Lawrence Harvey are pleased to be sponsoring SQLSaturday in Cambridge this weekend. With this being both mine and Lawrence Harvey’s first involvement with SQL Saturday, I wanted to get the thoughts of a seasoned attendee, and speaker, on what to expect from the event.

Satya Jayanty, Chief Technical Architect of D BI A Consulting, was kind enough to sit down with me and talk through the finer details of SQLSaturday.

Read the full interview below: 

LH: Satya, this isn’t your first time doing at SQLSaturday, you are a seasoned attendee and have spoken at SQLSaturday before, correct?

Yes, if I remember correctly this would be my 45th or 46th SQLSaturday, speaking.

LH: Wow. That is impressive! How do you think this year will compare to previous years? 

SQLSaturday is an event that has been happening for the last eight to nine years. I have been part of SQLSaturday since the year 2013, and year by year it is improving, because there is more committed participation and because in any event, the main thing would be the money, right? Because the speakers are coming from across the world. So that is a speciality of SQLSaturday. We have Microsoft speakers, MVPs, even the new speakers who would like to share their knowledge, so comparatively year by year, or even month by month, these events are getting better in terms of reaching the audience. People are participating more than before.

LH: So it’s a lot more widespread now, isn’t it?

It is, because the one thing I would like you to know, we talk about SQLSaturday Cambridge, it is an important SQLSaturday in the United Kingdom. I’m proud that I’m speaking at this event because Cambridge is a kind of specialty hub. We can call it that, you know. Because Cambridge has a special place in the world. This kind of event happening here is one of the best, part of that gives me pride.

LH: So, what do you think is going to be the main SQL Server talking points this year? What’s going to be the hot topic?

There will a lot of BI, a lot focused on businesses, a lot of DBA and architecture. Enterprise and administration is one segment, also the business end user. It’s not just for techies.

Those four streams, if you look at the schedule online or during the day, you’ll notice that if you are interested in enterprise and administration, that that is colour-coded with blue, and there you can pin-point which event or pitch-talk you’d like to attend. I know sometimes that if you like to attend two topics at the same time it’s not possible, because you cannot clone yourself to be at two places at one time. But there is an opportunity to know exactly what you want to get out of that, which topic will be more for you. And obviously, these are available for download after the event, so the PowerPoint sessions and demos that the speakers present, they share when it is finished, so all that is arranged already.

LH:  So, it really is quite a wide-spread audience then, not just technical developers but people from quite a few different backgrounds.


LH:  So, you’ve obviously been working in the SQL server for a while, and over the last couple of years you’ve been contracting through your consultancy. Looking at jobs and speaking to recruitment agents and talking all things SQL server. What do you think are the biggest challenges that SQL server professionals are currently facing in terms of day to day at work and also in terms of securing new jobs?

Talking about what the biggest challenge is is one thing. It’s the developer, the background, architecture or business user perspective. There would be three big challenges. One thing is the shift that is happening into applications, and previously it was more application-focused but now the world has changed because we can do it mobile, right? When was the last time you went to your bank and deposited some money? You don’t need to do that. You do everything online every day. So, these facilities, these kind of changes into the user perspective has also given into these ideas.

The growing need to support multiple databases, what that means for a DBA – I have a DBA background, and I worked at DBA for 16 years, and after that, ten years as an architect, but looking into that perspective, the growing need to support multiple databases, not just one database, I will chair the platform – the multiple platforms, and the last five years at least I’ve chaired because that’s what I’ve seen.

You are not confined to SQL now, as a database expert, you need to support other aspects – like Oracle. Also, this new age of big data is more complicated compared to the more traditional databases. You must support multiple sources, the Cloud, and you need these challenges. You must stay relevant. You cannot say that I am only focusing on SQL alone. It is becoming a priority, because organisations are more data centric now, because everybody requires data. Not just during events, but how they can use that data, regional data can use that for a purpose. The social networking, more participation towards organisations, social networking toward consumers, and as a data expert you need to be more tech savvy. At least have wider technology know-how. Get that perspective into your mind. Also, once you get into that, obviously you will want to excel in that job, in their profession. You need to be more like a technology adviser for the business. If there is more support you can give, then they can be confident in you. 

Three biggest challenges I would say that are becoming more about the platforms, becoming more about the technology and developing yourself – how you can upscale your learning as well. You really grow as you learn, and at the same time becoming a focal point in your profession at the job, is always the key aspects. I do that on a regular basis as well. As someone experienced in the subject matter in certain areas, but I spend half an hour of my time every day to learn, or to see exactly what is happening around the world about technology or something I’m interest in. So that is how I keep up and I recommend everyone to do that as well.

LH:  Agree, absolutely, it’s such an ever-changing market in terms of what Microsoft are adding to their products all the time and it’s a constant challenge to stay relevant. Is there anything you can suggest to professionals in this market to best place themselves to succeed? 

Yes, because nowadays there are so many blogs – the blogs are the best place to go. I know that everybody has their own go-to one. Let’s say the best thing on the street is being on Twitter. I know we use social networking like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, these are mostly for our own personal use. But Twitter can be used to ensure that you’re always best placed to know what’s happening. In terms of it, you can subscribe at a certain speed. In the old days you would get an email and click the link and you’d go there. Nowadays you know what is happening immediately. If somebody you follow publishes a topic you follow or if you have a favourite author; Kimball, Brent Ozar, for example, these you can subscribe to and get updates immediately. That’s one of the favourite places for me, to just observe what kind of questions are getting asked and what responses are being given, so it’s not just a one-line response, but you can see people explaining, other mentors, they are explaining how to solve the problem. 

The best place would be with professionals to keep up with these kind of sites – that will be the best point to get some knowledge. You shouldn’t just stick to the internet alone, but participate in things like SQL Saturday, as they are free to attend, or look out for your local user group and meet-ups. So that is one aspect of how you keep up with your crowd. You can talk to the people. I think people would rather talk to other people than a machine! 

LH:  Yes, that constant community involvement, trying to live, breathe, eat sleep SQL Server. So, speaking of community and doing things, what are you going to be presenting us this Saturday, Satya? 

The buzzword and hot topic for me is CosmosDB. From an IT user perspective, what do you need to know? As your Cosmos DB, yes, I know that I need to explain a little more about what CosmosDB is. It’s a Microsoft technology, you know. My topic is, as your CosmosDB works, you need to know about globally distributed applications. My talk is more towards the technical overview of where the foundations and design goals that Microsoft has put into CosmosDB. There are many benefits that the technology is offering where it can fit into a mobile-based or even globally distributed application depending on your organisation and how you can best put this into perspective that can need high speed requirement, the scaling of your systems in terms of the storage and combination power, and the high availability so it can give a predictable performance but it is a performance in terms of where it goes. 

LH:  So, what exactly is CosmosDB? It’s not something I’ve come across too much. 

I could say this is the new kid on the Microsoft block, so it’s been kind of on the Microsoft block since 2010, but a lot of changes have happened, a lot of enhancements have been put into place so, as your CosmosDB it can enable you to independently spread your application storage across the globe. Let’s take an example from the retail chain. They are spread globally, and they want to introduce aspects of their product, but how can they scale that effectively? It’s not installing that same application in multiple places. This is not possible in the real world, but it is using CosmosDB. It’s globally distributed, it’s a multi-model database service so it’s a multi-database, makes the application more scalable, highly responsive, and this is what Microsoft wanted – it’s a turnkey global distribution so it can distribute data into regions. You don’t need to install the service, everything is in the Cloud, so it is a first of its kind. 

Microsoft knows that its database in the Cloud which gives you the capability to multiple data models, and also it can be scalable in terms of application that can be made to that, storage can meet those demands, because once retail lose a product, there will be high demand for that, but in terms of, needs for example if you take Black Friday, how do you use those systems in Amazon? We know it will be very high with Christmas sales, so people wanted to buy a lot, at that point of time the system needs to be up to the top in term of the storage in terms of power, so this is what CosmosDB can offer you. It can be highly scalable, and highly responsive so its performance to the core, so they can be retained. There’s no management or administration because everything is managed by Microsoft, it’s a self-contained performance so it can build that, to fine tune of its own. Also, its cost. Nothing comes for free in this world! So obviously it costs a little more than what you usually spend initially, but if you go longer term, it’s low cost. That’s Cosmos DB.

LH:  If people are looking for a long-term robust scalable application for the data warehouse, surely, it’s the way to go, right? 

Indeed, indeed it is.

LH:  Very good. So, you mentioned Azure in terms of being a hot topic now, everyone is talking about it, a lot of people are getting into it now. What do you think have been the biggest advancements in terms of Cloud data warehousing, in terms of the last twelve months or so? 

Cloud Data warehousing in terms of data analytics is one of the best things to have happened in the data world. A data warehouse by definition is a warehouse to keep your data, but the next level to that is data analytics. How would you use that data? How would you use that data so you can see a kind of a leap in terms of what are the changes? 

Hadoop is a buzzword, it is the big data perspective. I am going a little out of the data warehouse, but in terms of enterprise, because this is where enterprise BI is one of the key aspects of the organisation because it has its own advantages, the company is by introducing some of the characters and this OLAP platform, and nowadays the users can generate a report by the end of the day, or maybe tomorrow.  They need some information now. The business needs information now. To meet that need, the person who is designing the application, the architect and the DBA they need to know exactly what the storage is and how it’s going to be used. Specifically, towards the Cloud data we are hosting, a data lake is another key aspect, because this is where a data lake comes as a special thing. Data has been accumulating in Enterprise for many, many years, but the past number of years the new data is generated on a high-volume intranet of things, where it is always moving. A data lake from one perspective, can get to the core. 

Especially when talking about Microsoft and Hadoop work combined and produce that inside. That is Microsoft’s big data solution. It’s a first of its kind. First the big data solution in the Cloud. When we talk about big data we talk about resources, number of clusters, storage servers you need to manage, but now you don’t need to worry about that. Everything is managed in the Cloud, so that is one of the biggest changes in this kind of scenario where Microsoft comes as a unique solution as an offer to the other big data offerings. 

Microsoft and other companies are trying to release a product sooner rather than later all the time. So, it’s always happening in the Cloud first, so they can take the data off that, that reduces the cost of ownership managing, administration management of this service. The hardware is much more expensive. In these areas, I can see a lot more changes happening in the Cloud, and adaptability of the Cloud is also better than before, so companies can investigate what Cloud offering they can use. These are the advantages. There are other players in the Cloud market, such as Amazon, which is a first of its kind. Google Cloud platform and Microsoft, so these are the three key players that can offer all these kind of you know, how organisations can cope with the load, or to be on par with the systems.

LH:  I’m almost hesitant to ask this as I think you might be biased towards Microsoft, Satya, but who do you think is winning the fight between Azure and A2S, the two heavy hitters?

Let Amazon and Microsoft and Amazon’s sales guys fight each other and come up with that answer! From an IT perspective, how can I say this? When I speak to organisations about the cloud, the first question they ask is, oh which one do we choose? I need to be presented with the facts. So yes, I am inclined towards Microsoft, but no favouritism, because Amazon, pioneering this kind of technology, adapting to the Cloud is more important. 

When we talk about how these things are going it has been the pioneer in the market, but Azure started its journey in the last twenty years, the growth has been very quick compared with Amazon, because Amazon has been in the market for quite a long time. 

On the table there are some offerings, but – for an example, for any organisation they have the Window servers they want to deploy towards the Cloud, or they want to conduct the Cloud. The best offering for them is to go to Azure because they have already paid Microsoft licencing. One of the biggest advantages Microsoft has got is, they are the software provider, whereas Amazon is only the service provider. They don’t have their own operating system, or their own technology to provide. Everything comes at a little extra cost compared to Microsoft. Because Microsoft products, if you are already using Microsoft technology, going to Azure would be the best opportunity for you to go to our basics. That’s how we can take advantage of the platform as a service in so far as the service is a software.

When I compare it to Azure inevitably the one thing I would see is self-service and auto providing and auto scaling security which is the most important thing because nowadays GDPR has come into play and the other agency data protection global data we need to abide by these things. So, that our data cannot be shared out of the country. Certain laws need to be complied with and identity management, because you are putting your data somewhere else, not in your own premise, so at that point at that time, you need to be aware of identity management and the benchmarks. Three benchmarks are more important, obviously whether it is enterprise or Cloud, the combination power – the CPU storage, which is a disk and a network, how quickly you can reach to the network and all that. 

Coming back here to the question. Who is winning? I would say Microsoft is leading.Due to the offering and opportunities they have. I wouldn’t say Amazon is losing, but here, Microsoft is leading.

LH:  That’s interesting to hear. Like you touched on before, particularly for a non-IT professional like me, it does often seem like the battle of the marketing teams or the battles of the sale teams. It’s good to hear an unbiased view. 

Just to wrap things up, in terms of SQL Saturday this weekend, I’m really looking forward to it. Are there any other talks that you have earmarked to attend?

Yes, because my session is in the morning between ten and eleven, but before that I would be busy preparing for my session to make sure the demos that I’m going to present will work! But as I am working more in the Cloud and Big Data space nowadays I have earmarked a few in the analytics space. One is Terry McCann on using AI to help the users to write a session for SQL Saturday. 

SQL Saturday Cambridge holds a special place in the hearts of SQL professionals globally. Despite this being a global organisation, the Cambridge event is still one of the must-attend dates in the calendar for anyone with an interest in SQL Server.

A lot of this years’ event will be focused around new additions to the SQL product, Cloud data warehousing, and emerging technologies. The conference will offer people from all backgrounds and levels of technical capability a chance to learn something new.

In an ever-changing BI & data warehousing landscape, it’s so important for everyone involved in this market to stay up to date with the technology.  SQL Saturday provides an amazing, free opportunity to do this.

See you there!