PASS Summit 2014 Speaker Idol—A Judge’s Perspective

One of the most interesting events I got to take part in during last week’s PASS Summit, was to be on the panel of judges for Speaker Idol. Denny Cherry (b|w) borrowed an idea from TechEd and sold to PASS—basically speakers who had never spoken before at PASS Summit would get the opportunity to give a five minute talk on a topic of their choosing, and the top three speakers plus one wildcard would advance to the final round on Friday, with the winner receiving a guaranteed slot to speak at the 2015 PASS Summit. Going into this as a judge, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but we saw some really amazing stuff.

As IT consultants and professionals, public speaking is just a part of our full time jobs, but it’s something to work on as part of overall career development. As a speaker, you will have good days and bad days (sometimes on the same day—this happened to me last Wednesday at Summit), but you learn to roll with the punches, and recover when things are bad. The five minute lightning talk format of Speaker Idol magnifies this—any mistakes tend to be glaring.

Keep Your Legs Together

As a regular speaker and a judge, I think you immediately tend to hone in on the mistakes you find yourself making. In my case, almost every time I speak, within the first 30 or so seconds I find myself either moving just a little bit, or rocking back and forth. When I took a class in public speaking during my MBA program, it was hammered into me to keep my feet together, which gives your body a more stable platform and prevents rocking. Movement in general isn’t bad—but you want to make movements that emphasize your points or garner engagement with the audience, not small movements that are distracting.

Jazz Hands

Being raised in an Italian family, I’m totally guilty of over-gesticulating when I speak—your hands are powerful, and are a fantastic way of emphasizing a key point, but at the same time need to be controlled. Another thing to note is that what may feel like a very large hand movement to you, when you are on stage can look small and just distracting to a large audience. Big hand movements emphasize your point—small ones are just distracting.

Why the Winners Won

Our top two speakers (and it was really close) Pieter Vanhove and Rob Volk were both really amazing. Both of them took some pretty big risks by leaving the stage to engage the audience. This can be a very powerful move, or it can flop. They both nailed it. Additionally, they were both spot on in timing, which while important in a regular talk, is critical in a lightning talk. Pieter in particular had extremely beautiful slides—while using some of the conference template, he didn’t let his slides be constrained by it—adding in some very excellent images. Additionally, both talks managed to compress a lot of information into five minutes—I think most of the judge’s panel did not know the SSMS had the ability to do regular expression replacement. Pieter gave a great talk on the benefits of using SQL Server Central Management Server to manage a large environment (I think that’s a very underutilized feature).


Denny’s post is here.

Karen’s post is here

Are There Data Egress Charges for Using Power BI Against AzureDB?

At PASS Summit last week (and if you weren’t there, you missed an amazing conference as usual) Stacia Misner (b|t), whom I co-authored the white paper “Using Power BI in a Hybrid Environment” asked me a question that she was asked in her session. If a user is using Microsoft Azure SQL Database as a data source in Power BI, does that data source incur data egress charges? A couple of background notes here—generally speaking in most cloud computing scenarios data ingress (that is loading your data) is free, whereas data egress (retrieving your data into, say a reporting solution) costs money (pricing details are here, and not terribly expensive). Another generality around most cloud scenarios is that data transfer within the same data center also does not count against your data egress charges.

Another thing to note is that Office 365/Power BI and Microsoft Azure are two completely different services—I tried to be as clear about this as I could in the white paper, and sometimes it does strike me as odd, that two services, quite possibly living in the same data center are not aware of each other, but this does again seem to be the case. So let’s walk through the scenario for this.

Power BI and Microsoft Azure SQL DB

Data refresh in Power BI, is only directly supported by two data sources, SQL Server and Oracle (either on-premises, or running in Azure), if you want to connect to Azure DB (or a vast array of other data sources) the method to use, is to bring the data into your Excel data model using Power Query, and then pass the connection string into the data sources within Power BI. (Note—for full details on this, read the above white paper). So to test this I built a very simple Azure DB using the Adventure Works (AW) 2012 database for Azure (currently, Azure DB is not fully feature compatible with in-box SQL Server, so a special edition of AW is needed). I then generated a data model, against two tables, just enough that auto refresh would work normally.

Figure 1 Workbook in Power BI

In case you were wondering why I called the workbook “Bingo” I was having some issues related to the build of Power Query I was on that may have caused a little bit of frustration (or maybe that was just Drew Brees’ performance in Sunday’s Saints game). Bingo was the workbook that finally worked correctly. If I go to the data refresh screen, and execute “refresh report now”


Figure 2 Data Refresh Screen

From here—you can execute a refresh on demand. There is no concept of an incremental refresh—it seems like all data is refreshed when data refresh happens. So how do we see if this incurs data egress?

Azure DB and DMVs

There is a DMV in AzureDB named sys.bandwith_usage that tracks bandwidth usage for a given database by the hour. So an entry is made for each hour, where there is data usage against a given DB. I haven’t figured out an easy way to show space used in Azure DB for a given table, but from looking at my on-premises version of AW, I can about 12 MB of data in the tables I am using in this workbook.

So let’s check the DMV.

Figure 3 Query Results

As you can see in the results—refreshing my workbook seems to “cost” about 17 MB. From what I can tell there is no differentiation between an Azure data source and an on-premises one (some of that data use, particularly master, was from an on-premises SSMS session). I was hoping to provide a little more detail, but DMVs and netstat let me down—any help in the comments would be greatly appreciated.


In the grand scheme of things this isn’t a big deal (you get 5 GB of egress for free a month), but it is something to think about when designing BI solutions in the cloud. A couple of things that would be great from a Power BI perspective would be the ability to incrementally refresh data, and some sort of Azure direct connect, which didn’t include data charges.


PASS Summit Surprise—Career Management Session

In a last minute replacement, Karen Lopez (twitter) and I are presenting a session today at 3PM, at the PASS Summit in rooms 615-617. This is a really fun session we’ve given at a number of SQL Saturdays and other events—on managing your career.


 You Wouldn’t Let HR Manage Your DBs…

…So don’t let them manage your career.

Do you know that you may have left tens of thousands of dollars on the table during your last negotiation? Do you know that you can ask for more than money when negotiating salary? Are you taking vacation just to be here at the PASS Summit?

In this session we will share our experiences working in a range of organizations from very formal giant corporate HR departments, government agencies and small tech startups. You will learn about how your HR organization works, what salary levels and midpoints are, negotiation strategies, when to say “no” and how to say “yes”.


We’ll talk about negotiation, career paths, and making the right career choices for you—come join us at 3 PM.

PASS Summit 2014—My Sessions

I was honored again this year to be able to speak at the PASS Summit, and even more so with the fact that I got a three hour session as well as a regular session. So what am I going to be talking about?

Building Perfect SQL Servers, Every Time (Wed 11/5 10:15 PST Room 6A)

If you are reading this blog and you enjoy my postings on esoteric internals of columnstore indexes or availability groups, this probably isn’t the session for you. However, if you are new to SQL Server, or are just looking for ways to improve and automate your installation process this is the session for you. In this session you will learn about what you need to change after you install SQL Server (and why), how to do scripted installs for automation and efficiency, and the lessons I learned in building a private cloud environment when I worked for big cable. As a consultant, I write a lot of health checks all about things that are wrong with client’s configurations—come to this session and your health check will read “This company clearly knows SQL Server and has a well qualified DBA”

SQL Server DR in Microsoft Azure—Building Your Second Data Center (Wed 11/5 15:00 PST Room 6A)

So Wednesday is going to be a busy day for me. Last year at Summit, I spoke about building out a hybrid AlwaysOn Availability Groups model—building out my demo environment was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in IT. I’m happy to report Microsoft has made a lot of things a lot easier, and I’ve learned a lot more about hybrid networking.

Please don’t let the Azure part of this topic scare anyone off—you will learn a lot about Azure infrastructure and how things like hybrid networking work, but at the same time I plan on walking through the basics and more of the fundamental SQL Server DR techniques, their pluses and minuses, and which one might be right for you given your situation.

Even if you can’t make it to one of my sessions, I’ll be around all week and would love to chat about technology. See you in Seattle.

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