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SQL Server 2005 Roadshows

By Robert Pearl,

Ruminations from the Road – Reporting from the NYC SQL Server 2005 Roadshow.

New York – April 21, 2005 – It was fine sunny day in the Big Apple, as I grabbed my bag to hit the road for the Roadshow (link) that has come to town in my fair city.  As I headed to the door my wife taps me on the shoulder, saying, “Wait, I have some vases that I want appraised.”  “No, honey, not that Roadshow, I’m going to the SQL Server 2005 Roadshow!”  And off I went to immerse myself in an entire day of all things to come for SQL Server, as we finally approach Microsoft’s long-awaited release of SQL 2005, f/k/a Yukon.

 In addition to the Main Event, several well-known software vendors setup shop at the Partner Pavilion, and many industry executives were on hand to give presentations and even answer the audience’s questions.  Indeed, it truly was a full day of SQL Server 2005 technical content presented by SQL Server experts from vendors such as DevelopMentor, Hitachi Consulting, and Scalability Experts, as well as third-party tools and solutions from Microsoft and technical representatives of BMC Software, HP, and Imceda. Let me tell you firsthand, that every moment spent there was worth it, and I fully enjoyed it on a personal and professional level.

As the Roadshow wraps up its travel itinerary in the U.S. and heads across the Atlantic for its European tour, there are still a few more venues here that you can attend. Chicago is SOLD OUT!  If you are in Texas (the Houston and Dallas area), May 17th and 19th are still open – I encourage all you Texans to mosey on down there.

The festivities were kicked off with an introduction to the speakers and sponsors, such as PASS, who we would see more of throughout the day, and then were presented with the Keynote Session (the main ballroom of course :-), discussing the innovations and evolution of SQL Server 2005 into a comprehensive data management platform.  The stage was set for the rest of the seminar, promising that it will deliver increased scalability, availability, and security to enterprise data and analytical applications, as well as a complete overview of best practices for planning to migrate to SQL Server 2005.

The agenda entailed three main tracks, the Administrative Session, the Development Session, and the BI Session.  I attended the Administrative Session, and the only complaint I had was there was no real way or opportunity to attend all three-breakout sessions.  Sure, you could mix and match, (jump the tracks),  but at the risk of missing another interesting one.  And so, I chose the admin route, where the question on every dba’s mind,  “What will it Take to Migrate to SQL Server 2005?” was answered in extraordinary detail.  We then moved on to the next session, where we were taken, literally, for an 90 minute tour “Under the Hood” of the SQL Server 2005 engine, and learned about its enhancements, its changes, and how it will impact our decision to upgrade.  Finally, after some well-deserved lunch and perusing at the pavilion, we were schooled in “How to build highly available systems with SQL Server 2005”.  The presenter here, Raj Gill, CTO of Scalability Experts, Inc.was the tops and a very talented and professional technical speaker.  He kept the audience on their toes, awake, and full of enthusiasm.  I was impressed not only with his speaking skills, but his technical acumen.  We were fully engaged with his presentation, and the audience participation was incredible – at times he even had to cut us short, just so he can get through the slide presentation. 

Speaking of presentations, we had some in-between ones from our friendly software vendors, touching on timely topics such as how the role of the database administrator is changing, thoughts on the relevance of 64-bit and Itanium with respect to Business Intelligence (BI), and the very on-topic advances in High Availability, such as Log Shipping technology in SQL Server 2005 and its implications for disaster recovery.  While I fully expected the marketing pitch for their respective product solutions to begin at any moment, they largely stayed on message and contributed to the overall Roadshow objectives, which was nicely complimented by their presentations.

To drill down on some of these, in discussing the changing role of the DBA, a subject that should generate intense interest for all database professionals looking to understand the shifting nature of their career track.  As the DBA role evolves, becoming more and more complex and hybrid, it might surprise many to learn that the change appears to be business-driven rather than technology driven.  So, as MS SQL 2005 itself emerges into a hybrid tool – a comprehensive end-to-end integrated business intelligence platform – so the DBA must adapt and take on several new job functions to support the evolving technology. (I call this new hybrid Super-DBA. :-)  

This means not only learning the ins and outs of SQL Server 2005 itself, but to have a broader understanding of the business in general.  Since in most companies it’s the business directives that drive the need for technology and not the other way around, understanding how the business works and how technology will serve these objectives, will undoubtedly make the DBA more valuable to the organization.  (I even think as the database administrator morphs into Super-DBA, the term DBA itself will become legacy).  If you wish to learn more about the “Value of the DBA”, the venerable Steve Jones of SSC offers an interesting perspective on this topic, in an article entitled the same name.  The good news here, as our speaker points out, is that even with the downward trend in IT-spending, companies are now focused on the clear ROI, where technology is seen as an investment, not just a cost center.  That in itself increases our value as DBA. 

Moving on to the next discussion, HP shared its thoughts on the relevance of the 64-bit platform for SQL Server and BI in the enterprise, and how your company’s infrastructure can benefit from its implementation. If you’d like to read my thoughts on BI, do take a look at the scribe about Analysis Services and what I dubbed 2005, the Year of BI.  

From multiple-instance sql database farms, to OLAP and large data warehouses, 64-bit will revolutionize the speed that data is processed, sliced, diced and delivered into the business and clients hands, not to mention the incredible gains for high availability, performance and scalability.  64-bit and the Itanium processor will have a huge impact on the enterprise database and architecture. For a bit more on the 64-bit platform, please see one of my previous articles appearing here on SSC, “A Bit About 64-bit

Our last in-between vendor presentation, which I saw as a warm-up for the BIG High Availability administration session, Douglas Chrystall, CTO of Imceda Software, a fine chap who’ve I had the pleasure in meeting, talked about the new innovations in High Availability, which include enhancements to SQL Server’s Log Shipping and the introduction to database mirroring.  The positive implications for Disaster Recovery will be enormous.  As the previous incarnation of Log Shipping, once considered the poor-man’s HA solution (even though only Enterprise Edition came with the nice LS wizard and GUI), was a manual fail-over process, where DBA intervention was required. (see “Value of a DBA” above :-) 

Database Mirroring can be set to fail-over and recover automatically.  Indeed, db mirroring offers a substantial increase in availability over standard log shipping, by maintaining a hot-standby server where changes are reflected real-time, and applications can recover quickly with minimal, if any, intervention.  (More on this neat new feature in my upcoming column.) 

One of the lighter moments of the Roadshow was the “Ask the Experts Panel Discussion” which was an assembled cast of technical experts and executives, from Microsoft and our other partner pavilion pundits.  In actuality, it became the “Stump the Panel” session, when one audience question after another went unanswered as the panel fell silent.  After several minutes though, the panel recovered, and started answering our questions in fine form once again.  We basically chalked up their temporary incapacitation to jet lag and fatigue from their previous Roadshow appearance in Boston.  (Well at least they produced the World-Series winner.) 

Indeed, as the NYC Roadshow came to a triumphant conclusion, and mingled a bit at the PASS User Group party, I was glad to attend this well-organized seminar, and be a part of the future of SQL Server 2005.  This grand gathering of DBA’s, developers, BI architects, modelers, IT managers and other industry folk was a smashing success. 

There was a lot of material to absorb from this Administration Session, and this piece is just an overview.  In my future follow-up articles, which I hope will be a multi-part series; I will dig down into each of the three major breakout sessions and bring you the much-needed details that you will need to know in planning to implement SQL 2005. 

In this article, I try to give you the readers a taste of what it was like attending such an event, as well as a summary of topics covered here by the presenters.  I highly recommend whenever and wherever possible, that all IT professionals attend one of these types of events, as it can be a worthwhile and satisfying experience.

Written by: Robert Pearl, President
Pearl Knowledge Solutions, Inc.


Copyright © 2005 - All Rights Reserved.

Note: Not to be reprinted or published without express permission of the author.

      When SQL is the Center of Your Universe!


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