I had a wonderful time attending SQL in the City London. It’s really great to see the new versions of the tools and exchange new ideas with friends. Towards full disclosure, I’ve been a Friend of Red Gate for as long as I can remember, and also spoke at SQL in the City last year in both Austin and Seattle. This year was a new format: leading attendees through a focused journey of continuous integration and deployment together in one large room. It worked well.
There was also a small off-track room seating about 20 to 40 down a winding hallway, though with such a large attendee base, there was usually no room. It did help us focus on the main event, but it did remove some of the free-flowing discussion that only a small group can bring.
The opening discussion was pretty much a spot-on repeat of last year. We did the deployment balloon game, and successfully deployed only one of our 5 or 8 groups of balloons. It’s a wonderful object lesson, though having seen the example and corresponding slides last year, it didn’t really grab my attention. My fellow attendees seemed to enjoy the presentation — a wonderful reserved optimism that speaks volumes of the glorious British culture. Breaks between classes helped us absorb the material and yielded great discussions. We also queued very well for afternoon tea. There wasn’t much space in the venue to hold us when we weren’t sitting down, so the displays and conversation areas were loud and cramped, and most of us either spilled out of the building or back into our seats. “A Day in the Life of a DBA” concluded the day, and seemed like it could’ve been a wonderful discussion. Alas, I quickly zoned out as it turned into a gripe session about everything DBAs hate about developers, networks, management, users, life, and why getting woken up is not fun. All else being equal, I wish I had fit in the smaller room.
I’m really enjoying how the tools are maturing and coming together into a great suite, targeted nicely both towards on-premise use and cloud deployments, both tools to facilitate developers and tools to facilitate IT pros. David Atkinson did a wonderful demo of continuous integration using the Team City plugin that drives SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, SQL Docs, other tools, and in short order, database migrations. Justin Caldicott and Grant Fritchey did a wonderful back-n-forth demo — from both developer’s and IT’s perspective — of the challenges of deployment and how Deployment Manager really saves the day.
Deployment Manager is struggling because it’s one of the few Red Gate tools that requires you accept their paradigm rather than fitting into a niche inside your process. (SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, SQL Monitor, .NET Reflector, ANTS Profiler, and even to a lesser extent SQL Source Control all get plugged into an existing workflow with ease. Deployment Manager really needs to own the deployment process. This is especially difficult to swallow since the IT Pro’s bread and butter is to ensure deployment is seamless, painless, and exact. Like any good DBA, they get very OCD about it. Deployment Manager asks the business to “trust us, we’ll do the right thing.” Automation is wonderful, but black boxes scare people. Deployment Manager seeks to walk this fine line, and does a descent job, but it is a very hard sell. Alas, I digress.
I got tapped with only a few moments notice to lead a group discussion about Database Migrations — a topic I’m quite passionate about. Of the 3 groups of 20-or-so, I chose the biggest challenge — the group that didn’t own any Red Gate tools. We quickly got the standard gripe out of the way: the tools are expensive, and then we began exploring both the challenges of Database Migrations and the solutions that we were proposing. (It was fun getting to use the royal “we” to discuss Red Gate for a few minutes.) The methodology proposed seems very solid, and I’m really excited to see how they execute on this vision. In a true continuous deployment system where the build server fully owns deploying all assets (web sites, command lines, services, GUI tools, and databases) the lynch pin to completely avoiding babysitting it is Database Migrations. I’m really excited to see this product come to life. The group seemed very receptive, and some said they’d give SQL Source Control a try. (SQL Source Control is a great gateway drug into the Red Gate toolchest.)
SQL in the City is a wonderful event, and I really enjoyed attending again this year. I’d highly recommend the free day of training and insight into Red Gate tools, and wish only that there were more of them in cities closer to me. Many thank yous to Annabel and her team who went above and beyond to make this even a wonderful success. Well done.