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Rick Heiges

News about SQL Server and the SQL Server Community

  • Update on My Dynamic Data Masking Article - Behavior Change in CTP 2.4


    Recently, an article of mine was published by on the site titled “An introduction to SQL Server 2016 dynamic data masking” which can be found here.  I encourage you to read the article in order to get the most out of this blog post and to better understand this feature.  This article was based on the SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.2 release.  Since CTP 2.4 was recently released, I decided to run my script from the article and look for behavior differences. 

    The Difference

    Everything in my script worked the same except for where I test using a “SELECT INTO” approach to get around the data masking.  Here is the code snippet and result from the article.

    Execute as user = 'TestUser';

    Select * INTO dbo.maskemployee from dbo.employee;



    Grant select on maskemployee to TestUser;


    Execute as user = 'TestUser';

    Select * from dbo.maskemployee;




    When I ran this portion of my script in CTP 2.4, I was happy to see that the security hole had been addressed.  The “SELECT INTO” now creates the maskemployee table with the masked data INSTEAD of the real data.  On a side note, I also ran this script in CTP 2.3; the behavior was the same as CTP 2.2.

    What about Azure SQL Database?

    The Azure SQL Database preview was also recently updated.  I am happy to report that the above behavior is consistent with that outlined above.  One other note that I’d like to make about Dynamic Data Masking in Azure is that there are now suggestions for columns to be masked and also suggestions of what type of mask to use when navigating the blades.  I think that this is a good idea for those just starting to play with this feature, but that it will most likely go unused once the user is more experienced


    As SQL Server 2016 gets closer to release next year, the CTP releases show progress on how the team at Microsoft is moving forward.  I imagine the team is starting to move into the “fit & finish” phase of some of these features.  I continue to look forward to see what’s next.


  • Speaking at SQL Sat 445 in Raleigh on Oct 10!

    I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #445 on October 10, 2015!

    When I first moved to North Carolina 25 years ago, I moved to Raleigh.  The Triangle is a great place to live and raise a family.  There is still time to register.  Go to the following link:

    My topic is "First Look at SQL Server 2016".  Microsoft has been busy working on the next version of SQL Server - SQL Server 2016.  We will go over some of the new features at a high level and dig deeper on Row Level Security and StretchDB.  Row Level Security allows you to add another layer of security to your environment.  StretchDB will allow you to transparently place part or all of a table into a SQL Azure DB freeing up your valuable SAN space for data that is COLD.I also plan on being available throughout the day to answer questions on SQL Server 2016 to the best of my ability.

    This should be a great event!  Help make great by being part of it!  See you there!

  • Speaking at SQL Sat 440 in Pittsburgh on Oct 3!

    I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #440 on October 3, 2015!

    I am originally from Western PA and it is always good to get back "Home".  This will be my 3rd time at this SQL Saturday event.  There is still time to register.  Go to the following link: 

    My topic is "First Look at SQL Server 2016".  Microsoft has been busy working on the next version of SQL Server - SQL Server 2016.  We will go over some of the new features at a high level and dig deeper on Row Level Security and StretchDB.  Row Level Security allows you to add another layer of security to your environment.  StretchDB will allow you to transparently place part or all of a table into a SQL Azure DB freeing up your valuable SAN space for data that is COLD.I also plan on being available throughout the day to answer questions on SQL Server 2016 to the best of my ability.

    This should be a great event!  Help make great by being part of it!  See you there!

  • PASS Summit 2015 - I have a Lightning Talk!

    I will once again be going to the PASS Summit.  This year I will have a 10 minute Lightning Talk on Rethinking the Resume. Essentially, we will discuss various ways to make your Resume stand out and show some examples of how others have rethought their resume.  I have reviewed 100s of resumes over the years and I want to share several that stood out.  Perhaps you will get an idea on how to make your resume stand out.

    If you haven't registered yet, what are you waiting for?  It is a week long celebration of being a data professional.  It is a great place to Connect with your peers, Share a Tip / Story / Issue, and Learn how too make your life easier.  Here's a link so that you can register.


    The summit has been a success for many years and while many things change, many things stay the same.  I wrote a series of blog posts about what to expect at the summit.  Although there will be some differences, these blog posts are still relevant for this year.  Below is a link to the Summary Blog post. 

    Hope to see you there! 

  • PASS Elections: Fuzzy Math

    The following is an observation and not a swipe at the process.  As I understand the current process, the regional seats are filled first before the open seats are filled.

    We have 4 excellent candidates running for 3 seats on the PASS BoD this year.  One seat is earmarked for EMEA; one is for US/Canada; and one is open.  We have 1 candidate that qualifies for the EMEA seat - Jen Stirrup.  This means that Jen will be re-elected. The remaining three candidates are all eligible for the other two seats - one US/Canada and one Open. 

    When you cast your vote, there are three main scenarios as I see it:

     - Scenario 1: Don't vote for Jen and cast three votes for the other candidates.  This effectively means that you voted but really did not vote.  BTW, I am not advocating that you don't vote for Jen - this is an observation on the situation and no endorsement is put forth here.

    - Scenario 2: You vote for Jen and you need to pick 1 or 2 of the others - OR - you don't vote for Jen and cast only two votes for the other candidates.  This will at least make your vote impact the results in some aspect. Again, there is no advocacy here to support or not support any particular candidate.

    - Scenario 3: You only cast a vote for the ONE candidate that you feel most strongly about.  Perhaps this magnifies your vote the most.  Again, I am just illustrating how you vote impacts the results.

    As an aside, you can't vote more than once for a particular candidate; in other words you can't cast all three of your votes for Candidate A.  At this point, I am unsure of what I am going to do. But I will vote.  I hope that this blog post will make you do some additional research on the candidates before deciding how to cast your vote. I'm sure that all of these candidates want to make sure that you have an informed opinion when you cast your vote.

    Go Research and then Go Vote! 

  • New Article: Dynamic Data Masking in SQL Server 2016 and Azure SQL DB

    My latest article on a new feature (Dynamic Data Masking) coming to SQL Server 2016 and Azure is now available.

    Dynamic Data Masking essentially displays characters instead of real data to non-privileged users.  The data is not stored as a masked values.  As with anything, there are pros and cons with this approach.  It is another tool in the toolbelt to help keep data secure.  Combining DDM with other security features may be the right solution for your situation.

    Here is the link to the article.


  • Speaking at SQL Sat 427 in Sioux Falls, SD on July 18!

    SQL Saturday finally comes to South Dakota!  Register Now! -

     Here are some of the other featured speakers:

    Database Snapshots - Making Your Job Easier            Paul Timmerman

    Continuous Integration for Databases                           Steve Jones

    Developing SQL Skills                                                        Panel Discussion

    I will be doing a session titled "A First Look at SQL Server 2016" which will first highlight the new features coming out in the next version and also focus on two features that I have had more exposure to - Row Level Security and StretchDB

    If you are in the area, please drop by and experience SQL Saturday for yourself.  Best of all - it is FREE!  

  • New Article: A Look at StretchDB - a New Feature in SQL Server 2016

    My article on the new StretchDB feature in SQL Server 2016 is now available.  StretchDB allows you to have a table in your database to be partially on-prem and partially in Azure. If you have a database with a lot of historical data that doesn't change, this feature may be a good fit for your situation. I hope that you enjoy the article.


  • Heading to SQL Sat NYC!

    I will be speaking at SQL Sat 380 in NYC on the topic of Basic Performance Monitoring with Perfmon.  I have delivered this session many times and is usually well attended.  The session is geared for the person who has heard of Perfmon but not used it.  This is very much a 100 level offering.

    The last time that I was in NYC for a large SQL Server event was just about 10 years ago.  It was the "Get Ready for SQL Server 2005 Roadshow" that was sponsored by Microsoft, PASS, and SQL Server Magazine.  The cost was $99 for a whole day; about 450 people attended.  There were 3 tracks - DBA, Dev, and BI.  Scalability Experts did the DBA track, Solid Quality Learning (as it was known back then) had the BI Track, and Dev Mentor had the Dev track.

    Although I attended many of these Road Shows and eventually presented the DBA track at some locations, I learned a lot from the audience.  I still do.  The questions that are asked really provide an opportunity for learning.  You can also see patterns start to emerge over time from questions.  For example, one question that was asked often was "Can I mirror a database to another instance on the same box?".  The first couple of times that I heard the question, my instinct was "Yes, but why? You are defeating the purpose when you do this.".  When so many people ask this question, you have to dig deeper.  In essence, what a lot of people were saying was this - "I trust my hardware a lot more than I trust your software in terms of uptime".  Servers were becoming more and more fault tolerant with spare power supplies, fans, hard drives, etc.  This increased reliability.  From one point of view, being able to mirror to another instance on the same box was just another level of redundancy.

    When you attend a SQL Saturday or other event, please don't hesitate to ask a question.  It just might be the same question that others have and it helps everyone learn more. 

    Also, the speakers at SQL Saturday events are giving up their Saturday too.  A great way to thank the speaker is to provide written feedback on the evaluation forms.  This is almost like gold to the speakers.

    If you are in the NYC area on May 30th, I encourage you to attend.  The event is almost "Sold Out". so be sure to register today! 

    See you there!


  • New Article: Row Level Security for SQL

    Recently, Tech Target was nice enough to ask me to start writing a series of articles for their website.  I have often made good use of articles on their family of websites. I hope that the articles that I compose will prove helpful as well.

    I chose Row Level Security(RLS) for my first article for several reasons.  First, I think it makes sense that an organization wants to maintain control as much as possible over the data it possesses. Now that I work for DB Best, Migrations from another Data Platform to SQL Server or Azure is part of the regular business that we do. Oracle and DB2 offer their take on RLS and now SQL Server has another feature that makes it easier for the transition.  RLS is currently in "Preview" on Azure SQL Databases and is scheduled to be part of the new features in SQL Server 2016.

    Here is a link to my article.  I hope that you enjoy it! 

  • New Challenges Ahead!

    I just joined the team at DB Best Technologies as a Principal Solutions Architect.  Check out their website at  DB Best is probably best known for providing the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) tool and associated support for it.  The SSMA tool was just recently updated to provide support for migrations from DB2.  The other data platforms supported by SSMA are Oracle, Sybase, and even Access.  Not only can the SSMA tool help an organization migrate to SQL Server on-prem, but also to the cloud even to a SQL Azure Database.  

    Migrations are only a portion of DB Best’s portfolio of services. Consolidation, Private/Public/Hybrid Cloud, Upgrades, BI, Big Data, and Mobile Development are other services that are offered.  Part of my role is to work with customers to determine how to best optimize their experience with SQL Server, Azure, and other IT assets.  For example, I might be working with a customer who is migrating to SQL Server and I would enlighten them on the Possibilities of the environment that they are migrating to such as leveraging the Analytic and Reporting Tools that are part of the SQL Server ecosystem.

    I have always enjoyed seeing that lightbulb go off in someone’s head as I describe a concept or idea that fits their needs.  Before entering the consulting world full time over 10 year ago, I was on the full-time faculty at High Point University.  Seeing those lightbulbs go off is very satisfying and is probably one of the reasons why I became so involved in the SQL Server Community years ago.

    In this new role, I look forward to having the lightbulb lighting up over my head as I encounter new environments and hope to continue to light up other people’s lightbulbs on a continuous basis.



  • PASS Program Committee - Comments and Action

    Once again, I am serving on the PASS Program Committee this year for the App Dev Track.  As we are about to start the reviewing process, I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.  Last year, we had approximately 200 abstracts to review.  It should be a similar volume this year.  For me, abstracts usually go into three piles - Excellent, Very Good, and Good.  There are only a few "Excellent" ones and a few "Good" ones with most being "Very Good".  There is a numerical rating system that is used, but I am using verbal descriptions here. I made it through about 130 abstracts last year and I entered a comment on every one that I reviewed.  Sometimes my comments were brief, but with a large number of abstracts and limited time, I did what I could.  Some on our committee were very complete in making comments which also helped when we had our conference call to discuss them.  My goal this year is to be more complete with comments and to get through more abstracts.

    As we discuss and rank the abstracts, we have some criteria that tries to keep things in balance.  We might get 5 Excellent abstracts for a particular subtopic, but obviously we only have a limited number of slots and can't select all 5 as other subtopic areas would not get attention.  When the selected abstracts are announced, I'm sure that a debate will surface over the process.  The process isn't perfect, but it has worked well for the Summit in the past getting some of the best content for the attendees.  Also, the committee members are looking at the abstracts "blindly" as the submitter's name is not disclosed to us.  Submitters take time to craft their abstracts and have a lot of personal pride in there.  It is hard for anyone to take a rejection and not feel personally jilted - especially if there is little to no explanation of why or how it could be improved.

    If you receive a rejection this year (and odds are that you will), I'd like to offer a suggestion to channel your passion in other areas besides an online debate.  PASS has a plethora of Virtual Chapters that need content.  Local Chapters are also in need of speakers and great content.  Some chapters even do remote presentations so that you don't need to travel.  SQL Saturdays are another great avenue for delivering content and are a lot of fun as well. Find another avenue to get your content delivered and show that evil Program Committee just how bad we messed up.  :-)

  • After Ten Years...

    Life goes on and sometimes it is just time to move on.  I am no longer with Scalability Experts.  Looking back at all of the time that I spent with them, I realize how fortunate that I was to be part of it.

    I am writing this because I wanted to thank Scalability Experts for supporting me in my involvement in the SQL Server Community.  When I first joined SE 10 years ago, I was very involved in PASS with my role as a Board Member.  As a PASS BoD member, there can be some huge demands on your time and talent.  We had three in-person meetings a year plus the Summit which required my physical presence; we also had the European Conference in Germany that year.  In addition, we also had a series of phone calls and of course email threads and conference calls which also took up countless hours.  Through all of this, SE worked with me so that I could serve the community.  If you are considering running for the Board of Directors for PASS, I hope that you are lucky enough to have an employment situation like mine that will allow you to fully participate with Board activities.  Even after my time on the BoD ended, SE continued to support my involvement with PASS.

    As a consultant, travel is part of the job.  Primarily, my travel was domestic, but I did travel to a few places outside the USA that I would not have even considered.  Iceland – One of the “Get Ready for SQL Server 2005” Roadshows got me to this location.  It was June, so the sun didn’t set until about 3am as I recall.  I really enjoyed my time there and would love to go again.  South Africa – I led a Compatibility lab for ISVs over three days.  I wish that I could have had an extra day or two there for a safari.  I also learned that a robot here is a traffic signal light.  Lisbon – Another stop on the Roadshow which was a lot of fun.  I learned that Lisbon was the main port to get to America until an Earthquake/Fire/Tsunami event left the city in devastation.  The city reminded me of San Francisco.  These are a few places that I would not have visited without working for SE.

    Another part of the consultant lifestyle is working with a lot of different customers and environments.  This is why “It Depends” is such a perfect answer to so many questions.  It truly does depend on the situation / business requirements.  I got to see this first hand.  I don’t think that I ever dreaded going to any of my customers, but there are a few customers that I worked with over the years that I really enjoyed working with.  In no particular order, they are General Mills, Mayo Clinic, Blackbaud, Disney Parks, and Chase.  When I visit a customer, I often ask myself would I recommend working here to a close friend.  These are the ones that really stood out to me.

    I will remember all of the good times and friends that I made while at Scalability Experts and truly thank them for supporting me with my involvement in the community.


  • Where do 100-Level Sessions belong at PASS?

    Now that the PASS Summit 2014 is over, I remember having a hard time deciding which sessions to attend and can't wait for the USB to arrive.  This year, I was on the Program Committee for the first time ever.  I would recommend the experience to all speakers or potential speakers at some point.  I know with the explosion of SQL Saturday events that many more people have had to wrestle with how to choose content.  The Program Committee has the main goal of selecting the content that will drive people to the Summit.  There is a set of criteria that influences the the final selection that includes "Balance".  Balance among many items such as # of new speakers, topics/subtopics, and level to mention a few. 

    During the Summit, I like to ask questions of attendees about their experience and often ask specific questions arond the content they are consuming.  One attendee that I have seen for many years keeps coming back to the Summit for the 400-500 level sessions; he just wishes that we'd have more of them.  I also make a special effort to ask First Timers about their experience as well and their thoughts around the level of content.  The general response form this group is "Awsome!", but then I dig in a little deeper and ask about level.  For this population, they are very happy with the 200-300 level material for the most part.  A couple that I spoke with are very happy with 100 level because they are just so new to their role. But I did have some of the First Timers tell me that they avoid 100 level because they can get that material elsewhere.

    I started to think about this a bit.  Does 100 level content belong at the PASS Summit?  IMHO, it depends... If there is a new technology/feature that needs introduction, then yes I believe 100 content can be valuable at the Summit.  Topics such as Normalization Basics or Indexing Basics should not be at the Summit because that material should have been covered at a SQL Saturday, Chapter Meeting, or Webinar.  Is that it? No, I believe the track of the Summit that could benefit from more introductory sessions would be the Professional Development track.  The reason I see that it is beneficial for lower level content at the Summit it has a "Data Professional" spin and many of us don't think about some of these topics on a daily basis.  I attended 2.5 Prof Dev sessions last week and gave a 10 Minute Lightning Talk on Interviewing.  The information that was presented was not all that deep from my point of view, but it generated some good discussions.

    Is there any other track at the PASS Summit where 100 level topics are appropriate or do they all belong somewhere else?

  • Keep Your Eyes to the Skies

    Recently, a partner of Scalability  Experts asked me to write a blog relating to the Day 1 Keynote of PASS Summit 2014.  Here is a link to the post.






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