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My SQLRally Experience

The past week I had the pleasure to attend SQLRally Amsterdam.

I took a flight from Tel-Aviv to Amsterdam and got there on Tuesday morning, which left me a whole day to get around the city. I traveled in the city center, ate a delicious pancake, drank a lot of hot drinks, and even found a place that made business cards, which I used modestly in the conference:

Day 1 – No More Guessing!

The first day of the conference was actually a pre-conference seminar. It was very hard to choose which one to go to, because 3 of them interested me a lot:

Eventually I chose Adam’s seminar, and it was excellent!

Adam went through a lot of internal goodies, showed how to set baselines, understand what was the state of the server at any given time, and much more. I definitely intend to take the stuff I learnt here and apply on our systems.

Day 2 – Learning, Meeting and Interviews

I started the day watching Brent Ozar’s session called “Why is SQL Server slow right now?”. Watching Brent presenting is always a fun experience, and this one was no exception. Brent also stated a few things we can do to pinpoint a problem and told us about a few free tools that can help us. Go check what Brent has to say about his presentation.

Then, after the keynote, I attended Denny Cherry’s session called “Flash vs Disk vs SSD”. Storage really interests me lately, and Denny did a great job. He explained about the different storage technologies and each one’s pros and cons, in addition to a few things we need to watch out for.

After the presentation, I had the pleasure to interview Denny for my Podcast. We had a very fun talk spanning both career and technical stuff. Denny also has a Podcast you should definitely check out.

Next, after lunch, I had two interviews, one with Adam Machanic and the second with Brent Ozar. They are two super-sharp and interesting people that I waited to meet for a long time. The conversations were fun and interesting. I will edit the recordings of the three interviews and release them real soon.

After that, I attended Adam’s session called “Data, Faster: SQL Server Performance techniques with SQLCLR”. As usual, Adam did a great job and showed how using CLR can increase performance significantly. As at that time I was tired and as I don’t code in C# on a daily basis, some parts of the demo were a little above me, but the important part was seeing it can be done.

Day 3 – Chill out

I decided to skip the first session in order to sleep late and look around:

Then, I attended Adam Machanic and Thomas keijser’s session, “Using your brain to beat SQL Server”. They showed situations the optimizer is having a hard time with, and out of this world techniques to solve those problems. Very nice!

After the break, I attended Richard Douglas’ session, “The day after tomorrow. Why you need a baseline”. This really connected to what I had learnt in Adam’s pre-con, and Richard did a great job explaining what a baseline is, why we need it and what we need to capture.

I then attended Chrisina Leo’s session, “The secret life of APPLY: Helping us work smarter, not harder”. Christina explained very well how apply works and how the optimizer implements it. It wasn’t new for me, but was a very good refreshener about the problems we can solve using Apply.

During Christina’s session, something creepy happened. I took a look at my Gmail inbox, and this is what I saw:

Those Google guys are really good!

For the last session, I chose Brent Ozar’s session, “How the SQL Server engine thinks”. This was a 100 level session, but Brent delivered it in a very fun and different way, and actually refreshed a subject or two.

The Community

I met a lot of people, some of them “famous” like Brent, Adam, Denny and Bill Graziano, and some “regular” people that love SQL Server and the community. I’d like to stay in touch with all of them. As DBAs, a lot of times very few people really understand what we do, so it’s very nice to meet other people that share the same problems and passion as me.

Is it for everyone?

I really wanted to go to Pass summit, but knew my employer will probably not be able to pay for the flight and hotel, and that was above my budget. On the other hand, I could do that for SQLRally. Was it worth it? Yes, for me.. I really enjoyed the sessions and meeting everyone, even though I don’t easily blend in new crowds. On the other hand, if you go only for the sessions, don’t fly 5 hours for it. There’s plenty options to learn online from your chair at home. Conferences are about meeting people, not only for learning.

See you next time!




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