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Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta – Beginning SQL Server

At the Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta this past weekend in Denver, I presented a talk on “Beginning SQL Server”, a high level look at the product for non-technical people: managers, analysts, project managers, even very new technical people. I’ve heard this requested a few times at SQL Saturday events in 2009, so I put one together, with the idea that I’d explain to people at a very high level what SQL Server is.

And that’s hard.

I had spent quite a few hours over the last 4-5 weeks looking for analogies that would make sense to a laymen for databases. I used Excel, filing cabinets, and a few more ideas, mostly with images, to convey to laymen what a database was, and how SQL Server compared with other databases. There were a couple other local SQL Server pros on hand, I think mostly to support me, and they thought the explanations made sense. I also got quite a few complements from others that were non-technical people. A business analyst, an older gentleman from the VAX/COBOL era, and a couple other people mentioned that this made sense for them in understanding how SQL Server fits in an environment.

However I learned a few things as well.

  1. Lots of people don’t understand what a virtual machine is, and I struggled to explain it. So I need to work on that.
  2. The .NET framework needs to be added to my talk. I had someone struggling to figure out what it is and how it fits with SQL Server.
  3. I need a few more examples of how SQL Server data is used. I tried for some common sites (YouTube, NASDAQ, Amazon), but had a few blank looks.
  4. I need to better explain some differences between Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, and DB2
  5. I need another analogy for SSIS. I used Import/export,  and Extreme Makeover, but I need something that’s easier for the laymen to get.
  6. I might need to drop Service Broker, or shorten that section. It’s not necessarily that important.
  7. I need a way to explain what a set of data is, and how to manipulate a set of data at a time

Overall it went well, and I’ll be looking to put this on the site, as well as present it at some of the other events I attend. I’m going to try and get it scheduled as an early morning session or a first thing to get people up to speed.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Glenn Berry on 1 March 2010

I think part of it depends who who you think the audience is. I had the impression that many of them were prospective career changers or hopeful entry-level DBAs as opposed to non-technical people who were just curious about what SQL Server was.

If you think that is the case, you might want to have a few slides about "how to become a DBA", with suggestions for entry level books, training, etc. You also need to set expectations about the difficulty of becoming a DBA if you have no prior technical experience.

Posted by Wendy Brittain on 1 March 2010

I think that while explaining the differences between the database platforms that explaining the prices and licensing would be important.

Businessmen especially would be interested in pricing options and how different the vendors handle licensing multiple cores.

Also, the differences in DBA salaries for the different platforms.

There's plenty of whitepapers out there that gives pricing examples for various network architectures.

Posted by Shawn Melton on 1 March 2010

Point 1: (NOTE: This is just off the top of my head and may make no sense what so ever.  The first thing I thought about was a tractor trailer right carrying a bunch of cars, but that did not sound right after I thought about it.  However building lease is in some way the same as a VM guest leasing resources and space from a VM host:)

Virtual Machine is like a owner of building that leases space out.  I own a building with 2 offices in it.  I had the building built strong, it is hurricane proof and provides protection from other elements of the weather, has a lot of storage space.  I paid to have power, water, and sewage brought to the building that those 2 offices are going to share.  Now depending on who leases those 2 offices, 1 office may need more power or water than the other one (maybe if it was a pizza joint in one office and a flower shop in the other).  However the special additive I give my tenants is if something unforeseen happens to their office space, I can move their office to another facility I own down the street.

Posted by Steve Jones on 1 March 2010

I definitely need to add some guidelines on licensing. It's hard to pin down exactly the cost since they license things from a different point of view, but understanding the basic costs are good.

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