Closer to home, The Data Power Hour rolls up in Leeds on 22nd Oct! I am a really proud of coming up with this concept, and when it was piloted in Manchester it got rave reviews. I wanted to come up with something different for the community other than the usual format of two speakers in a night. I also wanted this to coincide with the fact that Manchester had become PASS Chapter.  So how does it work....

Well, there is a 1 hour session on a given topic as you would expect at most local events. In Leeds we will be looking at indexing. The second hour is the Power Hour itself. Here the attendees perform a 1 hour lab with mentoring from experienced user group attendees. This runs in small groups, in Manchester we had five groups of four people plus a mentor. We then finished the evening with a summary of what had been done and then asked each group to share what the key learning point of the evening.

I would be very happy to share the format with other Chapters/User Groups. Indeed, I am currently syncing up with James Rowland Jones to see if there is an opportunity to make use of the material across the PASS organisation. Just to be clear, PASS has not endorsed this in any way, I am working with James to see how this can scale to more Chapters Globally and be put in touch with the relevant people within the organisation

The type of feedback I received in Manchester was....

  • "It was great to be able to put into practise the concepts of the first talk within the same event"
  • "The mentors gave really good comments as to what was being done"
  • "This is the most engaging user group we have had yet"

I can't stress enough the value that the mentors bring to this. I gets a number of Manchester Chapters attendees who always want to help more with the Chapter. The Power Hour provides the perfect opportunity to make use of enthusiastic Chapter attendees who want to help and share knowledge.

So I am looking forward to the second running of this in Leeds, and I will be reaching out to Chapter/User Group leaders in the UK and Europe to see if they will let this event run at their locations in 2014/15

So you heard the Data Power Hour here first!

And I hope it takes flight!




Posted by Testas | with no comments

October and November represents a busy time for the SQL Server Community. For those in Holland next week I will be conducting a precon about Data Warehousing. If you nedd to learn how to create a Data Warehouse and use the supporting technologies to drive a solution. This precon will be for you. By the end of the day you will have seen a Data Warehouse being built utilising SSIS, T-SQL, Data Quality Services, Master Data Services and a few Azure resources to augment your data. If you want more details then visit for information. If Data Warehousing is not your forte, my good friends Denny Cherry, Kevin Kline, Marco Russo and Laerte JR Poltronieri are also conducting a variety of sessions that provide great coverage across the SQL Server stack!

At the same event, I have a one hour DBA session looking at controlling resources in SQL Server using Resource Governor and Policy Based Management. Feature often overlooked in the product stack, but can provide you with the ability to have greater control of your SQL Server boxes. I always look forward to this event in Holland. It is one of my favourite events, and I look forward to mingling with the attendees during the event!

See you there



Posted by Testas | with no comments

Congratulations to Erin, Andy and Allen on making the Nomination Committee for 2014. As Mark Broadbent (@retracement) stated in his tweet, there’s a great set of individuals for the Nom Com, and I could not agree more. I know Erin and Allen, and I know how much value they will bring to the process. I don’t know Andy as well, but I am sure he will do a great job and I hope I can meet him at PASS soon. The final candidate appointed by the PASS board is Rick Bolesta, who brings a wealth of experience to the process.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank all who have voted. Not just for me, but for all the candidates during the election. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Would I apply for the Nom Com again?  Yes I would. My first election experience has been a learning experience in itself. So I accept the result and look forward to applying next year.

Moving on from this, I do want to express my opinion about the lack of international representation in the election process.

One of the tweets that I saw after the result was from Adam Machanic (@AdamMachanic) who commented on the lack of international members on the Nom Com. If truth be told, I was disappointed – when the candidate list was released -- that for the second time in recent elections there was a lack of international candidates on the candidate list. It feels that only Brits and Americans partake in such elections. This is a real shame, and I can’t help thinking why this is the case. Hugo Kornelis (@Hugo_Kornelis) wrote a blog here to express his thoughts. He did raise some valid points.

I don’t know why there is an absence of international candidates. I know that the team at PASS are looking to improve the situation, so I do not want to give the impression that PASS are doing nothing. For reference please see Bill Graziano’ s article here to see how PASS are addressing the situation. There is a clear direction to change the rules within PASS to give greater inclusion of international members.

In addition to this, I wanted to explore a couple of potential approaches to address the situation. I am not saying that they are the right answer, but when I see challenges, I like to bring potential solutions to the table.

1.       Use the PASS mission statement to define a tactical objective that engages community leaders into the election process.

If you are not familiar with the PASS mission statement, let me provide it here as laid out on the PASS website.

“Empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning”

PASS fulfil this mission statement regularly. Whether you attend SQL Saturday, SQLRally, SQLPASS and BA conference itself. The biggest value of PASS is the ability to bring our profession together. And the 24 hour hop allows you to learn from the comfort of your own office/home.

This mission should be extended to define a tactical objectives that bring greater networking and knowledge sharing between PASS Chapter leaders/Regional Mentors and PASS HQ. It should help educate the leaders about the opportunities of elections and how leaders can become involved. I know PASS engage with Chapter leaders on a regular basis to discuss community matters for the benefit of PASS members.

How could this be achieved?

Perhaps PASS could perform a quarterly virtual meeting that specifically looks at helping leaders become more involved with the election process

2.       Evolve the Global Growth Strategy into a Global Engagement Strategy.

One of the remits of the PASS board over the last couple of years is the Global Growth strategy. This has been very successful as we have seen the massive growth of events across the world. For that, I congratulate the board for this success.

Perhaps the time is now right to look at solidifying this success, through a Global Engagement Strategy that starts with the collaboration of Chapter Leaders, Regional Mentors and Evangelists in their respective Countries or Regions. The engagement strategy should look at increasing collaboration between community leaders for the benefit of their respective communities. It should also provide a channel for encouraging leaders to put themselves forward for the elections.

How could this be achieved?

In the UK, there has been a big growth in PASS Chapters and SQL Server Events that was approaching saturation point. The introduction of the Community Engagement Day -- channelled through the SQLBits conference -- has enabled Chapter Leaders to collaborate, connect and share with PASS, Sponsors and Microsoft.

It also provides the ability for Chapter Leaders to speak directly to the PASS representatives from PASSHQ. This brings with it the ability for PASS community evangelists to communicate PASS objectives. It has also been the event where we have found out; and/or encouraged, Chapter Leaders to put themselves forward for elections. People like encouragement and validation when going for something like an election, and being able to discuss this with peers at a dedicated event provides a useful platform.

PASS has the people in place already to facilitate such an event. Regional Mentors could potentially help organise such events on an annual basis, with PASSHQ providing support in providing a room/Lync access for the event to take place. It would be really good if a PASSHQ representative could attend in person as well.


3.       Restrict candidates to serve only a limited number of terms.

A frequent comment I saw on social networking was that the elections can be seen by some as a popularity conference. Perhaps by limiting the number of terms that an individual can serve on either the Nom Com or the BOD, other candidates may be encouraged to be more actively involved within the PASS election process. I don’t think that the current
byelaws deal with this particular suggestion.

I also saw a couple of tweets that stated that more active community members did not apply for the Nom Com. I struggled to understand how the individuals of the tweets measured “more active”. It just also further solidified the subjective nature of elections. In the absence of how candidates are put forward for the elections. Then a restriction of terms enables the opportunity to be extended to others.

How could this be achieved?

Set a resolution that is put to a community vote as to the viability of such a solution. For example, the questions for the vote could be:

Should individuals in the Nom Com and BoD be limited to a certain number of terms?  Yes/No.

What is the maximum number of terms a candidate could serve?


It would be simple to execute such a vote, and the community will have an opportunity to have a say in an important aspect of the PASS organisation. And is the change is successful, then add it as a byelaw.


So there are some of my thoughts. I am not saying they are right or wrong. But I do hope that there is a concerted effort to encourage more candidates from other reaches of the Globe to become involved with future elections.


It would be good to hear your thoughts





Posted by Testas | 1 comment(s)
Filed under: , ,

After discussion with a number of friends, I decided to apply for the PASS Nomination Committee for the 2014 elections. The line-up for this year is very strong, and there are fine candidates that all would do a fine job on the committee. You can see the other candidates here.

My own application for the Nomination Committee can be found here. This provides an explanation as to the reasons for my application. It is also where you can find the application itself.

It would be an honour to be involved in the process of helping select the candidates that will be part of the PASS Board of Director elections later in the year. There are discussions taking place about the Nom Comm process at the following link.  Alternatively you can catch me on twitter at @ctesta_oneill

I wish all candidates the best in the process, the community has a very difficult choice!



Posted by Testas | with no comments
Filed under: , ,

  while waiting for the Superbowl, I thought I would write this.....

2014 will not only see the release of a new version of SQL Server, but also accompanying this is the release of courses and certification tracks from Microsoft Learning Experience – formerly Microsoft Learning -- that will support the education of SQL Server and related technologies.

The notable addition in the curriculum, is substantial material on cloud and big data features that pertain to data and business intelligence. There are entire module/chapters that are dedicated Power BI, SQL Azure and HDInsight.

Certifications and courses from Microsoft can get stick – sometimes fair and sometimes unfairly. Whilst I am a massive advocate of community to get information and education. Microsoft’s new courses will bring clarity to the burning topics of the moment and help you to understand the capabilities of Power BI and HDInsight.

From a business intelligence perspective there will be three courses:

20463C: Data warehousing in SQL Server 2014

20466C: data models and reports in SQL Server 2014

20467A: Designing Self-Service Business Intelligence and Big Data Solutions

These are not the exact titles of the course, but will be confirmed prior to the release. And if you have already completed the SQL Server 2012 or 2008 curriculum, there is an upgrade course from

10977A: Upgrading business intelligence skills from 2008 to 2014.

Again this is not the exact title, but these should give you an idea.

Look out for announcements from Microsoft Learning Experience….



Happy New Year SQL Server land.

I begin this years blog with a reference to a white paper that I think will be useful to anyone installing and configuring data models.

This white paper will provide you with very useful information on capacity planning tabular data models and can be found on

Please remember to send feedback, it is always useful for the team to get this n such papers



Posted by Testas | with no comments

Back in April I started a blog series on SQL Server High Availability BI.

These are currently hosted on Technet UK

Part I

Part II

Part III

The final part

It has been a great experience and thanks to the UK Technet team for support over the summer



Posted by Testas | with no comments


Hi Everyone

Firstly I want to let you know that I finally found the LINQ book prize winners and the list of people at the bottom of this email are owed a LINQ book. This will be given out at next week’s UG meeting

Live meeting with Carolyn Chau, Program Manager at Microsoft on Monday!

It is very rare that we get the opportunity to have a Live meeting with a Program Manager in Redmond. Carolyn Chau will be presenting PowerView next Monday at 8pm. Live meeting details can be found on

Next week’s UG!!

We welcome Mark Broadbent to Manchester next week where he will be presenting his session on SQL Server 2012 on Windows Core. We also hand out the unclaimed prizes. Register at

Chris Webb is in Manchester!!!

Chris Webb will be speaking at the Manchester SQL Server UG on 4th July. He will also be running his Real World Cube Design and Performance Tuning with Analysis Services between the 3rd – 5th July. If you want to attend then you can sign up at the link below

SQLRelay and a Special Prize and Jamie Thomson comes to Manchester!!!!

SQLRelay takes place in Manchester on the 22nd. We have a special guest, after years of asking Jamie Thomson is coming to Manchester. The SSIS Junkie will be gracing us with his presence with a talk on SSIS 2012.

Also we have a prize. Know a friend or colleague who would benefit from SQLRelay? Get them to register at and then register for the event

Then send an email to with the subject of SQLFriend with the name of your friend.

If you are both at the SQLRelay event on the day and your names are pulled out of the hat you will win a PASS 2011 DVD and your friend will win the “Best of PASS DVD 2011” worth  $1000 courtesy of SQLPASS. The draw will take place between 4.30pm – 5pm on the day.

SQLBits feedback!!!!!

Attended SQLBits? We really need to know your opinion. Please fill out the survey for the days you attended

If you attended any of the days at SQLBits please can you all fill out the following survey

If you attended the Thursday Training day then please fill out the following survey:

If you attended the Friday Deep Dives day then please fill out the following survey:

If you attended the Saturday Community day then please fill out the following survey:



Chris and Martin


LINQ BOOK winners

Andrew Birds

Chris Kennedy

Dave Carpenter

David Forrester

Ian Ringrose

James Cullen

James Simpson

Kevan Riley

Kirsty Hunter

Martin Bell

Martin Croft

Michael Docherty

Naga Anand Ram Mangipudi

Neal Atkinson

Nick Colebourn

Pavel Nefyodov

Ralph Baines

Rick Hibbert

saad saleh

Simon Enion

Stan Venn

Steve Powell

Stuart Quinn

Posted by Testas | with no comments

Over the last 5 years I have observed Microsoft persevere with the notion of Self Service BI over a series of conferences as far back as SQLBits V in Newport. The release of SQL Server 2012, improvements in Excel and the integration with SharePoint 2010 is making this a reality.

Business users are now empowered to create their own BI reports through a number of different technologies such as PowerPivot, PowerView and Report Builder. This opens up a whole new way of working; improving staff productivity, promoting efficient decision making and delivering timely business reports.

There is, however; a serious question to answer.

What happens should any of these applications become unavailable? More to the point, how would the business react should key business users be unable to fulfil reporting requests for key management meetings when they require it?  While the introduction of self-service BI will provide instant access to the creation of management information reports, it will also cause instant support calls should the access to the data become unavailable.

These are questions that are often overlooked when a business evaluates the need for self-service BI. But as I have written in other blog posts, the thirst for information is unquenchable once the business users have access to the data. When they are unable to access the information, you will be the first to know about it and will be expected to have a resolution to the downtime as soon as possible.

The world of self-service BI is pushing reporting and analytical databases to the tier 1 application level for some of Coeo’s customers. A level that is traditionally associated with mission critical OLTP environments. There is recognition that by making BI readily available to the business user, provisions also need to be made to ensure that the solution is highly available so that there is minimal disruption to the business.

This is where High Availability BI infrastructures provide a solution.

As there is a convergence of technologies to support a self-service BI culture, there is also a convergence of technologies that need to be understood in order to provide the high availability architecture required to support the self-service BI infrastructure. While you may not be the individual that implements these components, understanding the concepts behind these components will empower you to have meaningful discussions with the right people should you put this infrastructure in place.

There are 7 worlds that you will have to understand to successfully implement a highly available BI infrastructure


1.       Server/Virtualised server hardware/software

2.       DNS

3.       Network Load Balancing

4.       Active Directory

5.       Kerberos

6.       SharePoint

7.       SQL Server

I have found myself over the last 6 months reaching out to knowledge that I learnt years ago when I studied for the Windows 2000 and 2003 (MCSE) Microsoft Certified System Engineer. (To the point that I am resuming my studies for the Windows Server 2008 equivalent to be up to date with newer technologies) This knowledge has proved very useful in the numerous engagements I have undertaken since being at Coeo, particularly when dealing with High Availability Infrastructures.

As a result of running my session at SQLBits X and SQL Saturday in Dublin, the feedback I have received has been that many individuals desire to understand more of the concepts behind the first 6 “worlds” in the list above.

Over the coming weeks, a series of blog posts will be put on this site to help understand the key concepts of each area as it pertains to a High Availability BI Infrastructure. Each post will not provide exhaustive coverage of the topic. For example DNS can be a book in its own right when you consider that there are so many different configuration options with Forward Lookup, Reverse Lookups, AD Integrated Zones and DNA forwarders to name some examples. What I want to do is share the pertinent points as it pertains to the BI infrastructure that you build so that you are equipped with the knowledge to have the right discussion when planning this infrastructure.

Next, we will focus on the server infrastructure that will be required to support the High Availability BI Infrastructure, from both a physical box and virtualised perspective.




Posted by Testas | with no comments

Quick announcement

Microsoft Learning today announced the certification tracks for the upcoming SQL Server 2012 exams.

You begin by acheiving the MCSA - Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (Not to be confused by the old Microsoft Certified System Administrator)

If you are starting out this includes taking the following three exams:

  • Exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-462: Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • Exam 70-463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

If you have an MCTS in SQL Server 2008 already you can take the following path

  • A pass in a SQL Server 2008 (MCTS) Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist exam
  • Exam 70-457: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 1
  • Exam 70-458: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 2

Once you have achieved you MCSA status you can then start for your MCSE - Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification

You have a choice, to do the MCSE: SQL Server 2012 Data Platform, MCSE: SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence or you could do both

MCSE: SQL Server 2012 Data Platform involves

  • Obtain your SQL Server 2012 MCSA
  • Exam 70-464: Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • Exam 70-465: Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server 2012

There is also an upgrade path

  • A pass in a SQL Server 2008 (MCITP) Microsoft Certified IT Professional Database Administrator or Database Developer Certification
  • Exam 70-457: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 1
  • Exam 70-458: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 2
  • Exam 70-459: transisitioning your MCITP on SQL Server 2008 Database Administrator or Database Developer to MCSE:Data Platform

MCSE: SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence involves

  • Obtain your SQL Server 2012 MCSA
  • Exam 70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

The upgrade path involves:

  • A pass in a SQL Server 2008 (MCITP) Microsoft Certified IT Professional Business Intelligence Certification
  • Exam 70-457: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 1
  • Exam 70-458: transisitioning your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA on SQL Server 2012 part 2
  • Exam 70-460: transisitioning your MCITP on SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence Developer to MCSE:Business Intelligence

As a result if you want to achieve the MCSE in either Data Platform or Business Intelligence and you are starting from scratch there will be 5 exams to take

If you have the ability to upgrade your certification because you have an MCITP already then it will be three exams

Full details and questions can be found at



Posted by Testas | with no comments
More Posts Next page »