September 2, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Edward Pollack takes us inside his session, “My Favorite DMVs”.
Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?
Edward: While there is much to be said for superheroes who don’t have actual super powers, such as Batman or Daredevil, I’ve always found myself drawn to those who had to face immense, daunting tasks that were well beyond what we’d expect any one person to be able to take care of. Growing up, I loved Superman, and found that the stronger and smarter he got, the tougher the competition become. Even though he seemed invincible, he was often in danger of getting killed or being unable to solve the problems facing him, despite his powers. He had to get ahead of the competition to have a chance of winning.
Getting ahead in SQL Server means continuing to get stronger so that you can deal with unforeseen problems or those that come about as a result of new software changes, features, or unexpected growth. Dynamic Management Views are a key to efficient monitoring and allow us to identify bad situations before they become 2am wake-up calls. With them, we can improve efficiency, save time and money, and respond quickly if emergencies arrive. They are our x-ray vision or super hearing for SQL Server!
Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?
Edward: Like many in the world of data, my story did not begin in databases or data science, but in hardware. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, I spent many years working in systems administration, building and upgrading server hardware, and supporting a majority of the backend functionality for small companies. One day the DBA left, without a plan to replace him. I began looking into his job, seeing what he did, and what it was all about. Needless to say, I broke quite a few things early on. Despite any misadventures, I found this to be a fascinating, quickly evolving area where my skill set fit well. Data challenges were exciting, and there was always more to learn, more to see, and new foes to vanquish!
Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?
Edward: SQL Server provides a ton of tools that we can use to troubleshoot, monitor, debug, and fix problems as they arise. Many are documented, but not all are documented meaningfully enough to be usable out of the box. Extended events, dynamic management views, and server metrics can provide immense knowledge about a database environment. While many excellent software suites will manage your environment for you, understanding the internals of where their data comes from can allow for the ability to monitor more specific use cases. Applications often have their own special quirks, and the ability to tailor your own monitoring to them can increase uptime and provide better insight into your software while offering chances to improve it as new weaknesses are discovered.
Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?
Edward: Fear of change. We are in a rapidly evolving field where new versions of our core software are released frequently. New hardware and software technologies are popular now that were unheard of only a few years ago. Doing the best for our software environments requires that we research and learn new technologies regularly and stand prepared to test and implement them. As our data grows quickly, we need newer and more powerful tools to keep up. SSD SANs? In-Memory OLTP? Hybrid environments? Columnstore indexes?
Tools like these could be game-changers for many companies and organizations, but only those that are willing to learn about and consider them. It is very easy to fall into a conservative, change-phobic mindset where we eschew all risk in favor of stability and the status quo. Upgrades can seem expensive, time-consuming, and risky, but the resources we spend now to get ahead are dwarfed by what we will pay in the future if we are forced to maintain an outdated infrastructure. Bring forced to upgrade, rather than being able to do so on our own terms, is disruptive and expensive, and distracts from all the other important tasks that we should be worrying about. Evil villains are evolving their strategies every day. Only with new tools and ideas can we keep up and hope to defeat them!
Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?
Edward: SQL Server is such a vast product, with so many features and tools, that we often become more proficient in one area at the expense of another. I’ve personally spent so much time researching and working in optimization, database design, and with new, related features that when problems came along relating to replication, I was not as well-prepared as I’d like to have been. This is a source of both excitement and frustration, as I love learning new things, but hate being caught flat-footed when time is of the essence. The fact that there is, and always will be, more makes the future bright for us, but will ensure we are never short on challenges and late nights.
Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?
Edward: Attendees will be provided with a whole host of queries that come directly from the demos during the session. Test, alter, and play with them! Customize these tools to be useful in your own database environments, and then use the principles behind them to build your own! Once you have this set of indispensable tools, work on automating them so that you can focus on other projects and not be distracted by the deluge of charts, graphs, and messages that we often “keep an eye on” in production. There’s always more to do, but the further ahead we can get now, the easier our jobs will be in the future, no matter where we end up!
See Edward at PASS Summit 2015, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.