I've always found introductions,
awkward. But since it's good for you to know who's sitting at the keyboard I'll
give it a shot. My name is Dan Jones, I'm a principal group program manager on
the SQL Server product team focusing on SQL Server Manageability. I've been
with the SQL Server team for over five years. My team is staffed with program
managers (PMs) who drive product and feature planning, design, and
implementation. It's a lot of fun in that we get to work with a wonderful
cross-section of people: marketing, developers, testers, executives, and most
importantly customers, and partners.
During the development of SQL Server 2008
my team was responsible for two essential manageability features: PowerShell
integration and Policy-Based
Management (PBM). Both of
these are very cool technologies that empower DBAs to be more efficient and
productive in their day to day work. If you haven't explored them I highly
encourage you to do so. These are some of the technologies that we're using as
a foundation for new features and capabilities.
Today my team is wrapping up development
on SQL Server 2008 R2 and starting to look ahead to the next major
release of SQL Server. I think that's one of the challenging aspects of my job:
customers are just becoming acquainted with one release and I'm already off
thinking one or two releases ahead. Anyway, in R2 my team is delivering Application and Multi-Server Management (AMM). This encompasses the Data-tier Application
(DAC, different than dedicated admin channel) and the SQL Server Control Point.
The DAC is about removing friction in the development, deployment and
management of the data-tier portion (think database schema) of an application.
The Control Point is designed to help DBAs understand the utilization of
resources within their SQL Server environment (CPU and disk space) and quickly
and easily identify consolidation candidates. These are v1 technology stakes
that will grow in capability and scope subsequent releases. If you haven't
pulled down the August CTP of SQL Server 2008 R2 do so and let me know what you think of these
Prior to joining Microsoft I spent a few
years working for a couple of different start-ups; one in the software development
tools space and another in the IT business intelligence area. Prior to that I
spent a little over eight years working in enterprise IT for a fortune 50
company. There I worked on several different technologies: mainframe,
client-server, packaged software (ERP), business intelligence and e-commerce.
My professional passions gravitate toward
SQL Server and how to make it the best data platform for our customers;
probably a little too motherhood and apple pie like, but it'll do. Some of the technologies/concepts
that are firmly on my radar these days include PowerShell, declarative
management (think PBM), virtualization (Hyper-V), and cloud computing. I enjoy
talking with customers and users to hear what's on their mind, understand how
they're using the product and how we can make it better for them .
On the personal front, I'm a drummer
currently playing in a Journey tribute band. I also love fine wine and food.
And I love golf but with three kids I just don't have as much time to enjoy it
as I wish. Plus the Pacific Northwest weather isn't always as accommodating as
I look forward to sharing my perspectives
and hearing back from you on what you think and what you want to know more
century London was famous, or perhaps notorious, for the jokey catchphrases
heard in its streets. They sprang from who-knows-where and spread around the
city, amongst urchins and gentry alike, in a matter of hours. Charles MacKay,
in his classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, gives numerous examples,
including, as you may have guessed: What a shocking bad hat! and (a particular favourite of mine)
Has your mother sold her mangle? These were the viral memes of the day; a Victorian
equivalent of Rick-Rolling or videos like Hamster on a
enough, they have all but vanished from use, except for one or two: the phrase to
flare up, which
quickly became a cliché after the Reform Act riots; and, curiously, the cry Tom
and Jerry! which
may have originated from a line in a play.
of things strike me about this phenomenon: the enthusiasm and speed with which
a catchy phrase spread; and, the difficulty of predicting, or, on backward
reflection, of understanding, which phrases would persist and why.
thinking about this just now, because I see a similar, if less amusing,
phenomenon at work in many of my customers' businesses. There's a banking
customer who discovered - the hard way - that a summer intern's programming
project had become widely relied on in their foreign exchange department. It
came to their attention, because it was hosted on the desktop machine of an
administrative assistant. Whenever she stressed her bandwidth sending a fax or,
perhaps more likely, viewing a viral video over the net, the application ground
to a halt for its many users who soon complained to IT about the performance of
their application. You can imagine that IT were mightily confused - they
did not know the application even existed - until they tracked down problem.
It's a good example of how business solutions can spread virally and persist in
your operations when found to be useful. It also shows how difficult it may be
for IT to understand where such initiatives might spring from, and which of
them are likely to become mission-critical.
an important issue for us in SQL Server, as we prepare, with our 2008 R2
release, to give business users ever more analytic power, and with that also,
tools for readily sharing their analyses. We call this Self-Service Business
I must qualify that further. We call these techniques and technologies Managed
Self-Service Business Intelligence, and the difference is significant.
self-service application such as the Project Gemini add-in for Excel, we give business users
unprecedented computational power within their familiar tools. With such power,
most anyone has the potential to build a compelling, and attractive, BI
solution: a solution they will be happy to share, and that others may find
answers their business needs unequivocally, as it comes directly from another
business user. When those others find the solution useful, they will pass that
knowledge along too.
these practices help the IT department? Are they not an invitation to yet more
problems? Not when the full picture is seen.
all, self-service business intelligence unburdens IT from responding to
numerous ad-hoc requests for reports and analyses. They can manage their
resources more effectively, by giving users the means to help themselves with
the Gemini add-in for Excel. Secondofly, managed self-service does not cut IT out
of the loop: it involves them deeply, for IT provision the required services
for collaboration, with Sharepoint and the Gemini Add-in for Sharepoint. IT will also still provide much
of the data for analysis, especially the authoritative master data (with SQL Server Master Data Services) or the traditionally warehoused
historical data of the enterprise at any scale (with Project Madison.)
managing the infrastructure for collaboration, IT have unique oversight of, and
insight to, the sharing and spreading of successful solutions. Microsoft will
provide the tools for administrators to discover which solutions are flaring
up. When IT discover a new application growing to unexpected responsibility
beyond its original desktop environment, they can ask, and act on, the
equivalent of another viral Victorian catch-phrase: Does your mother know
A friend insists that we'll only
know the recession is over when software vendors no longer start every
whitepaper with the phrase "In these tough economic times ..." It may be as
reliable an indicator as any.
Meanwhile, in these tough economic
times, I often read of factories suffering so badly that they are "operating at
only 50% of capacity." For a manufacturing plant, such low utilization is a
disaster. So, gentle reader, what do you think would be the average utilization
of your data center's capacity? Nothing like 50%, that's for sure. Typical
enterprise servers run at about 10% utilization according to a recent McKinsey
report. They may, just may, be able to reach as high as 35% with a concerted
There are many good excuses for
this situation, with both business and technical justifications. Enterprise
applications on the same server do not always play together nicely. One will
demand all the memory it can get, sulking unresponsively in a corner if it can't
get it; another will push over less aggressive applications in order to grab
more CPU. In the SQL Server world, we're working on that continuously, with
every version adding better resource governance and management. (See http://bit.ly/ss2008rg for specific information
about SQL Server 2008.) Then again, these same applications are often
mission-critical and it is business requirements which force us to isolate
them: from the risk of downtime, or other disruptions. Approaching our problems
in this way, it's quite easy to add a new server for this app, and another
server for that one, and sure enough, the result is soon 10% utilization.
It won't do. There's a capital
cost, and fixed running costs, for every server we add, not to mention the
environmental considerations of wasted energy and resources that weigh heavily
on many of us, recession or not. I have visited datacenters in emerging
economies from Egypt to China where simply having enough power available is a
problem and resource management is imperative.
In the database world, we have
traditionally approached these problems by running multiple native instances of
servers on the same box. This can indeed consolidate hardware and reduce costs.
Nevertheless, IT managers and DBAs are increasingly looking to virtualization.
Why? There are numerous advantages. For example, with virtualization each
application can have a dedicated, rather than shared, Windows instance:
especially useful for mixed workloads; and with virtualization, instances are limited
only by the capacity of the machine, rather than the native 50-instance limit.
SQL Server 2008 works
exceptionally well with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V to deliver effective
virtualization. In SQL Server 2008 R2 (shipping in the first half of 2010) we
will support up to 256 logical processors on that
platform to scale those solutions even further. There are some great scenarios for this. Business
Intelligence applications such as Analysis Services and Reporting
Services are prime candidates, especially when mixed BI and operational
workloads peak at different times. Virtualization has other benefits for the database user:
for example, the lifecycle from development to test to production becomes
easier to manage with a consistent, virtualized, environment.
It's really worth considering
virtualization, and building up your understanding of the technology and
requirements. There's a great whitepaper at http://bit.ly/sqlcatvirtual with sound advice and background
for any SQL Server 2008 DBA considering this technology. Good material to have
to hand, in these tough economic times.
My father was an engineer and spent many weekends in the garage nursing his various old cars. Frankly, I was little help, but there was one job I loved: lifting the big old monsters onto the axle-stands with the hydraulic jack. At 10 years old, I felt like the young superman, raising a hefty Rover P5 with one hand. It was magical. Years later, when I understood some of the mechanics and hydraulics, I could still smile to myself, lifting up my own cars to work on them.In my teens, our family invested in our first computer: as for so many at the time, a Sinclair. Within a few hours I had worked out the basics of Basic, and programmed the Sieve of Eratosthenes. And then - that same magical feeling! - I calculated all the primes to 1 million in seconds. Then on to 10 million, then more and more.My intellectual life was never the same again. Researching in archaeology, our databases enabled us to analyse the details of hundreds of land transactions, discovering patterns of social change in late-mediaeval Scotland. Working on fish-farms, our software applications tracked and projected growth of salmon and trout handling dozens of complex variables.Yet, despite my fun with the hydraulic jack, I never did get become a mechanic, and even now, working at Microsoft, I'm not really "into" computers. For example, I could not tell you the model, or processor or graphics card of my laptop or desktop, and I only know the RAM capacity because recently I have had to refer to it. It was never the hydraulic jack which delighted me, or the home computer. It was always what these technologies enabled: on one hand mechanical advantage, on the other, intellectual leverage. In both cases, they extended my abilities to match my imagination, and further yet.Today, I work in the SQL Server Business Intelligence team, and we have a simple mission: to enable everyone to make better business decisions, informed by the right data, in the right form, when they need it. A simple mission to claim, perhaps, but complex to put into execution. And right there is the secret as to why I enjoy working in this space so much: I want the users of our Business Intelligence software to experience that same moment of insight. "I can do this! With a scale and a power and speed that takes me beyond what I thought was possible, I can do this; and, by doing this, I can profoundly change my business."In other words, I want to see our users enjoy that same intellectual leverage. I want the marketing manager to assess campaigns with a more profound insight than before. I want the accounts manager to analyze millions of transactions to check her own hypotheses, not just to rely on high-level reports served up by others. I want the salesperson to make smarter offers informed with the right data when they need it, at the moment of negotiating the sale.There is another aspect of leverage that matters greatly to me. It is the power of talented and enthusiastic individuals to leaven a whole community of users with new ideas. I speak at many events, all over the world: and, for better or worse, my presentations are evaluated by the audience. I don't worry too much about the scores, unless they suck! Don't get me wrong, it's nice to be a high scoring speaker, but I am looking for something else. I am deeply interested in the written comments from the audience, more than their scores. Typically people are very kind. Of course, there are some who may not like my style, or feel I am covering old ground, or I am being too technical, or not technical enough. That's fine, and I do listen careful to criticism.
Nevertheless, what I am looking for is some sign that I really connected with at least some in the audience. It's a good day when someone tells me that what they heard changed their whole view of what is possible, or that they now see more clearly where they can lead their business or their personal practice with analytics.Those enthusiasts are a joy! they will go back to their offices and try new things, they will tell others, they will spread their enthusiasm: they will leverage a community I could not reach on my own.It's such a privilege to do this work. There is not one day when I don't feel, at some point, that spellbinding sense of a 10 year old, lifting his father's car with one hand. I do hope, as you read my blog, that I may convey just a little of that, almost magical, surprise.Donald Farmertwitter: @donalddotfarmer
To get an
understanding of what I do as developer evangelist at Microsoft are watch
this interview I did on MSDN Channel.I have two other blogs, one for
developers called SoCalDevGal, and most recently I've written a
summer blog series on the new APIs in Windows 7, past topics including SQL
Server Business Intelligence and SharePoint. The other blog lists
information about my bi-monthly live show called GeekSpeak. Past geekSpeak shows can be downloaded here.
I've been asked to
contribute to this blog because of my production and training work around SQL
Server in general, and around Business Intelligence (Data Warehousing and Data
Mining) in particular. I have taught these topics for 8 years,
I have production experience (prior to joining Microsoft) implementing SQL
Server BI for many types of customers. I have also written two books on
SQL Server BI, the most recent of which is 'Smart Business Intelligence
Solutions with SQL Server 2008' (MSPress / April 2009). I also created a
33-part screencast series 'How do I...BI?' around using SQL Server Analysis Services.
free time, I like to keep my hand in production code. To that end I have
personally volunteered for over 4 years on an electronic medical records
application named SmartCare. This application is based on .NET, uses
SQL Server storage and has been accepted as the national standard for
medical records for Zambia. SmartCare is currently being deployed in
Zambia, and pilot work is being done in Ethiopia, South Africa and more.
For more information see http://www.opensmartcare.org