Blog Stats – 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Finally, another full year of web traffic! Time sure does go by fast! My goal was to blog more during 2017 than 2016. Below is the breakdown:

Total # of Blogs Posted (2016 vs 2017)

2016: 10

2017: 37

What Happened in 2017

In 2017, I started a new “interview series” blog posts where I ask professionals in the SQL Server community a handful of questions. These professionals are some of the “creme of the crop” when it comes to the SQL Server community. Microsoft Certified Masters, MVPs, and Microsoft employees.

I am extremely happy I started this and thank all those who participated. I definitely learned a lot and made some great new friends!

You can check out the list of people I interviewed here.

Blog Stats

2017 Stats

As you can see, 2017 was a 438% increase in page views compared to 2016.

Global Stats

51% of the page views are from the U.S., 10% from India, 6% from UK, and the rest of the top 10 include Canada, Australia, Germany, Singapore, Brazil, Netherlands and South Africa.

On to a great 2018!

Interview – Joe Sack

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: Joe Sack (li | t): Joe Sack

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?

Joe: Well, first I should mention I work for a company that sells Cloud services (I work on the Azure SQL Database team, QP focus), so I’m not an unbiased source. Disclosures aside, I have been working with SQL Server since 1997 and I definitely see the shift happening with customers – particularly for hybrid scenarios, with a mix of on-prem, IaaS, and PaaS. As for readiness – a few years ago if there was a Cloud session at a conference, it risked being very lightly attended. Today, these sessions are much more popular. Given the trends we’re seeing, I think SQL Server professionals have a 5 year window to be comfortable helping in both worlds. In general I’m not worried about SQL Server professionals who are resistant to this shift. The market will speak for itself, and DBAs and Developers will then move with the market. Another major factor is the push for skills in data science and artificial intelligence. This too will influence what it means to be a SQL Server professional over the next few years.

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

Joe: I think the top 25% DBAs can hold on to their traditional role for many years to come. I do see the “average” DBA role as we know it looking very different in a few years – and there will be a tipping point where it will take more energy to find purely traditional DBA work versus learning how to also provide value in a hybrid world. There are so many interesting avenues to explore, so I think if you’re curious and like to learn new things you’ll be fine and you’ll have work to do for many years to come. When you’re not sure which path to pursue, I recommend you pay attention to business and developer pain points. If you make life easier for others and help them achieve their goals, you’ll have a seat at the table.

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

Joe: I’d say it would be from 2009 to 2011 when I was the acting Program Manager for the SQL Microsoft Certified Master program. It was “acting PM” because my formal role was as a full time SQL Premier Field Engineer during that time with a customer workload – but on the side I managed the certification program and then would take a few weeks on the campus for the management of the event and exams. The MCM community – which to me includes the aspiring candidates, certified folks and instructors, were (and are) incredible and it was such a unique life experience. While I’m proud of my part in the broader MCM story, I also am sad about it. The program was very expensive and I was warned in no uncertain terms it would be shut down unless we made some big changes. In reaction to this, we took steps to scale the program and reduce candidate costs, but I think it was too late. I was grateful that we received a wave of very worthy new MCMs before the program was shut down.

People like challenges and something tough to aspire to. I acknowledge that “cloud speed” may make such a program difficult to sustain from a business perspective. I don’t work in the certification space anymore, but I still keep an eye on it as I think it has its place as a forcing function for learning beyond what your current position may demand. The Microsoft Professional Program, while very different in format and scope from MCM, seems to be getting a positive reception. I hope that program continues to evolve and expand.

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

Joe: Of all the non-technical books – my favorite by far is “I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54” by Robert Graves, as well as the follow-up, “Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina.” It is the best historical fiction I’ve ever read and an effective study on the perils of corrupt, cruel and insane leaders.

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?

Joe: My philosophy is as follows… Look at where your interests and motivations are and where they intersect with market demand. That intersection is where you should unapologetically cultivate your skills. Yes, this means filtering out several subjects. And yes, it means you won’t know everything beyond that scope – but being the full breadth-and-depth expert for all things SQL Server ended years ago.

Also, remember there will also always be people who know more than you. That should keep us all humble – and gives you permission to keep asking questions and learning new things.

One last point on this subject; with SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, be prepared to “re-learn” over time. There is so much content that it doesn’t hurt to revisit old topics that you think you may already understand deeply. We can forget “first principles” or may have misunderstood aspects of a concept the first time around. Revisit the fundamentals periodically.

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 :)

Joe: Adaptive Query Processing of course! I’m a PM on the Query Processing team – so I couldn’t be more biased. The QP team is just getting started though, so stay tuned.

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?

Joe: Based on recent discussions at the SQL Clinic at PASS Summit this year, I’d say Query Store. Some are worried about the overhead – but I think for most, this fear is unfounded. We haven’t posted specific overhead numbers on this, but you can measure this in your own prod-like environment if you have a representative workload to replay. Query Store is beneficial in so many ways. Query Store would have saved me hundreds of hours of troubleshooting time over the early years of my career had this feature been released earlier. If you have it enabled and actively collecting telemetry, don’t forget to use it.

Interview – Tim Ford

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: Tim Ford (b | t): Tim Ford

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

Tim: My bet is definitely on the Cloud. The Cloud-First methodology has been in place for a couple of cycles of releases for Microsoft SQL Server now and I don’t see that changing. It’s been beneficial to both Microsoft in terms of revenue and leadership in the Cloud and it’s boded well for SQL Server Professionals because we’re seeing more stable releases of the “box product” because of the vetting in Azure before releasing to non-cloud production. That means it’s ultimately benefiting anyone who works secondarily with SQL Server and anyone using the product.

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

Tim: There will always be a place for “traditional” SQL Server DBAs but don’t be surprised if some day down the road their role is similar to those COBOL developers that are still out there. Any IT role is in a constant state of flux. Look back at what a “traditional” DBA was doing 5 or 10 years ago compared to now and it’s changed but slowly. Expect that continued rate of change. Those interested in jumping into newer alternatives have nothing but opportunities in front of them. They just need to be proactive with learning those skills and getting their name out there.

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

Tim: That is a difficult question since I jumped right into volunteerism at my first PASS Summit back in 2002. Having had roles in developing the PASS Virtual Groups, SQLSaturday, and outreach to the Developer audience. I’m really looking forward to the contributions I’ve yet to make to the SQL Community – specifically the PASS association members – in my new role as Executive Vice President of Marketing that I step into on January 1. Likewise the writing I’ve done for various websites aimed at the novice DBA has been challenging but extremely rewarding. Ultimately, I think I’m most proud of what I’ve done with building SQL Cruise – now known as Tech Outbound. It’s been a way for me to provide a training/conference model that has not been offered before and is still unique to the Microsoft Data Platform audience. We Data Professionals have a stressful work structure and are constant learners. SQL Cruise/Tech Outbound allows for that training with Thought Leaders in the areas of performance tuning, configuration, BI, Data Science, Power BI, and now developer topics such as .Net, C#, R, and Python while also enjoying down time in exotic locations and networking with peers; all while bringing your family along to join you when not in class. The success stories of former “cruisers” I’ve witnessed has shown that I’ve made a positive difference in the careers and lives of others and that is an amazing feeling!

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

Tim: It’s funny. I used to read all the time. Then I wrote a technical book (Performance Tuning with Dynamic Management Objects with Louis Davidson) and I soured on reading. It takes a lot for me to get into a book anymore but when I do I tend to get swept up in suspense novels and in the case of Jim Butcher’s Dresen Files, urban sci-fi. So that series is highly recommended as well as anything by John Rollins in his Sigma Force series are what tends to capture and hold my attention. Right now I’m in the process of wrapping up my 200 hour certification as a Certified Yoga Trainer so most reading right now is all about anatomy, meditation, and Ayurveda. As a Data Pro I definitely find meditation and mindfulness a tool I use to keep myself calm in high-pressure situations in the office (and as a parent!)

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?

Tim: Do I think it’s wise? I think that any time you can expand your knowledge base into other areas will always make you more valuable. If you can find areas to scale to that are of interest to you then all the better. The more interested you are in a topic the better you’ll be at it because it will hold your attention and pull you in to learn deeper about it. You can have 20 years of experience in a discipline but if you’ve only worked with a narrow focus of topics in that area then you’re not going to be as attractive to new opportunities than someone who has worked across a broad range of areas in your profession over only 5 years. I definitely recommend growing one’s knowledge base.

Interview – Andy Mallon

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: Andy Mallon (b | t): Andy Mallon

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

Andy: The cloud is here to stay. Over the next five years, it is absolutely going to be used by more people in more ways. Not everyone will have their databases running in the cloud, but aspects of our infrastructure will continue to move into the cloud. Part of our job as data professionals is to help determine what technologies and features we use, what the infrastructure looks like, etc.

Five years ago, that primarily referred to hardware purchases, virtual vs physical, Standard vs Enterprise, and selecting from the features that came in the box. Five years ago, Windows Azure (as it was called at the time) was still pretty novel and wasn’t on the radar for most people to use in that selection process.

Now, Azure is starting to creep into the real-life architecture decisions that we are making. Companies large and small are using the cloud for DR, for elasticity, for novel services, and for massive computing power. In the past year, I’ve worked with both a 100-person company and a 15,000-person company who are both making major investments in the cloud.

Five years from now, I think virtually every company will be looking to use the cloud in some fashion or another. It might not be necessary to be an expert at the cloud, but everyone will need to be familiar with it. We’ll need to be able to know when to use the cloud, and we’ll need to be able to keep up when our employers decide that they are ready to use specific cloud services, and we’re expected to help implement and maintain those systems.

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

Andy: The SQL Server DBA role is constantly changing. For example, hardware advances (faster, more powerful, cheaper) have moved the line when it comes to performance tuning. Hardware configurations with lots of RAM & all-flash SANs are more forgiving today than when I started working with SQL Server.

Things are going to continue to change. The skills that are important today may not be important tomorrow. There may be new skills that we need tomorrow that we don’t yet have. However, the job of DBA isn’t going away. DBAs will still be around to watch over databases, backups, high availability, and disaster recovery.

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

Andy: Earlier this year, I was awarded the Microsoft MVP Award for the Data Platform. It isn’t the award itself that I am proud, of, but what the award represents. The award recognizes not only my expertise with SQL Server, but also that by doing what I love, I am having a positive impact on the SQL Server Community. I’ve only been blogging & speaking for a few years, but I absolutely love doing those things. It’s been great to be able to do something I love and know that I’m helping others.

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

Andy: Most of my reading is technical or current events (I’m a total news junkie!). But I absolutely love Stephen King. He recently wrote a trilogy of books that was really great: “Mr Mercedes“, “Finders Keepers“, and “End of Watch“.

Another of my all-time favorite books is “Stolen Lives: Twenty years in a desert jail“, a memoir by Malika Oufkir detailing her childhood living in the royal court in Morocco, to being a political prisoner with her family.

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?

Andy: SQL Server and the Microsoft Data Platform is simply too vast for anyone to understand it all. Everyone will always have large chunks of the Data Platform that are unknown. THAT’S OK. I have literally never touched SSAS in my career, and I’m quite OK with that. Nobody should feel like they need to know everything–It’s much more important to understand what the limits to your knowledge are.

I also feel that if you’ve been using SQL Server for a long time, then you’re an expert at something. That “something” might be very narrow, or somewhat general–but your battle scars have helped you learn some aspect of SQL Server in detail. As a DBA, the best skills we have are the ones that we’ve learned through real-life experience. Embrace your experience, and build on that experience as you try to learn new things. Ultimately, your experience is the best tool you have for growing your own career.

Interview – Parikshit Savjani

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: Parikshit Savjani (b | t): Parikshit Savjani

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?

ParikshitShort answer: Yes.

Long answer: Every company today, needs software infrastructure to have a website, an app or a digital presence to be discovered since most consumers today look for products and services on the internet, marketplace or e-commerce site. To get feedback, reviews, telemetry, social media  pulse, gain insights and to predict, again,  you need software and infrastructure to ingest, process, transform analyze, predict and report this high volume, variety and velocity of data. LOB applications like CRM, Finance, HR, document repositories are all software services but doesn’t need be proprietary. While every company needs these software services to compete with others in the digital world, it doesn’t make any sense for them to build or maintain these services and datacenters themselves ground up since it is a very high cost to them with minimal value.

A good analogy here would be, if you are a consultant, as part of your job, you need to travel to different places to deliver services to your customers. Now, a consultant doesn’t buy airplanes or hotels but rather rents a seat in an airplane and books a room in hotel for few nights to do their job. If they are paid handsomely, they might consider a faster flight (better performance) to save time or first class (better capacity) but they will still prefer to “pay as you go” rather than buying it upfront. The same logic applies to all small and large businesses. They would like to invest and research in their core competencies and move or offload their mundane data/IT services to cloud. The transformation may take some time but it has started and is happening at a healthy pace so if you are not part of this wave, you will miss out a lot.

I also feel this might be an opportunity for some of the experienced professionals to lead the transformation since the services by themselves are no different, only the platform changes. By virtue of having worked on these services, they can become SMEs and guide the engineering/software development teams in right direction to add value and guide businesses to embrace cloud.

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

Parikshit: I don’t see it eliminated but I expect it to change into to a more of DevOps role. The administration part of the role like taking backups or repeated mundane tasks will be going away but performance troubleshooting, query tuning, developing and planning automation for standard deployment, jobs, creating runbooks for alerts, capacity planning will remain.  I already see these changes in some organizations.

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

Parikshit: Developing Performance Baselining Reports.  :) Also, I love to blog in Tiger team blog and I have got some great positive feedback for some of my posts which makes me feel proud and motivates me to blog more.

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

Parikshit: Not Applicable – I have a 2.5 year old toddler who loves to keep me pretty busy outside work. :) On a serious note, I am not a books person. I am more of a visual guy who likes to see or learn it, by doing it myself. For entertainment, I enjoy movies (Bollywood preferred with lots of dance and drama ;) For education, I love to read blogs, whitepaper and video presentations or anything which I can put to practice immediately.

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?

Parikshit: It depends :) on what excites you the most and what you aspire to become. Both have their merits and market in the industry. If you are a breadth guy, you can have wider scope and become an architect who can put together a solution which can be implemented or operationalized by depth guys. If you are going in-depth, you should be smart enough to see and understand the demand and roadmap of that product or technology. If you are investing your time and career on a dead product, it might be waste of your time no matter how good you are at it. Also if you go deep, be really good at it since that will be your value prop and differentiator from the rest.

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

Parikshit: Tiger team was born on the principle to make the customers and community successful on in-market releases of SQL Server. So, if you have deep passion and knowledge of SQL Server coupled with a mindset to make the customers and community successful, you should consider yourself as a good candidate. The role also requires strong business and inter-personal skills to achieve that goal, scale, support and run multi-billion dollar product like SQL Server. You need not be an insider to be part of the Tiger team but the deep knowledge, passion, customer obsessed attitude, strong business skills are key ingredients.

 

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.

Interview – Monica Rathbun

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: Monica Rathbun (b | t): Monica Rathburn

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?

Monica: Absolutely, if you are not taking the cloud seriously and learning all you can you are missing the mark. This is something that is not going away and demand for cloud knowledge is only going to grow. I think companies are really embracing and taking advantage of the DR capabilities the could brings, as well as not having to purchase and maintain hardware. If you are looking to learn about the cloud, make sure you not only understand the mechanics but also fully understand the pricing models. Don’t over allocate your environments to prevent a sticker shock scenarios.

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

Monica: Not at all, there will always need to be a caretaker of the data. Companies will need to have someone on staff that understands it, just because there are cloud services doesn’t mean the need is no longer there.

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

Monica: My hope is that I am encouraging others by sharing my passion for SQL Server and being a positive influence. I am proud to have been able to mentor some and help find others jobs or new career paths. I really enjoy helping build the SQL Server community and when I see individuals that I helped begin to excel, I get excited.

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

Monica: Uggh this is a hard one, I mostly read fiction books for fun as a brain break. As far as technical books the last one I read was A Let Her Finish Series, Voices from the Data Platform written by some incredible women in the SQL Community. I highly recommend it and I am looking forward to more from the series.

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?

Monica: I am a jack of all trades, as a lone dba for 15 years I had to be. I am not ever going to be an expert in anything, I have strengths in some things more than others, but I think keeping your skill set wide is very important. I think we now work in an industry that is no longer just focused on the engine, because of this we need to ensure we as DBA’s keep expanding our skills as the industry does. I am not saying you must learn or dabble in all facets of the data platform, but make sure you go beyond the engine. Pick 3-4 other things you can expand on like SQL DB in Azure, SSIS, and Power BI.

Interview – Stacia Varga

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: Stacia Varga (b | t): Stacia Varga

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?

Stacia: I think projecting out the evolution of SQL Server even a couple of years from now, let alone 5 years, is difficult to do, given the more rapid pace of release cycles of the product along with changes in computing architectures both on-prem and in the cloud. I’m not sure I would say that the technology would be “more” cloud-focused, either. Instead, I think it’s safe to say that the ability to move between on-prem and the cloud will be more seamless because the trade-offs will not be due to feature differences between the platforms. In my opinion, marketplace demand will ultimately determine whether the cloud version should ever surpass the on-prem version of SQL Server in terms of features and functions.

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

Stacia: Much of the work I do (classroom training, video training, conference events, books, and mentoring my clients) revolves around helping people learn how to work with technology effectively. In many cases, people learn enough not only to solve a problem their organization is facing (which is very rewarding for me to be a part of), but they also are able to advance their careers. I’m very pleased when I hear of the positive impact my work has had on someone at a personal level. Of this group, some wind up with the confidence and the knowledge to contribute to the SQL Server community as well, and that makes me proudest of all.

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

Stacia: Taking this question at face value, I really can’t recommend non-technical/non-fiction to an audience I don’t know. I’m a consultant, so my stock answer… it depends. I’d ask an individual what topics they like, and then I could make a recommendation based on my experience! I have a wide variety of interests (too many according to my husband), so I’m sure I’d come up with something. As for technical books, I tend to focus on topics and authors related to the business intelligence and analytics aspects of the Microsoft data platform. Anything written by Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari, Chris Webb, Paul Turley, Dejan Sarka, and Jen Stirrup are the first to come to mind. I’ve also been reading books on data visualization theory, data science, R, Python, Hadoop, and big data in general.

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?

Stacia: This is a difficult question to answer because everyone’s circumstances in terms of opportunity and interests are different. There is no right or wrong answer here. I think everyone should have some familiarity with the various technologies – maybe not inch-deep level, but enough to understand where a technology fits into the stack, what it’s good for and what it’s not good for, what impact its use is going to have (for better or worse) on the overall architecture and/or database engine, etc. Is that half-inch or three-quarters? I don’t know. The key to career, in my opinion, is doing what you love and being of service to your team and your organization. If that means expanding your skills to cover other areas, go for it. If it means being the absolute best at one thing, go for it. And recognize that the answer changes over time and place.

Interview – Steve Jones

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: Steve Jones (b | t): Steve Jones

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?

Steve: SQL Server is advancing so rapidly, that I struggle to think where we might be five years from now. I certainly expect that we’ll have 4 more versions by 2022 and be on v18. With the pressure to add features to sell new versions, I expect Microsoft to both push the envelope of SQL Server with new concepts, but also add many more under-developed, unfinished, and perhaps abandoned features.

There will definitely be a greater cloud focus, with new concepts like Stretch DB that seek to build a hybrid approach. I’m not sure how much greater adoption we’ll see, as pricing and usefulness might limit adoption, as has happened with StretchDB.

I do expect a convergence of technologies, with more of the Cognitive Services being integrated into SQL Server, likely as function calls, and requiring some connection to Azure from your local instance. Again, there will be lots of concerns here, but many of the instances in a company might not contain any sensitive information and be used almost as application servers for some specific purpose.

I do think a more intelligent optimizer and additional tuning options will come from integrating a SQL Server database with the Azure cloud to make more recommendations, perhaps even ways that queries might be better constructed while returning the same results.

Lastly, I think that some of the CosmosDB technologies will merge with SQL Server and I’d expect that we will see (in Azure first), easy connections to consume or query other APIs in SQL Server. I’m actually surprised that MongoDB wasn’t included ahead of graph in SQL Server 2017, but I expect it to come.

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

Steve: I don’t want to waffle, but yes and no. The traditional DBA that needs to manage a certain number of instances and ensure they perform well, with 90% of their time spent on administrative tasks is likely to diminish. These days many sysadmins are becoming more capable of building SQL Server instances on demand, using tools like Chef, Puppet, and DSC. At the same time, many development tools are taking over some of the complexity of building applications against SQL Server.

This doesn’t mean either of these groups can do a better job than a focused DBA, but there’s a bar of value for the job. I think far too many DBAs aren’t focused on the value they provide and instead focus on doing a job that’s needed. As the need might erode, or the value over some other tool/framework/person diminishes, I can see that companies might choose to not hire additional DBAs, not replace DBAs that leave, or even look to move DBAs to new jobs.

That being said, many companies are very slow to change and I expect there will be traditional DBAs in many companies in five years if they have them today.

My concern is that far too many DBAs are complacent today and not improving or adding skills that may be important if they need to change employers.

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

Steve: I’m most proud of building a community at SQLServerCentral. I constantly hear from people how the site has helped them at some point in their careers. While I’ve written and spoken many times, it’s the collective community coming together at SQLServerCentral that has really touched many others. I’m proud and honored to have been a the steward of the site for so many years.

A close second would be the creation of SQL Saturday. That was originally Andy Warren’s idea, one that I wasn’t confident would succeed, but it’s grown in a way I never foresaw. I’m glad I supported Andy and I try to continue to support the franchise today under the PASS brand.

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

Steve: I read a lot. For a few years I used to track books I read and managed to complete over 100 in a year a few times. That became too cumbersome, especially during international travel when I might finish a book or two on a plane and forget to write a short review. My interests vary, though I lean towards more fiction as a release and break from a busy life.

For technical books, I’m reading R in a Nutshell now, which isn’t a great read. It’s tough to go through and delves more into the technical aspects of the language aspects rather than teaching more practical uses. Still, it’s a good background.

My technical recommendations would be:

For other books, I think a variety is good. I’ll give a couple recommendations in different genres that people might enjoy:

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?

Steve: I dislike this view of your career, or really much of the world around us. Things are more complex and nuanced than doing x or y. I see my children, and many others, often viewing an issue or choice as between two ends of a spectrum when there are many choices between those ends.

Between being a mile wide/inch deep and inch wide/mile deep there are many other places. I would say that you should view your career in two ways. First, as I hear in yoga constantly (often as I struggle to maintain some posture), impermanence is a part of our world. Making a decision about what to learn or improve in your career isn’t a lifelong decision. Don’t be paralyzed by the weight of a decision on what to learn. Whether you choose to focus more on the engine or expand to ETL/SSIS, you can change your mind.

Second, I would recommend that you continue to move forward, but try to evaluate what you’re learning periodically to determine if it’s a good fit for you. The fit can be that this technology advances your career (or gives you options) or that you enjoy it. Either one of those is a win for you.

To give you a better answer, I’d aim to do two things at any one time. One, deepen some aspect of what you know well. I think I know quite a bit about the engine, but I also realize there is a lot I don’t know. I’m not even sure of the volume of what I don’t know. It’s possible there’s more I need to learn than I know now.

Second, I always think gaining knowledge about new areas is a good idea. I’ll never know if I find some technology interesting. I also never know when some problem might be related to what I know. I’ve found that my knowledge of networking, storage, C, email protocols, and more have helped me solve a problem whose issue wasn’t related.

Andy Warren and I once debated the idea of learning and how much can you learn in a year. We decided that a focused individual, working full time, could likely pick up 2 skills in a year with 100 hours of work. Most of us could manage 50 hours and one “advanced intermediate” level of skill if we try. More than that is tough, but possible if you are really motived.

Above all, strive for balance. We work to live, not live to work.

Interview – Pedro Lopes

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: Pedro Lopes (b | t): Pedro Lopes

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?

Pedro: Definitely will – the cloud is here to stay. PaaS and SaaS models add a lot of flexibility to business and operations, and the elasticity to adjust to volatile workloads is unparalleled in cloud as compared to an on-premise data center. The 1st wave is non-critical workloads moving to the cloud, but we are already seeing trends of customers wanting to use Azure for critical workloads, namely now that cloud vendors (namely Azure) are compliant with more security certifications. Azure Managed Instance is also step in this direction, allowing a database layer of an app to just lift and shift to Azure maintaining the concept and manageability of a SQL Server instance.

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

Pedro: Traditional, as in running backups and such? Yes it will be eliminated, and that’s a good thing. Those are repetitive tasks that should be automated anyway. However, the role of a DBA as a shepherd of the database service, devoting skills to performance tuning, security management is far from over. And with new capabilities coming to the engine (R, PolyBase, engine now running on Linux) that require integration, a DBA role is centerstage in this regard. So in summary, a DBA won’t get replaced, if a DBA keeps updating its skills to continue to be relevant. Isn’t it the same in any job?

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

Pedro: personally, because it is rooted in one of the most recurrent topics in the community, is the work we’ve been doing to make query troubleshooting so much easier, with all the showplan diagnostics we’ve been adding (link) – and we’re are not done :)

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

Pedro: Technical books, I still keep the Internals series at hand. But the tech world is evolving at a pace tech books don’t remain relevant for long. For example I’ve been dedicating some of my time to making sure SQL Server online documentation keeps updated and relevant – it’s like writing a book that you need to go back to every couple months. Most of internals stuff is available at this quick URL.

Non-technical, I’ve just started on What Happened by Hillary Clinton, and I’d recommend Hit Refresh by Satya also.

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?

Pedro: Very difficult to answer: remain vigilant, remain relevant. I just had a good friend and colleague move from a role where he was solely dedicated to Storage Engine, to a more architectural role where he needs to gain deal with breadth rather than depth. What I mean is, don’t be oblivious to the world racing by you, at the very least, if you are deep in Engine like you say, make sure Azure, BI and such are not completely strange to you.