I was recently asked to do an interview for the Israeli SQL Server community who has an excellent website.

The interview can be found in Hebrew at this link: http://www.sqlserver.co.il/?p=2579. They wrote a very flattering introduction.

Now, truth be told, I didn’t write it in Hebrew. If I was still in college, I probably could have but it’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve used my conversational and writing skills when it comes to the language. It would have taken a lot of time with the help of the Hebrew-English dictionary sitting in the other room. So to make it easy, they let me do things in English and translated it for me. Reading the re-translated answers in both Google and Bing’s translators are pretty funny to see some of the differences. Bing is worse. Try it for fun.

One of these days I hope to get over to Israel to do some consulting or teaching. I almost did a few years back but it fell through.

Anyway, here are the questions and my original English responses:

Hello, Allan. Please tell me about yourself and what you do.
Shalom, everyone. I grew up in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia and now live near of Boston in the USA. I’ve been playing bass for over 30 years and music is still a big part of my life when I’m not working. I’m currently in the middle of recording a new jazz album that should be done by the summer of 2011 where I’m doing all of the writing and arranging. Although I don’t do it often, I can lead shacharit, mincha, and ma’ariv if I need to, as well as read Torah and Haftorah. However, my conversational Hebrew is not very good, so I’m having you translate this interview from English into Hebrew for me.

I’ve authored or contributed to quite a few whitepapers and books over the years. Most of the whitepapers can be found on Microsoft’s website.  My latest book is Pro SQL Server 2008 Failover Clustering (Apress), and my previous two books were high availability books based on SQL Server 2000 (Microsoft Press) and SQL Server 2005 (Apress). I will be writing a SQL Server Denali high availability book as well. My blog can be found at https://sqlha.com/blog and my handle on Twitter is @SQLHA.

A few words about your background and career history.
I started with databases as a quality assurance (QA) intern working at Sybase while I was attending Brandeis University. That internship had three things that stuck with me: my interest in databases, SQL Server, and a passion for quality and the need for testing at all levels. From there, I held a few different positions, including a formal QA job, the database resource for a company where I had to deal with Oracle, Sybase, and SQL Server on multiple platforms, and finally a job as a consultant for Microsoft. From there, as they say, the rest is history.

Microsoft is where the doors opened to what I do today, including all of the speaking, training, and writing, and got heavily into SQL Server high availability. The first technical document I wrote for Microsoft that was published was the SQL Server 2000 failover clustering whitepaper. After Microsoft, I spent awhile at Avanade (the joint consulting venture of Accenture and Microsoft), and finally went independent 3.5 years ago and formed my company Megahirtz LLC (http://www.sqlha.com). I provide consulting, mentoring, training, content development, and other services for clients all over the world. I’m also honored to have been awarded a Cluster MVP from Microsoft. This is my second year as one.

What do you think about cloud computing for SQL Server in the upcoming years? Once SQLAzure is up and running (properly), would you join a facebook group we established, called “lay off all DBA’s and send them to Sibiria”?
I think there will always be a place for traditional database systems. In my opinion, right now the cloud space as it relates to SQL Server is still immature and has a way to go before it is mainstream. It will advance over the next few years. I don’t think companies who have certain constraints such as high security are going to be willing to place their sensitive data somewhere out there in the cloud where they have little to no control over it and who may have access to it since it’s on a system they know nothing about.

The cloud is similar to virtualization. Virtualization a few years ago was niche and a big topic of discussion as to how to deal with SQL Server. Today, nearly every company has some form of virtualization for their SQL Server deployments somewhere, even if it’s just the development or testing environments. It has its own set of challenges, such as determining performance bottlenecks when everything is virtualized, and I see the same going forward for cloud-based deployments. The cloud will definitely play a part in the way everyone in computing works going forward, but its role in how applications, databases, and DBAs act is still sorting itself out.

What it does mean is that DBAs and administrators of all kinds need to get smarter about what they do and keep their eyes open. You have to learn to adapt; you can’t just assume that the party is going last forever. This is why keeping one’s skills up to date and looking into the future is so important. I encounter customers that are 2, 3, or 4 versions behind in some cases and it will hurt them at some point, and it definitely makes the DBAs much less marketable to prospective future employers. When it comes to the cloud, DBAs cannot ignore it.  If you have the right skills, you can adapt.

Which feature is the least useful in SQL Server history?
There are many features that have come and gone over the years that would probably qualify as not very useful. English Query is a good choice – did anyone even use that?

What does your typical working day look like?
It varies greatly. Sometimes I’ll be working onsite with a customer, other times I may be in a classroom training folks, or I could be home doing remote work or content development. I could have a typical 8-hour day, or one that is 15+ hours. One of the nice things about being a consultant is that the work is always different. I’m always looking to be challenged. I did write a blog post recently on the realities of consulting, and it has a bit of what I go through when I’m doing client work and on the road. That post can be found here: https://sqlha.com/blog/2011/01/26/the-not-so-glamorous-life-of-a-consultant/.

What is the last SQL Server book you read (not including yours…) ?
Honestly, I don’t read a lot of tech books in my spare time. I did buy Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting (Wrox), and I’ve read portions of it. It’s one of the better SQL books out there today.

Which feature in SQL Server or technology would you take with you to a desert island?
If I was on a desert island, the last thing I would probably be worried about is SQL Server. But since you asked it in a SQL Server context, I’d probably try to print out Books Online and take it with me so I could keep my mind active as well as learn a thing or two so when I got back to civilization, I’d still be useful.

What do you think of the future of SQL Server clustering and mirroring, given the new HADR technology in Denali?
Clustering is one of the parts of the new AlwaysOn feature. It provides the quorum/witness functionality. I’m not worried about finding a new job just yet! I’ve seen AlwaysOn for well over a year before it was publicly announced at PASS and it’ll be interesting to see what people think of it as they start to use it in the CTP releases. It’s definitely a bit more robust than mirroring was in 2005 and 2008. Traditional failover clustering is also fully supported in Denali and has been enhanced a bit when it comes to deploying a geographically dispersed failover cluster. I think database mirroring as it currently is implemented in SQL Server will most likely be deprecated, but it will still be around for a bit giving people time to transition.

What is the craziest SQL project you were involved in?
About 10 years ago, a large customer was having some severe downtime issues. A large team of consultants and support people were there 24×7 for  months. Things did stabilize over time, but I can remember working a 26 hour day during that engagement. I also learned a lot, and it had a pretty big influence on starting me down the path of high availability and how to prevent downtime. There was never a dull moment on that project

And finally, a personal tip for the DBA in Israel?
Two things, one related to high availability and one not:

  1. Achieving high availability is more than just a feature or technology such as failover clustering. You have to have processes, agreements such as recovery objectives, as well as needing the right people in the right place at the right time. If you don’t have any of that, technology won’t solve your availability problems. Technology should support the other things, not the other way around.
  2. One thing I learned a long time ago: the only one looking out for you and your career is you. Whether your goal is to remain a technically-focused IT professional, someday manage others, or even do something completely different, take the right steps to learn and further your career so you meet those goals. Sometimes that may mean doing things on your own or even taking a leap of faith and believing in yourself to make a radical change. You may even need to take a step back to move forward.