So I didn’t accomplish my goal of 1 blog a month last year.  Didn’t even come close!  Work is extremely demanding these days.  So much so that I’m missing out on lots of weekend time with my family.  I was told several times it would be “temporary”.  Then the next project hits.  I’m not so sure anymore…  We hired another contract DBA named Rajesh back in July.  Hopefully they bring him on full time soon because things are so busy we could use 5 of him.

My new goal for this year is to be able to post 4 good blog posts on SQL server.  I’m almost out of time for this quarter so I’m going to come back to my good old generic security script blog for the first one.  I hope to be able to get at least 3 more in before the end of the year.

I’m not a super bloggy person, but I have been wanting to get some things I’ve worked on out there and time just isn’t on my side so far.

Hope to be able to share soon.

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MCM – Passed the 88-971 Lab Exam!!!

No fail-sauce for breakfast on Friday November 22nd for this kid!  I passed, I wasn’t sure I did, but its true.  boB Taylor posted about me on the master blog today and I’m very pleased.  I will be coming back to this blog and adding some items that I’ve meant to for a while but haven’t gotten around to…

I wanted to say thank you to a small group of individuals who have helped to encourage and motivate me.

My co-worker Jaison Eckert covered for me on many a study session and the exams I took.  He also encouraged me not to give up.  He’s a great DBA and a good friend.  I think if we weren’t a good tag-team at work, the story could be different.

Edwin Sarmiento is someone I met while at sqlskills IE1 training course.  We’ve studied together and encouraged each other to keep at it (even when it looked bad).  I’m hoping we’ll get to see his name added to the list soon.

Sean Gallardy is another individual I met at the same IE1 training course as Edwin.  He achieved his MCM earlier this year, and is another one who encouraged me to keep at it.

If I hadn’t had these three guys encouraging me && such a supportive family at home, I probably wouldn’t have made it.  My wife and two daughters both let me put many a plan && || Barbie movie on hold to open up the VM and run through some practice labs and TSQL code one more time preparing.

I mentioned the IE1 && IE2 training courses.  I wanted to give a quick thank you for the exceptional training and energy to the sqlskills team.  Paul Randal, Kimberly Tripp, Jonathan Kehayias && Joe Sack all are wonderful presenters and have very solid tuning techniques at the sessions.  They are also good at getting you excited about the technical bits of SQL Server.  I credit them with getting me together with the right people to get motivated to do this.

Paul had encouraged me to blog about my powershell script that grants database rights, so now that I’m able to slow down I’ll probably update it and post it.

We had steak and a decent cabernet to celebrate when I got the email from boB last Saturday.  I’m still asking my wife to pinch me and wake me up…

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Failsauce – failed the 88-971

So the post is late and mostly because I didn’t know what I was going to write…  I failed the lab exam on 09/12/2013.  I knew I failed it too because I panicked.  I don’t get really nervous usually, but about 30 minutes before the test I thought I was going to be ill.  I didn’t get sick but I sure felt wrong and did spend a moment in the restroom thinking it was coming.  I then proceeded to work myself up more when I read through the scenarios at the start.  I was drawing a big fat blank and actually considered for a moment or two, turning to the proctor and saying, “Shut her down, I’m done!”.  Had I come this far to give up?

I pulled myself together and had lost probably 15 minutes just thinking what did I get myself into…  I started thinking of the advice online I had read and tried to rank the scenarios in the order I thought I could solve them.  I couldn’t come up with a good order and knew I needed a plan of attack, so I just attacked.  I started with the last question and worked my way up the list backwards.

I started to get some confidence after the first question or two went down in short order and I knew I got them right.  Two more done and I was feeling better about the exam but pressed for time.  I was working through one that I had to give up on halfway through as I let time get away from myself and had to draw the line.  I did a couple of other scenarios I thought I got right but then didn’t.  Not sure what requirement I missed, but I had really felt I got a couple right that I didn’t get credit for.

I went to the happy hour at the local hangout and felt I had a shot at passing, but a long shot.  I wished I hadn’t panicked and put myself in a bad spot.  I know I could pass that exam if I hadn’t been in the “HOLY !%$@#$#” frame of mind…  It didn’t really help that like a week or two before my exam the whole drama of “cancellation of the MCM certification” played out.  What great timing to make you uncertain of even going through with an expensive cert that’s going away anyway.

I’ve gone back over and over what I can recall in my mind and worked though how I would resolve them.  I’ve timed myself doing certain tasks to try to do them quickly to allow me more time to work on the ones that are more difficult.  I will give this another shot near the end of November.  I’m feeling better now that I’m not fretting about what it will be like.  That was the thing about the lab that makes it the lab.  It sure had me all worried and if I wouldn’t have been in that state I could have thought more clearly.

Leave me a comment if you like on the MCM 88-971 lab exam or any other certifications you’ve worked on.


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To SQLMCM Lab? Or Not To Lab?

So my first blog post was kind of talking about me and kind of talking about the 88-971 SQL Server 2008 MCM Lab examination.  Mine is still scheduled for 09/12/2013.  I scheduled it in July and debated on whether or not to put it out there online.  What a fun experience to have your first blog be about an extremely difficult exam and biff it right?

I decided to put it online because of the experience that I had at the sqlskills.com training I took.  Paul Randal had encouraged me at IE2 in Chicago this year to send him a copy of my powershell login permissions script or to blog it myself.  (I gave a short but sweet demo on their “peer night”.)  So since one of my goals had been to get at least one or two blog posts in, I figured why not?  But since no one has seen my blog or knows anything about me, I had to give a little background on my first blog post.

That’s where the debate about the lab and whether or not I should write about it came up.  I decided to go ahead and put it online since it won’t really matter in the end if I pass or not, but rather that I had the determination to get to where I *could* take it.  I’m not feeling 100% confident or even 50% confident today.  September 12th is 9 days away now.  I’ve got some items I’m focusing on until then where I know I’m still weak.

So the question becomes after the announcement Friday night, do I take the 88-971 lab or not at this point?  I had decided that if I took it and failed, I’d have a shot at redemption between October 12th and early December.  And if I can’t make it on that schedule then I don’t deserver the title.  So let me know in the comments, what would you do?  I took the Knowledge exam December 2012 and made it through on the first shot.  I didn’t think I would, but I did.

The thing bothering me is wondering about the lab experience itself.  I’ve read the blogs from guys like Jonathan Kehayias, Brent Ozar, Robert Davis and the guys who’s blogs you read when you want to be a super DBA.  I met recent MCM Sean Gallardy at the IE1 in Bellevue last year before he got it,and these guys are just down right machines.  He’s actually one of the folks that has given me a lot of encouragement to take a shot.

I’ve taken ~25 Microsoft exams myself, but even the Knowledge exam just felt different.  The quality of the questions to me were very high and less word play in them.  Just you have this problem, you investigate like this, what would you do to fix it?  None of the “if it is night time and you are at sea on a boat in the southern hemisphere on winter solstice, what color is the sky?” type questions…

I’m feeling confident that the things I’ve worked with for years will come naturally.  The things that I don’t use as much like say replication or service broker, these are the ones I’ve chosen to focus a few extra cycles on.

Anyway, put that ramble in your pipe and smoke it.  When you are done, go ahead and leave me your opinion of if I try to finish strong or say to hell with…  it.  Microsoft told me I had until December 31st and I’ve been on a very calculated plan to maximize my study time and efforts.  Now I have my shot in 9 days but the catch is I probably won’t get a second shot since they are retiring it.  But it sure would be nice to be able to sneak in at the end as one of the last masters.  I’m leaning towards giving it my best, but it is tempting now to throw in the towel and save $2000.00.

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SQL Server 88-971 Lab Exam

One of my goals for the year that I failed miserably on was to try to do a couple of blog posts.

This is the first and since we’re in August you get the idea…  I will be taking the 88-971 SQL Server MCM Lab Exam.  I have 30 days to prep.  So if you are reading this, here’s how I ended up with SQL Server as my date on many a weekend and evening.

I’ve been working with SQL Server since 2001.  I was the Windows admin at a State agency, and they bought an application that ran on SQL 2000.  So since it would run on my Windows 2000 server, I was the new DBA.  I was minimally involved the first year or so.  I maintained backups and did some data exports, all the application updates, service packs, restores, etc.

A couple of years later the local hospital wanted a SQL DBA that also knew Windows Clustering.  I won the job because in addition to knowing a few things about installing, administering, backing up and restoring SQL, I could also build and maintain windows clusters and was a strong Windows admin.  I inherited a “massive” to me at that point database that was 175GB!  It ran a 3rd party EMR software.  I took this job and learned quite a bit about SQL code and internals the next 5 years.

I went to SQL Pass in Seattle in 2008, the whole conference experience was quite exciting.  I went to Itzik Ben-Gan’s pre-session on T-SQL and I did see Jimmy May’s session on partition alignment.  I won an autographed Kalen Delaney SQL 2005 Query Tuning Book at that session by answering some of the questions Jimmy asked at the end.  I went back and planned out our new SQL 2005 cluster after attending this conference.  Our vendor didn’t support the newly minted SQL 2008 engine yet.  But this information and where to go to get more information was good and helped out the design process.

A SAN migration from an overloaded IBM DS4500 – EMC Clariion CX3-40 arrays (for this app alone) and SQL 2005 x64 solved lots of IO and throughput issues.  My avg disk queue length pre-migration was 9999.99 all day on several data file drives w/ 8-10 second latency (not ms – second).  After the migration it was 20-150ms most times.  We had issues with the 3rd party EMR upgrades on many occasions.  One particular upgrade left several large heap tables with forwarded records.  The vendor did not agree that a clustered index on this table would solve the IO issues we were seeing.  So after losing the fight to do the right thing we rolled it back to the old version and the “fixed” upgrade script builds a clustered index…  I lost 38 hours straight to that fun.

So I decided I wanted to get out of managing someone else’s software I had no control over, and get into a role where I could do something about bad things that happen in database land.  I got a new job at a company that does IT services for other companies.  I now have application developers that I help to tune queries and optimize application performance.  I now have a different set of problems but feel I can offer up solutions to problems and have the power to change the application for the better 🙂

I’m two years into the new gig and using way more SQL features and code than I have before, but still not all of them.  We don’t use any replication features and are just barely mirroring anything.  We use more SAN side replication to our array at the DR site than SQL replication/mirroring today.  But I’m building a new plan and testing out my options currently.  We have a couple of SQL clusters where we’ve consolidated some instances to beefier machines.

I passed the 88-970 knowledge exam in December last year.  I’ve been to IE1 & IE2 from the sqlskills.com training.  I’ve been trying to study the components we don’t use and keep myself from cowering thinking about taking the lab…  I will know in 30 days.


And if you were wondering, this evening I ran through the Peer-Peer Replication Lab on the Hands On Labs DVD (Feb 2011) virtual machine that I’m running.  I’ll post which of these I review this month and which are my favorite ones.


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