How To Keep Up with SQL Server

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Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is out of town.

One of the things I talk about when I present on learning plans and career planning is how frustrating it can be to try to stay up to date with all the features that are added or changed in each release. That's a general trend in IT, the feeling that we're on the treadmill and it keeps going faster. That's the perception we have, but it's not always the reality. What we need is a plan for dealing with change.

I advocate a simple approach, one based on the idea of "know the buzzwords". Once you find a list of new/changed features, it's useful to spend about five minutes learning what each one does. In that five minutes you'll be able to categorize them:

  • Incremental change, something you get easily. You may need to work on it quite a bit to master the syntax or whatever, but you know what it does. LEAD/LAG are an example. If you get windowing, then this is an incremental - but interesting - change.
  • Not going to use it. It's ok to be practical about your time. You can always learn it when needed. You don't have to use this category, but you will!
  • Interesting and needs study, a lot of it. Hekaton is a great example.

At end of that exercise you can then prioritize what you want to dig into more and how much effort you want to exert. Then it's just a matter of finding resources on it. That also takes time, adding to the pain/reluctance to tackle it. That has gotten a little easier with the latest addition to SQLServerCentral, the Learning SQL 2016 Features page. It lists the features and a couple sentences on each, followed by sub-pages for each feature with whatever links can be found, starting with the 'official' stuff on MSDN. The real gold will be the stuff written by the professionals who dive in to each feature and document the gotchas and quirks. Much of it will be done using the latest CTP so by the time SQL 2016 is generally available there should be a reasonable amount written on each feature.

It will make you feel a lot more in control if you approach each release in a structured fashion. Get the list, read about each one, then decide which ones need more study and practical exercises. Don't think you have to master them all - that's unrealistic and unnecessary. It's valuable just to know what's possible and what's changing.

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