much as I have taken, and that I have done so consistently since the late 1990s. It’s hard to answer “what I’m proud of” without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, but I have always tried to make the community a priority through speaking, blogging, and helping people offline

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

Aaron: People have time for books?

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), 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?

Aaron: I think it is good to have a working knowledge of the technologies that are in use in your environment, but I think it is unreasonable to expect to be good, never mind an expert, in all of them. So, for me, I would prefer to specialize in one or two narrow areas. I feel I’ve had a relatively successful career so far, exclusively using SQL Server. I have no idea how to use Analysis Services, or Reporting Services, or Integration Services; I can barely spell them. In the end I think it comes down to personality type and long-term goals – some people want to become experts in everything, or be able to solve every problem. I’m quite happy letting other people deal with Reporting Services issues when they come up. :-)

Interview – Paul Randal

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: Paul Randal (b | t):

Paul Randal
Paul Randal

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

Paul: I definitely think that cloud is going to become much more prevalent as a platform and the pace of moment into the cloud will increase. I also hope to see more progress on the ability to work with databases in the 10s to 100s of terabytes – loading, querying, visualizing, and of course HA/DR solutions and backups. I don’t think the SQL Server team can abnegate their responsibility to improve things here – whether that’s in the cloud or the on-premises product.

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

Paul: Not in the foreseeable future. Simple answer. Databases will always need managing, performance problems will always need to be solved, disasters will always need to be recovered from, and so on. Gradually over time I think we’ll see more automated solutions to these issues, as heuristics and machine learning improve, but I think it’s going to take a wholesale leap forward in machine intelligence for DBAs to be replaced. But when that happens, DBAs being eliminated will be just one tiny piece of the enormous change in employment patterns that will occur around the world.

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

Paul: I think it’s hard to pin that down to just one thing. Here are some of the things I’m very proud of:

  • Running a Product Group-wide project during SQL Server 2005 development to ensure that all areas of SQL Server had a Supportability guide and provided training to Product Support to better enable them to help customers with problems.
  • Blogging. In 2016 I had 490 thousand unique visitors to my blog according to Google. That’s an incredible number of people to have helped learn something :-)
  • Mentoring 51 community members during 2015 – that was one of the most rewarding things
  • Creating and maintaining the SQL Server Waits and Latches library.
  • Doing 51 remote user groups presentations since January 2015.

One of the core tenets of life at SQLskills is that we all voluntarily give back to the community in a variety of ways, and I know there are many other in the community who feel and do likewise.

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

Paul: 5 is way too restrictive. I’m going to cheat and say that my rucksack has an Undetectable Extension Charm (from Harry Potter), so I can take everything on the top-10 list I gave in Insider Newsletter #100 back in February 2015 :-) In no particular order, with Amazon links:

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (my top book in 2009)
  2. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (my top book in 2010)
  3. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (rereading right now)
  4. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ‘trilogy’ (there are actually five of them) by Douglas Adams (last read in 2000 – time to reread!)
  5. The Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien, such as Master and Commander (last listened to in 2002-3 driving to and from work at Microsoft – time for a reread! – and of course, the utterly fabulous movie)
  6. The Culture series of sci-fi books by Iain M. Banks, especially Excession and The Hydrogen Sonata (my top book in 2013)
  7. The Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester (re-read the whole series in 2015 – also love the A&E television series)
  8. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (last read in 2007 – must have seen the movies 20 times each – they’re a winter favorite in our house!)
  9. Travel books by Paul Theroux, especially The Great Railway Bazaar and Riding The Iron Rooster (last read some in 2011)
  10. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (last read in 2012)

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), 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?

Paul: That’s very hard to answer, as it really depends on what the person wants out of their career and what their intellectual interests are. When I was mentoring in 2015, I had people describe their career goals to me and then fill in a large spreadsheet that had them self-rate themselves in about 100 SQL Server skills areas and another 100 soft-skills areas. Then I gave them advice on what to change. There’s no generalized right answer here, apart from to do the things that will give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction (whatever that means to you – money, knowledge, respect, seniority, whatever).

Book Review – “High Performance SQL Server” by Benjamin Nevarez

There is something about high performance tuning that I find very fascinating. Performance tuning your database server is one of those things that you cannot just pinpoint to a single cause. You must have an overall understanding of how SQL Server internals work to really understand all the areas that you can “tune”, how they all interplay with each other, etc. Without having a grasp on this crucial subject, you will find yourself scratching your head more times than not when learning performance tuning.

Just as it’s important to understand all areas of how SQL Server internals work, it’s equally important to learn it from a reliable, reputable source. It’s easy to fall prey to the endless, unverified posts out on the internet that will do nothing but further add to confusion.

Mr Benjamin Nevarez (bio below) was kind enough to send me a copy of his latest book, High Performance SQL Server. His book is a continuation from his earlier book, “Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Query Tuning & Optimization.”

The goal of this blog is to do a brief review of Mr Benjamin’s latest book and hopefully convince you to add it to your arsenal of “go to” material for SQL Server performance tuning.

High Performance SQL Server by Benjamin Nevarez

High Performance SQL Server by Benjamin Nevarez

The 196 page book is spread over 9 chapters. I will list the chapters below with a brief description of what’s in each:

  1. How SQL Server Works: This chapter is great as it starts from the beginning. The networking protocols used by SQL Server (TCP/IP, Named Pipes, VIA, etc.), ports, SQLOS, Schedulers/Workers, Query Optimization, Joins (Nested Loops, Hash, Merge), and Parallelism are among the wealth of information in this first chapter.
  2. Analyzing Wait Statistics: Introduction to the Waits Performance Methodology. Retrieving wait statistics information via the DMVs and Extended Events.
  3. The Query Store: How the query store can help, using it, performance troubleshooting and live query statistics.
  4. SQL Server Configuration: This chapter talks about statistics updates, tempdb configuration, MAXDOP settings, IFI (instant file initialization), memory configurations, backup compression default, and a whole list of trace flags.
  5. tempdb Troublshooting and Configuration: Structure of a page, different types of pages, tempdb latch contention, using multiple data files, what’s new in SQL Server 2016, and monitoring disk space.
  6. SQL Server In-Memory Technologies: In-Memory OLTP, what’s new in SQL Server 2016 and memory-optimized tables.
  7. Performance Troubleshooting: Performance counters, DMVs and DMFs, and SQL Trace / Extended Events
  8. Indexing: How SQL Server uses indexes, where to use them, clustered/non-clustered/filtered indexes, and index maintenance.
  9. SQL Server Storage: Different storage types, flash based storage, database configuration, database files, fragmentation, VLFs and using tools like Resource Monitor, Diskspd, SQLIOsim and different RAID configurations.

As you can read from the above chapter descriptions, Mr. Nevarez put together a great book that should be part of any database professional’s performance tuning library.

It will definitely be part of mine! :)

About the Author

Benjamin Nevarez (b | t) is a database professional based in Los Angeles, California who specializes in SQL Server query tuning and optimization. He is the author of three books, “High Performance SQL Server”, “SQL Server 2014 Query Tuning & Optimization” and “Inside the SQL Server Query Optimizer” and has also coauthored other books including “SQL Server 2012 Internals.” Benjamin has also been a speaker at many SQL Server conferences and events around the world including the PASS Summit, SQL Server Connections and SQLBits.