March 6, 2011

Back from SQL Saturday #69

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Casella @ 7:17 pm

Where can you get a full-day of training from nationally known speakers at no cost?  SQL Saturday! Yesterday I attended my fourth event, #69 in Philadelphia. It was was very well run: there was plenty of parking, registration lines moved quickly, and coffee and food was abundant. I learned some new things, deepened my knowledge of things I already knew, and learned a few lessons I’ll be putting into practice on Monday.

The first presentation I attended was Matt Van Horn’s “Intro To SQL Reporting Services”. Matt was a dynamic, entertaining speaker who based his presentation on a combination of prepared examples and audience feedback. After a brief overview of system and installation requirements, he spent the rest of the hour building reports. The first sample was a simple walkthrough of the report wizard. He then moved on to show how to build reports from tables and stored procedures, how to modify an existing report, and how to build simple charts and graphs.  Along the way, he pointed out many little tips and tricks to simplify everyday tasks.

Next, I attended Janis Griffin’s “Query Tuning – Getting it Right the First Time.” Focusing your performance tuning efforts on queries is important, she said, because most performance problems are query problems, not configuration problems. It’s also the area that we, as SQL developers, have the most control over. The best way to find queries which need tuning is through a response-time analysis of execution times and wait types. After discussing the standard DMVs and waits, she turned to a discussion of query diagramming.  The query diagramming approach to performance tuning involves examining the number of matching rows between joined tables as well as the specificity of the predicates in a WHERE clause.  These statistics and ratios are then used to guide index creation.  I know a lot about waits, indexing and query plans, but Janis did such a good job of showing how the things I already know fit together into a single unified methodology that I wished her seminar lasted the whole day.

I’ve seen query diagramming described briefly once before, in Daniel Buskirk’s presentation  on the query optimizer at the Fairfield/Westchester SQL user group, and the two presentations have motivated me to pick up Daniel Tow’s book SQL Tuning and study the method in depth.

The final presentation of note was Wayne Sheffield’s “Table Vars and Temp Tables-What you NEED to know!”  He began by quizzing us on the differences between temp tables and table variables and “busting” common myths.  (Did you know that table variables can have indexes?!)  He then gave a detailed explanation of the properties and internals for both Temp Tables and table variables, comparing and contrasting the two.  His demonstrations were engaging and sometimes surprising: at one point, he had us on the edge of our seats he killed the SQL Server service at the OS level and examined the log files in a text editor to illustrate how and when storage can spill from memory to disk.

The presentation was so information-dense that I gave up trying to take detailed notes and just tried to soak it all in.  As soon as the slides are available, I’m going to distribute it and his articles to my team. If you’re a serious SQL developer this presentation is a must-see, so try to catch it if he comes to SQL Saturday in your town.

To find the next SQL Saturday near you, check out the SQL Saturday website.  Next month I’ll be attending SQL Saturday #71 in Boston.  Hope to see you there.


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