Big Challenges in Data Modeling: Ethics & Data Modeling

From the “There’s a first time for everything” file, I can announce that I’m going to be joining an online panel discussion this Thursday (ie, tomorrow), April 24 at 2:00p EDT (11a Pacific). I know!

Topic

This discussion will be about Ethics and Data Modeling. It’s part of a monthly series put on by Dataversity covering Big Challenges in Data Modeling.

We’ll cover questions like what to do when asked to do something “wrong” (and maybe what the definition of “wrong” is in the first place) and if there are any items in particular that a data modeler/someone doing that task need to be especially aware of. Although these questions apply to anyone in the data field—or anyone in IT or business at all, for that matter—this conversation will be focusing on how they apply to data modeling specifically.

Details

Participating will be Len Silverston, Denny Cherry, and Tamera Clark, with the whole apparatus MC’d/hosted by Karen Lopez (the one and only DataChick).

The broadcast is free, but you do have to register to get the sign-in information. That can be done at the webinar’s main announcement page (look for the round “Click to Register” graphic), along with reading full bios for all of us.

In addition to the Q&A and participant chat that will be going on during the discussion, you can follow the #BCDMOdeling hashtag on the tweeter. We’ll all be watching that as well.

Sign up, come out, ask some questions, and generally have a good time. Oh, and probably learn something, too. Can’t forget that.

PASS Board of Directors Voting and Endorsement (#PASSVotes)

Disclosure: My wife, Tamera Clark, is on this year’s Nomination Committee for the PASS Board of Directors. This means she was on the team which evaluated those who threw their hats into the ring to run in this election. The comments below do not reflect her work on that committee, her opinions on the subject, or anyone’s views but my own.

It’s that time again… That time when the PASS community comes together to voice our opinion on who we think will be best to herd cats lead our fine team of volunteers, organize countless community events, and manage the internal workings of a non-trivially-sized non-profit organization.

It’s election season for the PASS Board of Directors (BoD). This time around, there are three open seats and seven candidates. If you are a PASS member, you received an email late Sunday night into Monday (depending on your timezone) announcing those seven candidates. Voting will open tonight at “end of day” Pacific Daylight Time (so that will be 0700 GMT on September 26).

Once voting opens, I hope you will join me in supporting the best candidate of this cycle.

Allen Kinsel

I don’t have much to say, other than Allen pours his heart and soul into PASS. He’s done it before, and he’ll continue to do it, in whatever capacity he is able to. However, I believe he can make the most difference having a direct leadership role as part of the BoD.

Allen has been on the board before, where he was able to do extensive work in improving relationships with PASS Local Chapters–something he would like to continue if re-elected. I think this is an important focus, as any organization is only as strong as its foundation; in this case, that foundation are the local chapters which we are all (likely) members of. As Allen describes on his Platform Page, PASS IT will be another target of his focus and improvement work. This is another area that I think is of great importance to the community as a whole, and having someone like Allen championing for improvements will make things better for us all.

I was able to spend a fair amount of time with Allen this past summer at Microsoft TechEd North America in New Orleans, where we were able to talk about both the present and future of PASS. In addition, I was able to see first-hand how much of a truly exceptional person Allen is, and how willing he is to provide any support he can to anyone who might need it.

Visit Allen’s Election Central* to learn about his platform and what others are saying in support of him.

PASS membership–that’d be you and I–would be most fortunate to have Allen serve on the BoD for another term.

Thanks for reading. Get out there and vote.

 

* Not actually what he’s calling the page. Come on, it’s impossible for me to write a 100% serious post.

High Availability in SQL Server Standard Edition (or Semi-Lack Thereof)

SQ Server 2012 brought about some major changes to the various High Availability schemes supported by the product. The most major of these is the introduction of AlwaysOn Availability Groups. As described early in that MSDN article, these can be over-simplified summed up as “enterprise-level database mirroring.” This is not quite the same thing as the existing Failover Clustering (which is still available), although AGs do require and run on a cluster.

From a Business Intelligence perspective, it’s a somewhat different situation: Analysis Services is cluster-aware, so it can be used in a Failover Clustering situation. SSRS has scale-out capabilities, which, if architected with it in mind, can provide some form of redundancy. SSIS has nothing built-in for high availability, which one could expect for an ETL solution (I could go on for a while about why HA ETL is dicey, but that’s not what we’re here for). AlwaysOn AGs don’t exist for any of these products, possibly because what the feature is/does doesn’t make sense for anything except, I would argue, SSAS. I’m mostly not here today to talk about BI HA, but I will come back to it briefly.

2012 ChangeS, Plural

With the introduction of AGs as “beefy mirroring”, it didn’t make sense to continue to support multiple, awfully similar, features. The result is Database Mirroring, introduced in SQL Server 2005, is deprecated as of SQL Server 2012. It’s not in the “Next Version” list, since this is the first time it has appeared, so there are at least two major version releases before it will go away entirely. (With SQL 2014 announced last week at TechEd North America, stay tuned for its documentation release to see if Mirroring has moved closer to death.)

The point is, it will be going away. What to do? Logic would suggest the intended migration path for DB Mirroring users would be to move to AlwaysOn AGs. Sounds like a good enough idea. I mean, since as mentioned, Microsoft themselves describes it as enterprise-grade mirroring, Standard does do two-node clustering, so let’s do that!

When They Said “Enterprise”, They Really Meant It

There is a potential problem with that logic. Specifically if one has been using (or would like to start using) the synchronous-only flavor of DB Mirroring available in the Standard edition of SQL Server, the available options have gotten realllly thin. See, AlwaysOn AGs aren’t available in the Standard Edition of SQL Server; at least not in 2012. This means if a company is running a few mission-critical DBs in a mirroring setup with Standard edition all-around, that setup’s upgrade path is very limited: in order to keep it, they wouldn’t be able to upgrade past whatever future version is the last one that includes Mirroring. For any other company who would like to deploy such a setup in the future, there will be a point in time when they won’t be able to—the feature won’t exist in their desired Edition of SQL Server.

Unless, of course, they want to upgrade to Enterprise. That’s…well…expensive. It always has been, but for most modern hardware, it’s a bigger jump from Standard to Enterprise than it used to be. There are plenty of other reasons worth spending the extra money to upgrade to Enterprise, but just because a system or DB is nosebleed-mission-critical doesn’t mean it’s huge, requiring table partitioning or something to run well. Especially at a small-to-midsize company, HA might be the only Enterprise Edition features needed. Is it worth the money? Wouldn’t it be nice if things stayed closer to how they are now?

What Should it Look Like?

This is the whole point of why I’m here: What do I want the HA situation to look like in Standard Edition?

I do not believe that High Availability options not named “Log Shipping” should be Enterprise-only. At least not entirely. I’m not saying Microsoft should make all four secondaries (eight in 2014) available in Standard. Nor am I 100% convinced that they should be readable in Standard like they are in Enterprise. I think that a single secondary, living on a second instance on the other node of that 2-node cluster allowed in Standard, usable for failover purposes only, would do the trick.

This starts to look similar to the mirroring setup currently available in Standard, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I don’t think we should get everything without having to pay for it—ie, all of the nice fancy stuff in Standard. There are features that 100% should be only available in Enterprise. Full-on readable secondaries, with SSRS reports or SSIS load jobs pointed at them, is one of those things that should require a fatter check to MSFT.

Semi-Related BI Commentary

Since I’m filling out the SQL Server section of my Christmas List, I was going to say it would be nice to have AlwaysOn AGs for SSAS, too. After thinking about that for 15 more seconds, I realized that was dumb, since, due to the nature of SSAS, it would be pretty pointless—we would get the same thing out of some kind of scale-out architecture.

Such an architecture already exists, but I think it is terribly kludgey and almost has to be fragile in practice. So, why not make a “real” scale-out system based on the AG architecture? SSAS is cluster-aware already; just need some kind of thing to automate copying of the freshly-processed data from the Primary (“Data Processing Server” in that article) to the Secondaries (“Data Access Servers”). Add some awareness of this process to the existing AG listener process/service, and boom! I’ve never had to deal with quite that big of an SSAS environment, so this might be a terrible idea, but it sounds good in my head!

Except…I would expect this to be Enterprise Edition-only functionally. Sooo…nevermind.

T-SQL Tuesday #36: What Does the SQL Community Mean to You (Me)?

TSQL Tuesday Logo

T-SQL Tuesday #36: How rad is Community? Rad enough for me to say “rad.”

I hate doing this, but I’m throwing this post together at the last second, as with PASS Summit going on last week, I completely spaced that this was T-SQL Tuesday Week. I blame the fact that I dropped my #TSQL2sDay search column out of TweetDeck last week, but that wouldn’t even have helped, because I spent most of my time on the Surface, but that’s a different story/post altogether. Community is something pretty important to me, so I’m here trying to get this out the door by the deadline (I failed, see below).

T-SQL Tuesday #36 is being hosted by Chris Yates (blog | @YatesSQL), who chose this Community-related topic this month. It’s pretty fitting, considering a good chunk of us have just gotten back from PASS Summit in sunny (yes, really) Seattle this past weekend, where there’s a lot of “community” going on.

Hard to Avoid a Summit Story

Having been one of those that just returned from Summit on Sunday, it’s pretty hard for me to think about this without thinking about last week. I had a couple different things I wanted to say, but I’ve settled on the following, about being a and helping Summit FirstTimers.

Last year at Summit was our first time there. We’ve both been to a fair number of Tech conferences, so it wasn’t all  a new experience for us. This, combined with the fact that we already “Twitter Knew” a fair chunk of people, led us to not opt-in to the organized First Timers networking event (I’m sorry, Tom). Even with the fog machine, rock music intro the FirstTimers had heading into 6ABCD (which was pretty bad-ass), we were OK with this.

We’ve learned a lot about our Community since our first Summit, only a year ago.

This year, Tammy signed up to be an Alumni Mentor for FirstTimers. I was added as kind of an “unofficial” mentor to help her out, instead of having a group of my own, because, when you get right down to it, I’m a huge pansy. I was going to be OK just being there, but not being a mentor myself. That’s scary!

First Timers Sign for Groups 55, 56, 57

Groups on our sign. My rogue group became 57A.

As it turned out, there were a lot more people show up to the FirstTimers networking event than expected. I was standing there with our group’s (and two others’) sign, directing people which table to sit at, depending on which group they were in. At one point, Buck Woody, the guy with the microphone, and therefore the most powerful person in the room (turns out Buck Woody with a microphone is the best, but scariest thing ever), just told everyone to sit down anywhere, because it was taking too long to get everyone in. Next thing I knew, the previously-empty table I was standing next to was full of eager first-timers, along with Tammy’s table, and the other two groups on our sign.

Ohhhhhhhhcrap, I now have my own group of FirstTimers!!!

I had to get over being a pansy real fast. It did help by leading off by telling everyone sitting at my table that I guarantee I was the most scared person siting there. The time we had to sit there and listen to speakers and talk amongst ourselves actually went pretty fast. My group didn’t talk amongst themselves quite as much as I maybe would have liked, but they did have some questions about the conference, which I could answer and help out with. Plus, my head didn’t explode!

Where am I going with this? To me, “SQL Community” is sitting and talking face-to-face with people I’ve never met before…even though doing that scares the living crap out of me. After this experience, I’m sorry that we didn’t do the FirstTimers event last year. I’m going to make up for that in the future, though, by going ahead and volunteering to be a mentor of my own FirstTimers group in future years.

Timezone Fail

Bonus section!

Soooo, this post is late. I forgot that we’re GMT –6 now, because we’ve gone back to Central Standard Time. When I started writing this, I was shooting for 7:00p local. Then, at about 5:59, I realize the truth. Even then, this machine is showing 7:03, so I still failed.

And I’m the guy always crabbing about people saying “EST” when they really mean “EDT” :-(

PASS Summit 2012

I feel really bad about not getting a post up about this before now. Since it’s to the point where people are already on their way to SEA or already here for this year’s Summit, it’s not like I’m going to be able to talk anyone into spontaneously deciding to go. I mean, unless you’re totally made of money and this last-minute of a flight and full Summit price wouldn’t be that big of a deal to you. In fact, I’m writing this (posted later) from the starboard-side exit row of a Southwest 737-700 rocketing along at FL400, typing on my Surface’s Touch Cover, which I’m only about 2/3 happy with (some of it is due to the seating arrangement, some of it due to not 100% being used to the keyboard yet).

SWA 2410 Flight Tracker
Not really willing to trade flying ourselves for this kind of speed and altitude, but I do it anyway.

This is only our second time to go to Summit. Last year was the first, and was also the first time that we met a lot of the #SQLFamily that we felt like we already knew, mostly due to Twitter over the couple-three years before. ‘Course, now we actually do know a lot of people, and they’re some of our favorite people around.

Summit gets talked up a lot about being a near-sleepless, heavy learning, heavy partying networking event that’s second-to-none. For a bit, before we came last year, I didn’t think it could be AS GOOD as everyone says it is. And, well, I was wrong. Every good conference should have your brain melted by the time it’s all over. It’s two, three, four days of hours of learning, lots of time about stuff that’s at least partially over your head; that does wear on you.

I’ve been to conferences before, so that part of it wasn’t new to me. What was new is all the other stuff–all of the stuff that happens after the sessions are over for the day. Everyone always says it, but it bears repeating: If you eat dinner by yourself (or maybe with some coworkers that came in a group) and then go up to your hotel room by yourself for the rest of the night, yer doin’ it wrong. Summit is not the place to be That Guy. I know, because I used to be That Guy.

I will be the first to tell you that being That Guy does have some advantages. It allows you to review what you learned that day. If you have enough/the right equipment with you, you might even be able to tinker around with some demo code you picked up that day, or experiment with some new way of doing your nightly index maintenance.

Those are all good things. Possibly even good things to do while you’re at the event. But, when SQL Family is involved, there’s something even better to do–hang out. Talk to people. Go to SQL Karaoke. Go to dinner with the guy who presented on your favorite topic that day (OK, that one might be hard to pull off, but I can tell you from experience, it IS possible). I think it’s better to take good notes during the day (I can type faster than I can write and still be able to read it later, so I plan accordingly) so when you review them a few days later on the airplane ride home, you are still able to apply what you learned. Even better, recordings of all the main conference sessions are available for purchase before and during Summit, which makes it even easier to refresh your memory about what you learned long after you’re back home.

In Conclusion…

If you’re going to be there next week, come hang out with us. I’m not quite one of the cool kids, but they humor me, so it’s all good. See, that’s another good thing about networking at Summit–as I’ve said beforeabout this group of people, they’re all awesome, and they all understand–What you do, why you do it, what keeps you up at night… All of it. This is why SQL Family are some of my favorite people around.

See you guys at the Tap House.