It never fails. Just as I start to enjoy summer, something happens to make me realize that it's half over. Like it or not, fall is right around the corner, at least for readers in the northern hemisphere, and SQL Server professionals in the United States need to decide which SQL Server conference to attend. You might be wondering why you should attend a conference at all this year. After all, SQL Server 2000 has been out for more than a year, and Yukon (the code name for the next release of SQL Server) is too far off to discuss. What's the point of going to a conference if there's nothing new to hear?

I'd fallen into the trap of thinking that conferences were about learning new features of just-released or soon-to-be-released products. But Microsoft TechEd 2001 made me realize that I was wrong. I traveled to TechEd with low expectations for SQL Server content, but the depth of SQL Server material surprised me. Sure, the conference had plenty of fluff sessions that would put a seasoned database professional to sleep. But the conference also featured sessions that focused on interesting topics, such as "Improving Website Performance and Scale Out Using SQL Server 2000 Transactional Replication" and "SQL Agent: Architecture, Internals, and Troubleshooting."

Other sessions, such as the following, addressed the ever-important area of best practices: "SQL Server 2000 Replication: Best Practices From the Field," "SQL Server 2000 Security: Features and Deployment Considerations," and "Full-Text Search Best Practices."

It occurred to me that because Microsoft didn't have new features to discuss, the speakers had time to drill down into very specific topics. And because SQL Server 2000 had a year to mature in the market, Microsoft was able to share lessons learned in a number of important areas. In hindsight, I like these types of sessions much more than the ever-present "let's learn about new features" sessions.

I encourage you to review upcoming offerings and select the show that best meets your needs.