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The official PASS Blog is where you’ll find the latest blog posts from PASS community members and the PASS Board. Contributors share their thoughts and discuss a wide variety of topics spanning PASS and the data community.

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From category archives: PASS Blog

Big Data: What's the Big Deal?

Talk of “Big Data” and “NoSQL” is all around us, and given the open-source, non-relational bent of these areas, they may seem largely irrelevant to many SQL Server professionals. But for PASS’s new Big Data Virtual Chapter, the technologies are a big deal in analyzing a whole new world of data.

“Anyone working with Business Intelligence or SQL Server in general should be more than interested in Big Data solutions,” notes the Virtual Chapter’s co-leader Paco González. “It opens a new field for analysis related to a whole segment of information that hasn’t been consumed before.”

Microsoft is making significant investments to create the next-generation Big Data platform. And according to the Virtual Chapter’s next speaker, Andrew Brust, whether you’re coming from the relational side of SQL Server or you’re a seasoned pro with the product’s BI components, these new worlds can be surprisingly accessible. Plus, as you add these technologies to your arsenal, your background in more conventional, enterprise-friendly relational and BI tools will make you more valuable than Big Data specialists without that experience.

At the Virtual Chapter’s next free meeting on June 5, Andrew – a Microsoft BI expert, MVP, and ZDNet Big Data blogger – will give an overview of the Big Data space, key technologies, and how you can get hands-on with them. He’ll also explore the career opportunities and strategies available if you decide to take the Big Data plunge while remaining grounded in your SQL Server environment.

“The goal of the Big Data Virtual Chapter is to provide a community for SQL Server professionals to learn about the use of SQL Server software with Hadoop and related technologies,” adds Virtual Chapter co-leader Carl Rabeler. “We invite all PASS members and their colleagues to join us - share your experiences, problems, and solutions and learn new skills.”

In April, 70+ attendees joined Denny Lee of the Microsoft SQL Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) for the Virtual Chapter’s first meeting – a Microsoft Hadoop primer and real-world look at customers using Hadoop to gain insights from Big Data. If you missed the session, you can watch the archived recording.

With Microsoft’s Hadoop-based service for Windows Azure nearing release, the Virtual Chapter expects to meet the first Tuesday of every month and ramp up its online resources and forum. If you’d like to speak at or volunteer with the Big Data Virtual Chapter, please contact Paco, and make sure to follow @PASSBigDataVC on twitter for the latest technology and meeting updates.


Data Architecture VC: Building a Firm Foundation

For the past 18 months, the PASS Data Architecture Virtual Chapter has been helping IT pros build a firm foundation in database design via free webcasts with the best and brightest in the SQL Server community.       

The DArch VC has something for everyone, whether you’re a DBA, a database or data integration developer, a data warehousing professional, a data presentation developer, or a client-side application developer persisting data for later retrieval.

“Data architecture provides the blueprints that we all share,” notes VC Chair Thomas LeBlanc. “We want to make data architecture accessible to all data practitioners, and drive the point home that data architecture is a set of practices and a body of knowledge that overlaps almost all database professionals to some degree.”

The DArch VC meets the third Thursday of every month, usually at noon Central Time. And as PASS continues to reach out to SQL Server enthusiasts around the world, the VC is looking at trying other hours so database pros in different time zones can listen in live.

The VC’s next meeting is tomorrow, April 19, at noon CT (6pm GMT) with Todd McDermid speaking on Data Warehouse Dimension Processing with Integration Services - From Simple to Complex. Mike Fal follows in May with table partitioning, and Louis Davidson and Neil Hambly will be presenting this summer.

If you’re just joining the VC, you can catch up via the online archive, which includes session recordings on data warehouse design (Jeremy Huppatz and John Racer), architecture career paths (Robert Davis), database normalization (Louis Davidson and Karen Lopez), and standards (Thomas LeBlanc), as well as presentations on database modeling (Audrey Hammonds) and design mistakes (Steve Simon).

As the DArch VC grows, it’s also looking for volunteers to manage the following tasks:
•    LiveMeeting hosting - creating the LiveMeeting scheduled task, emailing the presenter link to speakers and hosts, introducing speakers before webcasts, and monitoring questions.
•    Speaker recruiting - reaching out to presenters in the SQL Server community to share their expertise and making sure session recordings are posted on the online meeting archive.
•    Marketing - helping update the DArch website, submitting meetings to the PASS Events page, promoting webcasts via community bloggers/tweeters, and notifying media sites such as, Megaphone Community, and USGS.
•    Website maintenance – acting as webmaster for the VC’s DotNetNuke-based website, hosted by PASS.

“These positions are great for people wanting to become proficient in LiveMeeting hosting, as well as meeting and recruiting speakers from around the world and understanding how to get the most from PASS,” Thomas adds. “Plus, they can lead to even more opportunities to serve in the SQL Server community and grow your career.”

The DArch VC has resources and mentors to help you learn the details of each position, which should take only 4-5 hours a month, but you need to commit for at least a year. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact the VC at or on Titter at @DArchVC.


SQL Server/Oracle VC: Supporting the "Bilingual DBA"

Living in two database worlds? Join fellow SQL Server and Oracle enthusiasts in a unique and re-energized PASS Virtual Chapter where members can collaborate, learn, and grow their careers.

Created last year to support DBAs and developers who work with both SQL Server and Oracle database systems, the SQL Server/Oracle VC’s mission is to provide a forum to help resolve issues, encourage knowledge sharing, and build a stronger “bilingual” community.

“Our goal is to create a rich environment of free webcasts – from both the SQL Server and Oracle camps – web-based articles, and a cross product/cross pollination of concepts and ideas to help our members succeed in both spaces,” says VC leader Steve Simon.

Steve is speaking on "Data Access Layers: A road map to smarter, efficient and effective queries” to kick off the refreshed VC’s first meeting April 11 at 11am ET. And from there, the VC will be meeting via Live Meeting the second Wednesday of every month, with its webinars being recorded for replay in case you can’t attend live.

In between meetings, the VC is looking to foster discussions, provide resources and troubleshooting help, and promote idea sharing and suggestions about future meetings on its new LinkedIn group.

“Everyone is welcome, and we would love to hear what topics you’re interested in,” Steve notes. “We’re also looking for presenters and volunteers who want to help grow and support the chapter - if you’re interested, just contact me.”


New on the Job: PASS Board Year 1, Q1

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

When I got elected to the PASS Board of Directors, I decided I would plan my goals for the job in 3-month intervals. I also plan on blogging about the experience of being on the Board at the end of each quarter, at least.

Getting Started
Prior to being elected, all of my time and energy was focused on the election process. Because the election ended so close to the start of the new Board term, there was not much time to transition from being a candidate to being a director. I set a rather modest goal for Q1: learn my new role. This really broke down into two major areas:
learning what it means to be a member of the body responsible for the overall running of PASS and learning about my portfolio of Virtual Chapters.

In January we had our first in-person board meeting after the election. We covered a lot of topics, from Summit floor plans to global growth strategies to the SQLRally selection process and much more. (See the meeting minutes for more detail.) I was struck by the thoughtfulness with which the entire body took up each question and discussion. I thought it was particularly productive for the first meeting of a board that had not worked together as a group before.

The challenge to being a director is that you need to transition from the more tactical, execution-focused role of a volunteer to a role that requires you to think about the longer term strategic goals of the organization. I knew this going in, but the board meeting helped me get a better understanding of what that shift looks like.

Virtual Chapters
Each director is responsible for at least one portfolio; in my case, it's the Virtual Chapters (VCs.) I believe VCs provide a lot of value to our members as a source of both technical education and networking, and I'm excited about the possibilities for growing and expanding them. I think of myself as an enabler and evangelist for the VCs. The VC leaders and committees do a great job organizing speakers and events. I can help by removing obstacles, securing resources, and promoting the VCs and their work.

To that end, I've made some progress in the areas of marketing and finance. The PASS marketing team has some great ideas for ways to support the VCs. We've already seen a couple of articles in the Connector, and more are planned. We've clarified the process for getting and managing sponsorships and also discussed VCs' budget needs for the coming fiscal year. One of my goals is to communicate relevant information with the VC leaders in a timely way and to seek their input. I think I've been pretty good at that so far, but in the end, it will be the VC leaders themselves who will grade my performance.

We've also launched three new VCs since January: Global Chinese Language, Big Data, and Master Data/Data Quality. I think each of these is a great addition to the portfolio, and I look forward to seeing how they develop.

Next Up
The next 3 months will include an in-person board meeting in May, the end of the budget planning cycle, as well as some work-in-progress with the VCs.


PASS Welcomes Global Chinese Virtual Chapter

An idea sparked at PASS Summit has taken shape as a new Virtual Chapter dedicated to Chinese-speaking users of SQL Server around the world. The Global Chinese Virtual Chapter hosted its first meeting on Monday with a deep-dive look at failover cluster enhancements and is actively looking for members, speakers, and volunteers.

“The chapter was born from the momentum shared by Chinese attendees of PASS Summit 2011,” noted acting VC leader Tiffena Kou. “We have observed that people who speak the same language are more open to sharing with and learning from each other.”

The VC currently plans to meet the third Monday of every month via LiveMeeting. The main presentation will begin at 6:30pm PST, but to help ensure the content is useful to members, the group will have a short Q&A session 30 minutes before every session. All content will be in Chinese.

The VC plans to record the sessions and make them available on its website for those who might not be able to attend the live meeting. The website also features discussion forums to encourage questions and information sharing about SQL Server and the VC, including what kinds of events and content the community would like to see.

“We hope that the creation of this chapter will allow those who have no access to a local chapter to participate in knowledge sharing, take on new challenges, and become leaders of their local communities,” Tiffena adds.

If you have any questions about the VC or are interested in speaking or volunteering, please contact Tiffena.


PASS Virtual Chapters: Free Training for Everyone

Are you taking advantage of PASS Virtual Chapters (VCs) to connect with and learn from fellow members around the world year-round? If not, I encourage you to check out our over a dozen VCs providing free, quality technical training online every month.

Whether you are a DBA, developer, or BI professional, there is a VC for you. There are VCs focused on PowerShell, Performance, Data Architecture, and SQL Azure. And the Virtualization VC is dedicated to promoting better management of SQL Servers in virtual environments.

VCs also provide valuable networking opportunities for data professionals with common interests. The Healthcare VC caters to database pros working in that industry. The Women in Technology (WIT) VC hosts events for discussing issues pertinent to women working in IT. And data professionals who support multiple database platforms share their experiences in the SQL Server/Oracle VC. In addition, the Professional Development VC provides a forum for exploring professional development in our competitive and always-changing tech industry.

I'm excited to announce that two new VCs will be launching soon. The Global Chinese VC will provide Chinese-speaking SQL Server users worldwide a way to gather and share information. Their first meeting will be March 19. Providing Chinese-language training is an important step in PASS's growth as an international organization.

The topic of "big data" is becoming increasingly important to data professionals. And the new Big Data VC will provide opportunities to learn about the use of SQL Server with Hadoop and related technologies. The first Big Data meeting will be April 3.

We will be taking a closer look at each of the VCs in upcoming Connector newsletters, and I encourage all PASS members to take advantage of the excellent content and networking they provide. Invite your friends and colleagues, and seriously consider speaking at a VC meeting or volunteering with a VC you are interested in. Visit to learn more!


24 Hours of PASS

(Crossposted from Rob Farley's blog)

Hooray – we’re ready to announce the details of the 24 Hours of PASS event that’s coming to an internet connection near you on March 21st! Read on for the day’s schedule, some of my thoughts on the 24 Hours of PASS concept, information about the platform, and an announcement which I think is really quite a big deal and worth making a fuss over.

24 Hours Straight
So – March 21st. No overlap with any other days, just 24 Hours of PASS, squeezed back into a single day. The last few events have been split over two days, running from noon to midnight (GMT), which conveniently fits in daylight hours of the Eastern United States. To help with the current push for internationalisation (and there’s more on that later in this post), we’re starting at midnight GMT (which is a perfectly reasonable 8pm in New York on March 20), and running through to the following midnight GMT (which is the next 8pm in New York, strangely enough). I’d like to be able to give prizes to people who attend all twenty-four, but I’m not quite that keen. Tell you what though – I’ll cheer on Twitter and my blog for anyone who tells me they’ve made it through all of them. I know people have done it before, and hopefully plenty will again.

VC involvement
The Virtual Chapter portfolio isn’t mine. It’s Denise McInerney’s. She’s doing a brilliant job, and we both see a strong correlation between 24HOP and the VCs. There are likely to be lots of people who tune in to 24HOP who haven’t really noticed that there are virtual chapters that meet, providing excellent online meetings, several times every month! We’ve roped in many of the VC leaders to help choose the sessions, host the sessions, and more. In fact, I suspect that many of the sessions that were submitted but not chosen could well be getting selected for the Virtual Chapters in the weeks and months to come. The Virtual Chapters are one of the best things about PASS, and it’s great that 24HOP can be showcasing them this time around. Most of the VCs are represented, including Performance, Data Architecture, PowerShell, Professional Development, and the larger ones like BI and AppDev. Even the newly forming BigData VC. The Oracle VC isn’t. Sorry, Scott.

LiveMeeting is such a great product. If you haven’t tried it out, you really should. It’s been our platform of choice here at 24HOP for ages now. Unfortunately, 24HOP seems to have outgrown it. People who have tuned in to recent events will have noticed that the video hasn’t always streamed as nicely as we’d like, and although we really do love LiveMeeting, we’re going to try a different platform – called IBTalk. This thing looks really impressive, and has some really cool features too. Most importantly, it should scale well. And record nicely. And allow eval forms nicely. And make coffee* (*feature list may not be completely accurate).

I know you’ve already read about how the event is going to be 24 hours straight, ignoring the fact that numbers may well be lower while the US sleeps. But that’s not the only way in which 24HOP is becoming more international...

During the event, the IBTalk people are going to provide Live Closed Captioning. So you can get subtitles during the event! But there’s more...This captioning will be available in fifteen different languages!

English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai. You want subtitles in Thai? No problem. Watching with a Turkish friend? Sure, no worries. Even if you’re just more comfortable in Dutch than English...

PASS is serious about trying to reach people around the world. With these languages, I think most people are covered. There are a few gaps, such as not having Swedish or Bangla – but apparently just about everyone in IT in those areas speaks English anyway (so I’m told).

The platform also has an amazing feature that translates questions, so if you're more comfortable asking a question in Russian or Portuguese, you can do that. The presenter will see the question in their own language, and the attendee will read the answer in theirs.

The Schedule!
Read the full schedule at and And while over at the 24HOP site, register for the sessions you’re interested in. But in the meantime, check out that list! I’m sure you’ll recognise plenty of the names, but probably not all. You’ll also notice there are plenty of speakers from different parts of the world, including the UK (like Mark and Neil), Australia (like Julie), and Israel (like Ami).

It’s going to be a massive event. Get registering soon!


Board Starts New Year with Portfolio Assignments

For my first editorial as PASS President, I want to take a moment to thank all of you who voted in our Board elections in December and encourage you to get even more involved in your organization in this new year. It was awesome to see the excitement generated by a phenomenal slate of candidates and by wide-ranging community discussion about the biggest issues and opportunities facing our organization. I challenge all of us to translate that energy into creative solutions to help SQL Server professionals around the world connect, share, and learn. With your help, 2012 is going to be a great year for PASS!

One of the first tasks for the President each year is to assign Board members to portfolios, and I’m excited to announce this year’s portfolio leaders. The portfolios for members of the Executive Committee were determined when the Board elected them last June. Douglas McDowell will serve as Executive Vice President, Finance, and Thomas LaRock will serve as Vice President, Marketing. Rushabh Mehta moves to the role of Immediate Past President. These terms started Jan. 1 and run for 2 years.

Directors-At-Large are typically assigned a portfolio for a calendar year, although  sometimes Board members will head the same portfolio for 2 years. This approach works best with the natural Board turnover and matching the desires of Board members with the needs of the organization.

This year, we have only one returning At-Large Director, Allen Kinsel, who is taking over the Chapters portfolio. Allen previously headed the Summit Program committee, and his experience leading a large volunteer team will be invaluable in the Chapters area.

Our three newly elected Board members – Adam Jorgensen, Denise McInerney, and Rob Farley – have also received their portfolio assignments. Adam will lead the Summit Program portfolio, putting his previous  2 years of experience on the Program Committee and service in two other portfolios to great use. Adam’s experience and combined technical and business skills will be central to the continued expansion of our Summit educational offerings.

Denise will take over the Virtual Chapters portfolio. Denise was instrumental in the creation and growth of the Women in Technology (WIT) Virtual Chapter and the growth of its leadership team, and I’m excited to bring her experience to all our Virtual Chapters.

And Rob will lead the 24 Hours of PASS portfolio, heading up our largest online events program and one of our greatest opportunities to reach more members. PASS has a tremendous opportunity to expand its offering of  local-language events that can touch all parts of the globe. Rob’s drive and experience organizing events and volunteers will really shine in this portfolio.

Our last portfolio, the popular PASS SQLSaturday events program, will be filled when the Board appoints someone to fill one of two empty Board seats later this month.

I’m honored to be working with a Board that has more experience and depth than any I can remember. And I’m looking forward to this team and our army of volunteers accomplishing great things for PASS and the SQL Server community this year.


Community Update

With 250 chapters and counting, PASS is serious about its commitment to global growth. We are excited that members of the SQL Server community from far and wide can connect, share and learn in their own region! In November alone, 8 new chapters were created:

•    Himalayan SQL Server User Group, Nepal (Leader: Shree Khanal)
•    SQLPASS Egypt (Leader: Wagdy Ishac)
•    Cambridgeshire SQL Server User Group, UK (Leader: Mark Broadbent)
•    Montreal BI User Group, Canada (Leader: Dwayne Pindling)
•    St. Louis BI Users Group, US (Leader: Phil Milner)
•    Chicago BI User Group, US (Leader: Emre Motan)
•    Quad Cities PASS, Iowa, US (Leader: Sheila Acker)
•    New London SQL Server User Group, US (Leader: Victor Pavlovit)

November also saw the addition of 3 Regional Mentors recently appointed, for the US Northeast (Steve Hughes), US Southwest (Phil Robinson) and Western Canada (Colin Stasiuk). Find out more about Steve, Phil, and Colin from PASS Director Mark Ginnebaugh’s recent blog post.

To facilitate chapter development, educational webcasts geared towards chapter leaders are available for streaming from the Chapter Resources page (PASS login required to access).  Recent webcasts include:
•    Using Dot Net Nuke Websites with Mike Lawell
•    Making Your Chapter Legal While Removing Stress with Arnie Rowland

Lastly, SQLSaturday keeps on growing with new events popping up all over the world. New SQLSaturdays are added all the time so be sure to keep tabs on the SQLSaturday event calendar for one near you!

Recently added:
•    SQLSaturday#113, Indonesia, Dec 10, 2011
•    SQLSaturday#108, Redmond, Feb 25, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#109, Silicon Valley, Mar 3, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#110, Tampa, Mar 10, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#114, Vancouver, Mar 17, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#115, Portugal, Mar 17, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#107, Houston, Apr 12, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#111, Atlanta, Apr 14, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#112, Birmingham, May 12, 2012
•    SQLSaturday#106, Puerto Rico, May 26, 2012

If you have any questions or comments about chapters, regional mentors, or SQLSaturday events, please contact PASS Community Evangelist Karla Landrum.


New PASS Healthcare SQL Virtual Chapter

By Damu Venkatesan

The PASS Healthcare SQL Virtual Chapter was recently formed to bring together SQL Server and healthcare IT professionals. Members of this virtual chapter share and learn from one another, as well as support and address the unique challenges faced in the healthcare / life sciences field.

How did this all come to be? I attended PASS Summit in 2010 and 2011 where I met so many SQL users from various healthcare organizations and gained so much from our conversations. I realized that if we came together as an online community, we could share SQL Server / healthcare IT knowledge and solve many common issues we face in this industry, all year round! I approached PASS HQ to start a Healthcare SQL Virtual Chapter and - with their encouragement support - a new virtual chapter was born. 

Our mission is to learn and share SQL Server knowledge to make healthcare IT more effective and productive. Throughout the year we will be hosting online presentations and meetings on a regular basis with presenters from around the globe. We will also have an online forum where members can share ideas, tips and techniques, as well as get answers to those burning SQL Server questions.

If you are interested in learning and sharing SQL Server/healthcare IT knowledge please join us at and become a member of the PASS Healthcare Virtual Chapter. If you would like to present at an upcoming session, please contact me, Damu Venkatesan, at

Find out more at and follow us on Twitter @HealthcareSQLVC


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