Thursday, December 18, 2014

PASS – Connect, Share and Learn

The Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) has a slogan for what they do – CONNECT, SHARE and LEARN. So, what does this mean to me and the SQL Server professionals I have meet in this community (#SQLFamily)?



First, I connected. Where did that start? SQLServerCentral.Com (SSC). I started reading articles on this site over a decade ago, and made it the main SQL Server resource for me beginning a DBA career. Back then a DBA was someone who either did one of 3 task types (or any combination).

  • DBA Administrator – worked to keep a system up and running including Windows Admin(Clustering), SAN usage, Security and Permissions (ActiveDirectory) and Performance Tuning (Monitor System resources).
  • DBA Developer – wrote T-SQL for stored procedures, triggers and jobs as well as create databases, tables and indexes usually because you were also a developer of software
  • DBA Business Intelligence – ETL with DTS (now SSIS), cubes in SSAS (multidimensional) and reports in SSRS (it was Crystal Report writer for me because SSRS was not released and packaged with Visual Basic) in addition to creating databases, tables and indexes.

Reading articles helped me develop a talent in the administrator position I was in along with getting a MCDBA in SQL Server 2000 (now I have MCITP in 2005 & 2008). The CONNECT part came when I ask my boss if I could go to the PASS Summit in Denver (2007). He had the funds in our department’s budget and included himself in the trip. There, I watched sessions based on the titles and abstracts. I did not know many speaker names except those I saw write articles on SSC. Those main ones I recognized were the ones who answered lots of questions posted on SSC forums as well as Microsoft message boards.

The next year, I was able to attend the Summit in Seattle and this is where I really started to CONNECT. Before that year’s Summit, I watched Patrick LeBlanc start the Baton Rouge SQL Server User Group. Patrick was able to use the resources from PASS to get it started and the networking with local IT professionals started this CONNECT for me. The group was created after the .Net User Group was started in Baton Rouge.

The second Summit I attended got me started wondering about the SHARE aspect. 2 or 3 sessions I attended got me thinking “I can do that”. Now, it was not magic and I was presenting. The first presentations I start doing were every other week Lunch and Learns at work regarding upgrading SQL Server from 2000 to 2005. The first presentation outside of work was for the local SQL Server User Group about SQL Server monitoring with Performance Dashboards. It went well, and I received very candid feedback from employees I worked with. I have learned today that feedback (good and bad) helps me improve the presentations over time.

Getting involved with PASS, I have helped the local user group with presentations, volunteering for 4 SQLSaturday events and promoting locally. The Data Architecture Virtual Chapter needed help and I became the Chairperson for 2 years and have been able to encourage another DBA to assume the role after I retired which led into a VC mentor role.

The last item is LEARN. Well, if you have read this far, you should already know that all of the things above have helped me LEARN SQL Server - connecting to get the right people to go to with questions and sharing which enhances my skills. They are all learning opportunities which help advance my career and skill set.

Friday, November 7, 2014

PASS Summit: Blogger Q&A with Board of Directors Executive Committee

On Thursday, I was invited as a blogger to attend an intimate conversation (Q&A) with the PASS Board of Directors: Adam Jorgensen (EVP – Executive Vice President), Denise McInerney (VP Marketing) and Thomas LaRock (President). I started to try to understand why I was asked, but gave up due to mental exhaustion from attending the PASS Summit 2014. It was a great event with just way too much to do.

I decided to fish the internet and other community people for questions to ask. They boiled down to info about the BA conference, BOD structure/commitment, location of Summit and inquire about growth of DBAs in our community.  There were other questions, but the hour ran out. But, all three assured us that if you (Us and Ya’ll all) have a question or concern about PASS, each is individually willing to talk one on one through emails or phone calls. They even gave examples of individuals in the community that talked one on one to resolve an issue or understanding without have to use twitter or a blog post be load. We talked some about being mature members (growing up).

BA Conference – Why was it started, who is pushing it and why will it continue?

Thomas LaRock used my career  - from developer to DBA to BI Architect to a want to progress to Business Analytics. I never even thought about that until he mentioned it. Microsoft re-branded its SQL Server area for us as Microsoft Data Technologies – adding what is happening to data in this time and age. These are new opportunities for us data people.

There was no direct answer to the “pushing”, but the word Microsoft came up here and there. They are booked for the BA conference for the next 2 years in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, CA) where there is a pool of speakers and talent in this area. Microsoft knows we (PASS) do community well, so they want us to help develop the community around BA. Adam mentioned the boards intent is not to split the community, but bring us together.

Denise mentioned how the first PASS Summit was an initiation only conference and they are going in that direction this year to help us get some understanding of what BA is really all about and help start to grow the speaker pool. It made sense. (I just read Mickey’s blog and she mentions there are vendors/exhibitors available as well in this area).

Summit Location – It will be in Seattle for the next 3-4 years (2015-2018 I believe)

There was no answer if it will be in another location. The deal is booking an event like this is starting to get more difficult with convention centers booking 4-5 years out. The BA conference is booked for 2 years (I believe they said that was the original plan/commitment).

Mark’s Question – Talk about the Election problems and why it took awhile for a response

The board and HQ had to abide by PASS By-Laws and laws of the state of IL. After HQ talk will Legal and quorums (12 people needed) were available, then decisions could be made (By the way, I think the decision and action were on the mark). The quorum problem got me to follow up my question about the board structure and time needed to be active in the decisions).

There were many conversations before quorum about what was the right thing to do. Denise ave credit to HQ for the movement of the process.

Board Structure and Time Required

I was amazed when Denise said she spends sometimes 2 hours a day on average (most made up on weekends because of having a ‘job’) and sometimes up to 30 hours in a week a month before a conference. Director At-Large maybe 5 hours a week. It could be as low a 2 hours a week if not much is going on.

The By-laws have the details if you want to read them (that is what they told me), but they did an excellent job making it simple for me.

Each Executive Member (elected – EVP, President and VP-Marketing, and Past-President stands on committee) of Board servers 2 year terms (max 8 years). The other 2 are Microsoft appointed (CA vacated their appointees last year). I asked if they will be replaced and that is being looked at (for help on the Executive Board). The total Board of Directors votes on the 3 Executive Positions.

The opening for president has a requirement of serving at least one year on executive committee. This past election we voted on was for At-Large members of the board. There are something like 6-8 at-large members. Tim Ford was one of them that sat in on the Q&A. I am sure there is more, but I will stop there.

Bill G (Past President) is pushing the Exec Board to get more HQ staff to take load off.

Growth of DBA members of PASS

No growth, but about 1/3 are DBAs. I do not know what to think about this, so I might follow up after it sinks in a little more.


Please visit Mark’s site. I am sure he will have a blog on this session. -


Side Notes:

All agreed that HQ is doing a fantastic job!!!

The board believes the best way to communicate items to the masses is up to HQs to make that call. The Board is trying to let HQ do the business work of PASS, while the board works on strategy.

The BA stuff is becoming a portfolio with a director (from current At-large board members).

LaRock was all about growth, which is still happening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PASS Summit 2014

Well, it is that time of year again. The Professional Associations for SQL Server (PASS) annual summit. This year we go back to Seattle where Microsoft mostly lives and hope we can get lots of their employees to visit and talk shop.


One of my main goals is to Network and get contacts from around the SQL Server world, but I always find 3 new things to learn at the Summit to bring back to my job. There, I can show the value of going to this event to my boss(es). This year the first goal is to find new information about maintaining a robust Data Warehouse since this is my main job at eQHealth. The second is to learn about PowerBI and what can be done in the Cloud (yes, you heard that right I said Cloud). Finally, I need to learn about Column Store Indexes and other improvements in performance of queries. There is always something to learn in this area and many sessions to be a part of.


I fly in on Monday night, so I will miss the annual Networking event put on by Steve Jones and Andy Warren. If you are there Monday night, it is worth the time. Networking is a big deal at these events, so get out and start talking.


Tuesday, I will start the day with a visit with other PASS volunteers, then attend one of the many great Pre-Conference All-Day sessions with Alberto Ferrari – From 0 to DAX. Tuesday evening is the Welcome Reception and a Volunteer Party.




Wednesday morning I will start the morning at the Community Zone from 7:30AM to 8:30AM. Then, listen to the Keynote. The 10:15AM session will be with Reza Rad on Data Mining. I meet Reza last year and it was a pleasure talking and learning from him. Smart guy. At noon, I will be in the Virtual Chapter lunch as I am a VC Mentor and need to meet and greet our leaders. At 1:30PM, Jen Stirrup is talking PowerBI & R. Peter Meyers (one of the best presenters I know) will be presenting on Master Data Services is at 2:45PM, which might be helpful at my job. At the end of the day it is a toss up between Marco Russo – DAX Patterns and Jon Welch – Continuous Delivery of DW & DMs. Wednesday night is the Exhibitor Reception.


Thursday morning has another Keynote on The Cloud, followed by a 10:15 session by Reza Rad (again) on Query M Functions. I will probably have to leave early to man the Community Zone from 11:30-12:30 during lunch. Hosting a Lightening Round session is next at 1:30 which I am really excited about. I will probably have to chill out after the Lightening Round and take a leisure break at the community zone and just visit with people or end the day at Alberto Ferrari’s Adv Model w/ SSAS Tabular. Thursday night is the Community Appreciation Part – EMP Museum which is always fun.


Friday morning I present at 10:15AM – Excel 2013 Tips and Tricks for SSAS Multidimensional. Unless I am totally comfortable with the presentation, I will probably take it easy getting up in the morning, rehearse the presentation at the hotel and then end up in the Speaker Ready room and try to sneak in the presentation room to test everything. After that all bets are off, except to fly home late on a red-eye to get back to Baton Rouge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Can’t Create A Timeline in Excel on Multidimensional Cube

Excel 2013 - We can’t create a Timeline for this report because it doesn’t have a field formatted as Date.

After getting excited about the Timeline object in Excel 2013, I tried to add this cool feature of Excel 2013 and got an error – “We can’t create a Timeline for this report because it doesn’t have a field formatted as Date.”



After some Bing searches :), I found the solution to be adding the ValueColumn property of the Date Key attribute to be a date value. In this example, my Date key attribute in the Date dimension is an integer like 20140101 not the actual date itself. The NameColumn property is a text description of the date.



After adding the actual date (FullDate), the first error went away.



The following error was new – We couldn’t create a Timeline because the date field contains values that are not supported as dates in Excel.




In the initial stages of loading data, we had source dates that were unknown and we replaced those dates with 01/01/1800 (12/31/2099 for End Dates) or the date would come in as 01/01/1000 from the source. These values do not work in the Timeline. Once I verified that the unknown dates were cleared up, I changed the Date source in the Data Source View of the cube from including these date values:


SELECT DateKey, FullDate, DateName, DayOfWeek, DayNameOfWeek, DayOfMonth, DayOfYear, WeekdayWeekend,
    WeekOfYear, MonthName, MonthOfYear, IsLastDayOfMonth, CalendarQuarter, CalendarYear,
    CalendarYearMonth, CalendarYearQtr, 'Q' + CONVERT(varchar(1), CalendarQuarter) AS CalendarQuarterName,
    DateRange, CONVERT(int, REPLACE(CalendarYearMonth, '-', '')) AS MonthKey,
    RTRIM(LTRIM(MonthName)) + ' ' + CONVERT(varchar(4), CalendarYear) AS MonthYear
FROM dbo.DimDate
WHERE (DateKey BETWEEN 20090101 AND 20141231)
  OR (DateKey = - 1)
  OR (DateKey = - 2)

The OR in the WHERE includes a lower (1800-01-01) and upper (2099-12-31) in the Date dimension. These are no longer needed because the data in scrubbed first to exclude or correct the date problems.


SELECT DateKey, FullDate, DateName, DayOfWeek, DayNameOfWeek, DayOfMonth, DayOfYear, WeekdayWeekend,
    WeekOfYear, MonthName, MonthOfYear, IsLastDayOfMonth, CalendarQuarter, CalendarYear,
    CalendarYearMonth, CalendarYearQtr, 'Q' + CONVERT(varchar(1), CalendarQuarter) AS CalendarQuarterName,
    DateRange, CONVERT(int, REPLACE(CalendarYearMonth, '-', '')) AS MonthKey,
    RTRIM(LTRIM(MonthName)) + ' ' + CONVERT(varchar(4), CalendarYear) AS MonthYear
FROM dbo.DimDate
WHERE (DateKey BETWEEN 20090101 AND 20141231)

Now, no more error:





Saturday, September 27, 2014

PASS got it right

This morning I received an email (really 3 emails) about an extension for voting for the Board of Directors giving anyone registered with PASS before June of 2014. I think this is fair and gives those that have been active, but did not update their profile a chance to vote.

I read some posts about not being able to vote, passwords exposed, etc. with concern but patience. One thing I have learned over the years is I have to listen to all sides of the story before making a statement. Usually, I do not do this because of my inpatient personality. This happened with work this past Friday while I should have been enjoying PTO because of the birth of my son. :)

PASS (Professional Association of SQL Server) has enabled me and many others I know, advance in our careers. There is money involved with this organization, and I think that causes some tension in our minds. I really believe some have voiced concern to get more attention to their blog (which is their consultant company).

I received 3 emails because I have at some point in the past registered with PASS under 3 different accounts. I do not remember why and when I did this, but I need to inactivate the 2 I do not use. This is my part in helping PASS maintain the list of valid members.

I read Andy Warren’s post about who he is voting for and why, and see the problems with PASS opening the association to more than just SQL Server professionals. I actually agree with him even though my career is migrating from a DBA role to Business Analytics. I also agree with his suggestions for the following years.

Here is why I was on PTO last week.

DSCN1425    DSCN1421

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PASS Summit 2014 Announcements

In case you do not receive the PASS connector, here are some announcements for this year’s summit on Nov 3rd – 7th.

Day 2 Keynote -  Dr. Rimma Nehme from Jim Gray’s System Lab

Apparently, Dr. Mehme is a Polybase and query optimization expert from Microsoft and she will be talking Cloud 101. I am not involved in the Cloud, YET, but I feel it coming. This might be a great opportunity to listen to what is coming down the pipes. Polybase is the Microsoft product for Big Data in the Cloud, so I am sure we are going to hear how MS is going to lead the way in this technology. There are no sessions during the Keynotes, so everybody should have time to attend these morning starters.

24 Hours of PASS

Last year, I was able to present during the Summit Preview Edition and have hosted many sessions over the years. This is a great event to showcase the up coming Summit. Did I mention these are FREE? The session have speakers from the 2014 Summit and are going to show what they will be presenting on at the Summit.

WIT luncheon speaker Kimberly Bryant

During the summit, there are special events continuously happening all through the 5 day summit (1st 2 days are pre-conference sessions and last 3 days are regular and half-day sessions). One was started as a Women In Technology (WIT), but has morphed into getting everybody involved with promoting careers in technology. This year must be a little different because previous years usually have a panel. Kimberly Bryant from Black Girls Code (BGC) has been selected as the luncheon speaker on the Nov 6th luncheon.

Featured Blog: “PASS Summit 2014 Speaker Idol Competition”

“PASS Summit is hosting its first Speaker Idol competition, a chance for 12 new speakers to improve their skills and win a slot at next year’s Summit. Are you ready to take the challenge?Read Denny Cherry’s post announcing the rules, and qualifications to join as a contestant.” Pass Connector

Friday, August 8, 2014

Upcoming PASS Virtual Chapter Webcast (FREE!!!)

As always, there are many free ways to learn more about SQL Server and the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) free membership to Virtual Chapters is one of those ways.

Here is what I would suggest watching:


Next Meeting: Tue, Aug 12 2014

Bridging the Communication Gap Between DBA and Developer

Online Meeting URL:

Database Administrators and Developers are all working toward the same common goal yet sometimes they seem to be talking different languages. This session is for developers and DBAs alike and helps bridge the communication gap between the two groups.

Better communication means better relationships and better communication begins with understanding the other person. Learn how to think like the other person to understand what they are saying and to know how to respond back in a way that they will understand your point of view.


Robert is a SQL Server Certified Master, MVP, and an experienced Database Administrator, SQL Server evangelist, speaker, writer, and trainer. He has worked with SQL Server for 14+ years. He has recently worked for Outerwall, Idera Software, and Microsoft, He served as PM for the SQL Server Certified Master Program at Microsoft Learning, and as a production DBA at Microsoft. Robert is co-founder and co-leader of the Security Virtual Chapter for PASS.


UTC : Tue, Aug 12 2014 16:00 - 17:00
Event Time : Tue, Aug 12 2014 12:00 - 13:00 Eastern Daylight Time


Next Meeting: Tue, Aug 12 2014

Tue, Aug 12 2014 12:00 Central Daylight Time

Mirroring Start to Finish



Mirroring is not dead! If you don't have Enterprise Edition, then this is still your tried and true solution. We’ll cover what mirroring is from start to finish, how it can fit into an HA/DR plan, the rules surrounding its use, configuration via the GUI and T-SQL, as well as how to monitor mirroring. This presentation is designed to walk you through a basic implementation. At the end you will have learned what mirroring is, how it can fit into your environment, what business requirements it solves, and how to configure it.

Ryan Adams has worked for Verizon for 16 years. His primary focus is the SQL Server Engine, high availability, and disaster recovery. Previously he was a Senior Active Directory Architect and designed the company's worldwide Active Directory infrastructure. He serves on the Board of Directors for the North Texas SQL Server User Group and is President of the PASS Performance Virtual Chapter


Wed, Aug 13 2014 10:00 Mountain Daylight Time

Optimizing SQL Server Performance in a Virtual Environment


Building Your Own SQL Server Virtual Playground

As the number of SQL Server versions and features grow over time so does the the difficulty in maintaining a set of tools for working with all of them on your local machine. Add in that some features require multiple physical instances and suddenly a single installation isn't enough. Need to quickly switch between versions and editions of SQL Server? Want to learn how to set up a cluster? Or maybe you want to try out the latest features in SQL 2012...virtualization offers a convenient way to do any or all of these. In this session we'll show you how by covering the fundamentals of desktop virtualization and demonstrating how to set up a virtual playground on your own machine.


Kendal is a database strategist, community advocate, public speaker, and blogger. He is passionate about helping leaders use Microsoft SQL Server to solve complex problems that protect, unlock and optimize data's value. Since 1999, Kendal has specialized in SQL Server database management solutions and provided IT strategy consulting.


Wed, Aug 13 2014 12:00 Mountain Daylight Time

Best Practices for your Very Large Databases– sponsored by Dell Software



Abstract: As businesses' data needs keep growing so do the sizes of the databases we are entrusted to manage. Faced with constant growth and the scale of multiple Terabytes, more DBA's are facing the challenges to properly tune and maintain the VLDB's in their environment. In this session we will go into the best practices, tips and tricks learned from helping customers in the field with this common growing pain. We will cover the best way to do integrity checks, stats updates, index maintenance, partitioned tables and more so you can to tame your Very Large Databases and keep them running in top shape.

Warner is a SQL Server MCM and SQL Server Principal Consultant at Pythian, a global Canada-based company specialized in DBA services. A brief stint in .NET programming led to his early DBA formation working for enterprise customers in Hewlett-Packard ITO organization. From there he transitioned to his current position at Pythian, managing multiple customers and instances in many versions and industries while leading a highly talented team of SQL Server DBAs.


Tue, Aug 19 2014 11:00 Central Daylight Time

The Roadmap to Better Performance: Reading Query Plans



Whether you’re a DBA or a developer, you probably know that when you submit a query to SQL Server it generates a plan – a map if you will – that determines how it will get the data you’ve requested. But if you’re not familiar with how to read that map, then how do you know how to create a faster route to the data? How can you tune a query? If you’ve been lost when looking at plans before, then sign up for this session where we will cover the basics of query plans. We’ll step through how to capture them, discuss the essential information to review in a plan, and highlight a couple patterns to look for when tuning queries. As usual, expect lots of demos to highlight key points, and “plan” to walk away with new methods to use when reviewing query plans in SQL Server. Level: 200

Erin Stellato is a Principal Consultant with SQLskills and lives in Cleveland, OH. She has over 12 years of technology experience and has worked with SQL Server since 2003. Her areas of interest include internals, performance tuning, and high availability and disaster recovery. Erin is a SQL Server MVP and an active member of the SQL Server community. She is involved with the Ohio North SQL Server User Group and blogs at You can find her on Twitter at @ErinStellato.