Category Archives: Microsoft

The SQL Server Developer

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for quite a while; perhaps others are drawing similar conclusions. I may even be late to the game, but if so I haven’t seen it discussed on the blogs or podcasts, and I keep up with these pretty regularly. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided there is a new type of IT professional, the SQL Server Developer, of which I consider myself one.

Let’s start out with a basic definition. What is a SQL Server Developer? In my mind they fall into two categories. The first is the developer who works with the SQL Server Business Intelligence (SSBI) tools, namely SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), or SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). The second is the type of developer who works in the server end, developing stored procedures in both T-SQL and CLR, scripts, designing tables and views, and other tasks not centered on the day to day activities around the actual running of the Server itself. In many organizations these two areas are covered by the same person.

So what has caused this new breed of IT professional to emerge? Two reasons as I see it. First is the introduction of SQL Server 2005 itself. It brought along a new flood of tools, many outside the experiences of the typical DBA. The ability to write CLR inside the database is very new to DBAs, most of whom have no experience with .Net coding. Note this is in no way any sort of knock against DBAs, I would not expect one to have any experience with it. Likewise with many of the other tools.

The bigger reason though is Sarbanes Oxley. For a complete background see the Wikipedia article on Sarbanes Oxley, but in brief “SOX” is a US law that makes the leaders of publically held companies accountable for the financial dealings in their company. Auditors are responsible for ensuring compliance. As a result, most corporations have put in place rules in IT that place a wall between production systems and the developers who created those systems. In my own company’s environment, and those of many others I speak with, this means the DBAs are no longer allowed to develop code. No table designs, to stored procedures, etc. They are able to develop scripts if they are used in maintaining the health of the server; those are OK because financial decisions are not being made based on those scripts.

Somebody then, had to step in and fill the gap. In many companies since these were considered development tasks the coding fell to the development group. In other organizations DBAs were divided into production DBAs and development DBAs. In either case these folks are responsible for developing solutions to business issues, and are not responsible (at least not directly) for the day to day running of the server.

Now that you understand what a SQL Server Developer is and why they came into existence, you may be asking what the point of this article is? Well, I suppose it’s a plea of sorts. I see a lot of activities / training for both the DBA and the .Net pro, but little for the SS Dev. Even Tech-Ed this year demonstrated the schizophrenia when it split the event in two. There were just as many events in the Dev week as there were in the IT Pro week that applied to the SS Dev. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen training videos, mostly from Microsoft, that cover the technologies involved. But little that talk about the overall experiences that a SS Dev. In addition, almost every book I read assumes the reader comes from a DBA background. Doing so only covers half of the target audience; keep in mind there’s a lot of us who came from a .Net background.

So what would I like to see? Well to begin with, books that don’t assume everyone has the same background. Next I’d like to see more events targeted at the SQL Server Developer. Here in Birmingham we’re planning on a SQL Saturday next spring, I’d like to see many sessions devoted to the SS Dev. Finally, there seems to be very little software, outside the tools that ship from Microsoft, to assist the SS Dev. RedGate has some nice tools, and I’ve just started investigating the ApexSQL tools, most tools seem to target the DBA primarily though. It’d be nice to see collections and offerings more targeted at development.

What can you do? Well if you recognize yourself as a SQL Server Developer, start referring to yourself as such. Talk to Microsoft and vendors, start bringing the gap to them, ask them to start providing tools and events to cover our needs. Finally, evangelize! Do presentations, blog, whatever it takes to let the world know there’s a new breed of IT Professional out there.

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Arcane Code, MVP

Just a few minutes ago I received an e-mail. “Dear Robert Cain,” it began, “Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2008 Microsoft MVP Award! The MVP Award is our way to say thank you for promoting the spirit of community and improving people’s lives and the industry’s success every day.”

Wow.

I admit it’s a goal I’ve had for the last year and a half, and have worked hard to achieve, but I still have a hard time believing it’s finally happened. For those who are unfamiliar with the award, MVP stands for Most Valuable Professional. Microsoft gives the award for work in the user group communities. My award was given in the SQL area. I am humbled to be joining an elite crowd, worldwide the website shows only 223 people in this category. Even though the award is for my efforts, those efforts were in the community and I had a lot of help from the community. Thus there are some folks I’d like to publicly thank.

The first is Doug Turnure, who up until Monday was the Developer Evangelist (DE) for AL/MS/GA. Doug mentored me, and gave me a lot of practical, valuable advice. I’d also like to thank the new DE for the area, Glen Gordon, who also gave me aid. Two other DE’s, Joe Healy and Brian Hitney also deserve a word of thanks. Even though I lived out of their normal operating areas they still took time to answer my questions and let me know of speaking opportunities.

There are also some 2007 MVPs who took time to give me advice and guidance. Todd Miranda, Jeff Barnes, Wally McClure, Kevin Boles and Keith Elder deserve a big thank you.

Next I’d like to thank all my co-workers, too numerous to mention, who tolerated my constant e-mails about user group meetings, events, and suffered as I practiced my presentations on them.

I would also be neglectful if I failed to say thanks to everyone in the various user groups I attend. BSDA, BUG.Net, Steel City SQL, SOA Society, TechBirmingham and others opened their doors to me and gave me chances to give back to the community. I should also say thanks to the various user groups across the south east, such as Atlanta, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Huntsville (to name a few) who opened their doors to me.

To all the readers of my blog I also need to give thanks. Your participation via comments and e-mail feedback helped keep my blog alive as a source of ongoing information for the community.

Next I want to thank my daughters, Raven and Anna, for putting up with Daddy being gone weekly to user groups, having his nose constantly in a book or laptop, or having to travel and spend time in hotel rooms while Daddy was in code camps. (Don’t worry, they didn’t suffer too much, they invented popcorn and “chick flick” night to compensate, and with Mommy’s help easily found the shopping malls.)

Finally, and most importantly I need to thank my wonderful wife ‘Ammie’, for taking care of the household while I was giving presentations, for bringing me dinner at my computer while I worked on blog posts, and for putting up with all the late nights I’d crawl in bed after getting immersed with some fascinating new technology and losing all track of time. Thanks honey!

TechEd 2008 Wrap Up

Whew. I’m finally home from TechEd 2008. It was an incredible week. First off, it was quite lucky for me in terms of swag. I came home with: XBox 360 Elite; Office 2007 Ultimate; Book on Sharepoint Web Part Programming; 2 games for the XBox; 8 Gig Zune; and more extra large t-shirts than I could carry.

I also got to meet a lot of great people, and find some speakers to add to my favorites list. Having heard them on Dot Net Rocks I knew Kimberly Trip and Paul Randall were good speakers, and just as friendly off stage as on. Matthew Roche, Buck Woody, Dan Jones, Donald Farmer, Peter Ward, Allen White, Maciej Pilecki, well I could go on with the list of great speakers but these were among the ones that stand out.

The InBetween weekend event was outstanding. The user groups really did a great job in a short amount of time putting together an awesome weekend. In addition to presenting my own session I also enjoyed attending ones by Barry Ralston, Andy Warren, Brian Knight, well there I go again. It is well worth staying over, or arriving early and getting in on the weekend event if you are going to TechEd.

By far though, the most important thing I came home with was knowledge. I learned an incredible amount. That knowledge will make me more valuable to my employer, who invested their money to send me. It will also make me more valuable to my coworkers, as I share the knowledge and have more answers to their questions. I’m also more valuable to the community, as I go back to user groups and share what I’ve learned there in presentations.

All in all I’d say TechEd was a great investment of time, money, and brain power.

The TechEd Day 1 Report

Wow, what a day. It was go go go all day long. I even attended sessions during lunch, so as to get every last bit of knowledge I could. I went to a lot of good sessions today, but by far my favorite was the session Kimberly Tripp did on Indexing Strategies. She was able to take a boring subject like indexing and not only make it understandable but entertaining. When you find yourself excited about the thought of spending time looking at your indexes, you know you’ve been trained by a master!

After the session she stayed and answered questions, and again from the floor she and her husband Paul were there again sharing their brain power. I enjoyed the session so much I’ve just spent 20 minutes juggling my schedule for the rest of the week so I can squeeze in another session they are doing later in the week. If you ever get a chance to see them speak, I would highly recommend it. If you cannot in person, at least check out their blogs at SQL Skills. She also did a series of webcasts, you can find links at http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/kimberly/2005/11/05/MSDNWebcastSeriesWrapupResources.aspx.

Enough fun for today, need some rest for tomorrow is another day of geeking out.

I went to the Inbetween TechEd Conference and All I Got Was This Lousy XBox 360 Elite!

As you know from my previous entries, I am in Orlando attending TechEd, at the IT Pro week. In the weekend between the Dev and Pro conferences Microsoft turned over the Orange County Convention Center to the Florida User Groups. Spearheaded by the ONETUG group, this event was made possible through the cooperation of many user groups. I attended the SQL Saturday sessions that were held on both Saturday and Sunday, and they even let me hog the stage for an hour on Saturday and give my presentation on Full Text Searching in SQL Server 2005 and 2008.

I had a blast, and met a lot of great people. I have to admit I was surprised at how many folks were there just for the Inbetween conference and not TechEd. Out of the 45 folks who were in my session, all but 2 said they were local folks there for just the Inbetween conference.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I did indeed win something. Bear with me, as it’s a great story. At the Saturday night party they were giving away 3 XBoxes, two of which were randomly drawn for. Well the young lady who won one of them did not wish to keep it for whatever reason, and asked if she could draw another name, which she did.

Well the guy who won that night had his name drawn during Sunday’s giveaway of 7 XBoxes. He came up and told the story, and said he wanted to do the same thing, even though no one would have said a word had he decided to keep it. Well he drew and it was my name he pulled out of the box! I wish I could remember his name so I could say thanks again.

I’ve always wanted an XBox, but could never quite justify the expenditure. Now I have a new toy, and my kids are very excited over the prospect of playing some games with daddy. I think this will be a great gizmo for some daddy/kids together time.

Let me get serious for one moment, and give a big thanks to all the groups who came together at the last minute, and to Joe Healy, Florida Developer Evangelist, for giving the user groups the chance to show what they can do. It seems almost fashionable to bash Microsoft these days, but how many other companies would bear the expense of something as costly as the convention center and give it away to the user community?

Thanks to all for a great time, I hope the Inbetween conference becomes a regular feature at all future TechEd.

I’m Speaking At the TechEd ]InBetwen[ SQL Saturday Conference

TechEd is Microsoft’s annual developer conference, the really big one. This year it returns to the Orlando Convention Center, only this year they have decided to split it into two weeks. The first week is for developers, the second week is for the IT Professionals. My manager is generously sending two of us this year, my co-worker will be there the first week, I’ll be attending the second week to focus on the SQL Server information.

The two week split left Microsoft in an odd position, what to do with the convention center over the weekend? In their long standing tradition of working closely with the developer community, Microsoft turned the place over to the Florida user groups. They are hosting the first “]InBetween[“ conference. There is an incredible amount of content being offered, for free: .Net Code Camps, Day of Agile, Day of Silverlight, .Net University, DotNetNuke University, Exam Crams, IT Pro Camps, Office Communication Server, The ToolShed, Train the Trainer, VSTS University, and SQL Saturday and SQL University (on Sunday).

You can find out more, including links and a complete schedule at:

http://www.devfish.net/articles/inbetween/

Of special interest to me though, and the reason for this post is SQL Saturday. Either through divine intervention or a cosmic prank, I will be presenting at the SQL Saturday doing a session on Full Text Searching. You can register and get more info here:

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/eventhome.aspx?eventid=5

And see the full schedule here:

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/schedule.aspx

It’s quite an honor, there are some big names speaking there such as Andy Warren and Brian Knight. I also see that another Birminghamian, Barry Ralston will be speaking.

So if you will be in Orlando for TechEd, plan on staying late or arriving early and attend one of the many InBetween conferences. This promises to be a great event, and best of all it’s FREE. That’s right, you don’t even have to be a TechEd attendee to come, just show up and pick your event. (Of course, the event organizers would appreciate it if you would register!)

Microhoo not to be

Seems like Steve Ballmer doesn’t mind working weekends. Microsoft has withdrawn it’s offer to buy Yahoo. Check out the Marketwatch column:

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/microsoft-withdraws-proposal-acquire-yahoo/story.aspx?guid={3A657B77-2EDE-4B6A-96E9-DD197C07850C}

If you want to pass it along, I’ve also shrinksterized it in what coincidentally is one of the coolest Shrinkster links I’ve seen:

http://shrinkster.com/xml

Ultimately I think this is probably good for Microsoft. It would have been a huge uphill struggle getting this deal approved, especially in the European Union. For Yahoo it would have been a mixed bag, I think it would have been good for the shareholders, but I don’t think their IT arm would have been overly happy about it.

In other interesting news that I think is uber cool but has nothing to do with Microhoo, Gizmodo is reporting a MacGyver movie is in the works.

http://gizmodo.com/386877/holy-crap-macgyver-blockbuster-film-coming

Thanks to the Twitterverse for the news, @dewaldp and @sweekly.