Interview – Sunil Agarwal

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: Sunil Agarwal (b | t):Sunil Agarwal

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

Sunil: Most businesses are moving to cloud to leverage ease of development, deployment and operationalizing which ultimately leads to lowering the cost and the competitive advantage. I expect many new development projects will gravitate towards the cloud but the IT landscape will be hybrid with some legacy, not all, applications still running on-premise either due to business regulations or compliance issues. IT expertise will remain in demand even in cloud worlds but the shift will be towards more value add expertise like troubleshooting rather than the routine activities like installing software, upgrading hardware and such.

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

Sunil: Not at all. As I mentioned earlier, the DBAs job will become lot more interesting as they will move away from installing/upgrading software, configuring storage etc to more interesting work like working to get deeper insights into application performance, troubleshooting, minimizing or eliminating security breaches.

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

Sunil: I have worked with databases for over 30 years in various roles ranging from software engineer for database engines, application and tools development, teaching and my role as program manager in SQL Server team. For me the most satisfying thing it to see customers succeed with the products I have worked on.

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

Sunil: I love the book series by Kalen Delaney on SQL Server. She looks at the technology from customer’s perspective. I have been fortunate to have been one of the main reviewers of some of her books and have been a co-author of one book with her.

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?

Sunil: Fundamentals are very important and one must strive to get basic understanding. My recommendation will be focus on common end-to-end scenarios and learn how to design/deliver it.

Mohammad: If there was only one feature you can name in SQL Server 2016-2017 that you absolutely love what would it be? (You can name a couple if you have to :)

Sunil: Well, one of my favorite feature, not surprising, is Clustered/nonclustered columnstore Index. Other feature that I really like is the QueryStore that was introduced in SQL 2016.

Mohammad: What SQL Server feature would you say people are “scared” to implement but would greatly benefit from if they took the time to learn/implement it?

Sunil: Most people are scared of performance troubleshooting. It has a learning curve but I think it is one skill that will give you edge over others.

Mohammad: Finally, for someone who has a deep passion for SQL Server, how would they go about applying for the SQL Server tream? Would an “outsider” be considered or does the SQL Server Team only hire from within Microsoft?

Sunil: SQL Server team is always looking for engineers with passion for technology and customers. Majority of the hires are from outside. So please apply here.

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