Cleveland DBA

SQL Server administration in Cleveland, OH

My last blog post

Here at cledba.wordpress.com, that is.

I’m very excited to say that this blog is moving!  Beginning next week, I will be blogging at ColleenMorrow.com.  New address, new look, same awesome content!  So update your feeds/bookmarks/etc., and I hope to see you there.

The new site is online now, so go check it out and let me know what you think.

Why are you still here?  GO!

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Professional Development | | Leave a comment

Goals

Most people set goals in January.  It’s a brand new calendar year full of possibilities.  They join gyms.  They quit smoking.  I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, personally.  And I don’t think goal-setting should be confined to January.  For me, in my professional life, July makes more sense.  I’ve had my annual review at work, I’ve taken stock of the past year, and it’s time to start focusing on what I want the next 12 months to look like.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for the coming year.  I wanted goals that would challenge me. Even if I might not necessarily achieve them, they’d push me to work harder and get outside my comfort zone.  I debated whether to publish them here.  What if I didn’t reach them?  But in the end I decided the added accountability of making them public would outweigh any embarrassment I might feel in the end.  So here they are, in no particular order.

Certification

I actually debated whether to make this a goal or not, mainly because I’ve wondered about the value of certifications for an experienced DBA.  However, in the end, I figured at the very least it would help me round out my knowledge base and get more exposure to those facets of SQL Server I don’t work with regularly.  So by next July I’d like to have my MCITP Database Administrator.  In order to accomplish this, I plan to spend 2 hours a week studying for the exams.  Having this blog is also a great help in solidifying my knowledge.  If I’m gonna write about it, I better know about it.

Present at a SQL Saturday

Given the fact that I’ve never presented anywhere, this one is a bit lofty, I admit.  But hey, I said I wanted a challenge, right?  So far I’ve gotten the ball rolling by volunteering to present at a developer’s forum where I work.  And I’ve started bouncing around ideas for a presentation at our local user group.  I think my biggest hurdle here is my thinking that I need to present on something no one has done before, that it needs to be super-technical, and that I need to be an expert in the subject. When, in fact, probably none of these is true.  So I need to start looking more at topics that interest me, perhaps even how I used feature X to solve problem Y.

Increase this blog’s readership

I started this blog back in February.  I averaged 1 hit per day that month.  Last month I averaged 14.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad anyone is reading.  But, obviously, I’d like more people to be reading.  This is my main outlet, after all.  So, I plan on doing a few things to help get me there.  I want to blog more regularly, at least twice a week.  I was doing pretty well with this until the past few weeks when life and work just got away from me.  I need to remember that not every post has to be a thesis on SQL Server, it’s ok to have quick, concise posts mixed in.  I also need to take a look at how this blog is reflecting my personality and what I can do to make it more… well… me.  So hopefully you’ll be seeing some changes around here.  Do I have a particular number in mind for this goal?  Not really.  I don’t think the number itself is important, it’s the work I put into it that matters.

So there they are, my goals for 2011-2012.  Happy new year!

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Professional Development | | Leave a comment

Patience

Patience. Patience is a virtue that I’ve been struggling with this week. I’ve been working with a person who adamantly believes that the SQL Server backup process locks tables in the database and will therefore cause his application to fail. I explained that this simply isn’t the case. I quoted numerous reputable sources. I offered examples from his own application. I ran a backup concurrent to his application, successfully. I walked through every line of the code, on the off chance it was doing something wacky. It isn’t. I ran tests specifically designed to cause the blocking he insists will happen. No blocking. No failures.

And yet, none of this mattered. He believes what he believes.

Why should I care?

Paul Randal wrote about ignorance yesterday. As he pointed out, we’re all ignorant. There are vast quantities of things I am ignorant about. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, ignorance is one thing, willful ignorance in the face of all evidence to the contrary is something else. This guy (the first guy, not Paul) is not a SQL Server expert, and I don’t expect him to be. But what I do expect from a professional is the capacity to acknowledge that there are others who might know more than you about some things. And you might do well to hear what they have to say.

I left the conversation hanging. As I said, my patience was wearing thin, and I certainly didn’t want the exchange to devolve into something I’d regret later. But, I would love to hear from some of you out there on this. Even if it’s to tell me I’m being a judgemental ass.

Really, how do you deal with situations like this?

July 1, 2011 Posted by | General, Professional Development | Leave a comment

What I’m working on

This has been a somewhat scattered week.  As I alluded to earlier, my mind has been pulled in all different directions after a week of training and listening to presentations.  I really have to work on writing my ideas down somewhere, as I have them, and getting them out of my head until I’m ready to deal with them.  At the moment, I’m into a few projects.

Automating development database creation

As a takeaway to the “4 hour DBA” session this weekend, I’ve decided to create a way to allow developers to create their own databases/logins in our Dev environment.  Rather than grant them all db_creator and security_admin and, well, create the Wild Wild West, I’m working with one of our developers to create a web form front end that will pass required parameters to a stored procedure.  The procedure will check for the existence of the database, and the existence of the requested login.  If the login exists, the developer will need to provide the correct password.  An application name will also be required, and will be logged along with the database name, db_owner, creation date, and the developer’s login.  One of the biggest problems we have is databases in Dev that are “forgotten”.  A developer requests it and somewhere down the line everyone forgets about it and what it was for to begin with and I’m left asking everyone “do you know anything about database X?”  Not fun.  And why me, you might ask?  Because I’m the one who developed and maintains our SQL Server inventory database.  Which leads me to…

Upgrading our SQL Server inventory to 2008

A long time ago I wrote a few SSIS packages that go to each SQL Server instance and collect different information and store it in a central repository.  This is in SSIS 2005 currently.  It also resides in our Dev environment.  Leaving it in Dev was fine for a long time, the DBAs were the only ones who used the information.  But recently I’ve opened it up to other users who were looking for that information, and I’ve published some MS Reporting Services reports for our Windows Admin group to reference when they’re scheduling outages, etc.  So, it needs to go to Production.  And if I’m doing that, I might as well migrate it to SSIS 2008.  And if I’m doing that, I might as well take another look and see if there’s a better way to do this.

Preparing a presentation

Another thing on my plate is preparing my very first presentation.  At work we have monthly developer forum presentations on a variety of subjects, and I volunteered to present on SQL Server features that developers could be using but probably aren’t.  (Note to self: Need to come up with a snappier title.)  I’m planning on covering Service Broker, database snapshots, and data compression.  All topics that I’ve covered here and I feel comfortable enough with to present to my coworkers.  It’s not going to happen for a couple of months, but I really need to start organizing my thoughts and making notes.

There are other things I’m doing, of course, routine tasks that are simply part of the job. But these are the bigger ones I’m focusing on now.  The ones that I’ll be working on when my instant messenger status changes to “Do Not Disturb.”  🙂

June 16, 2011 Posted by | General, Professional Development | | Leave a comment

The problem with SQL Saturday…

The problem with user conferences is that they usually leave me with a slight case of ADD the following Monday.  So much stuff, I have to try it all NOW!!!  SQL Saturday #75 this past weekend in Columbus was no exception.  There were some really good presentations and for a couple time slots it was tough choosing which one to attend.  Here’s a very brief recap of the sessions I went to.

Baseline Basics – Erin Stellato (blog|twitter):  This was a really informative presentation, a lot of information.  I’ve done baselining in the past using Perfmon and, more recently, Powershell.  But the best part of this presentation was the second half where Erin discussed analytical methods.  I’m looking forward to checking out PAL (Performance Analysis of Logs).  In fact, I’m running a Perfmon baseline right now just so I can check it out.  There’s also ClearTrace  for analyzing Profiler traces.

SANs and SQL Server – Kevin Boles (twitter):  I really need to get more involved in the hardware configuration of our database servers.  Ours is an environment where the “SAN guys” only want to know how much disk you need and where you want it attached.  The DBAs don’t have much more input beyond that.  That needs to change.

Build your own SQL Server Cloud – Sarah Barela (blog|twitter):  Externally hosted clouds didn’t allow Sarah the kind of control she wanted over the environment, so she decided to build her own.  In this session she provided a somewhat high-level overview of what the requirements were for her cloud and how she accomplished them using Hyper-V, mirroring, resource governor etc.

SQL Server Partitioning – Kevin Boles:  A good overview of partitioning, some best practices, and some shortcomings.  To date we have not used partitioning here, but this is good information for our datawarehouse team.

The 4-hour DBA – Sarah Barela:  This one was about automating the tasks you perform regularly and also partly about letting go of some of the control over your environment.  I know, that last part can make a DBA squirm.  I was hoping Sarah would provide more concrete examples and/or scripts, so I was a little disappointed, but it did get me thinking about the tasks I personally hate doing and how I can automate some of them.

WIT Lunch – Sarah Barela, Jen Myers (blog|twitter), Erin Stellato and Jes Borland (blog|twitter):  This was a very interesting discussion on how to encourage more young people (not just girls/women) to consider a career in technology.  Good stuff.

But I think the best part of this SQL Saturday was meeting and speaking with such wonderful people.  There was a discussion after the event about how supportive the SQL Server user community is and how unique they are (or seem to be) in that respect.  Where else do you have people giving up their personal time, be it evenings at user group meetings, or whole Saturdays (whole weekends for some out-of-towners) to help their colleagues improve their skills?  It’s fantastic!

June 13, 2011 Posted by | Professional Development | , | Leave a comment

Stuff I learned today – XML and CLR

Well, to say I “learned” about XML and CLR is a bit disingenuous.  More accurately, the instructor went over XML and CLR.  But to be honest, I know so little about either subject that it was a bit like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.  But anyway, we covered it and it gave me some ideas as to how they can be used, so I’ll have more to offer the next time a developer comes to me asking “How can I…”  And that was kind of the point of picking this class in the first place.

In other news I’m heading down to Columbus this weekend for SQL Saturday #75.  I’m looking forward to some good sessions to cap off this Week ‘o SQL Learnin’.

Have a great weekend folks!

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Features, General, Professional Development | , , | Leave a comment

Women In Technology

You’re probably aware that March is Women’s History Month, and even the SQL Server community is celebrating.  Here are a few of the events for this month:

SQL University – Women in Technology Week

If you haven’t already checked out SQL University, you really should.  For one thing, it’s free.  For another, it’s community driven.  Bloggers are spending their time to provide you with a quality SQL Server education.  And did I mention it’s free?  This week the focus is on Women in Technology (WIT).

24 Hours of PASS

Another free (!) resource, 24-hours of PASS is a 24-hour blitz of webcasts on SQL Server topics from database administration to business intelligence to development.  This time around all of the sessions are being presented by women.

SQL Saturdays

Depending on where you are, there may be a SQL Saturday going on in your area this month.  SQL Saturdays are generally free (there may be a small fee for lunch), and are great ways to learn and get involved in the SQL Server community.  And most of them have a WIT panel/discussion.

Bloggers

Take some time this month to check out some of the fine women (including yours truly) blogging about SQL Server and all things geek.  I’ve listed a few on my new blogroll to get you started.

Now get out there and celebrate that geeky woman that makes your life and work easier.  Maybe bring her some bourbon.  I hear she likes that.

March 10, 2011 Posted by | General, Professional Development | , , , | 1 Comment

The obligatory first post

This past weekend I attended SQL Saturday here in sunny Cleveland.  And while there were probably more fun ways to spend a Saturday, I have to say I’m very glad I went.  There were some great sessions by Steve Jones, Thomas LaRock, Grant Fritchey, and Jeremiah Peschka and I learned a ton of information.

However, I would say that 2 things stand out as the most important lessons I came away with.

1) sp_whoisactive.  I don’t know where I’ve been.  Under a rock, apparently.  This stored procedure by Adam Mechanic is AWESOME.  Period.  I downloaded it this morning and within seconds was able to provide my users with the exact SQL from a couple of reports that were killing our system.  Out of the box, this procedure lists details about all active sessions, including the time since the last batch, the spid, full SQL text, login, CPU utilization, tempdb usage, disk and usage, and a lot more.  I haven’t even explored all the options yet.  This is my new sp_who, my new activity monitor, my new [insert name of pretty third party tool here].  If you haven’t checked it out yet, do it now!

2) This one is a bit embarrassing.  I haven’t updated my resume since… ok I’m not going to say exactly when.  Suffice it to say it’s been years.  Years.  There, I said it.  My head hangs in shame.  Why so long?  I don’t really have a good explanation.  I’ve been at the same employer for over 10 years.  I’m not looking to leave at this point.  I realize that just because I have no intention of leaving, that doesn’t mean my employer might not have other ideas.  And the longer I leave it, the more difficult the task becomes.  Key points get forgotten.  So the second important (and probably the *most* important) thing I took away from SQL Saturday is that I have to make more of an effort in building and maintaining a “brand” for myself, which includes keeping my resume up to date.
Which leads me to this blog.  This is more for me than anyone else.  A place to document things I know, things I learn, questions I face, and maybe even help someone else.  And this is my first post, done.  Glad we got that out of the way.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Professional Development | , , | Leave a comment