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Farming Today with SQL Server: Guide to SQLBits SQL Server Conference
Web Monkey About the Author

With security clearance and well over a decade of experience with SQL Server, Web Monkey is the resident DBA at Norb Technologies and a real database guru.

A regular contributor to SQL Server Club, his background includes software development, hardware, a smattering of essential networking knowledge and an unhealthy interest in web security. He has an obsession with automating repetitive tasks, but has a tendency to forget where he left his last open bag of fruit and nut...

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The First SQLBits SQL Server Conference, Microsoft Campus, Reading

Saturday 6 October 2007

We started off our day to the SQLBits conference on a crisp autumn morning, sliding swiftly through the early morning mist on the train as it rolled over the fields on our way to the Microsoft Campus at Thames Valley Park in Reading.

Although it was held on a Microsoft site, it was actually organized by a very dedicated and generous group of SQL Server MVP professionals who simply wanted to give something back to the SQL Server community - thanks guys!

The conference was run along four streams, each one hour long, where you could join any stream for an hour before going along to the next. Very informal, no rigid rules about which sessions you attended or where you sat, all very relaxed. A kind of SQL Server pick and mix, with plenty of quality speakers (check out their biographies here: Speaker Profiles).

The Morning Session

Keith Burns was our first presenter of the day, and a fine job he did too, in a back-to-back double session. A SQL Server DBA since 1993, Keith worked on our beloved database platform way back when it was only available on OS/2 and Windows NT was still a glimmer in Bill's eye.

His first hour long presentation centered on the new features in SQL Server 2008, describing such juicy features as location based data types, full data auditing and on-the-fly repairs from a mirror to a principle database.

Of particular note was the query that he showed us on a table containing geographic data, where he ran a query which pulled back the points where his home street ran through the town, a sort of geo-inner join. Boggle. 8-) Very impressive and it should have anyone who's ever programmed a GIS system drooling.

Another interesting feature was the DMF, or Declarative Management Framework, where policies can be defined and managed within SQL Server to enforce certain rules. For example you can use DMF to determine through rules where your system databases are placed, which drives the log and data files are permitted to exist on and even the convention for naming tables, stored procedures or functions. For instance, if you always insist that your developers should name tables tblXXXX, or stored procedures spXXXX, you can enforce this in Transact SQL, or through the management interface built into Management Studio.

In addition, Microsoft has thoughtfully provided a suit of commonly required template rules which can be used straight out of the box. Very nice, and should tidy up a lot of the database systems out there if used correctly in a development environment. Keith finally revealed that a new SQL Server CTP (CTP5) should be with us by Halloween, with a launch date for SQL Server 2008 of 27th Feb 2008 in the US and mid-March in Europe. The actual RTM of the retail version should be in the second quarter of 2008, with the next major release of SQL Server due for sometime in 2010-2011.

Keith touched on a number of other new SQL Server 2008 features, including file streaming to allow BLOB objects to be stored outside of the database, without a 2GB limit, new datetime data types and GROUPING SETS functions which will make reporting easier, and multi-row single statement inserts, which will allow you to turn queries such as:

INSERT INTO Invoice (Supplier, Amount, date)
values ('IBM', '1200, getdate())

INSERT INTO Invoice (Supplier, Amount, date)
values ('Oracle, '10000,'getdate())

INSERT INTO Invoice (Supplier, Amount, date)
values ('Microsoft', 1000.00, getdate())

into the much neater:

INSERT INTO Invoice (Supplier, Amount, date)
values ('IBM', '1200, getdate()),
values ('Oracle, '10000,'getdate()),
values ('Microsoft', 1000.00, getdate())

Keith told us about so much stuff that there was too much to report. But he was a very knowledgeable speaker who kicked off the start to a great day.

Back along the corridor, we ventured up to the main area of the building and off to Simon Sabin’s presentation, a database consultant and SQL Server MVP who explored and debunked some of the great myths about SQL Server (many of which are a decade out of date but are still brought up in arguments about SQL Server). This was a lighter, more fun session which gave everyone a good breathing space whilst at the same time being useful and informative.

Simon’s session took us up to lunchtime, when we had a chance to catch up with each other, eat lunch kindly provided by our hosts, swap notes and enter the competitions for some serious gaming gear donated by the event sponsors Idera and Quest. Fortunately the weather was pleasant so many of us sat outside taking the sun in the mini amphitheatre.

The Afternoon Session

Back inside for the first session of the afternoon, we were greeted by Hue Holleran. Hue presented a riveting session about the most dry of SQL Server subjects, database partitioning.

Cut down from a bigger presentation, this study of the subject in the real world made an otherwise inaccessible subject downright interesting. Hue really does know his subject, working out partitioning problems for some of Microsoft's biggest SQL Server VLDB (Very Large Database) customers.

Allan Mitchell presented our last session of the day, about SSIS on SQL Server 2008, which was quite a crowd puller. Allan is the founder of specialist SSIS consultancy Konesans based in the UK, and runs the SQL DTS and SQL IS web sites, as well as being a SQL Server MVP. Allan covered some neat SSIS speed tricks, including the optimization through parallel processing of incoming data streams.

All in all it was a great day out, with over 300 attendees. Thanks have to go to all of the SQLBits guys for putting in their valuable time and energy arranging it, and to Microsoft and the sponsors of the event – Idera, Quest, Solid Quality Mentors and Red Gate Software for being so generous by backing it with their money.

The only real criticism that could be leveled was that there were too many interesting sessions running in parallel, so it was inevitable that some of the presentations were going to be missed. However, with the slides of many of the sessions available on the SQLBits web site after the event, most of those that were missed could be covered. Check them out, they’re well worth reading.

SQL Server Club Ratings

Facilities and venue 9/9
Registration Process 9/9
Event Organization 9/9
Agenda 9/9
Quality of speakers 9/9

So would we go again? You bet :-)

There’s more events planned for next year… we’ll keep you informed through our newsletter and might see you there!
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