Greetings,

I wish we had a new SQL Server conference every week so I could invite guest writers to describe their conference experiences and I could take every week off. That's my idea of a cool job! This week, Mike Yocca concludes our conference roundup by sharing some of his experiences from both SQL DevCon 99 and COMPASS '99. Mike is an independent SQL Server consultant and president of the Pittsburgh SQL Server Users Group. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike! (Make sure to read all the way to the end. I have some special information about how you, too, can get your own copy of a SQL Server 7.0 system table map!)

Thoughts from Mike: I attended and spoke at this fall’s back-to-back conferences, COMPASS ’99 in Chicago and SQL DevCon 99 (SQL Dev) in Phoenix. I enjoyed features of both conferences, so I'll share what I liked best from each.

The best of SQL Dev:

  • Only three SQL Server sessions ran concurrently at any time and a few of the sessions were repeated. COMPASS had many parallel tracks. At times, I desperately wanted to attend three of seven concurrent sessions.
  • Several sessions dealt with ANSI SQL in detail. The speakers did a great job of convincing attendees of the importance of using ANSI SQL.
  • I learned a few more DBA tips at SQL Dev than at COMPASS.
  • Most of the speakers were trainers, which was obvious because of how well they presented their topics.
  • The SQL Dev location was great. Parking headaches were few, and attendees who were trying to manage a budget could choose from plenty of nice but less expensive hotels within a couple of miles of The Scottsdale Princess, where the conference was held.

The best of COMPASS:

  • Speakers presented case studies about decisions made in real projects by the project managers.
  • The presentation by Dr. Jim Gray about Microsoft research was fantastic.
  • Microsoft sponsored Internet access of at least T1 or better from about 20 computers so people could regularly check email and try the software tips discussed during the sessions.
  • COMPASS had much better coverage of OLAP because of the Amir Netz and Marin Bezic team. (These gentlemen are two of the main developers of Microsoft OLAP Services.)

Both conferences are must-attends next year. The PASS 2000 European conference will be in London next March, and the next U.S. conference will be held in San Francisco in October 2000. (Check the PASS Web site for more information.) SQL Dev (renamed SQL Connections 2000) will be in New Orleans in May.

—Mike Yocca

(Note from Brian: The PASS 2000 Europe call for presentations is now open. You can submit an abstract presentation. The deadline is November 10, 1999.)

Thanks again, Mike! Several weeks ago, I wrote about the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) SQL Server 7.0 system table map. The unanimous response was "Cool! How can I get one?" We're still trying to track down the MSDN version, but we've turned up a great interim alternative. Al Stambaugh, a senior database professional from Baltimore, turned me on to a cool offer BMC Software announced at COMPASS '99. You can order your free SQL Server 7.0 system table map from the BMC Web site. To be honest, I like the MSDN version a little better. I find its use of colors more intuitive in differentiating among tables that different SQL Server components use (such as tables SQL Agent uses vs. the tables replication uses). But "free and now" are pretty good in my book, which makes the BMC offer a great deal. Many thanks to BMC for this valuable service to the SQL Server community!