Interview – Brent Ozar

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.

First up: Brent Ozar (b | t):

Brent Ozar interviewed by Mohammad Darab
Brent Ozar

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

Brent: Today, in early 2017,  the majority of shops are still on SQL 2008/2008R2.

That means in 2022, most shops will be running 2012/2014 – which means Always On Availability Groups will be more widespread, for example. But other than that, I don’t think the world is going to be very different for SQL Server DBAs. A lot of their databases will probably run in the cloud, but for the most part, VMs in the cloud aren’t that different from VMs on-premises.

Sure, Microsoft SQL Server 2022 will look very different than SQL Server 2016 – but it won’t matter, because the vast majority of DBAs aren’t able to simply push cutting edge technology into production.

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

Brent: I’d like to think that the drudge work we hate (backups, restores, corruption checking, patching) will be abstracted away by cloud providers and better systems administration tools.

But the thing is, I just got out of the Google Cloud Next conference where developers were going wild and crazy about Google Cloud Spanner, Google’s new relational database. Right now, Cloud Spanner doesn’t even offer backups. It’s up to you to roll your own backup solution.

Crazy Google, right? But check out Azure SQL DB, which won’t give you your own backups either. If you want to take your data to another cloud – either for migration or disaster recovery – it’s up to you to figure it out.

The database administrator role is alive and well. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t actually doing DBA work in the cloud – they’re just reading magazines.

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

Brent: Scaling my work. In the morning, I look at the clock and go, “Okay, I have two hours to help people today. How can I help as many people as possible in those two hours?” Everything I do has to help as many people as possible.

The numbers just blow me away:

* 1.9mm people visited last year
* 95k email subscribers
* 13k subscribers on YouTube
* 50k person-hours of video consumed in the last year
* 100k podcast downloads
* 500+ Github stars for the First Responder Kit
* 2k members at, my newest project

Given that I’m doing this in my spare time, I’m really, really proud of the numbers we’ve been able to rack up. We’re making a real difference in a lot of peoples’ lives.

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

Brent: The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt, and The Cluetrain Manifesto (several authors) – these books changed my life. In the old days, big companies spent big money inundating people with advertising, and we just bought what we were told to buy. Today, that’s over, and customers want to have real, genuine conversations. You have to build something awesome that brings customers in the door voluntarily.

50 Management Ideas You Really Need to Know by Edward Russell-Walling – he condenses popular management books into 2-3 page summaries. Gives you a quick overview of a lot of your blind spots.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – throw ideas against the wall cheaply and see what sticks. A great related book is The Mom Test by Rob Fitz, which teaches you how to ask better questions about the product you’re considering offering.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – it’s a matter of finding common ground and figuring out what both of you need, quickly.

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?

BrentBuck Woody once told me:
* In an immature market, be a generalist
* In a mature market, be a specialist

That means if you want to work in the SQL Server market, you can be a specialist. If, on the other hand, you wanna work in, say, cloud development like Richie Rump is doing at our shop, he has to be a generalist. In any given day, he’s in half a different tools, working with all kinds of different technologies.

You can make a phenomenal living just diving deeply into the SQL Server engine. I do it, I know lots of other folks who do, and it’s great because there’s a limited number of deep specialist. It’s a great living.

But if you want to step back out and try a new career, brace yourself: you’re going to be competing with a lot of other generalists, and a lot of ’em are willing to work for much less than you are. It’s not easy to make great money as a generalist unless you’re phenomenal at it. (For the record, Richie is phenomenal.)

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