PASS Summit 2011 first timer, three days of awesomeness

My first time attending the Professional Association of SQL Server Summit was amazing! Three days of great people, useful information and free stuff! I had to check an extra bag at the airport to bring home my loot.

I arrived at the conference on Tuesday night, too late to attend the ‘first timer’ event. I registered, then headed towards the dimly lit exhibit hall, where a large crowd of participants were gathered. The complexity of the convention center, coupled with the overwhelming feeling that I was going to miss something had me reeling, but I quickly recovered when I ran into a fellow Sacramento SQL Server User Group board member. He was a second year veteran and seeing my anxiety, began leading me through the crowd of fellow SQL Server-ites, showing me where to get food, grab a drink and talk to the pros. The big screens in the exhibit hall showed the magnified images of the “Jeopardy” contestants, SQL Server MVPs who were playing a mock game show using SQL Server, popular culture and everything in between as the questions to the given answers. We eventually found other members of our group; at this point my anxiety had been replaced with sheer excitement.

The night was young and there were some after hours events to attend. Our lil band dispersed, each heading to pursue his own agenda but with promises of regrouping the next day. My itinerary lead me to the casino night, hosted by the popular website and RedGate software. As I contribute to and frequent that site regularly, I was looking forward to putting faces to the various names that I see everyday. My first encounter was with “the man himself”, Steve Jones. We shook hands and exchanged some pleasantries and I sauntered in to join the festivities. Jeff Moden was accepting his “Exceptional DBA” award (truly earned) and after some “gambling” and the raffle, Steve and I were able to talk about life, professions and the Seattle underground (he told me about the underground tour). Getting to speak with someone I admire really made my night; the bar was set high for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, October 12th: Day 1

10:15 – Thomas Grohser presented on SQL Server I/O basics. I took pages of notes, reinforcing some of the things I already knew and absorbing the points that I was fuzzy on. Forgot to fill out an eval =(

13:30 – Victor Isakov filled us with information on indexing. It was meant to span two sessions, but after the first hour and a half, I opted to find another topic.

15:00 – Andy Warren gave tips on how to build a Professional Development Plan. This one really hit home as I’m always looking for the “next adventure”; here I was given practical advice on how to game plan to get to my next level.

16:45 – Aaron Betrand ended the day with an outline of new features in SQL Server 2012 (“Denali”).

Thursday, October 13th: Day 2

10:15 – Klaus Aschenbrenner gave a very practical session on troubleshooting performance problems with SQL Server 2008. He outlined an easy to follow recipe which I really appreciated learning.

Lunch – Women in Technology – The WIT group fed us and treated us to a discussion on various topics. Awesome time and great food.

13:30 – Victor Isakov again, presenting on Trace Flags that every SQL Server DBA should know. The information was useful, but I wish I would have gone to the Thomas LaRock presentation. I’ll make sure to watch that one on the DVD

15:00 – Tim Ford showed his “Periodic Table of Dynamic Management Objects”, truly entertaining for a science nerd like myself. I’m hoping I can find the poster online.

17:00 – Maciej Pilecki gave an in depth presentation on execution plans. Very, very useful information.

Friday, October 14th: Day 3

10:15 – Brad McGehee taught us the inner workings of the Transaction Log, giving us tons of useful best practice and tips to managing one of the most important aspects of SQL Server.

13:00 – Il-Sung Lee outlined some security changes in SQL Server 2012, as well as reviewing the changes that SQL Server 2008 gave us. My organization is heavy into security so I was glad to attend.

14:30 – Brian Mitchell and Dandy Weyn presented on SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse. I can now go back and argue with my Oracle friend on the virtues of PDW vs Exadata.

16:15 – Thomas LaRock showed SQL Server memory management.  I unfortunately left early to catch my plane


All in all an amazing experience.  I was able to meet some of the big names in the SQL Server community: Andy Warren, Jorge Segarra, Steve Jones, Brian Davis and learn tons about my chosen profession.  Everyone was super friendly, sharing hand shakes and experiences as well as a business card now and then.  We ate, drank and built stronger relationships.  I’m truly looking forward to next year’s event.

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