This was my first time attending the Super Bowl of SQL gatherings and I made the most of it. I got in on Sunday night and headed straight over to the registration. I have had a pretty active SQL Life over the last year and even though I have not been to the Summit before I immediately ran into people I haven’t seen since a random SQL Saturday ago (probably in April, because weren’t they all in April this year?). In addition I started meeting people who I only knew from the Twitterverse. I can’t remember all of the people I saw and met that first night. However, I do know that I waited in line for a while with Jes Borland (B|T), Ed Leighton-Dick (B|T), Mike Fal (B|T), and David Klee (B|T) because they had it up on the big screen for me a couple of days later. If PASS Summit is the super bowl then I have to say it was pretty cool to be up on the Jumbotron, if only for a few seconds.
There is the learning aspect of PASS Summit and then there is the networking. My first couple hours at the registration were a good sign of how much networking I would be doing. It was a very social week for me which probably left me more drained and tired than the late nights and lack of sleep. I had seen and heard the advice many times about not just staying in your hotel room and I took it to heart. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and was more social than I have been probably since I was in college. I went to two different nights of karaoke, one officially sponsored event and one ad hoc gathering that I will never forget. I went to the networking dinner hosted by Steve Jones (B|T) and Andy Warren (B|T). I participated in the QuizBowl at the welcome reception where I got to be an honorary SQLSister for the duration of the game with my two new friends Mickey Stuewe (B|T) and Julie Koesmarno (B|T). I went on two SQLruns, one officially sponsored event and one ad hoc gathering that I will never forget. Thank you to Jes and SQLSentry for organizing the official run and for the awesome running shirt. At the Minnesota PASS Chapter Lunch I sat down with some fellow Minnesotans I hadn’t met before. I hosted the Windows Azure SQL Database Birds of a Feather Table for lunch on Friday. I went out to happy hours and had dozens of hallway conversations with people who all have a shared passion for SQL Server. One night I had a very memorable dinner with Mark V (B|T), Doug Lane (B|T) and Tim Mitchell (B|T), where I think we laughed and joked for a solid hour. During the Community Reception at the NASCAR Hall of Fame I met Ryan Snee (B|T) and booked him to do a short topic for our January PASSMN meeting; his first time speaking. I traded business cards with a few people, but for the most part I just traded twitter handles. I gained over 50 new twitter followers in the last week, which for me is a lot. For the week of the Summit it was clear Charlotte was overrun with SQL geeks. At one point I overheard the group behind me talking about clustered servers and the group in front of me talking about clustered indexes. Pretty awesome, right?
In short, I had fun.
But I also learned. The first day of the Summit (for me) I went to the Brent Ozar Unlimited precon on Making your SQL Server Apps Go faster. I will confess that most of the material was review for me, but more than the raw information I wanted to see how the folks at Brent Ozar Limited presented that information. The day of learning went very quickly and as an added bonus I was able to heckle Jes during the breaks.
Before coming out to the Summit I spent the last several weeks putting together a presentation on Windows Azure SQL Database (WASD). I could not have picked a better time to get interested in Microsoft’s Cloud offering. If I wanted to I could have filled every slot in the Summit schedule with a session about Azure or the Cloud. The day before the precon I attended Red Gate’s SQL in the City and saw Grant Fritchy’s (B|T) presentation on Query Performance Tuning in the Cloud. My first regular session at the Summit was with Mark Russinovich (B|T) who presented a Windows Azure Deep Dive. This turned out to be one of my favorite presentations because it dealt with the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) piece of Azure that I hadn’t had a chance to look at before then. [On a side note Mark gets extra cool points for being the only author that had a novel next to his technical books in the PASS Summit Book stall.] I made it to Scott Klien’s (B|T) great session on WASD for the DBA. I went to Matt Mason’s (B|T) SSIS Roadmap where he hinted at some new components for Federations and blob storage in Azure. Two days later I went to Steve Howard’s (B|T) session on High Performance, high Data movement in Azure and he announced that the SSIS Sharding and Azure Blob Storage components were being released that day. Perhaps one of my best learning opportunities was not a session at all, but a conversation I had with Eli Weinstock-Herman (B|T). One afternoon Eli tweeted that he would be available to talk about real world WASD examples. I was in my hotel room when I saw his tweet, but I ran back over to the convention center and we talked for almost an hour about how his company is using WASD for their web application. Or rather he talked while I listened. I had done my research for my WASD presentation and I like to think I came in to the Summit knowing a lot about Azure. Even so I would guess that I doubled my knowledge about Azure during the week of the Summit. I learned things that I would never have discovered on my own and I even got a free copy of Scott Klein’s book Pro SQL Azure Database for Windows Azure.
In addition to my Azure binge I did fit in some other sessions on some DBA and BI topics. Probably the most memorable was the BI Power Hour where Matt Masson showed me how to explain to my kids what an ETL Developer actually does for a living. I did some tweeting during the power hour and as a result of tweeting about Matthew Roche’s (B|T) presentation on the correlation between the Power BI branding name and Power Metal I got at least one Power Metal band following me.
The whole thing was a great experience. I know I am not the first to say it, but I am already looking forward to PASS Summit 2014 in Seattle.
I want to end with a thank you to both Mark Vaillancourt and Edwin Sarmiento (B|T) who gave this first timer a lot of great advice on how to get the most out of the Summit. Edwin volunteered his time to be a buddy to PASS Summit first timers and sent me some lengthy advice-filled emails. While I didn’t get to talk to him as much as I would have liked while at the Summit he asked me some great questions ahead of time that got me thinking about what I wanted to learn this week.