Topics I’d love to see at Conferences

The Call for Speakers for PASS Summit 2019 has just closed, and now the Program Committee will begin the task of evaluating speakers and sessions and using those results to build a schedule.

It's not easy.

Really, it's not. I've served on the Program Committee numerous times and there's a lot of effort that goes into building that schedule. There are also many difficult decisions made, and many great sessions that there just isn't a timeslot for because they were pre-empted by an even better or more timely topic.

These unfortunate facts got me thinking about topics that will probably never again be presented at PASS Summit or other major conferences.

Log Shipping

Log Shipping is the 1994 Toyota Camry of SQL Server. It's not new or sexy, but it's extremely reliable and can be a very simple way to implement disaster recovery, especially for smaller shops without a lot of resources. It doesn't require Enterprise Edition, and works in every version* of SQL Server. As an added bonus, it's based on transaction log backup and restore technology, so there's not much of a learning curve.

Policy-Based Management

Still an awesome book!

If you want to make sure your server(s) are configured in a certain way or abide by a specific set of requirements, Policy-Based Management is an incredible tool to help get you there. You can define lists of requirements, known as "policies", and then go evaluate those policies against other SQL Servers. Regular reports of servers that don't comply can be an incredible tool, and PBM makes this easy.

Database Mirroring

Yes, Database Mirroring has been deprecated is in maintenance mode. And with the introduction of Basic Availability Groups in SQL Server 2016 there's a newer alternative. But I feel mirroring is still going to be around for quite a while because lots of environments depend on it.

Transactional Replication

Unlike mirroring, replication has not been deprecated, likely because it offers unique capabilities that no newer feature competes with. But it's an old technology that hasn't changed much recently. It can be difficult to set up, and a pain to fix if it breaks, but if you truly need it then nothing else will do.

So why aren't conferences covering these topics?

Like I said above, I get it. There are many hard decisions to be made, and topics like I listed above are easily the first to head to the conference schedule chopping block for many reasons, including:

  • They're old. The newest of the 4 features above is Policy-Based Management, and that was introduced in SQL Server 2008.
  • Many have been replaced by newer features.
  • They don't work in the cloud. The only above feature that works in Azure SaaS is replication. Azure SQL Database can be a subscriber for transactional or snapshot replication, and Azure SQL Database Managed Instance supports transactional replication.

Why should conferences cover these topics?

To put it frankly, because users still depend on them! I just spent two years consulting for customers of widely-varying sizes, and for many of them, vendor software forbids usage of the cloud. Yes, it's often stupid, and you can grumble all you like, but that's the reality right now for lots of third-party software. Other clients were being held hostage on old (sometimes very old) versions of SQL Server. It stinks, because "newer" features of SQL Sever 2014 and later are still out of reach in many shops.

So a lot of the time, these "old" features are what a lot of environments are stuck with, and what a lot of people would benefit from learning about. So it's a shame that conferences can't dedicate just a little more time to topics that may not be new or flashy, but would likely make a big impact.

*These days, when I say "every version" I mean SQL Server 2005 or later