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.

Interview – Kendra Little

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: Kendra Little (b | t):

Kendra Little
Kendra Little

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

Kendra: Over five years time, I think we will see a “normalizing” of many of the more recent advancements we’ve had in the technology. So yes, I think there will be more people using the cloud as those features continue to mature.

But I also think we will have more people using columnstore indexes, and in-memory technologies, which Microsoft has shown they are continuing to invest in. We’ll have more established patterns about where these features are particularly strong, and also more opportunities to be creative with them.

And of course we’ll have more opportunities to make mistakes with them and fix them, too!

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

Kendra: I did a recent “Dear SQL DBA” podcast episode where I talked about this very issue. So you know I think this is a good question! :)

The only role I see being potentially eliminated within 10 years is the “traditional” DBA who only takes care of backups, maintenance jobs, and user access. That isn’t new: over the last 10 years, it’s been increasingly required that the DBA be a problem solver who communicates well, learns the needs of their customers, and participates in creating solutions. Sometimes those solutions are more infrastructure based, sometimes they are more software based. IT workers in general are increasingly required to learn new technologies and adapt them to solve their customers’ problems, and this requires lots of communication and flexibility.

Your question does say “ever”, though. In the modern world, it is conceivable that someday robots will take over *all* our jobs. If that does happen in our lifetimes, I think database-related jobs will be among the last to go. We do live in interesting times.

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

Kendra: There’s a couple of different ways one can answer this type of question.

There’s the marketing/resume style answer: I am very proud to have launched a new training site, SQLWorkbooks.com, where I am giving away my initial courses to the community for free. I love that giving away courses is good for my business, to try to make the site become known, and also good for the community, because people can take free courses.

There’s also the personal answer: What do I really *feel* proud of having done for the community? This gets into what has been the most difficult thing for me to overcome.

I am most proud of myself for continuously overcoming the voices in my head that say, “You aren’t attractive enough to make videos” or “Your content isn’t as interesting as ______’s content” or “That isn’t good enough” or “You should be embarrassed by _____” or “You can’t do this on your own.” Almost every time I write a blog post, make a YouTube video, or speak at a free SQLSaturday event, I have to confront and overcome these doubts.

It is true that the more you do something, the easier it gets. But for some of us, we always have to promote positive voices in our head to shout over the negative voices. I haven’t always succeeded at this, but I am most proud of all the times that I have succeeded.

And this is the thing that I would like your readers to know: if you have those worries yourself, you are not alone. And you can help yourself get past them, and YOU can write a blog to help others. Or make YouTube videos. Or speak at your user group or conferences. Or draw pictures, or write songs, or whatever it is you want to do to contribute. And you can really enjoy doing those things.

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

Kendra: I love to read, but I mostly read mysteries and fiction. I hate most self-help and business books, they just don’t resonate with me.

But recently I love listening to non-fiction podcasts, so I’m going to broaden your question to that. They have more of a narrative than books, and the episode based format works very well for listening while taking a walk.

As a woman running a business by herself, I found great inspiration from the podcast, “Making Oprah” from NPR. It’s the story of how Oprah Winfrey started as a broadcaster and grew her show into a business empire, in a weird and difficult market. The phrase “Stay in your own lane,” which she popularized, is one that helps me channel my creativity and free myself from distractions and doubts. (It’s funny, I was never into her show when it was on television, but this podcast really stuck with me.)

I also recommend the podcast “Reply All” from Gimlet Media. It’s a podcast about technology, and I am always thrilled to see a new episode go live. It teaches me a lot about storytelling, as well as everything from issues in digital rights management to privacy to internet memes.

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?

Kendra: This reminds me of the controversial question, “Should you do what you love? Or should you pick a job to make money?”

In other words, I think there is a secret aspect to your question: “What would be the motivation for making such a change? Are you bored? Are you more interested in those other things?”

You may have a hard time making a living from doing what you love, if what you love is singing in the shower. But if what you’re interested in is a viable aspect of database technology, and you feel rewarded from doing it: do what gives you a feeling of reward.

If you can find *anything* where you can make a good-enough living, and it keeps your mind engaged in a happy way, and you feel particularly satisfied from that work, do THAT! You have won the lottery in life! Don’t stop and wonder, “Would __some person__ do this?” Seize the opportunity that interests *you*.

As far as I can tell, we get only one life. We each find different things satisfying, so grab the chance that helps you enjoy all those hours that you spend working. Change your course in life when you feel the need. You can re-adjust again, it is *your* life and your story.

And don’t forget to stop working and enjoy your family and the world outside, too! It will make you a better thinker, I promise.

Interview – Adam Machanic

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: Adam Machanic (b | t):

Adam Machanic
Adam Machanic

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

Adam: Over the next five years there will definitely be a continued push toward the cloud. And this only makes sense; competition will continue to drive down pricing (albeit slowly), and for most companies, at some point it will simply become fiscally unwise to continue with the cycle of managing and replacing a large amount of in-house hardware.

Beyond that–and this is pure conjecture on my part–I’ve recently noticed Microsoft getting more interested in helping with manageability and troubleshooting insight. This probably ties in to its own requirements for managing its SQL Server PAAS offering, but either way the result is a lot of cool enhancements making it into the “box” product. I think, and certainly hope, that we’ll see a lot more in this area. Anything Microsoft can provide to make the product easier to work with will be welcomed by all.

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

Adam: I think it’s already happening! For me, a “traditional DBA” means a pure ops role: manage the SQL Server instance, HA, DR, and monitoring. Maybe manage the OS, maybe hardware, but oftentimes not even that.

This kind of pure ops DBA is a dinosaur, for two major reasons: evolution of technical processes and expectations in most companies, and evolution of cloud offerings.

The first issue–evolution by companies–has created the demand for technologists to have a broader focus. Think DevOps. The kind of DBAs who were previously able to sit in a dark corner and manage backups of anonymous databases they didn’t even vaguely understand? That kind of behavior simply won’t fly in a nimble organization. DBAs need to be able to contribute to the bottom line–the business–and if they can’t, companies will find someone who can.

As for evolution of the cloud, that creates a few interesting twists on the DBA role, and we need to think about the various forms of cloud offerings. IAAS is a popular choice as a first step or for more complex projects, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. This is the arena that will require the most in terms of traditional DBA style work. Thinking about database PAAS, there’s not nearly as much need there for a traditional DBA, but a database pro still needs to think through appropriate sizing, setup, and configuration. The big cloud-based threat to the traditional DBA is in fact the evolution of SAAS. As data and application vendors move away from customer-hosted databases and toward on-demand API and web models, there will be fewer and fewer in-house database servers demanding the attention of a lonely backup jockey. Fewer servers and databases means companies will need fewer ops DBAs. But they will need a lot more data integration people. Data professionals as a whole will go nowhere.

Luckily I think there are very few of these “traditional” pure ops DBAs left in the world. People have gotten the message and have ventured into new realms, and most companies no longer hire people who only have ops skills. What is still left that bothers me is the term “DBA” itself. We need a new term, because today’s “data professional” isn’t an “administrator.” Calling yourself a DBA if you’re a data integration specialist is not reflective of your true skills and, given the changing technical landscape, is bad marketing for your personal brand.

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

Adam: Without a doubt, creation of sp_whoisactive is the best thing I’ve done in my career to date. I rely on it every day, and apparently so do a whole lot of other people. I am constantly getting pinged with questions and comments, and it’s awesome knowing that something I wrote is not only broadly used but also really helping a lot of people do their jobs. I’ll also add that most of the features I’ve put in have been a direct result of user requests–so even though I’m the sole author, it’s really been a community-driven and collaborative project from the start. Really a great highlight for me!

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

Adam: I actually read very few technical books these days. There is just so much information available in focused short form–article, video, or live presentation–that taking the time to plow through a 1,000 page book no longer seems quite as appealing as it used to.

Books I’d recommend? For fiction I’m a huge fan of David Mitchell. I read “The Bone Clocks” a couple of years ago, and recently picked up “The 1000 Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.” Both novels really captured my attention, and have stuck with me. If I’m still thinking about it a year later, I know it must have been special! On that note, one of my favorite reads in the past five years was Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.” A hugely detailed, epic, and fairly dark book that is not only very well written but also intriguingly plotted. That’s another one that really sticks around in my brain.

On the nonfiction end of the spectrum, I’m a bit dull and tend to read books that focus on some element of one of my hobbies–food and/or running. One recent great read was “The Perfect Mile” by Neal Bascomb, which details the stories of three runners who were each (independently) trying to break the four minute mile around the same time in the mid-1950s. Another book I found to be very interesting was “Proof: The Science of Booze” by Adam Rogers. You get to read about booze and call it an intellectual pursuit because it’s science. Not much better than that!

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?

Adam: There is no right answer here. Everyone has different learning styles and work styles, and some people are more adapted for deep focus than others. Both have their place. But ultimately as technicians we’re shaped by the demands of our work. I happened to get caught up in a major performance tuning project early in my career, and it forced me to become proficient in that area. Had I not taken that job, maybe I would be data visualization specialist, or something totally different, today! I don’t think there’s any benefit in trying to unnecessarily or prematurely go deep or wide in a technical area. Things change too quickly and if you don’t apply something it won’t really stick. You should ideally always be open, alert, and on the lookout for any kind of learning opportunity. In my opinion the best course of action is to find some smart people to work with and put things on autopilot. From there your knowledge will go wherever it needs to go.

Interview – Chrissy LeMaire

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: Chrissy LeMaire (b | t):

Chrissy LeMaire
Chrissy LeMaire

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

Chrissy: I’m the opposite of a visionary and really have no idea. That being said, five years doesn’t seem very long; I think it’ll take closer to 10 years for to fully realize the cloud thing. Microsoft may be cloud-focused, but the industries I work in are still very on-premises when it comes to Microsoft software.

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

Chrissy: I have seen a downturn in pure DBA job postings over the past decade, but ultimately, I see the position evolving but not being eliminated. The same question is often posed to SharePoint administrators and I just don’t see them going away either.

Either way, I’ve always considered development as an important part of database administration. Initally, with T-SQL and VBScript and now with T-SQL and PowerShell. I think it’s more important now than ever to ensure that SQL Server database administrators know the dev side, considering the trend towards DevOps.

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

Chrissy: I’m really proud of how effective my PowerShell advocacy has been.
Last year, just prior to the release of SQL Server 2016, I wrote a blog post titled “Can we get these three SQLPS issues fixed before SQL Server 2016 RTMs?” – and it got a lot of attention from the SQL Server community and Microsoft. Ultimately, with the help of the community and key figures at Microsoft, we did get those three issues resolved for SQL Server 2016’s RTM debut AND we also picked up a dedicated PowerShell engineer for the SQL Server team in the process!

I was just so floored when I was told that the engineer brought on to resolve those three issues ultimately stayed on permanently to work on the SQL Server PowerShell module. Since then, the module has become more stable and many new commands have been added.

In addition, Aaron Nelson and I created a couple Trello boards (PowerShellSSMS) that help Microsoft triage requests for SQL PowerShell and SQL Server Management Studio. It was nothing short of magic to see the Trello board mentioned in Release Notes. Many of the highest voted commands from the community made their way right into the module and that’s such a huge win for everyone.

On a personal front, I’m crazy proud of the PowerShell project I created, dbatools. In the past year, we’ve had nearly 50 contributors to our GitHub repo, which was ultimately moved from my personal GitHub account to an organizational account that now hosts other community projects as well.

For a long time, the SQL community was told that PowerShell was really powerful and that they needed to learn it, but until dbatools, I don’t think there was a project that solidified PowerShell’s potential for us.

I always knew that PowerShell was mind-blowing and wanted to create a project that got people to say either “OH! WOW! Okay! Now I’m going to learn PowerShell not because I have to, but because I want to!” or “Okay, now I see that I can accomplish a lot without even knowing how to program PowerShell. Let’s do this!” dbatools has done both.

Actually, many of my favorite commands in the toolset are often the ones inspired by community blog posts – like Test-DbaVirtualLogFileTest-DbaMaxMemoryExport-DbaExecutionPlan and Get-DbaBackupHistory.

I also love the commands that turn tedious, multi-step processes into single commands like Start-SqlMigrationNew-DbaDatabaseSnapshot or Test-DbaLastBackup. All of these commands make SQL Server administration more accessible and even more fun.

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

Chrissy: I really enjoy management and negotiation books even though I’ve never wanted to be a manager. Some of the better ones have had really positive impacts on my outlook in life and my faith in people. Here are three that come to mind.
First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Secrets of Power Negotiating

I also think there are some technical books worth mentioning. Neuro Web Design is an older book, but it’s still very interesting, fun and easy to read. It’s kind of a mix of psychology and tech.

Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? 

Also, PowerShell in Action by Bruce Payette is an all-time favorite. It’s very well-written and tells an interesting story. It’s the kind of book I enjoy reading on a Sunday with some coffee and sunshine.

PowerShell in Action

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?

Chrissy: I think that expertise requires an all-encompassing understanding of technology. So even though I’ve been an OLTP DBA most of my career, I’ve also been a web developer, DNS admin, Linux admin, Active Directory admin, SharePoint admin, VMware admin and so on. Each of those things help me better understand the whole stack and ultimately make me a better DBA.

All-in-all, I think it’s best to be a generalist with a specialty. So I’ll often take a month or three and give myself a project to understand something like SSRS or SSIS. I’m not trying to become an expert, but it’s good to be able to do what I support.

The downside to this is that there will be times that I suck at something I am expected to know and was once really good at. Take database design and T-SQL development, for example. I used to do it all the time, but it’s been awhile and without a refresher, I wouldn’t be as good as I once was. I think that’s natural, however, and I’m happy with what’s currently occupying my brain (PowerShell, PowerShell, PowerShell ;)