I thought I’d start off with the first Brick Wall SQL Serve place in front of me:
My first foray into SQL Server was taking over a failing project to rewrite a business application into Visual Basic 6 and make it work better, and be less fragile, with multiple concurrent users. The brick wall here was the backend was something nasty in MS Access. How could I work around that?
The small amount of the internet around at that time seemd to think that this thing called SQL Server that Microsoft sold that was like Access on steriods. Could this be what I needed? No one else in the department at that time knew anything about it.
At the time we had a site license for Microsoft Office, so Access was free. SQL Server was going to cost some money, which was never a popular proposal. Oh, and we didn’t have anything to host it on. Our server estate consisted of a couple of NT 3.51 DCs, fileshare and print servers. More money needed there.
So my first SQL Server brick wall was learning to write a Business Case. Something I’d never done before, I’d always been a resource others wrote a business case to claim for a couple of months. So, I got hold of those business cases, read them and came up with one myself.
Then I needed to make sure it wasn’t a complete turkey, so I needed to get myself some time with someone who’d being reading it for feedback. This kept going back and forth till it was ready to go to the money controllers.
After one small set of revisions they accepted it, and I had the money. Brilliant news, brickwall smashed through!
Unfortunately just behind it was
Had I mentioned that I didn’t know anything about SQL Server at that point? And now I had to install it, configure it, and get an application running and performing well on it.
This was back in the days before YouTube, PluralSight and all the other learning resources we take for granted now. So I loaded the credit card up with the latest books from Wrox and O’Reilly, cranked up the kettle and read late into many nights
Suddenly I realised I had more problems than I thought. SQL Server wan’t just Access on steroids, it was a different way of thinking! I couldn’t just throw the Access stuff I had at it and hope for the best.
So a crash course in database design, learning what a view was a just why I should be using Stored Procedues. Oh, and the joys of left, right, inner, outer and cartesian jobs.
I learnt to build quick demo databases and datasets so I could play with test cases. This skill has been so useful in the 20+ years since then. There’s been no end of other brickwalls that I chipped at brick by brick by running through test case after test case.
I got damn proficient at backups and restores so I could reset back to just before I’d made a major mistake. I learnt how to performance tune my queries so I could work out just what I was doing wrong.
This wasn’t a smash through like Wall 1, this was a constant chipping away for 2 months until eventually I could push the new app out of the door and be confident it wouldn’t come straight back to bite me. The fact it was still in use (with some tweaks) 8 years later backs up the idea that I learnt something
And the walls since then? There was learning to cluster with Wolfpack. Surviving my first corrupted disks. Learning PowerShell. Turning Dynamics CRM. Moving database up to the cloud
Just this week the wall I’m chipping away at is trying to get Teams, Poshbot and SQL Server talking nicely so we can get some SQL ChatOps going. This is definitely a chipper rather than a jumping wall.
My feeling is that if you’re not hitting brick walls you’re probably not pushing yourself or SQL Server hard enough! Everytime I’ve hitten a brick wall, I’ve either improved as a DBA or a human. Each wall looks like a problem, but knowing I’ve gone through, over or even around so many in the past just makes them all look a bit smaller. And just like dominoes, once I’d got the first down the rest have just kept going.