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SQL Server Stairways

"I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday" – Abraham Lincoln

To keep up to date with all the technologies in SQL Server, the DBA or developer who wants to stay ahead is faced with the struggle of constant learning. With every new release, it seems that at least one entirely new application platform appears, alongside innumerable additions to, and improvement of, existing features. How do you keep up while avoiding information overload, unnecessary detours and dead-ends?

The SQL Server Stairways is our solution to this problem. Designed to smooth out even the steepest learning curve, each Stairway is a SQL tutorial series focused on a single topic and is arranged into no more than a dozen easily-navigable tutorials that we call 'steps'. Each step is the length of a typical magazine tutorial, and emphasizes practical, hands-on learning, with just enough background theory to help you understand the topic at a deeper level.

Using straightforward language and avoiding jargon and marketing babble, each Stairway tutorial series is designed to take you from zero knowledge of a particular SQL Server topic, to a level of practical understanding that will allow you to start using that feature in a production environment. The learning gradient is steady and manageable, but also brisk. You won't be wasting time.

Our team of Stairway Editors, including Kalen Delaney and Brad McGehee, have selected technical topics that all SQL Server DBAs and developers can benefit from mastering, and have persuaded leading experts in those fields to author them.

We would love to hear any feedback you have on any aspect of the Stairway project, and not least, any suggestions you may have for SQL tutorial topics that you'd like the Stairway series to cover.

Happy climbing!

    Sign up to our RSS feed and get notified as soon as we publish a new level in the Stairway! Rss
  • Stairway to Advanced T-SQL

    By Gregory Larsen

    This stairway will contain a series of articles that will expand on the T-SQL foundation that you learned in the prior two T-SQL stairways, Stairway to T-SQL DML and T-SQL Beyond the Basics. This stairway should help readers prepare for passing the Microsoft Certification exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

  • Stairway to AlwaysOn

    By Perry Whittle

    AlwaysOn is a complex set of technologies that is often mis-understood. In this Stairway you will learn about the AlwaysOn technologies, how they fit into the High Availability stack, and how to make good use of them.

  • Stairway to Azure Data Factory

    By Andy Leonard

    Learn about the Azure Data Factory service for moving data in ETL flows.

  • Stairway to Azure SQL Database

    By Arun Sirpal

    Azure SQL Database is Microsoft’s fully managed cloud relational database service in Microsoft Azure. With many companies moving to cloud based solutions Azure SQL Database is a leading option for the data tier that many consider. The aim of this stairway course is to give you a comprehensive practical guide on how to begin creating Azure SQL Databases whilst trying to convey some very important practical knowledge on the way. This stairway course assumes that you have absolutely no knowledge of Azure and after completing it you will become comfortable with creating logical SQL servers, databases, correct security configuration around firewalls and logins hence allowing you to connect to the database via SQL Server Management Studio.

  • Stairway to Biml

    By Andy Leonard, Reeves Smith

    Biml is a markup language that enables you to quickly represent a variety of database related models and constructs, including SSIS packages, models, permissions and more. This stairway helps you get started using the language to represent your objects.

  • Stairway to Columnstore Indexes

    By Hugo Kornelis

    SQL Server 2012 and later offer a very different type of index from the traditional b-tree, the in-memory columnstore index. These indexes use a column-based storage model, as well as a new 'batch mode' of query execution and can offer huge performance increases for certain workloads. But how are they built, how do they work, and why do they manage to have such a dramatic impact on performance? In this stairway, Hugo Kornelis explains all, with his usual mix of concise description and detailed demonstration.

  • Stairway to Data

    By Joe Celko

    IT projects can hit problems that turn out to be due to an insufficient understanding of the basic data and data-types, rather than the database design. It is a sorely neglected topic that might seem to be trivial, but certainly isn't. The DBA, with a broad perspective on corporate data can do a great deal to help application developers to avoid the common mistakes that so often happen, and Joe Celko's Stairway gives the busy IT professional a crash course to understanding the nature of the data being processed.

  • Stairway to Database Design

    By Joe Celko

    New to the task of designing and creating a database? Joe Celko, who is one of the most widely read of all writers about SQL, explains the basics. As usual, he comes up with the occasional surprise for even the most seasoned database professional. Joe was the winner of the DBMS Magazine Reader's Choice Award four consecutive years. He has taught SQL in the US, UK, the Nordic countries, South America and Africa. He served 10 years on ANSI/ISO SQL Standards Committee and contributed to the SQL-89 and SQL-92 Standards.

  • Stairway to Database Source Control

    By Dave Green

    The goal of this Stairway series is to provide a brief, practical and systematic guide to source controlling your SQL Server databases, so that you can then manage your ongoing development and deployment from a known version, within source control.

  • Stairway to DAX and Power BI

    By Bill Pearson

    Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) can be used in formulas or expressions to calculate and return information from data already in our Power BI models. This Stairway series serves as a progressive introduction to DAX within the context of Power BI, examining the functions, operators and values involved, and examining their operation in practice examples. As a part of introducing DAX functions and overall capabilities, the Levels of the series will also offer a wealth of practical exposure to Power BI features as a part of putting DAX to work in our data models and visualizations.

  • Stairway to DLM Dashboard

    By Owen Priestley

    This stairway is designed to showcase the capabilities and value of DLM Dashboard, as well as teach you how to setup and use this free tool in your environment.

  • Stairway to Dynamic Data Masking

    By Steve Jones

    This stairway will examine Dynamic Data Data Masking, introduced in Azure SQL Database and SQL Server 2016. This should allow you to implement Dynamic Data Masking in your application, understanding the implications of the various masks used on different datatypes.

  • Stairway to Exploring Database Metadata

    By Phil Factor

    In addition to the data that our clients and customers store in a database, there is a tremendous amount of meta data, 'data about data', that describes how the database is set up, configured, and what the properties are for the various objects. This stairway aims to demystify and explain how you can query and use this meta data to more effectively manage your SQL Server Databases.

  • Stairway to Integration Services

    By Andy Leonard

    Integration Services is one of the most popular subsystems in SQL Server. It allows you to Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) data between a variety of data sources and programmatically change data in any manner you can think of and script in C#.

  • Stairway to Machine Learning Services

    By ginger.grant

    This is a series designed to help you learn more about Machine Learning Services using both R and Python. We will cover the architecture, installation, configuration, and use of Machine Learning Services to run complex analysis on your data.

  • Stairway to MDX

    By Bill Pearson

    Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) is a standard query language, derived from SQL but geared specifically for OLAP databases. It also includes a calculation language, with syntax similar to spreadsheet formulas. It is an important skill for PowerPivot. Bill's new series for MDX starts right at the very beginning and takes us through all the basic functions of MDX, with plenty of practical examples.

  • Stairway to Row-Level Security

    By Steve Jones

    This series looks at row based access control in SQL Server 2016+ as implemented in the Row-Level Security feature.

  • Stairway to Server Management Objects (SMO)

    By Laerte Junior

    A look at the SMO classes and how they can be used with Powershell to configure, manage, and manipulate your SQL Server instances and databases.

  • Stairway to Server-side Tracing

    By Dan Guzman

    Learn how to use the SQL Trace subsystem in SQL Server to audit your instances. This series will examine the basics of SQL Trace and teach you how to set up, schedule, and manage traces and the data generated.

  • Stairway to SQL Dialects

    By Joe Celko

    The SQL language has developed many dialects over the years, with MySQL, PostgreS and Oracle all popular extensions of the core language. This Stairway Series gives an overview of how SQL dialects formed and looks at some of the most commonly-used dialects in detail.

  • Stairway to SQL PowerShell

    By Ben Miller

    PowerShell is a powerful scripting tool that allows you to automate routine tasks, and script administrative tasks, allowing you to automate a lot of the routine work in a SQL envirionment. Ben Miller's Stairway Series introduces PowerShell from the beginning, guiding you through how to configure and get started with the framework before working towards more advanced scripting.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Agent

    By Richard Waymire

    SQL Server Agent is at the heart of any live database system. The Agent has a number of uses which aren't always obvious, and so a knowledge of the system is always useful, to developers as well as DBAs. Richard Waymire provides a simple explanation of its many uses.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Automated Database Testing

    By Sebastian Meine

    This Stairway Series will introduce you to the world of Test Automation, Test Driven Development (TDD) and Continuous Integration (CI), for databases. We'll discuss why automation is important, how to write a good test, what makes a good testing framework and how to build a continuous integration system.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Extended Events

    By Erin Stellato

    Erin Stellato, a Principal Consultant with SQLskills.com, explores the use of Extended Events as a diagnostic data collection tool or SQL Server. She describes how to define efficient low-overhead event sessions that exploit fully the vast number of events, as well as the powerful filtering and data collection options, offered by this new event collection infrastructure. She also demonstrates simple techniques to analyze event data and identify and troubleshoot the causes of poor SQL Server performance, such as long-running queries that consume vast amounts of CPU and I/O resources. It is time to embrace Extended Events and understand all that it has to offer, and Erin's stairway is the perfect place to start.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Indexes

    By David Durant

    Indexes are fundamental to database design, and tell the developer using the database a great deal about the intentions of the designer. Unfortunately indexes are too often added as an afterthought when performance issues appear. Here at last is a simple series of articles that should bring any database professional rapidly 'up to speed' with them

  • Stairway to SQL Server on Linux

    By Danilo Dominici

    SQL Server 2017 is the first SQL Server version that can be installed on Windows, Linux and inside a Docker container. This stairway series serves as a guide for the experienced SQL Server DBA to acquire skills and knowledge on this platform. This is an introductory series to installing Linux and SQL Server on Linux.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Replication

    By Sebastian Meine

    SQL Replication can solve many problems in running database-driven applications. The publication/subscriber model isn't completely easy to understand, the complexities of scripting and monitoring replication systems takes some thought. Here, at last, is a series of articles that takes care to produce a jargon-free approach to SQL Server Replication of all types.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Reporting Services

    By Jessica M. Moss

    Learn how to get started with Reporting Services in this easy to read series from MVP Jessica Moss that examines how you might start dealing with reporting requests from management.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Security

    By Don Kiely

    SQL Server has everything you need to secure your server and data against today’s sophisticated attacks. But before you can use these security features effectively, you need to understand the threats you face and a few basic security concepts. This first stairway level provides a foundation so that you can take full advantage of the security features in SQL Server without wasting time on features that do nothing to protect against specific threats to your data.

  • Stairway to SQL Server Virtualization

    By David Klee

    Virtualization is becoming more and more common, and without an understanding how virtualization works, the DBA will have blind spots when attempting to resolving performance issues, such as reduce resource contention, or improve the backup and restore operations, and so on.

  • Stairway to SQLCLR

    By Solomon Rutzky

    The possibilities for programming SQL Server platform were greatly enhanced with the addition of the SQLCLR subsystem. This allows code written in any .NET language to be incorporated into your SQL Server instance and called from a stored procedure or function. You can also create your own data types or aggregates for specialized purposes. This Stairway series will teach you how to get started writing your own CLR code and integrating it into SQL Server.

  • Stairway to SSAS Tabular

    By Thomas LeBlanc

    SSAS (SQL Server Analysis Services) is available in two modes, tabular and multidimensional. The new tabular model is easier for those companies who are not already invested in the traditional, multidimensional model. In this stairway, Thomas LeBlanc will teach you how to create tabular models used for reports and dashboards.

  • Stairway to StreamInsight

    By Johan Åhlén

    Microsoft StreamInsight™ is designed to assist in developing Complex Event Processing (CEP) applications in .NET This is appropriate for stream sources tsuch as those in manufacturing applications or financial trading applications. StreamInsight provides the means to monitor, manage, and mine several sources simultaneously for conditions,trends, exceptions, opportunities, and defects almost instantly. It is ideal for performing low-latency analytics on the events and triggering response actions, and for mining historical data to continuously refine and improve definitions of alerting conditions. Johan provides a simple explanation of the system in a series of practical articles.

  • Stairway to Transaction Log Management in SQL Server

    By Tony Davis, Gail Shaw

    When things are going well, there is no need to be particularly conscious of what the transaction log does or how it works. You just need to be confident that every database has the correct backup regime in place. When things go wrong, an understanding of the transaction log is important for taking corrective action, particularly when a point-in-time restore of a database is required, urgently! Tony Davis gives just the right level of detail that every DBA should know.

  • Stairway to T-SQL DML

    By Gregory Larsen

    This Stairway will provide you with a basic understanding of how to work with data from SQL Server tables, using SQL Server’s Transact-SQL (T-SQL) dialect. DML is the Data Manipulation Language, and is the aspect of the language dealing with the data. It includes the statements SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE. This Stairway will as also provide some history of the SQL language and some general concepts about set theory. Each level will build upon the prior level, so by the time you are finished you will have a good understanding of how to select and modify data from SQL Server.

  • Stairway to T-SQL: Beyond The Basics

    By Gregory Larsen

    Following on from his Stairway to T-SQL DML, Gregory Larsen covers more advanced aspects of the T-SQL language such as subqueries.

  • Stairway to U-SQL

    By Mike McQuillan

    As Microsoft continues to expand the Azure platform, they have enhanced its ability in ways that are quite different from what we've come to expect from SQL Server. Learn about the new language from Microsoft, U-SQL, designed to work with Data Lakes and Big Data in Azure.

  • Stairway to XML

    By Rob Sheldon

    XML has been part of the SQL Standard since 2003, and it is also essential for any DBA because so many of the dynamic management views return XML data. Now that the industry is more used to data defined by document markup, it is becoming more important than ever for Database Developers and DBAs to understand the technology and to know where it makes sense to use XML. In this series of articles, Robert Sheldon flexes his talent to make the complicated seem simple. Note: This series of articles is now available as an eBook.