Goal – 52 blog posts a year

I’m sure nobody but me has noticed, but you may have seen an uptick of blogs on my site lately.  Most are short (like this one will be); many of them have little of interest to anybody but me.

It’s all part of a goal of mine to get out of a writing funk.  I’m trying to blog at least 52 time this year, even if it’s only a few lines.  I figure writing SOMETHING is better than sitting in a stupor, and letting my brain rot.  Creativity is mostly inspiration, but there’s also some discipline required.  So bear with me (if you want) as I struggle to find something interesting to write about.  Hey, at least it’s better than the alternative.

 

February 13, 2018 · stuart · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Blogging is FUN!

Friend of Red Gate 2018 – @redgate

I’m super excited to have been named a Friend of Red Gate again in 2018; I often wonder why they keep letting me back in because they do so many super awesome things with so many super awesome people.  However, I’m grateful as always.

They are an amazing company, and have always been very supportive of the SQL Server community.  Thanks so much for bringing me along on the ride, y’all.

February 12, 2018 · stuart · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Blogging is FUN!, Professional Development, SQLServerPedia Syndication

Finally hanging up the shingle (part time)…

Let me get this out of the way first; I haven’t quit my day job. I’m VERY blessed to work at a great company that lets me work from home, balance work & life responsibilities, and has great pay and benefits.

However, I’ve had side gigs for the last 15 years or so; at first it was to make extra money, and then after my divorce and child support payments kicked in, the side hustle became crucial to my financial survival. Once I satisfied those obligations, the side gig is not really necessary, but man, it’s nice to have to spring for the extra vacation here or there. As such, I finally decided to make it real, and have now established myself as an LLC in the state of Georgia.

I feel so grown up.

The real irony of this is that shortly after I filed the paperwork, I was notified by my longest running bread-and-butter side gig that they had been bought out, and my services would be phased out by November. I went ahead and filed for the LLC anyway, but it just strikes me as funny that now that I’ve finally got a “real” business, I don’t have any clients.

I’ll just keep on keepin’ on, but there is a small sense of satisfaction knowing that there’s now a CODEGUMBO, LLC. Anybody need a SQL slinger for hire? Project Manager?

January 28, 2018 · stuart · One Comment
Tags:  · Posted in: Blogging is FUN!, Professional Development, SQLServerPedia Syndication

Azure DataFest Boston 2018 – Another Call For Speakers for #SQLFamily

I’ve recently gotten involved with Azure Data Fest, a new tech conference focused on the cloud version of the Microsoft Data Platform.  The second event is being held in Boston on March 1, 2018.  They’re actively looking for community speakers, and their call ends on February 9th.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/call-for-speakers-azure-datafest-microsoft-azure-advanced-analytics-and-big-data-conference-boston-registration-40984247989

Sessions should cover one of more of the following:

Azure Data Warehouse
Power BI
Cosmos DB
Azure Analysis Services
HDInsight
Machine Learning
Stream Analytics
Cognitive Services
Azure Bot Services
Data Lake Analytics
Data Lake Store
Data Factory
Power BI Embedded
Data Catalog
Log Analytics
Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight
Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights
Custom Speech Service
APIs: Emotion, face, Bing Speech, Web Language Model, Speaker Recognition, Bing Autosuggest, Bing Spell Check, Translator Speech, Translator Text

January 25, 2018 · stuart · No Comments
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#SQLSATATL 2018 – call for speakers through March 16, 2018

SQLSaturday #733 - Atlanta 2018I haven’t posted much about SQL Saturday Atlanta in a while; things are moving along, and the event is coming back to Alpharetta (albeit a new building) on May 19, 2018.  Lots of folks are busy behind the scenes preparing, but there’s a few key things to keep in mind:

  1. Call for Speakers closes March 16, 2018; f you’ve been sitting on a presentation idea, now’s the time to get it uploaded to the site.
  2. Shortly after the Call closes, we’ll publish the full schedule.  Once that hits, there’s a mad rush to register.  This event sells out every year, so why wait?  Register now.
  3. Pre-Cons are coming; we hope to publish the list soon.  More details to come.

Exciting times ahead; stay tuned.  As always, SQL Saturday Atlanta is brought to you by AtlantaMDF; SQL Server meetings every month on the second Monday.

January 24, 2018 · stuart · No Comments
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#SQLSaturday – Is it really about the tools?

There’s been some interesting conversation on the SQLSaturday slack channel regarding the admin tools for SQLSaturday. It was spawned, in part, by this great set of ideas proposed by the Godfather of SQL Saturday, Andy Warren, regarding changing the way that software development for the tools is handled by PASS HQ:

“So if that is all the way on one side of the scale (super closed system), the far other side is  to open source it. Open source is also not simple. If you’re on the PASS Board you have to care about the potential loss of intellectual property. Scoff do you? No, there is no magic in the code, but it’s sweat equity and it’s a substantial part of what drives new members (and new email addresses for existing members) into the mailing list. Do you really want people forking it and spawning variations under different names?

Is there a middle ground? Sure. Let’s put together a straw man of what it might look like:

  • PASS puts the source code into a private Github repo (because all devs love git!) along with a masked data set they can load/restore
  • Write an agreement to get access to the source code and agree to not republish the code, plus convey to PASS the IP rights to new stuff
  • Write the governance process. This is the hardest piece. Who will approve pull requests? Who decides which features get added? Who will do the testing? How often will releases be done (since PASS has to coordinate that)? Code standards. Rules about fonts and logos – all the stuff you deal with any dev shop.
  • Down the road a little build a true dev environment where the latest code can be loaded and tested.”

It should be noted that Andy wrote (or oversaw) most of the original code for the SQLSaturday admin tools, so he’s no crackpot; he knows software development, he knows SQLSaturday, and he knows how to get things done. In fact, as I was writing this post, I went back and read some of my original posts about SQLSaturday #13 (back in 2009), I found myself reminiscing about all the advice he’s given to me (and countless others); when Andy proposes something, it’s usually a good idea to listen. And, when Andy says he wants feedback, he means it.

So here’s my feedback, based on the events I’ve helped run (I’ve lost count; it’s somewhere around 15); I question whether PASS needs to be in the admin tools game at all. 2018 is a very different landscape than 2007 (the very first SQL Saturday). Tools like EventBrite, Meetup, PaperCall.io, and Sched.com can provide a lot of the support required for the daily activities of running a SQLSaturday. Most are free for smaller events. All come without the cost of maintenance and support that are currently required to run the current admin site. By the way, I think the current tools are fine, but there do seem to be some ongoing reliability issues.

I brought this up on the Slack channel, and Steve Jones had some great counter arguments, including issues with integration and the recurring cost of these tools. I’m not sure that integration is an issue; I think that events have four different audiences, with four different needs:

  1. PASS needs members. They want email addresses from attendees to build their membership.
  2. Sponsors need leads; email addresses are great, but interested people are better (that’s usually achieved by the raffle system).
  3. Speakers need to manage submissions, and know where they’re supposed to be.
  4. Attendees need to register, order lunch, and see the schedule.

I’m not sure that having a single system to try and do everything is needed. I can envision PASS setting up a website and an email address, and then sponsors using a tool like Eventbrite to manage registrations. They can supply those email lists to PASS after the event to be imported into PASS’s databases. They can use a tool like Sched.com to manage speakers calls and build schedules. Eventbrite can be used to build the equivalent of Speedpass natively.

Thoughts?


January 9, 2018 · stuart · 3 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Blogging is FUN!, Conferences, SQLServerPedia Syndication

The S in #SRE

As I’ve blogged previously, my responsibilities at work have shifted to focus more on the application of Site Reliability Engineering principles to the delivery of our business services to our customers. Unofficially, we’re calling my team Service Reliability Engineering for a few reasons. I thought I’d take some time to explain what the differences are, and why I think the name matters. I realize I’m just one lonely guy in the wilderness, and I’m going up against Google, but I think one word in the title is wrong. Before I explain why, let me explain what I do like about the title.

Engineering defines consistency of methods.

I realize that engineering is an interesting terms these days, with lots of different definitions; you can even be sued if you call yourself an engineer inappropriately in the wrong jurisdiction. However, the term itself is widely used in technology careers to describe the systematic design and operation of complex systems. Most modern applications are actually comprised of several smaller applications, all in varying states of underlying complexity. Furthermore, the delivery of an application to an end user (particularly web applications) can span the entire spectrum from infrastructure to platform to software. Additionally, applications can vary in terms of scalability, configuration, and location. Engineering addresses complexity, not just complication through systematic processes; engineers experiment, learn, and integrate consistent practices into their daily processes.

Reliability refers to purpose.

When your job title identifies reliability as a name, it means that you have a specific goal in mind, and that goal is not limited to a technology. Reliability engineers work with networking equipment, operating systems, applications, middleware, and/or database systems. They may specialize in a area (e.g., database reliability engineering is now a thing), but a robust team is comprised of necessary skill sets required to meet service level objectives across the entire technology stack. Reliability as a goal must first be defined, and then measured, and SRE responsibilities are responsible for measuring and addressing reliability across the entire spectrum, from infrastructure to platform to software. However, reliability measurement must also account for not only technological issues, but also the processes and people responsible for developing and operating the system. There’s a reason that a just culture is an integral part of the SRE experience (and the DevOps movement at large); people are responsible for how well technology performs, both in terms of defining expectations and day-to-day delivery of service. It only makes sense to look beyond technology when examining reliability, and that leads to where I disagree with the standard SRE nomenclature.

“Site” implies a technical focus; “Service” implies a business function.

The word “Site” in the IT domain typically refers to either a physical location (data center site) or an application (web site); however, the heart of the definition is sociotechnical, not strictly technology. From an undated (seriously, Google?) interview with Ben Traynor, the founder of the SRE movement: “… we have a bunch of rules of engagement, and principles for how SRE teams interact with their environment — not only the production environment, but also the development teams, the testing teams, the users, and so on.” While the previous paragraph of that interview specifically focuses on the type of work that’s being done by Google’s SRE team, these rules of engagement show that SRE’s should be concerned with the entire value stream of service delivery including not only operations, but development, testing, and ultimately the end user experience.  In, other words. SRE’s are concerned with the reliability of the whole service, not just the technical parts.

December 1, 2017 · stuart · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: DevOps, Professional Development, SQLServerPedia Syndication

#DOES17 San Francisco – Things I Learned

Just spent the last few days at a technical conference that focused more on cultural change and workflow than bits and bytes, the DevOps Enterprise Summit. It was enlightening, and for the first time in a while, I’m leaving a professional conference energized and hoping to implement some of these ideas. The DevOps community reminds me a lot of the SQL Server community; passionate people who just want to help each other grow. There’s so much good content, and I think most of it will be available via YouTube later.

Armed with my handy dandy Rocketbook (I left my laptop in my hotel room each day purposefully), I scribbled notes fast and furiously. At the end of each day, I tried to capture three things that struck me as important, based on everything I’d heard. Here’s my list, broken apart by day:

Day 1 – Nov 13, 2017

  1. You are on the right path, do not fear. Change only happens when you take risks.
    I’m not sure why this struck as so important, but it was a feeling of general acceptance of ideas. I often struggle with being a leader because I think too much about the challenges ahead; that’s fear, pure and simple. The truth is that every challenge in technology has a solution; it may not be obvious, it may not be immediate, but it’s there. Fixate on the goals and successes, and don’t worry about the challenges.
  2. Value Stream Mapping is key to continuous improvement.
    This came out of the workshops, based on the Lean Coffee format; one of the discussion points that came up was the value of value stream mapping. I already liked the concept, but I tend to drift into thinking about the software components, whereas the discussion focused more on the people & process aspects of it. You can’t improve until you know where you are starting from.
  3. T-shapes are the best shapes.
    I had come across the term T-shaped professionals only a few days before flying out to San Francisco, and I was surprised to hear it mentioned in at least 4 sessions today. It aligns well with my vision for Service Reliability Engineering; people can (and should) be experts in a key area, but have some depth in additional necessary areas.

One of the amazing graphic facilitation artifacts done by Christopher Fuller of Griot’s Eye at the conference.

Day 2 – Nov 14, 2017

  1. Start with what you can do, but don’t be afraid to ask what other people are doing.
    This ties back into the first message from day 1 a bit, but it’s a little bit of a twist. Often when I see good ideas, I think “I can’t implement that”, and I may be right; I don’t have control of my infrastructure anymore, for example. However, just because I can’t do it, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t tell people about something I’ve seen, and ask if it fits into their mental model of where we’re going.

  2. The SRE model works when you focus on people, not technology, and reliability (what you can measure and improve).

    Site Reliability Engineering talks were in short supply at this conference, but it permeated throughout. The fundamental truth of focusing on people, rather than technology still holds true with this model; technology breaks because of people. That’s not intended to be a statement of blame, but rather an understanding that technology does what it’s told to do; when things go awry, there’s an opportunity to understand what humane choices to make; is it a misunderstanding of purpose? Was there a missed signal of pending change? Was a change implemented riskily?

  3. Service Level Objectives (SLO’s) are crucial to monitoring.
    Operations folks are inundated with logs and other metrics; understanding what the expectations are for the business service is key to understanding what metrics to observe (and what to ignore). You cannot measure reliability effectively without some understanding of what up-time means.

Day 3 – Nov 15, 2017

  1. Foundation of journey is based on a three-legged stool: Service Level Objectives, Value Stream Mapping, and Technical Architecture Map.
    I know, the whole DevOps is a journey thing is a bit tired, but it’s an attempt to represent the fact that everybody’s experience with these principles yield different results, and paths. However, for my current work situation, we’re not going to get far without these three things. We need to understand what the Service is supposed to do, how the people interact with the technology, and how the components of the technology are supposed to work together.
  2. DevOps brings joy to technology; don’t quibble over details, but focus on bringing humanity into technical work.
    Gene Kim’s closing comments reminded me a lot of my #sqlfamily; everybody brings a different perspective on technology, and a different method of solving problems, but the people that impact me most are the folks that do so with joy. They have a passion about what they do, and their goal is to encourage others to move forward (rather than focusing on rigid solutions based on their own experiences).
  3. Patience – all change takes time, and the road is uncertain. Don’t expect overnight successes.

    Finally, my head is full of things to think about, and books to read. However, there is no magic pill for implementing change in my organization. It has to happen slow, and it has to be organized by every member of the team who wishes to contribute. It takes time to light a fire, but it is crucial to the success of any DevOps initiative.

November 15, 2017 · stuart · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Conferences, Development, DevOps, Professional Development

#DevOpsDays #Nashville in the books

Headed back home after a successful Ignite presentation at DevOpsDays Nashville. This was an awesome conference; I’ve blogged in the past about some of my concerns with the single track format, and finding speakers that manage to reach a very diverse audience of engineers, managers, coders, analysts, etc. I had no such concern this time around; I feel like I got something out of every presentation I heard. Very well done.

On a personal note, IGNITE TALKS ARE HARD, Y’ALL. 5 minutes, 20 slides is tough to pull off, particularly when you have a penchant for verbosity (editing is NOT my favorite thing to do). I originally proposed this as an Ignite talk because I’m just really starting on my DevOps journey, but in hindsight, I spent WAY more time editing and preparing for this discussion than any SQL Server presentation I’ve ever done. The plus side is that I can reuse a lot of this material in educating my team when discussing the depth of these directions.

Headed home with lots to think about.

October 18, 2017 · stuart · No Comments
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Changes… #DevOps, #SRE, and #Management

As many of you know, I’ve been slowly changing focus from database administration to DevOps, management, and service operations. Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved with migrating our datacenter to a private cloud infrastructure, and focusing on methods to improve the overall reliability and scalability of my company’s service deliverables. I’ve been a bit of an evangelist for organizational changes, and it’s finally official.

On October 1, my job title and responsibilities will officially change from Manager of Database Administration to Senior Manager, System and Network Administration. I think that title’s a bit funny, because I won’t be managing system or networks; our infrastructure is managed by another team, and my team is responsible for applying principles of Site Reliability Engineering to operating our complex business services. Unofficially, we’re calling ourselves Service Reliability Engineering in order to remind ourselves (and others) of our foci:

  • Identifying issues that impact the reliability of customer facing services;
  • Tracking and documenting complex relationships between applications used in that delivery; and
  • Coordinating efforts with other teams responsible for developing and operating those services

The title change itself is a minor issue, but it’s an important distinction to me. It represents a significant shift in my career path. Although I’ve been acting as the IT Operations manager for the last two years, it’s always felt a little odd because I was still known as the DBA manager. With the move to the cloud, most of our administration (like backups, DR, and maintenance) are handled by another group, and we’re responsible for making sure that the applications (all 84 of them) perform appropriately. We’re not coders, but we need to be able to identify coding issues. We’re not network or sys admins, but we need to know how systems work, and be able to propose solutions to scalability issues. We’re not DBA’s, but we need to be able to express data requirements to the new DBA team. In short, we’re an integration point for a loosely coupled set of applications.

I plan to blog more on Service Reliability Engineering in the future, but for now, I’m excited about what’s happening.

September 29, 2017 · stuart · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Professional Development