Welcome to the Spotlight Behind SQL Server, a new series from SQLServerCentral.com. As we've grown and spent more time covering SQL Server, we've slowly gained a number of contacts inside Microsoft, including those that develop the product. And we decided to try and interview the SQL Server people inside Microsoft. There are lots of people working on SQL Server 2005 and our goal to is to eventually get to them all.
We know that there are lots of technical things we could ask, and lots of easy marketing questions we could get from them, but you probably read most of those questions elsewhere. So we thought we'd make them think a bit more and get some interviews that showcased the people behind SQL Server. To that end, these interviews will be a little bit different and give you a look at the amazing team that builds SQL Server.
We caught up with Christian Kleinerman at TechEd 2005 and he agreed to the interview. We're just getting things on track as he's had a busy CTP schedule working to get SQL Server 2005 to RTM.
SSC : What's your title and position at Microsoft? (What do you really do?)
Christian : I’m a Program Manager in the SQL Engine team and I work in a variety of areas. Throughout SQL Server 2005’s development cycle I’ve owned several features, such as SQL/CLR inproc data access, some TSQL enhancements, and the SQL Server protocols (TDS and SOAP). A couple of years ago I spent some time driving and shipping the initial release of the SQL Best Practices Analyzer. Feature-wise I currently own the ‘max’ data types (e.g. varchar(max)), query notifications (the server portion of SqlDependency), server-side cursors, MARS, and what we internally call MSQL-transactions, which refers to the user visible transaction programming model. I also run a small team in charge of working through customer scenarios and cross-feature interactions.
SSC : Give us a little background, how did you get into computers?
Christian : I was intrigued by computers from a young age. My dad got me a Commodore 64 – more as a gaming device, but shortly after I was spending more time programming and trying to hack and learn the ins and outs of the machine than actually playing – though the games were great too. I started writing little accounting and inventory management applications for family members and friends. I’ve been working with computers in one way or another ever since.
SSC : Did you see yourself as a programmer when you were younger?
Christian : I’m not sure. I was convinced from an early age that computers could really improve the way things were done. However I was more interested in algorithm design and optimization than in actual computer programming. Given the close relationship between these two I ended up doing my fair share of programming.
SSC : Can you tell us about where you went to college and what you studied?
Christian : I grew up in Bogota, Colombia where I got an Industrial Engineering degree.
SSC : Why databases? Why SQL Server?
Christian : I’ve been using SQL Server since the beginning of 6.0 and I was always fascinated by the technology. There was this magic about dealing with large volumes of data, the power of query processing, the simplicity - from the user’s perspective - to deal with concurrency and isolation, and “survival to crashes”. I slowly became interested, learned about the internals, helped MS-Colombia give talks about SQL Server 7.0 Betas, and at some point made my way over here. This is truly a fascinating problem space and technology area; every single day we face very interesting challenges.
SSC : What's your favorite tech gadget?
Christian : I’m a big music fan – electronic music in particular, so I’m constantly impressed by the gear that keeps coming out for music producers. Guitar midi encoders, guitar synths, vocoders, software synths, samplers, etc. It’s a great application of technology.
SSC : How's life in Redmond compare to home?
Christian : I like Redmond. There’s no place that has it all and clearly this area completely missed the weather thing. J But it is a nice place with good quality of living, and you can always go to Florida once in a while to warm up.
SSC : Best place to visit in South America
Christian : Two places actually. Cartagena in Colombia: beautiful city, beaches, history and wonderful people. Also Buenos Aires in Argentina is a fascinating place and a paradise for those who like to enjoy a good steak.
SSC : Have you ever been to Bill Gates' house?
Christian : Never. I’ve heard from a few friends that went there as interns that it is a great experience
SSC : What's your favorite feature in the new SQL Server 2005 relational engine?
Christian : There are many ways to evaluate features, but I would probably rank the Service Broker as number one, mostly because it changes very significantly what you can do with SQL Server and the way you think about building applications. I usually think back about some of the projects that I worked on before I came to MS, and I usually end up thinking of how much simpler or better things could have been if SSB were available. It really opens up the server for a whole new set of capabilities and possibilities. Of course all my features are favorites as well. J
SSC : What does Christian do when he's not working on SQL Server?
Christian : Not working on SQL Sever? I didn’t know that was possible. J I think time is split between reading and playing around with music: producing, mixing, and remixing. I love to spend time playing with all the gear and see how it comes out.
SSC : Best guitarist, in your opinion? Anyone you'd like to have the chance to play with?
I like a lot Paco de Lucia. Though I cannot say I’m a flamenco connoisseur, I’ve very much enjoyed some of his performances.
SSC : Any big plans for a vacation after November? (when SS2K5 RTMs)
Christian : Nothing in particular… maybe I’ll go and help on some of the international launch events and spend some time away. Maybe I’ll visit my dad and family down in Argentina… just in time to hit summer down there.
SSC : Who's more fun, the relational engine team or the BI team?
Christian : One of those questions where no matter what you say the answer turns out to be wrong. J I guess SQL Server as a whole is a lot of fun; we’re both building systems that complement each other and are part of a complete data platform. In a recent internal conference I was reminded of how good the complete SQL Server offering is. Btw, the relational engine team is more fun. J
SSC : Is SQL Server ready to compete with Oracle? Any plans for distributed clusters like Oracle Parallel Server?
Christian : Yes. There’s always the feature by feature comparison where there are differences but the question usually comes up in terms of scalability, reliability, availability and we’re there. SQL Server 2000 competes well with Oracle and SQL Server 2005 is even better. On scale out clusters, SQL Server has distributed partitioned views today and unfortunately I can’t comment on future plans for this.
SSC : If you weren't a programmer, what would you want to do?
Christian : I haven’t really thought much about it… I like organizational sciences, working with people, understanding people. On the other hand, technology and the way it makes things better is definitely a blast. So I guess that the way SQL Server makes organizations and people better and more efficient is a great area to stick with.
SSC : Microsoft abandons SQL Server, who do you go to?
Christian : I would try to go find out who was it that failed to see such a bright future.