Interview – Anthony Nocentino

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: Anthony Nocentino (b | t): Anthony Nocentino

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

Anthony: Absolutely more cloud focused. The DBA is a role that is in charge of data. Where that data sits, well that’s an implementation detail. Want to stay employed and in demand? Follow the data. To most businesses, the business is the data. An interesting corollary to this is in the server based computing space. We started with main frames and time sharing systems, then we decentralized into PCs and servers…now we’re centralizing again. But this time it’s a little different with The Cloud, I’m intrigued by SaaS and the fact that it’s a service based model. This enables us to focus on higher level constructs as we build systems.

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

Anthony: That depends on how you define the role of the DBA. It’s up to you to provide the maximum value to your employer or client. What can you do to make to enable the success of your company or client? Stay stagnant, you’ll be replaced. Constantly learn and evolve, you’ll be the go to person in your organization.

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

Anthony: Wow, that’s a tough one! For me the most significant accomplishment might be public speaking. If you asked me to speak publicly 2 years ago, I would have laughed and said no thanks. I was absolutely terrified at even the idea of speaking in public. Today, I do it about twice a month.

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

AnthonySearch Inside Yourself changed my life. I read it about once a year to re-center myself and control stress. I do read a lot of technical books and the standard SQL Server blogs. One book that stood out this year for me is Brendan Gregg’s System Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud a must have for Linux performance topics. I also listen to a lot of Pluralsight courses. I focus mostly on automation and performance. Check out Jeff Hicks’ PowerShell DSC and Remoting courses and of course Paul Randal’s courses. He transaction log course is very good (of course). I also listened to his course Communications: How to Talk, Write, Present, and Get Ahead! Quality stuff.

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?

Anthony: For me, I’m a unique combination of both. I have a strong systems background in operating systems, networking and storage, then worked up the technology stack into applications and databases. I’m fairly certain this is what enables me to do what I do today. Really it’s about providing value and enjoying your work. If you want to be an mile deep expert…do it. If you want to be a generalist…do that. It’s about who you’re working for and you enjoying what you’re doing.

Here’s an example, look at how some SQL Server consultants focus solely on SQL Server…maybe even just the database engine. Totally cool. I like to focus on the system as a whole, disks, servers, engine, applications, data, user experience…the whole thing. My observation over the years is, the mile deep consultants will have more clients and likely shorter engagements. While my approach yields fewer clients, but longer engagements. It’s all about what you want to do and who you’re doing it for and you enjoying what you’re doing.

Mohammad: How big of a role (or market share) do you see SQL Server on Linux reaching over the next 3-5 years?

Anthony: I think it’s going to be a slow start. I see it as a new tool in the developer’s tool belt. There isn’t going to be a lot of rip and replace to SQL Server on Linux. I mean really, people don’t like to touch their data platform. Raise your hand if you have a SQL 2008R2 instance or older :) But as developers start to embrace the technology, we’ll see SQL Server on Linux as a core element. Further, it’s not just SQL Server on Linux. Look at all of the other Open Source work at Microsoft. Bash on Windows, PowerShell Core, .NET Core, Containers, Linux in Azure. It’s really a cool time to watch this all happen!

Mohammad: For someone like myself who loves SQL Server, is fascinated with SQL Server on Linux but has no hands-on experience working with Linux. Should I take the dive? If so, how would you recommend I proceed? Should I study up on Linux first, read up on some basic fundamental material before diving into SQL Server on Linux?

Anthony: Well, I know this guy that’s got a few courses on Pluralsight ;) But seriously your approach depends on what you need to get out of it. If your a systems person, focus on the OS. Learn the fundamentals, bash, permissions, file systems, resource management like CPU, disk and memory. If you’re a developer, take the time to learn the new tools available to you. Things like containers, mssql-cli, VS Code…etc.

I will say this about Linux. I started off building my first PC when I was 12. It was Windows 3.1. In college, I started using Linux on my desktop. In doing that, I learned what an operating system really does. It controls hardware…and off I went learning how computers and systems actually work. It’s not that Windows is bad for abstracting away the hard stuff. But Linux really exposes the raw system to the user.

Mohammad: I recently saw the video where Bob Ward demonstrates SQL Server on Linux, running on the new HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen 10 Server with scalable persistent memory, “Enterprise-class “Diskless Database.” Amazingly fast! I’d love to know your thoughts on this new technology and whether it’s going to be the new next “thing”?

Anthony: I think this is a really big deal for relational database systems. This technology will remove the transaction log bottleneck. Log writes are immediately hardened when written to memory. We no longer have to wait for disk. Further, we no longer have to wait for all of the function calls that come along with a disk IO. Once that log record hits an NVDIMM, it’s hardened and your workload gets to move on. I blogged about this last year here.

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