Archive for April, 2012

I was in the first few months of my second database administrator job when the CTO told me that I needed to give the CFO direct table access into the database that I had designed.  Not 3 months later we were having a company meeting so the executive staff could explain to the company that the CFO had stolen our client list and was out luring our customers away.  Sound like a security issue? Not the way that I see it.

I had an ethics issue on my hands.   From that day in 1997 I have always had my eye out for ethical issues, and more importantly looking for ways we can police ourselves.  It does not take long for a new database professional to see that when you have access to data that there is going to be sensitive data in there somewhere.  The obvious ones are the HR databases, or the financial databases that reside on our SQL Servers.  But there are so many more areas that we need to look before we can get a good handle on how to solve these ethical dilemmas. Take a look at something that I posted a while back that threatened the security of the United States.  I cannot imagine that it would take long for an ethical person to say, “Really?”

A few months ago I had to get a security clearance, and pass the Security + certification so I could do a short contract with the Air Force.  As I was going over study material in a book I was supplied, I ran across a couple of short notes about ethics.  I followed a link or two and I ended up here.  When I first started to look at the list of ethics that they had listed, I was really impressed.  As I got deeper into what they were saying I became a bit concerned, however. The company that produced this is a corporation, not an organization that has the best interests for the industry as a primary goal.  I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being a for-profit, I know I work for one, and well, as an individual I am for-profit.  My issues with the code is the code itself appears to be pointed and making the company a profit, at least it does to me.  If that is the reason they sponsored the Code of Ethics, then well they violate their own ethics when they say:

“I will not advance private interests at the expense of end users, colleagues, or my employer“.

 So here is where that leaves us:

For this month’s t-sql Tuesday question I wanted to highlight the need for Ethics in our industry.  Don’t consumers and business owners have to trust someone at some time with their data?  This month, take time to participate by talking about DBA ethics.  I really hope to see someone address topics such as:

         Should we have an ethics statement?

         Have ethics issues impacted you? What did you do about it?

         Security Audits: how do you police what you and others are doing in the database?

         Does a Code of Ethics mean anything to anyone? How do we as a community enforce a Code of Ethics?

         Do you have an issue with this Code of Ethics?

         What do you believe our Code of Ethics should say if we the SQL Server Community have one?

Have fun, but take the time to dig deep and do some real soul searching.  I know with large number of really smart professionals that we have in our community we can think of something.  I will do up a summary once I have returned from my trip that week, but to be honest I hope this discussion goes on long after May 8th.

As with each of the T-SQL installments I ask that you follow some basic rules.


         Your post must be published between 00:00 GMT Tuesday May 7th, 2011, and 00:00 GMT Wednesday May 8th, 2011

         Your post must contain the T-SQL Tuesday logo from above and the image should link back to this blog post.

         Trackbacks should work, but if you don’t see one please link to your post in the comments section below so everyone can see your work

Optional, but highly encouraged…

         Include a reference to T-SQL Tuesday in the title of your post

         Tweet about your post using the hash tag #TSQL2sDay

         Consider hosting T-SQL Tuesday yourself. Adam Machanic keeps the list.

I am a bit late this month for the April #Meme15 question. But after I started thinking about it and looking at the question, I found this to be useful for me at least so I thought I would go ahead and post it.

See there are a few really good #meme threads this month I think the question asked by Jason Strate (B|T), points to the other one called T-SQL Tuesdays that normally post around the second Tuesday of the month. The #meme15 was started and is hosted by Jason Strate and for the most part is related to the skills that a Database Professional needs that are not just technical. If you want to see this month’s question just click on the #meme15 logo, the question for this month was:

What are ten blogs that you think other SQL Server professionals should be following but might not be?

So, #meme15 I would like to introduce you to T-SQL Tuesday. Now granted I know that you understand each other for the most part, and to be honest I am not sure but you may have even met in the past. However, I wanted to point out that when I have a little extra time, and I am looking at the different blogs that are out there I came to the conclusion that there are just way to many really good ones to get the list down to just 10. So if I were talking to a new database Professional, and I was trying to point them in the direction of blogs that they must follow, I would have them start by following a T-SQL Tuesday topic that they really enjoyed. By the way, I would make sure that I recommend that Database Professionals follow #meme15 as well. I think there are a lot of Soft Skills here that are not taught anywhere else.

T-SQL Tuesday was started by Adam Machanic (B|T) and has a great participation ratio. The premise of T-SQL Tuesday that I like so much is the fact that it is hosted by someone different almost each month. This means that you get questions from a lot of different viewpoints. Some are from development, some from administrators. I have seen some BI questions and even a good second chance topic. I have to be honest and tell you that next month I am hosting T-SQL Tuesday and I have a question for the community that I am really passionate about. So I hope you have the opportunity to participate, and if you are not a blogger than I hope we have a lot of participation and this can bring a lot of information to you.

So, where does that leave us? Well one thing that I did when I learned I get to host a T-SQL Tuesday was to go out and find out all the past questions that have been asked, I didn’t want to ask a question that had already been asked. Then as I was looking at the past questions I thought, hey… I should jot these down; put them up on the blog.

What are the ten blogs I think you should follow; I think you should start here. I know there is a lot more than 10. But as you follow the links you will find the people that you like, and the topics that you like to read about. You can develop your own set of favorites and then you will be well on your way. I hope to see you come back in a couple weeks to see the next T-SQL Questions and answers. And if you want to see the question, well I hope to have it posted a week from today.

1 11/30/09 Adam Machanic Date/Time Tricks
2 1/4/10 Adam Machanic Write a blog post on a “puzzling” topic .
3 2/2/10 Rob Farley Relationships
4 3/1/10 Mike Walsh IO
5 4/5/10 Aaron Nelson Reporting
6 5/3/10 Michael Coles LOB
7 6/1/10 Jorge Segarra What’s your favorite hot new feature in the R2  ?
8 7/13/10 Robert Davis How to do a good interview for your first interview?
9 8/3/10 Jason Brimhall What do you do as a DB professional to earn a little “Beach Time?”
10 9/7/10 Michael Swart Indexes
11 10/4/10 Sankar Reddy Misconceptions in SQL Server
12 10/25/10 Paul Randal Why are DBA skills necessary?
13 7/12/10 Steve Jones What issues have you had in interacting with the business to get your job done?
14 1/10/11 Jen McCown Resolutions
15 2/1/11 Pat Wright Automation in SQL Server
16 2/26/11 Jes Borland Aggregate Functions
17 4/5/11 Matt Velic Apply Knowledge
18 4/29/11 Bob Pusateri Common Table Expressions
19 6/7/11 Allen Kinsel Disasters and Recovery
20 7/5/11 Amit Banerjee T-SQL Best Practices
21 8/3/11 Adam Machanic Reveal your crap to the world
22 9/6/11 Robert Pearl Data-Presentation
23 9/27/11 Stuart Ainsworth Joins
24 10/31/11 Brad Schultz Prox ‘n’ Funx
25 12/5/11 Allen White What T-SQL tricks do you use today to make your job easier?
26 1/2/12 David Howard Please pick any one of the previous 25 T-SQL Tuesday topics and write about it .
27 2/14/12 Steve Jones What big data problems you’ve solved, or interesting ways of working with big data ?
28 3/5/12 Argenis Fernandez Why you specialized, or why you’d like to specialize?
29 4/10/12 Nigel Peter Sammy What do you think is a useful feature of SQL Server 2012?

I have been placed on call for years, and there have been times where there is a declared on-call list, and then there are times when there was no such list.  But either way I have always been on-call (if something is wrong with one of my databases, I am there.  It’s my job, my career choice and my responsibility).  I actually like having an on-call list, because this is a defined set of time that I am not the first line of defense for looking at error messages.  Many people look at an on-call list and think “look at all this time I am having to work, change my plans, have my life impacted”.  I look at a defined on-call schedule as a, wow I only have to be working outside normal hours as a first level trouble shooting on these days.  Now I have all this time to go do whatever it is I want.  If there was no defined on-call schedule I would have to look at every single message and determine if it was a database issue, then I would have to determine what the action is.  If it is not a database issue I would just have to wonder if the person responsible for that area is going to look at whatever the problem was.    In other words, I like a clear definition of when I am the guy who is watching out for what may be threating, and a clear definition of when I can go camping in some remote location.

On a side note…

Maybe this is an old Marine thing coming out in my personality.  I want to know when I sleep someone has got my back,  so I will make sure when it is my time I will make sure others feel that same comfort.  I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to determine why I have certain opinions and where I developed them.

Really what I want to accomplish with this post is a fact finding mission of sorts. See, I have spent so many years on call, and the responsibilities of what I do while I am on-call has been pretty simple.  When I have been on-call the reasonability has always been that I will be the person who is the first line of defense for pages, alerts, and phone calls.  The more I think about this I don’t think that I am making the best use of my time.  Sure I may fix simple issues, or make sure that the servers are up and running.  But what can I, or what should I be doing to make this time that I am already spending on-call used to its fullest potential?

I really am curious what others are being asked to do when they are on-call.  If you have time, please leave a comment and let me know, even if it is something that I have mentioned.

I have had some very simple requirements before. For example, at one time I was asked to make sure that I was checking my email twice a day, but this was well before the smart phones, and email following you around everywhere you go.  Now I just check email when my phone thing plays a random assortment of noises.  I know this is shameful to admit, but I really do still carry a pager like Steve Jones (T|B) has pictured on his blog this week (In all fairness, some of the places I go when I am not working can be a little out of cell area.  And, well, nothing will wake me like the screaming buzz from this pager).

Something new I am going to try next week when I start the on-call shift for a week is keeping a log.  I am going to keep track of each time someone calls, or I get a page.  My goal with this is to make sure that I am completing issues and communicating the completion of these issues to the source.  So if I get a call from employee xyz that says they cannot search something in the database, I want to know when they called, who called, what I did, and when I let them know the issue was fixed.  The other thing that I hope to accomplish with this log is having a better timeline when it comes to doing a post mortem.  Sure, when I am troubleshooting something I keep notes and copies of the logs, but what tells me when an issue was reported, or when the “all clear” was given?

I have learned over the last few years that the impression is so important, and in some cases the impression is more important than the facts.   Some people have just done a really good job at being able to explain what a technical problem is to non-technical people, but there are some cases when it does not matter that the whole server was covered in water from the custodian in the datacenter.  The customer only knew that the database was down.  Who would have guessed that water could short out one of those server things? 

So really I am curious as to what I am missing, even if it is not critical, just items that may make life easier.

For the next couple days

Posted: April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Just so that you are aware, if you are on my blog over the next few days, it may look at little crazy. I am working a little on making it a bit more usable and friendly. If you see something that looks out of whack, by all means let me know.


When I came into the industry a number of years ago, I stumbled across some people that had the MVP title, but I had no idea what it was.  What I did know was that there were very few of them but I saw a lot of information from them.  I started asking questions, reading and watching.  I found quickly that like so many others I had some misconceptions as to what an MVP is.  I had talked to other non-MVP DBAs I know and you would be surprised at some of the beliefs that are out there.  This year on April 1st I received my 4th MVP Award, and I am just as honored today as I was when I first received the award. I could try telling you what the Award means to me, but I cannot find the words strong enough to explain it.   I could tell you how when I walk into the Mall teenaged girls run in my direction screaming my name like I was the lead singer of some boy band, but that would be a lie as well.  I could tell you how I walk down the hall at the PASS Summit and people part just so that we can walk down the path over to the special MVP Sitting area, but that is not close to accurate either.

So while I am on the mission of explaining to people what the MVP Award is, I figured I should tell you what it is not.

A Certification – The MVP Award is just that.  It’s an Award, think of it as a trophy, a thank-you that, depending on how you feel about it, sits right next to your bowling trophy.  For me the award sits high up on the shelf, higher than all others.  Now that is just me as I was raised with the mentality that the thing which would make me a man is the work I do.  For the record, I think viewing an MVP as a certifcation is the wrong mental attitude and could not be more far from the truth.  You don’t go take a test; you don’t get a pass/fail grade. 

We are experts in everything – I know this is hard to believe, and I think I understand why.  So many people are so good at this technology thing that they understand many aspects of it.  I can tell you that everyone has gaps.  I know nothing about Exchange; I have a hard time setting up my smart phone to check my email.  It just makes me mad and makes me want to toss it out the window of my truck.

Give you super human powers – Ok, so I hate to admit this, really I do…  But… this is true.  I no longer have hair growing out of my ears. When the award was handed to me during my black tie event,  I ripped open the envelope just to find out what my super human MVP power was.  I was hoping for the “grow the hair on your head”, but it looks like I had to sacrifice even the average ability to do that, so it could be awarded to others.  Maybe next year I can put in a request to change it. 

A free pass to act like a jerk- We just cannot do that. I think people who behave poorly are going to remove themselves from the perspective pool of renewals of the award.  Inherently, the award is given to people who help others learn the technology.  If all a MVP is going to do is be a jerk then it goes against the overall idea of helping people.  With that being said, as an MVP I do agree to an act like an MVP type of an agreement. This agreement is not a hush document; it is a way for Microsoft to say that you are not behaving in a manner that represents Microsoft and MCPs.  So if you have been waiting for your MVP award just so you can take a baseball bat to the rack of servers in the Datacenter then you need to skip the MVP and just go do what ya got to do.

The planning committee for the next version of SQL Server – I am sure this is the biggest surprise of this post.  We do not get to decide on what features are going into what product.  I am ready to shock you even more…  Microsoft is a company, and they are driven by offering a great product to companies.  Companies have needs, like being able to say they have redundant servers, and that their databases will be online 24 x 7 x 365.  The needs of the market have the biggest impact on a product.  If Microsoft does not provide what a business needs, then guess what? Someone else will.  With that being said, on occasion we offer input to Microsoft from what business are telling us they need. 

An MVP is all about the Forums – I know MVPs who go to the Forums rarely, but they sit in their basements working on books or they are doing newsletters or teaching classes organizing conferences.   There are many ways that MVPs contribute.  It is not a magic number of questions that need to be answered.  It is not who speaks at 40% of the SQL Saturday events.  It is all taken into consideration as far as I know.  


What is the MVP Award?

To me it is all about Microsoft saying “Thank You”.  They told me that they are awarding me with an honorable title that many before me have held and many after me will, too.  MVPs are people helping people.  If I did not have the award, would I stop helping people? No.  Did I want the MVP?  Yes. Do I know 100% who the MVPs are in the future; do we talk about that in our closed door club meetings? Nope.  But I do know what Microsoft has recognized in the past.  I watch enough of what’s going on with SQL Server, and I see who are well on their way to the MVP Award.  If our community is any sign of success then there is no limit.  Congrats to all the new MVPs and I look forward to the future.


Not a lot of time this week (working on taking the SQL Server 2012 certification exams), but I wanted to make sure this made it on the blog. Have you signed up for SQL Rally yet? TJay Belt and I are working on a pre-con together and we are having fun putting it together. TJay  (T|Band I were talking about the interview question that they had presented us, and as we were going around about ideas on a Billboard I was thinking about this poster that you see attached. A quick discussion with my good friend Tom Roush and the poster became reality.

The other piece of news I have this week has to do with the Microsoft MVP Award. This is an award that one needs to earn each year. So each year on April 1st, I sit around and worry if I will receive another award, yesterday I found out that I get to put my worries aside for one more year. Each time the award is handed out I spend some time looking to see who the new award winners. This April it looks like Jes Borland (T|B) received her first award. Of the large number of people I have met over the years working with SQL Server, Jes is one of those that left a long lasting impression. She is an active runner, and well, if you get a chance to meet her, be careful… she has a lot of energy. The other new MVP that I am aware of is Kendra Little (T|B). Both Jes and Kendra are great resources. If I missed any other new MVP’s I am so sorry, it is a little difficult to keep up with twitter sometimes and that is where I get the announcements from. Congrats to all the renewed MVP’s and all the new MVP’s.