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From category archives: PASS Blog

Mr. LaRock Goes To Washington

[cross-posted from Thomas LaRock's blog at]

Well, technically I think we would just call it Virginia, but I am speaking this weekend at SQL Saturday #61. My talk is ‘Performance Tuning Made Easy’ and you can read a little bit more about it here.

I am always trying to find ways to help people who are new to MSSQL to understand the basics and give them a solid foundation to build upon. Performance tuning is hard for a lot of people because there is little to no structure put around the idea of performance tuning. My talk helps to give some structure where none previously existed.

I even spend some time going over a process to help anyone (newbies and veterans) have some structure when trying to tune a particular query. I borrow the SQL Diagramming method from Dan Tow and summarize that into a 12-step process. Why 12 steps? Because every other program I have entered has 12 steps so it just seemed natural. In my mind I wanted to create a process that anyone, no matter how many years of experience, could follow and have the end result be a step in the right direction. I’ll give you the rundown:

  1. List all tables in the query (what??? I don’t start by examining an execution plan? NO! you need some details first in order to be efficient in your tuning process)
  2. Gather rowcounts for each table (yeah, you’ll need this. I see people who dive into execution plans only to come back later to ask ‘how many rows in that table anyway?’, so do yourself a favor and get the info first)
  3. Find all filters (get info on the JOIN and WHERE clause of the query, list out the columns used)
  4. Calculate the selectivity (remember the rowcounts? good. now using the info from the filters, figure out how many rows are being returned from each table. So if we have an orders table with 12,000 orders but we filter to only want 3,000 of those orders, then our selectivity is 3,000/12,000 or 0.25)
  5. Gather info on any additional columns used (look in the SELECT clause for this)
  6. Gather info on existing keys and indexes (some newbies may not have any idea about this stuff but now is the time to learn. Dive in and make certain you are aware what exists currently)
  7. Examine the execution plan (finally! go ahead and run the query and examine the execution plan, use SET STATISTICS IO ON and SET STATISTICS TIME ON as well, you’ll want those numbers)
  8. Record your results from step 7 (otherwise how would you ever know if things are getting better?)
  9. Adjust the indexes for tables with the lowest selectivity first (by ‘lowest’ I mean the tables that are closest to zero from the calculation in step 4)
  10. Rerun the query and examine the results and execution plans
  11. Rinse, lather, repeat on each table in increasing order by selectivity
  12. Continue onward, reducing your logical and physical reads (you can focus on logical reads, ideally you wouldn’t have any physical reads. now is a good time to remind you that this is simply a process to help people get some structure around performance tuning, it isn’t meant to be something that is infallible for each and every query in existence)

That’s right, you need to examine the other DUI (Deletes, Updates, Inserts) statements that are hitting those same tables. If you are working with tables that have lots of modifications being done then adding the additional indexes could hurt performance in other areas. Oh, sure, your query may run better, but you would have hosed someone else. And while I have come across MANY developers that don’t care about anyone else except their own performance I am here to tell you as a DBA it is your job to stand up and make certain that you help maintain a performance balance for all users, not just one user and one query.

I hope to see you this Saturday!


PASS Update #48

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at]

It’s the end of November and this will probably be my last update on PASS for the year as things slow down for the holidays. This seems like a good time to update you on ongoing projects and to think about where I’ll be headed next year.

As I look back at 2010 it’s a mixed bag. I started the year with speaker bureau (SB) project, one that I was enthused about, a good project that would have a nice impact on both speakers and chapter leaders. Then I had to change course to manage the adoption of SQLSaturday by PASS and had to put SB on hold. That adoption took a while, and then I also ended owning the initial implementation of SQLRally which pushed SB back again. I kept Rushabh in the loop about the delays, only so much time in the day. In hindsight I wish I had gotten a little further in the beginning and tried to hand off to a volunteer team.

The SQLSaturday transition has been slow and not without some minor pain internally as we worked to divide the work up at HQ and learn how to make it work, but it’s been almost seamless for the event leaders and certainly so for the attendees. My work on this now consists of long term vision, making sure we’re finding the efficiencies where we can, budget, and driving lessons learned back to our event leaders. HQ owns the day to day stuff, from making sure email goes out to coaching first time events to sending out checks at the end of the event. A successful transition, and one that has had a tremendous positive impact on PASS.

SQLRally is of course still in flight, but we’ve been working on it hard since July. There were definitely times prior to the November launch that we were behind the curve, not having a web site ready was one, but the choice was to say nothing until ready, or start talking about it even though not fully prepared. We opted for the latter just to get the news out early enough in 2010 that people could try to get it worked into their 2011 budget requests. At this point we’ve opened registration, completed a community vote to pick the pre-con speakers, and the call for speakers is now open through Dec 15th. Our next real challenge is marketing. We have some ideas and it’ll be fun to see if a true grass roots effort works as well as we hope.

Going into next year I’ll have two projects, SQLSaturday and SQLRally. SQLSaturday I’ve covered already, SQLRally the goal is to have another one in the US in 2012, but also take the event international which brings a whole new set of questions and lessons. PASS is working hard to develop an international strategy and this is part of it, doing some mid size events and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Rushabh and had a long talk at the Summit about where to best use my time, and the result was that the SB project is being transferred to Allen and Jeremiah. Hard to let it go, but it needs to be done, and I’m not likely to find any more time in my weeks.

My other current commitment that will run some months into 2011 is the Election Review Committee (see the web site at That effort is under way and as a group we’re still working to understand the various view points and problems before we start to work on recommendations. I hope in the end our recommendations will be simple, but getting to them is going to be a lot of work!

It’s easy to think (and for me to make it look like) that I’m just a project manager, and sometimes the doer as well. There is some of that, though I expect to spend less time doing in 2011 and put a lot more time into thinking. It can’t just be throwing ideas on the table and hoping someone grabs them, it’s got to be coming up with ideas and testing them through conversations, and figuring out which ones make sense to work on. There is no shortage of ideas for PASS, but we’re going to have to get better at figuring out which ones we should do. We can’t do them all, and that’s part of the thinking process – should we do it, how can we do it with less time, is there something else that would be of greater benefit?

It’s been a good two years. I’ve learned a lot and helped drive some change, and hoping that I can do more of both in the next two years. I plan to continue writing these update over the next two years, so look for #49 sometime in January!


SQLSaturday Round-Up (Nov. 25-Dec. 1)

(This is Round 4 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

No PASS SQLSaturdays happened in the last week, but that doesn't mean we don't have things to talk about. This week, we decided to go back to the future instead!

Today's round-up features posts on SQLSaturday #61, happening in Washington DC on Dec. 4, and SQLSaturday #66 which will take place in Colorado Springs on Feb. 12, 2011.


+ Joel Cochran is presenting at SQLSaturday #61, Washington DC

+ Thomas LaRock is presenting at SQLSaturday #61, Washington DC

+ Karen Lopez is presenting at SQLSaturday #61, Washington DC

+ Jeremiah Peschka is presenting at SQLSaturday #61, Washington DC

+ Chris Shaw is helping organize SQLSaturday #66, Colorado Springs


PASS Director and SQLSaturday co-founder Andy Warren reviews his year on the Board and assesses the SQLSaturday transition.

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.


SQLSaturday Round-Up (Nov. 18-Nov. 24)

(This is Round 3 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps, back after its Summit hiatus. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

PASS SQLSaturdays covered this week include SQLSaturday #59, held in New York City... and that's it! Guess the Summit might've gotten in the way a bit.


+ Robert Pearl helped organize SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Roman Rehak presented at SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Aaron Stanley King presented at SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Matt Velic attended and kept a LIVE BLOG of SQLSaturday #59 in NYC


There will be one more SQLSaturday to round off 2010: Washington DC sees off a fantastic year for the franchise on Dec. 4 with SQLSaturday #61.


PASS Director and SQLSaturday co-founder Andy Warren blogs about taking risks, one of which was SQLSaturday itself. Check it out.

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.



Twice the fun in 2011! Register early to save on PASS SQLRally and Summit

PASS is offering not one but TWO great conferences in 2011! 

PASS SQLRally (press release) will be held in Orlando, Florida, May 11-13, and will feature two full days of sessions as well as a pre-conference day. PASS Summit will run from Oct. 10-14 and will again happen in Seattle, offering attendees 5 days of unmatched SQL Server content as well as premium direct on-site access to Microsoft developers and staff.

There is no better way to Connect with, Share with, and Learn from your fellow SQL Server professionals - PASS Summit is the premium SQL Server conference in the world, and SQLRally will extend that excellence to the East Coast of the US on a smaller scale. Booking early guarantees substantial savings (compare Summit 2011 prices below to the full registration prices for Summit 2010), so get this in the budget ASAP and join us in-person in 2011. We're excited to see all of you! 

  • PASS Summit 2011, Oct. 10-14, Seattle$1295 for the full bundle, including 3 days plus 2 Pre-Cons until Dec. 15; $995 (for 3 days) until Jan. 15 -
  • PASS SQLRally 2011, May 11-13, Orlando - $449 for the full bundle, including 2 days plus the Pre-Con until Dec. 31; $299 (for 2 days) until Apr.12 -

To see what's happening at Summit 2010, check out the Summit Live site or follow #sqlpass on Twitter.



SQLSaturday Round-Up (Oct. 27-Nov. 3)

(This is Round 2 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

PASS SQLSaturdays covered this week include SQLSaturday #54, held in Salt Lake City, SQLSaturday #56, a BI-focused event held in Dallas, and SQLSaturday #58, held in Prior Lake, Minnesota... on a Friday.


+ Pat Wright helped organize SQLSaturday #54 in Salt Lake City

+ Ryan Adams helped organize SQLSaturday #56 in Dallas

+ David Stein also helped organize SQLSaturday #56 in Dallas

+ John Sterrett presented at SQLSaturday #56 in Dallas

+ Jason Strate helped organize SQLSaturday #58 in Minnesota

+ Dan English also helped organize SQLSaturday #58 in Minnesota


There will be two more SQLSaturdays to round off the year after PASS Summit ends. New York City hosts SQLSaturday #59 on Nov. 20, and the nation's capital sees off a fantastic year for the franchise on Dec. 4 with SQLSaturday #61.


For those going to PASS Summit (Nov. 8-12), SQLSaturday is coming along! Tuesday (Nov. 9) has officially been dubbed "Wear Your SQLSaturday Shirt Day", so if you have shirts, bring them with you. This follows PASS Director and SQLSaturday co-founder Andy Warren's scheduled SQLSaturday Round Table on Monday (Nov. 8); here's his newest post with an updated itinerary. Monday, Tuesday, Friday... looks like every day's a SQLSaturday!


Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.



SQLSaturday Round-Up (Oct. 20-27)

You know all about PASS SQLSaturdays already, I'm sure. If you don't, you may want to visit the SQLSaturday website for more information.

If you do, you'll be happy to note that (starting today, Wednesday, with this humble post) we'll be doing a weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?

The posts are all SQLSaturday recaps written in the last week. If you wrote (or are planning to write) a SQLSaturday recap on your blog and you don't see it posted on PASS Blog, let us know and we'll make sure to look out for your efforts.


+ Jen McCown presented at SQLSaturday #56 in Dallas

+ Tim Mitchell also presented at SQLSaturday #56 in Dallas

+ Jack Corbett helped organize SQLSaturday #49 in Orlando

+ Jorge Segarra presented at SQLSaturday #49 in Orlando

+ Jason Brimhall attended SQLSaturday #54 in Salt Lake City


You might also be interested in the thoughts and musings of Andy Warren, SQLSaturday co-founder and PASS Director. Andy's currently pondering new SQLSaturday sponsorship models as well as fresh ways to advertise events locally.

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.




PASS Update #44 (Budget)

(cross-posted from

I had a question recently about how budgets work at PASS, and I think that’s something worth sharing, so I’m going to write an overview of that process today.  Note that I’m not the Finance guy, so the “official” word gets published elsewhere, and for that reason I’m not quoting numbers, just talking about process from my perspective as a participant in that process.

First, we start with funding, how do we raise money to pay the bills? A big, big chunk of our revenue comes from the annual PASS Summit, and you can think of this as not just a community event but an “annual fund raiser”. Some of that is from paid attendees and some from sponsors. We also generate some funds from selling Summit DVD’s as well as sponsorships for things like 24 Hours of PASS. PASS does not take any portion of sponsorship funds from SQLSaturday events or Chapter meetings. [Note: That isn’t to suggest that we might, just to explain that we don’t.]

Also, we should have the budget for 2011 published shortly and I’ll post a note when you can review the full document.

Early each year we start estimating (aka guessing) what our revenue will be for the next year. So in Jan/Feb and up through May we’re looking at how much money we will have for the fiscal year that begins July first, with the added challenge that we won’t know how we did until mid to late December after we’ve finalized all the items related to the Summit. If we guess too low we hurt the organization by spending less in often critical areas, and if we guess too high, then that leads to painful discussions about what areas to cut. This is something that most businesses go through and certainly isn’t unique to PASS.

Then we switch to spending. It starts with the President assigning ‘portfolios’ to Board members, which you can think of a being about the same as a large department in most companies. Directors then submit a budget request to the VP of Finance outlining how much and the major areas where it will be spent. At this point it’s a wish list, but scoped based on anticipated changes up or down in revenue as well as the previous year budget. The VP of Finance (currently Bill Graziano) and our accountant then combine all that into a monster spreadsheet for the first round of review.

Next we typically look at that first cut and start talking about where we can make adjustments. Most requests are reasonable to start with, but sometimes there just isn’t enough to do everything, so we each review our list and find places to reduce our request. This has been for one of the best experiences on the Board for me, everyone working together and jointly trying to find ways to get to a budget that will let us accomplish our most important goals.

Then, finally, we vote to approve the budget. At that point we’re able to authorize spend against that budget as long as it generally fits within the plan. If it’s a minor change we’ll send a note to Bill asking for his ok. An example was the project to populate the SQLSaturday wiki. I requested to re-align some of the funds allocated for the project and as it was inline with the goals of the portfolio it was approved. A deeper change might be sent out to the Board for discussion. Once the budget is approved, getting ‘more money’ requires a budget exception, which in turn requires Board discussion and vote. That process is, by design, painful. It takes time to have the discussion, we have to find that ‘more money’, and in general we don’t like mid course changes. They do happen though, and perhaps once a year we’ll have one.

So, where does the money go? We maintain an office and staff, to do things like plan and handle Summit logistics, do SQLSaturday coaching, maintain an auditable set of financial records, and a whole lot more. A lot of it goes to costs at the Summit. I won’t go into numbers here, but the costs are significant. To give you a taste of the costs, at the upcoming SQLRally it costs $12,000 per day for the space, and anything we spend on food and beverage reduces that cost, hopefully to zero. We have to use the hotel for food and beverage, and a boxed lunch costs, wait for it, $35 per box! Our team does a lot to control, reduce, and negotiate these costs, but if you need a big venue, you’re largely stuck playing their game. We devote some money to all the other stuff; SQLSaturday sponsorships, IT projects, etc, etc, etc.

Board members are not paid. When we travel on behalf of PASS (usually just 3-4 meetings a year) we get per diem and reimbursed for airfare, PASS pays for the hotel directly. We do get “free” admission to the Summit. Individual Board members don’t have any personal discretionary spending authority or budget, if we buy drinks or appetizers or coffee when we sit to talk informally with members it’s all out of pocket.

Each year we grant free admission (a “comp”) to the Summit to our speakers and a small number of volunteers. Comps are built into the budget because they have a real cost. It’s not “free” to just let someone extra attend – they get a bag, require registration services, eat meals, drink water, and in general cost real money. It’s somewhat less than the cost of a full registration, but it is substantial. We’d love to do more comps, but ultimately it comes back to the budget. Faced with sponsoring a couple more events or buying SWAG or any of the other places where spending would help, we try to do the things that help most members.

All in all, it’s the standard process that any business goes through, making estimates and judgments and tradeoffs to try to do the most good. Hope that helps some. When Bill publishes the budget I encourage you to read it carefully, though I’ll tell you it’s not exciting reading! He’ll also be publishing an annual statement about our finances and you should read that as well. I think the thing I’d tell you is to look at it portfolio by portfolio and if you have suggestions, send them in.


SQLSaturday Event Leaders – Reserve Your Date for H1 2011

We’ll try to push this out through multiple channels, we’re trying to forecast dates to give those thinking about events (but not yet committed) visibility into which areas/dates are already committed. We won’t set up the event until you submit the formal event request, this is only to reserve the date. We’re also using this to try to make sure we have sponsor funds available for as many events as possible through the end of the PASS fiscal year (June 30, 2011). Send a note to Sanj at PASS HQ, or just post a comment here and I’ll follow up with you.

Andy Warren - cross-posted from


PASS Elections 2010: Winners Announced

The ballots are in, the votes are counted, and the results have been confirmed. While PASS was lucky to have 9 fantastic nominees for this year's elections race, congratulations are in order for this year's three winning candidates.

Andy Warren, President of Fourdeuce Inc., and Douglas McDowell, CEO (North America) of Solid Quality Mentors, were re-elected to the Board. They will be joined for the 2011/2012 Board of Directors term by Allen Kinsel, last year's joint PASSion Award Winner.

This year there were 1084 ballots cast, a 188% improvement on the 576 ballots cast in the 2009 elections. 2796 unique votes were counted. 

Detailed results:

Candidate Votes
Andy Warren 789
Douglas McDowell 604
Allen Kinsel 511
Geoff Hiten 464
Mark Ginnebaugh 428







For biographies of all the candidates in the 2010 elections race, please visit our Elections website

Hannes Bezuidenhout
PASS HQ - Governance


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