Interview with SQL Server MVP Glenn Berry

This is a first of a series of interviews with speakers presenting at the track at SQL Server Connections in November 2010. This interview is with SQL Server MVP Glenn Berry (blog | Twitter).


Glenn Berry

Tell us a little about yourself Glenn.

After high school, I spent four years in the Marine Corps, serving in the Infantry and in Armor. I got out as a Sergeant and went to college. I have a B.A. in Economics and an M.A. in International Affairs. I initially wanted to be an intelligence analyst similar to Jack Ryan’s character in the Tom Clancy books. I spent a few years as a developer before I grew up and discovered that I liked being a DBA much better. I have been a Database Architect at NewsGator for about four and half years.


 What have you had published?

I have written two chapters in the SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book. I was also the lead author of the free DMV Starter Pack eBook from Simple-Talk Publishing.

Where do you blog?

My blog is Glenn Berry’s SQL Server Performance. I tend to focus on performance, hardware, and high availability. I have been writing it since August 2006. Blogging is a good way to have a regular, permanent impact on the community by putting out useful, accurate information that helps other people solve problems and get their job done.

What advice can you give to DBAs about writing?

Staring at a blank page in Microsoft Word is hard. Coming up with ideas about what to write about can sometimes also be difficult. I try to write about things I am interested in, and problems I have run into and have hopefully solved. I would say that most DBAs have experience and expertise that they could write about, that would be helpful to others.

Tell us a little about your speaking experience.

I have spoken at the PASS Summit for the past two years, at the 24 Hours of PASS event the past two times, at the SSWUG Ultimate vConference two times, at SQL Saturday events, and numerous local and regional SQL Server user group events.

What advice do you have for DBAs who want to begin making public presentations?

Try starting off with doing a “lunch and learn” type of presentation for your developers and DBAs in your company. You can probably get your manager to spring for pizza to “bribe” people to show up, and it is a pretty low pressure way to get started. Presenting at a local users group meeting or SQL Saturday would be the next step.

How do you keep up with your SQL Server continuing education?

I read blogs, read books, participate in SQL Server TAP programs, and use the product every day. Being a part of the SQL MVP community is also very important part of staying current.

What’s your favorite SQL Server Book?

Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting by Brent Ozar, Christian Bolton and several other authors. It is a good, deep, advanced book that covers many topics that I am particularly interested in.

Why should DBAs consider taking part in the SQL Server Community?

Having a readily accessible body of knowledge and experience available to SQL Server DBAs and developers helps everyone be more successful with less stress. Things like writing, blogging and presenting are good activities that help the community, and help you learn the subject better at the same time.

What are some of the key characteristics you feel differentiate between “good” and “exceptional” DBAs?

An exceptional DBA is always looking for ways to improve their procedures and their infrastructure to increase performance and reduce downtime. They make a sustained effort to keep their skills current and to stay abreast with new technology so that they have the knowledge and ability to be an exceptional DBA.

What are some of the biggest challenges for DBAs in the immediate future?

Managing ever increasing volumes of data, and managing the transition from on-premises database servers to having data hosted in SQL Azure.

What advice would you give to a person who is considering becoming a DBA?

Making sure you are calm, patient and detail-oriented. You should also try to get experience helping out a DBA (perhaps in another job role) to help you get your first junior DBA job. It can be difficult to get an entry level DBA job without having any experience.

What do you consider one of the most useful, but underrated features of SQL Server?

I really like data compression, which was added in SQL Server 2008 and improved in SQL Server 2008 R2. It can be very effective for reducing both I/O and memory pressure and for saving disk space at a small cost in additional CPU utilization. It is an Enterprise Edition-only feature, which I think has hurt its adoption rate.

What feature(s) do you think are missing in SQL Server and would like to see in a future version?

I would like to see a SKU between Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition that had the performance and high availability features in the engine from Enterprise Edition, but did not have SSAS, SSRS, SSIS, etc.

When you are not working, what do you like to do for fun?

I like to work on my backyard garden and play with my two miniature dachshunds. I also like to build model tanks and read science fiction.

If you were not a DBA, and could choose your perfect job, what would it be?

I would like to work in a performance lab, setting up hardware for TPC-E benchmarks, or be a beer taster at a micro-brewery.

Tell us about the sessions you will be presenting at the track at SQL Server Connections this November?

I will be doing my Dr. DMV presentation, which shows you how to use DMV queries to gather information about your server configuration and performance. I will also be doing my Hardware 201 presentation, which talks about current hardware trends and gives you some tips on how to select and size hardware for database servers. Both of them should be fun, since I am so passionate about both subjects.

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