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My Summary of 24 Hours of PASS

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Once a year, just before the annual PASS Summit, there is a promotional event called 24 Hours of PASS. The idea is to gather together 24 consecutive one-hour webcasts by the top speakers in the PASS Summit. The event is free, and all the webcasts are recorded and available online a few weeks after the event. But it's more exciting to watch those webcasts live rather than wait for the recorded version. It's like watching a game live versus watching a recording of it two weeks later. Well, actually, it's not the same thing, but it's still more exciting. That is, if you're a SQL Server geek, like me…

So we, at Madeira, decided to take it one step forward, and organized our own training event around this worldwide online event. We hired a villa with a big screen, a swimming pool, BBQ, and some other facilities, like a pool table and a Jacuzzi. We filled the fridge with food and drinks, and we connected a laptop to the big screen and to the internet. We gathered together in the villa, 15 of us, for 24 hours of training and fun (and a little bit of sleep too).

24 Hours of PASS

First of all, I would like to say that PASS is doing an amazing job. This event has been rolling for 24 hours without any interruptions at all. We're talking about 24 different webcasts taken live by 24 different presenters in different locations in the world. Think about all the technical aspects, the network bandwidth, the different time zones, etc. So here's a big credit to the organizers of this event.

 

On the other hand, the content of most webcasts was a bit disappointing. Many of the webcasts were quite basic, and in many cases I can't say that I learned too many new things.

So I would like to share my personal experience from this event. I'm not going to tell you about my experience in the swimming pool or around the pool table, but I would like to focus on the webcasts instead.

24 Hours of PASS

Each one of us prepared a list of webcasts he planned to watch. Here is mine:

Israel Time

Title

Presenter

15:00-16:00

Practical Performance Troubleshooting

Brent Ozar

16:00-17:00

The Cluster Conundrum

Allan Hirt

19:00-20:00

SQLCAT: Windows Azure Data Platform

Ewan Fairweather

Silvano Coriani

00:00-01:00

0 to MOLAP in 60 Minutes

Brian Knight

03:00-04:00

Slicing and Dicing: Attributes and Hierarchies in SSAS 2012

Thomas LeBlanc

05:00-06:00

Building an Effective Data Warehouse Architecture

James Serra

06:00-07:00

How Active Directory Affects SQL Server

Ryan Adams

13:00-14:00

Into the Blue: Extending AlwaysOn Availability Groups

Joseph Antoni

 

I'm proud to say that I managed to keep up with my plan, and I watched all 8 webcasts. Well, actually I'm not sure it's something to be proud of… Anyway, here is my summary…

  1. Practical Performance Troubleshooting (Brent Ozar)thumb up
    Well, what can I say? The combination of the name "Brent Ozar" with the title "Practical Performance Troubleshooting" is something you just can’t afford to miss. Brent is a gifted presenter. I always enjoy watching his webcasts or reading his blog. This guy really knows how to explain stuff. He talked about the common wait types, what they mean and how to troubleshoot them. He also provided some great resources:

  2. The Cluster Conundrum (Allan Hirt)thumb down
    Allan Hirt is really a clustering expert, and this is why I expected to learn about some advanced clustering stuff, such as setting up a cluster with multiple subnets or a discussion about clustering in virtual environments. But unfortunately the presentation was an introduction to clustering, and Allan was mainly debunking some well-known myths around it.
    One of the guys here told me that whatever you put after Brent Ozar – you're doomed to be disappointed. Maybe that's part of the problem…?

    24 Hours of PASS

  3. SQLCAT: Windows Azure Data Platform (Ewan Fairweather and Silvano Coriani)thumb down
    Microsoft is putting a lot of effort around the Windows Azure platform, and there are a lot of resources out there explaining how to set it up and how it works. Many customers ask me about actual implementations and real-life practices, and unfortunately I don't have good answers. This is why I was waiting for this presentation from the SQL Server Customer Advisory Team, to hear about actual customer references and their experience with this platform.
    Ewan and Silvano did mention some customer references, but that part was quite dull. Most of the presentation was around the various options available on the platform, which is something I already knew. I expected to hear about actual architectures around the Azure platform as well as some numbers (performance, capacity, etc.). Unfortunately, that didn't happen…

    24 Hours of PASS

  4. 0 to MOLAP in 60 Minutes (Brian Knight)thumb up
    I'm not an expert in SQL Server Analysis Services, and this is why I chose this session. I wanted to learn how to set up an OLAP cube from scratch, without getting into too many details. Brian Knight is a great presenter, and he answered my expectations perfectly. I guess that SSAS experts would say that this session was very basic and disappointing, just like I said about the clustering session, for example. But for a beginner like me, it was just what I needed. Thanks, Brian!

    24 Hours of PASS

  5. Slicing and Dicing: Attributes and Hierarchies in SSAS 2012 (Thomas LeBlanc)thumb up
    This one was a bit challenging, as it was already 3am. I did manage to get an hour of sleep between sessions, but still… This session was a direct continuation of the previous session I watched. Now that I knew how to set up a simple OLAP cube, Thomas showed me how to configure attributes, hierarchies and attribute relationships. He ran through many properties quite fast, and that was great. He didn't waste too much time on theoretical stuff like most of the other presenters, but rather spent most of the time in Visual Studio demonstrating all kinds of stuff. It was great, even at 3am…

    24 Hours of PASS

  6. Building an Effective Data Warehouse Architecture (James Serra)thumb down
    I hoped to learn about design best practices around issues like slowly changing dimensions, surrogate vs. natural keys, partitioning strategies, etc. Instead, James spent a whole hour on explaining the differences between the Kimball and the Inmon methodologies. He did touch some design concepts, and I also agree with his bottom line that the best approach is to combine between the two methodologies. But this session was boring – I have no better way to say it. 

    24 Hours of PASS

  7. How Active Directory Affects SQL Server (Ryan Adams)thumb down
    ?This session started out as the most promising one and ended as the most disappointing session. Why? Because when Ryan presented the agenda, I thought: "Great! These are exactly the things I want to learn about". I especially wanted to learn about Kerberos and all the stuff around it, like SPN and delegation. Ryan even said he's going to talk mainly about that. Well, he did explain very nicely the concept of single-hop vs. double-hop. But, then, at around 06:30 (half the way of the session), Ryan presented a slide with the following questions:

    • When would you want to register an SPN manually?
    • What should my SPN look like?
    • Where in AD does the SPN go?
    • What tools are available to troubleshoot Kerberos?

    ?I was thrilled! Great questions, I thought. And then, instead of answering those questions, Ryan just said that if we want to learn about these topics, we should attend his presentation in PASS Summit. And that's it! For the next 30 minutes he answered questions from the audience, and whenever a question was interesting enough, Ryan's response was that it's out of the scope of this session, and promised to answer it offline. Come on! We all understand that this is a promotional event, and the goal is to attract people to register to the PASS Summit. But this was too much. This was fraud. I stayed up till 7am for this session. It was really disappointing…

    24 Hours of PASS

  8. Into the Blue: Extending AlwaysOn Availability Groups (Joseph Antoni)thumb down
    This is the last session I watched, and I really hoped to end this event with a good taste. Sorry, no success there… What I wanted to learn from this session is how to set up a hybrid availability group between an on-premise instance and another instance in Azure. This was indeed the main topic of the presentation, and there was even a demo. But… the demo started after the environment has been already set up, and it was around setting up the availability group itself. Now, the whole idea is that once the hybrid environment is established, the setup of the availability group is just as you would expect in a regular on-premise environment. But I already know how to set up availability group…
    One thing I did learn from this presentation is that there is no listener in such a hybrid environment. It is simply not supported. This is too bad, because it means you need to take care of changing the connection strings in your application in case of a failover, and it also means that you don't get read-only routing, because this features requires the listener. I hope Microsoft adds this functionality soon…

24 Hours of PASS

Bottom line: the company was great, and it was a lot of fun. For me, I learned some new things mainly about SSAS. I know that other people learned new things in other fields. We had some interesting discussions between webcasts, and we even have some professional action items from this event. But all in all, the webcasts themselves were quite disappointing.

I hope that the organizers of this event will improve the level of the presentations next year. We are certainly going to be there, probably in a bigger villa with a bigger screen and a bigger pool…

24 Hours of PASS

Guy Glantser

Guy Glantser, Data Platform MVP, is the leader of the Israeli PASS chapter and also the CEO and founder of Madeira Data Solutions. His career has been focused on the Microsoft Data Platform for the past 20 years, performing various database roles as either an on-site DBA, an external consultant or a speaker. Guy is involved in many activities in the Microsoft Data Platform community. He occasionally speaks at community events, such as PASS Summit, SQLBits, SQL Saturdays and user groups around the world. He also co-hosts the SQL Server Radio podcast.

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