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A Report from the PASS Community Summit 2005

By Christoffer Hedgate,

Right now, as I am writing this, I am on my way home to Sweden after visiting the PASS Community Summit 2005 in Grapevine, Texas. The guys at SqlServerCentral.com where so very kind to invite me as one of the authors here (if you are not writing yet, you should start right away, you might be invited next year!). I flew in on Tuesday, arriving during the afternoon with some time to relax in the outdoors pool (the temperature was around 100!) before the conference kicked off with the Welcome Reception at 6. During the flight I managed to read about 400 pages as well as browse through numerous blogs, Powerpoint presentations and more, mostly due to the fact that I was at the PDC two weeks earlier and the same movies where showing on the flight.

The reception was a pretty standard stand-up, eat and drink thing. There was some kind of quiz show going on but I didn't pay much attention since I ran into Alex (Haidong Ji), another of the regular authors here. Immediately after the welcome reception SSC had it's own reception/party, with gambling, prizes and all. Again, I did not pay much attention to the activities (none at all actually), since Alex and I met up with Kathi Kellenberger, Dale Elizabeth Corey and a lot of other people. (You might be noticing a theme here - even though the content of the sessions at PASS is great, it's really the networking with all the people that is the best part). After the party I ended up in the bar with the SSC-guys and eventually Jamie Thomson, Noel Diaz (noeld from the forums - if the name by itself is unrecognized as it was to me) and a whole band of British guys (and girl). The night ended with some weird discussion regarding SQLCLR with Christian Wade, but due to the time of day (or night rather), a long trip still making itself known and a lot of beer I can't really remember where we ended up. ;)

Wednesday started off with the Keynote session. Unlike most of those kind of sessions (IMHO) this was actually quite fun and interesting. Bill Baker was the "host", and those that have seen Bill some time knows what that says about the direction of the talk. The best part was probably the T-shirt tossing. Microsoft had a lot of T-shirts that they where throwing out to the crowd all over the big room. The T-shirts had different verbs printed on the back of them, such as Store, Manage, Query and Integrate (nine different in total). But the cool thing was that they where only throwing out one verb in each area, so if you got one you didn't like you could not just swap with your friend since he would probably be sitting next to you with the same verb. Pretty smart move I think.

During the rest of the day I attended a couple of sessions, including those by Kimberly Tripp and Kalen Delaney. I had high expectations for these but unfortunately I did not find them to be really good Kimberley had too much to say and Kalen had some problems with some demos). Instead it was Bob Ward from the PSS (Product Support Services) team that where the best of the day, talking about how to practically handle problems (mostly performance wise) that you might encounter as a DBA and that the PSS team often handles.

I spent most of Thursday attending various sessions by the PSS team again describing the low-level stuff on how SQL Server works beneath the covers. Ken Henderson had a great presentation (my #1 session at the conference) on the new SQLDiag tool (new version of PSSDiag rather than SQLDiag actually) that comes with SQL Server 2005, using just one Powerpoint slide and then a LOT of demos. Bob Dorr then went really deep into the new SQLOS that is the new version of (or rather replacement of) UMS. Understanding how SQL Server handles memory, threads and other low-level stuff in this detail is of course not something every DBA needs to know, but if you really want to understand it this was a good help.

Friday, the final day, was a really short day for me since I had to leave for the airport at lunch. The general session that started the day was very nice, with Dr Jim Gray (head of Microsoft Research in San Francisco) as speaker. He presented some pretty interesting ideas on how the database in the future will just be a part of an "ecosystem", at the same level as any piece of data or code. Like I said, it was very interesting, but I do not quite buy it when he goes from talking in general terms to currents 'fads' (such as SOAP, WSDL etc) instead. I am more of a developer than a DBA so I had no problem in "reading between the lines" and putting most of it into context, but I am not sure that all of the attendees liked what he was saying. You can actually download his presentation from his site and take a look for yourself. Before I left for the airport I then went to PASS President Kevin Kline's presentation about performance monitoring and benchmarking. There was not really anything new for me here, but if you are not sure about how to use System Monitor, Profiler and the other tools I think this was good. And Kevin is a great presenter, so it was definitely a good session.

All in all it has been a great conference and I am very glad that Steve, Andy and Brian invited me. I met a lot of interesting people and learnt quite a lot of new stuff. Next year PASS will be held in Seattle, which is usually a good thing since that means there will be a huge presence from the actual developers of the SQL Server team. And prior to that there is the PASS European Summit in February. I will definitely try to get to these and hope to meet all of the people I did this year as well as new attendees. See you there!

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