Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Our SQL Server 2019 Administration Inside Out Fun Author Survey

SQL Server 2019 Administration Inside Out
Honored again to be leading the talented SQL Server 2019 Administration Inside Out author team, and share some fun insights from the team as the book is in its final edits.

Technical book writing is such a mixed bag of emotions - long hours writing, existential doubt and validation, progress in seeing chapters move through editing stages, Sisyphean edits, wrangling metadata and chapter status, pride in the finished product, and finally some post-traumatic stress as the next major release of SQL Server approaches. It's been a pleasure to be the ersatz leader of the team, even though I'm not the first name on the book, a lot of work from everyone on the cover goes into producing the content, including our two beloved technical editors Meagan Longoria and Louis Davidson.

So a "fun" look back at our time on the book, spent mostly in Q4'19, seems appropriate as we near publishing.

A little bit on the cover order. We broke up the "shares" of workload on the book by chapter. Authors who revised/added to existing chapters received one share. For net new chapters (for example, our entirely new final chapter on Big Data and Machine Learning features of SQL Server 2019) an author received three shares. Combine all those shares together, and we came up with a cover order, descending. It doesn't necessarily translate to chapter count or effort, and I can attest personally that with all the new changes necessary for SQL Server 2019, existing chapters' revisions were considerably more work than we thought! Exciting that the book has a lot of new value even for existing chapters, and something to note for next time as we plan workloads...

Similar to our fun author survey from the 2017 bookwe the author and tech editor team put answers to questions. This was a nice break while the chapters were progressing through their final edits. The 2019 edition of this book series should be on shelves in Q1'20 and is available for pre-order now everywhere books are sold.

As for this book's fun author survey, I found it interesting how half this team writes with music and half the team must not, how some of us write/edit in odd nooks and some in their home office enclaves, how some of us know how to spend free time and some of us have forgotten how, and how all of us love the new scalar function inlining feature of SQL Server 2019...

1. What music if any did you listen to while writing or editing?

Randolph West: The dulcet tones of Brian Johnson and AC/DC. And apparently a lot of Kylie Minogue.

Melody Zacharias: I actually like quiet when I write. I don’t listen to music while I work as I find it distracting.

William Assaf: It's a big mix. The playlist while my wife and I work together in the office at the time was lots of All Them Witches, Truckfighters, Leprous, Brass Against, and the new Tool album. Also sometimes lots of Samuel Barber, Philip Glass, Ennio Morricone, and more stuff from a classical playlist. Also, while in Seattle for the PASS Summit 2019 we went to see the Chick Corea with the Seattle Symphony perform his original works and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (my favorite), so that was in our heads a lot around then.

Louis Davidson: There were a few things that came out over the course of the process that I liked. McCartney’s Egypt Station was played more than a few times. Look Now from Elvis Costello. As the project comes to an end, I have been listening to a few tracks from the Who’s new album, just called The Who. I have found myself just listening to a lot of random music now that I have Apple Music. I am looking forward to finishing this project so I can spend some time cleaning up my music playlists!

Sven Aelterman: Only the voices in my head and that's too scary to write about.

Meagan Longoria: I didn't listen to anything. It's difficult for me to edit and listen to music at the same time, and I wanted to make sure I was concentrating on the book content.

Joey D'Antoni: NA

2. Where did you do most of your work, and what was your usual setup for writing and labs?

Randolph West: There is a Randolph-shaped hole in the couch in front of the TV. This despite owning a desk and external keyboard.

Melody Zacharias: I did most of my work from my home office sometimes standing and sometimes sitting as I have an adjustable desk. I did my technical work in notebooks as often as possible,and used the opportunity to convert some of my SSMS work into Azure data studio notebooks where I could.

William Assaf: At home, with the same exactly three-wide screen setup as the last book. Azure VM's provided most of my test labs, but at times, local installs and Docker containers did too. Midway thru, to get over some tech editor-induced blues, I switched to my first "loud clicky" mechanical keyboard, so I really should have added the music of clack-clack-clickity-clack to the first question...

Louis Davidson: I have a desk in my upstairs that is my office where I do my day job, so after I get done with the day, I just keep working (or come back after going to the gym for the night). I have 3 monitors and a TV all around my desk, so I can keep myself working, and up to date on the latest scores without moving for hours. My computer is this super tiny NUC mini PC (2 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches), but it is quite powerful with a quad core i7, NVMe drive, and gigabit internet. I use Hyper-V to keep up with the latest CTE until release, then install the latest version on my primary OS. My favorite devices I have gotten this year has been a Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard and a Razer Basilisk mouse. Great to type on (if perhaps a bit loud), and the control on the mouse kills all the other mice I have used before (plus, no batteries to change ever!) I really like how I can control the lights, so right now I have an autumnal orange, and next week after Thanksgiving plan to have it flash for the holidays.

Sven Aelterman: Most of my writing was done in my home office/kids' TV room/Christmas tree room/library. While I like dual monitors, at home I have a single monitor only, connected to a ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The most important part is a good keyboard though; I prefer the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. For labs, I use VMware Workstation to virtualize and snapshot setups.

Meagan Longoria: I'm not sure there was a usual spot for editing. I worked on my living room couch, in my home office, on my balcony, on planes, and in hotel rooms. I just tried to squeeze it in when and where I had time.

Joey D'Antoni: On a plane. Lab setup is Macbook Pro 13”

3. In the past two years since the last book release, what's something big that has changed for you?

Randolph West: Moving house twice. Oh and that whole “they / them” thing.

Melody Zacharias: In the last 2 years I have had both my hips replaced. Adding the therapy in around work, book and life made things challenging. I also ran for the Board of Directors of PASS and start in January.

William Assaf: The kid is now off to college, and they're doing great, and we're doing great. Empty nesting is pretty awesome. Oh, and LSU beat Alabama (and everyone else, eventually) in college football, that hadn't happened since before SQL Server 2012. (This is where Sven reminds me that LSU hasn't beaten Troy since before SQL Server 2008 R2. Hurtful.)

Louis Davidson: The end of the bones in my left leg. At about the middle of the process of us writing the book, I got the okay to get my knee replaced. It has been a very nice, if major change physically, requiring a lot of time doing physical training to get things back to better than normal. Even now, just 5 months later, I can walk a lot farther and hurt a lot less, even without any braces or any assistive devices.

Sven Aelterman: Sadly... nothing?

Meagan Longoria: I got a new job in February 2019 with Denny Cherry & Associates Consulting. I love working with a team of people that I respect and genuinely like as people in addition to being in awe of their SQL Server knowledge. This includes one of the co-authors of this book, Joey D'Antoni.

Joey D'Antoni: I started commuting between Philadelphia and Seattle weekly

4. What's your favorite new feature in the book?

Randolph West: My favourite new feature of SQL Server 2019 is Accelerated Database Recovery, which works on all editions and compatibility levels, though I am excited about UTF-8 offering internationalisation for legacy applications.

Melody Zacharias: You would think it would be in my chapter but I think I like the Azure Notebooks best because I find they are so useful to so many people and improve communication in all aspects of the work we do. They are useful for training, documentation, communication to clients and improve understanding. I really love them even if they are not technically a 2019 feature.

William Assaf: Tie between Accelerated Database Recovery (ADR) and scalar UDF in-lining. Both are going to really going to help a lot of folks, and the benefits should be highly visible to management. Really good additions to the product in terms of admin/developer quality of life. The OPTIMIZE_FOR_SEQUENTIAL_KEY index option is also going to be used on all new development.

Louis Davidson: Scalar function inlining. It is a feature that is small, and won’t really fix that much in my personal usage of SQL Server, but it shows that Microsoft has really been listening to us and fixing things that will help programmers produce better code. The ability to take some of the formatting code we have strewn all over the place in coded statements is huge.

Sven Aelterman: Biased: the expanded coverage of the cloud offerings. Unbiased: Python integration

Meagan Longoria: Accelerated database recovery is cool. It significantly reduces the time required for crash recovery, AG failover, and transaction rollback.

Joey D'Antoni: Scalar Function Inlining

5. What advice would you have for someone looking to modernize their Microsoft data platform skillset?

Randolph West: Step 1: Learn PowerShell. Automation is going to release your time from mundane activities and being proactive in learning new things.

Melody Zacharias: I have actually be asked this a lot and I would say Notebooks! I do a session on AI for the DBA and part of that is what skills does a DBA need to support AI in their organization. Notebooks are not new to Data Scientists and if you can have a common platform to work on and use it is great step forward for communication and understanding.

William Assaf: Go fire up an Azure SQL Database and design something. Especially for less experienced folks but for all of us - be sure to create and design every now and then. It really helps bring new concepts and solutions into your tool belt in a motivated and self-initiated way. We don't always get the chance to create and design and break and fix something of our own in the scope of our employment, especially early on. And then? Go present on what you learned at a local User Group or SQL Saturday.

Louis Davidson: Well, read this book, obviously. And find a SQL Saturday and User Group to get involved with. And to not be terribly afraid of just how large the data platform has become. Just learn one new thing at a time.

Sven Aelterman: The new Microsoft Learn ( is a fantastic resource. The free training available on that platform will keep you up-to-date, especially if you're looking to move to the cloud. And, as always, check out your local SQL Saturday events!

Meagan Longoria: If you aren't already working in the cloud, get yourself an Azure subscription and start playing around with things. Start following people who tweet and blog about the Microsoft data platform. Even if you don't know how to do all of the new stuff yet, just being aware of what's available and what people think of it is helpful.'

Joey D'Antoni: Learn Azure

6. Now that the book is (almost) done, what will you do with all your spare time?

Randolph West: Tell me more about this “spare time” of which you speak?

Melody Zacharias: I plan to use any spare time I have to help the community. My board position starts in January and I expect that to take any spare time and more that I have.

William Assaf: Nature abhors a vacuum, the time will fill itself quickly. There's too much to do. 2020 is going to be a busy, scary, historic, fast-paced, arduous, vocal, exciting marathon.

Louis Davidson: First, the Christmas holidays. Just relaxing and enjoying the season. Maybe write a few blogs, articles, etc., but most just relax. After that, I will start preparing for my next book, which is a new version of my Pro SQL Server Database Design and Implementation book ( The biggest change is going to be including graph tables as part of the solution, and I am really going to spend some time seeing what I can figure out and build for sample data/solutions.

Sven Aelterman: Read the book! Lots of things to keep learning about.

Meagan Longoria: Sleep, snowshoe, and play with my bulldog Buster.

Joey D'Antoni: Ride bikes, cook

Pre-order now: Microsoft Press Store or or wherever books are sold.

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