IT/DEV Connections 2014 is less than one month away. We have five workshops devoted to a broad range of SQL Server topics this year by leaders in the SQL Server Community. Here is your guide to those workshops that bookend the week of cross-discipline training in Las Vegas. This is the second year in a row I have had the responsibility over selecting the sessions for the SQL track at IT/DEV Connections.  It's a position I truly enjoy and one I share in my role of owner at SQL Cruise. Having the ability to cull exceptional talent from the SQL Community and then craft the educational experience for the SQL track of an international conference is both a great responsibility and a fulfilling experience. I wanted to take the time that I'm afforded every week in my articles for SQL Pro and spend this week's two articles going over the sessions and why I thought they'd be idea for my selections at this year's IT/DEV Connections Conference.

This year's workshops take place on Monday, September 15th and Friday, September 19th. Each session runs a full day and span the full range of beginner to advanced. I've personally set a goal this year of only presenting beginner topics at SQL Saturday events because I feel that speakers in the SQL Community (of which I'm one of many) don't devote enough attention and time to those just getting started in their careers as SQL Server Professionals or finding themselve thrust into Microsoft SQL Server head-first after long careers in other areas. I took this observation into consideration when selecting speakers and sessions for this year's IT/DEV Connections Conference as well. I've done my best to balance all levels of training throughout the week and that starts on Monday with full day workshops from Andrew Kelly, Denny Cherry, and Itzik Ben-Gan.

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Andrew Kelly, Mentor, SolidQ

Practical Performance Monitoring

Abstract: Do you know what counters, statistics, events, and other information you should be collecting on a regular basis to properly monitor your SQL Server instances? Do you know where your current bottlenecks really are or how to even look for them? Are you proactive or reactive when it comes to performance? This session focuses on the core fundamentals of performance monitoring to give you that confidence to find what bottlenecks you might have and what to do about them. Make no mistake, this is NOT a deep dive internals-type session. This session provides a practical and common sense approach to performance monitoring that will get you pointed in the right direction when it comes to finding bottlenecks in SQL Server. Come see how you can use the supplied scripts immediately in your own environment and gain a better understanding of how well different aspects of your instances are performing. Only then can you fully utilize your time and effort to tackle and prevent performance problems.

I selected Andrew and this session in particular because he has a special skill with breaking down complex subjects into easy to understand language and concepts. His demeanor bodes well for interacting with those of all levels of knowledge with SQL Server and he does an exceptional job of explaining the difficult and also discussing not just the "how" and "what" but also the "why" of performance monitoring. He's not out to show how much he knows about the internals of Microsoft SQL Server, but rather to teach you the practical processes of troubleshooting performance issues and giving you a methodology for problem solving such matters.

Denny Cherry, Principal Consultant, Denny Cherry & Associates Consulting

Storage & Virtualization for DBAs

Abstract: This two-part session will focus on two of the biggest topics in the DBA field: how to properly design your SAN solution and how to properly design your virtualization solution. In the first half of the session we'll focus on the storage array. Storage can be one of the biggest bottlenecks when it comes to database performance. It's also one of the hardest places to troubleshoot performance issues because storage engineers and database administrators often don't speak the same language. In this session we'll look at storage from both the database and storage perspectives. After going over the components we'll dig into some advanced storage configurations, including RAID groups, multi-pathing software, and proper redundant storage network design. We'll also dig into some advanced storage array backup techniques, including taking storage-level clones and snapshots. After we cover these advanced techniques, we'll dig into how we can best use them to back up a SQL Server environment to provide maximum redundancy with no recurring tape costs. In the second half of the day we'll look at the pros and cons of moving SQL Server systems into a virtual server environment. Specifically, we'll discuss when it's a good idea and when it's probably not a good idea.

Denny Cherry, in my opinion, knows more about the combined interdependant worlds of Microsoft SQL Server, Virtualization, SAN, and hardware than anyone I've met. Furthermore he has a way of explaining complex and unfamiliar concepts that make you feel like you're getting gardening tips from your neighbor over the backyard fence and he does this without pretence, arrogance, or condesending. All of which someone with his knowledge may be prone to do. I've taken this session in the past and it gave me an excellent baseline for interacting with my storage engineers and in making storage-based architectural decisions for my clients. Denny is my go-to resource whenever I have a complex question about storage and he's never steered me in the wrong direction.

Itzik Ben-Gan, Mentor and Co-Founder, SolidQ

Practical T-SQL: Efficient Solutions

Abstract: This full-day seminar covers practical use of T-SQL to efficiently address common tasks. Intuitive solutions for common tasks often don't get optimized well. With some creativity, you can achieve significant performance improvements. This seminar walks you through such examples, explaining the reasons for the inefficiencies and providing efficient solutions, using powerful tools in the language such as window functions, APPLY, MERGE, OFFSET-FETCH, sequences, and others. The seminar covers topics such as temporal data, with efficient handling of temporal intervals; new solutions to gaps and islands problems; statistical calculations such as median; aggregates against partitioned tables; and the complexities of generating surrogate keys and copying data with dependencies. The seminar also covers suggestions for SQL Server improvements.

What can I say about Itzik, particularly when it comes to T-SQL knowledge? Itzik Ben-Gan is a legend in the Microsoft SQL Server Community for a reason. If you're looking for a challenge and think you know your T-SQL inside and out then attend his session and you'll probably find out you still had plenty to learn.  His workshops sell out and his books fly off the shelves for a reason—he knows what he's talking about and he sees problems from so many points-of-view that his solutions for solving exceptionally difficult coding problems come from all directions. His creativity with the T/SQL language is a skill that no one else I can think of shares. I attended one of Itzik's sessions back in 2008 that still gives me a headache when I think back to it. Now Itzik is incorporating in windowing functions that his latest book is based from to help you dive into issues we find ourselves facing in the modern world of Big Data (no matter what the size of course.)

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Victor Isakov, Database Architect / Trainer, SQL Server Solutions

Implementing In-Memory OLTP Database Solutions

Abstract: The release of In-Memory OLTP ("Hekaton") in SQL Server 2014 promises to be the most exciting technology with respect to the kind of database solutions that you can now build. Imagine the potential of using tables that are purely in memory and have no locking! But there's more to Hekaton than just that, with the support for natively compiled stored procedures. In this workshop we'll spend a day looking at the architecture of In-Memory OLTP tables, how to develop database solutions with them, how they affect your high-availability solutions, and opportunities for using them within your organization. We'll cover all aspects from a development, administration, and design point of view. This practical workshop will help you substantially improve the performance of your database solutions: not a 40 percent improvement, but a 40x improvement!

Victor has been digging into Microsoft SQL Server 2014's In-Memory OLTP Database architecture (formerly known as "Hekaton") since it was going through the development process internally at Microsoft. There are not many that know that platform like Victor does and he has a passion for the technology and a strong desire to share it. He is extremely thorough in his workshop/full-day sessions and you'll walk away with all the tools you'll need to be able to continue the training back at the office.

Grant Fritchey, Product Evangelist, Redgate Software

Query Performance Tuning in SQL Server 2014

Abstract: Sometimes, buying bigger and better hardware isn't an option. So how can you solve your SQL Server performance problems? Most of the time, the performance problem lies in your T-SQL code. In this case, you could try tuning your queries. This all-day session takes you through everything you need to know to tune your queries. We'll start by explaining how the optimizer works. Then we'll move through methods for capturing query performance metrics and we'll step through methods of fixing common problems. We'll take advantage of the tools offered by Microsoft, such as Dynamic Management Objects, query execution plans, and extended events. We'll also spend some time understanding the new performance tuning capabilities introduced with SQL Server 2014, including enhancements to cardinality, native compiled procedures, and in-memory data tables. You'll leave with a better understanding of how to identify and fix poorly performing queries, incuding solutions that you can apply immediately on your own systems.

Ah, finally there is Grant. There are not many that can match his energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the subjects he teaches. Grant is Mr. Execution Plan as well. Having written two books on the subject and teaching query tuning and analysis sessions for over 6 years to high evaluation scores and rave reviews makes his the go-to source for this level and topic. There is no one I trust more on the subject of execution plans than Grant Fritchey. By the end of this session I doubt you'll be bored, uninformed, or not entertained.

2014 Workshops - A Variety of Education Levels and Subjects

There you have it, two days of full-day sessions: one advanced session, three intermediate sessions, and one advanced level session covering performance tuning, storage, virtualization, and 2014 In-Memory OLTP topics. There is something and some level of training for anyone planning to attend IT/DEV Connections 2014.