Down Tools Week

A few months ago, Red Gate sent a team of four people (2 developers, 1 tester, 1 designer and 0 project manager) away from our Cambridge office to a large house near the Suffolk coast for a week. The objective of this “Coding by the sea” project was to keep the team away from all distractions for long enough for them to produce a viable product in a short space of time.

The Coding by the Sea Team

The Coding by the Sea Team

This experiment was really successful. The team came back with the prototype of a new product, SQL Search, which is now released and available (and already proving very popular). This product was of course further developed, thoroughly tested and given a full usability and design polish back at the Red Gate office before it was released. But without this experiment … the SQL Search product would have never seen light of the day.

So Red Gate is now repeating this idea for a Down Tools Week next month; but this time all members of the technical team will be involved. Sadly, we don’t get to go a villa on the Suffolk coast (there isn’t a house big enough to hold us all!) but the idea is that anyone can work on literally anything they like, whether that’s building an entirely new product, developing a prototype for a product, or making a tool for internal use by another department… anything we like. We can work with whoever we choose from any existing team or department. Already, small cabals of plotters have coalesced around certain ideas. The office is buzzing with ideas, as various people try and recruit assistance by persuading others of the value of their brilliant project.

The only string attached is that something should be completed within a week. At the end of the week , each team will then demonstrate to the rest of the company what they have been working on.

Already, there has been a huge and diverse range of ideas flowing on our internal forum and in conversations during lunch time …. from ‘SQL Servery Q Monitor’ (a product which will monitor the queue in our canteen to “Toolbar Hero”, a tool for rewarding users of our products with points and interactive badges for using various functions. 

So if you have some really good ideas for small projects… then throw them our way. You never know … it might come back to you as a free tool!

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  1. PDinCA
    Posted February 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Pull the “Missing Index” info from the “Cached Plans” (dm_exec_cached_plans et al) and rationalize/collapse the potentially several sets of columns into discrete Indexes. Then compare vs. existing Indexes on the table (not the PK, I’d say) and suggest new and merged indexes, noting the “Impact %” and others such as frequency of execution of the access, rows, etc. (you know more than I do which ones count) to give us a shopping list of Performance Enhancing Index Definitions that we can then convert to script files and right-click load into SQL Multi Script to run against the instances of our choice, when the maintenance slot opens up or “immediately”.

    I do this nearly every day on just one main Production DB from two sources:

    Mostly I use the output of the 2nd utility to gauge the top improvement candidates as I have it served up to me via Reporting Services as an Excel file each business day morning. An Index qualifies (to me, the NON-DBA) based on at least “it must have been required in the last 24 hours”, plus over 20% improvement and usually > 1.00 cost. Perhaps these “candidate measures” could be options? If I see potential for improvement, I’ll run the first utility and plough through its results one by one, with much clicking. Interestingly the utilites produce similar but not always identical results. The 2nd is a good overall measure, but the first is more complete, although much more arduous to work with.

    The rationalization and comparison against existing indexes is, to me, the most compelling part of the new tool – eyeballing and pulling scripts via SSMS and, with initial guesswork, trying to determine from the 1st utility’s SQL which table it is going to report the missing index on, then viewing the XML it produces (the graphical Explain Plan), etc, etc, is tedious to say the least and something your new “SQL Index Assistant” can obviate.

    The 1st utility does more than just show “missing Indexes”, perhaps its other features could be the basis for additional tools…?

    Thanks for considering this. Enjoy the week! Look forward to the “results page”.


    • Priya.Sinha
      Posted February 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Thanks PDinCA for sharing your ideas. It is very interesting. I have posted it on our internal forum also. We will definitely blog about the tools we come up with after the ‘Down Tools’ week.

  2. Jonathan Allen
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Can you make MS Word less annoying please?

    • Priya.Sinha
      Posted February 8, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Jonathan but that would be hard task :)

  3. Jonathan Allen
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Seriously though, how about:
    - a UI to run scheduled Restores that plugs in to SQL Backup and proves usability of Backup files?
    - A SQL Server security (logins and users) scanner/comparison weapon to check security changes over time. Use SQL Compare engine?
    - SSRS report pack to refer to out from RedGate products (Response alerts, Backup jobs, etc)
    - A VS plugin that ties in to TortoiseSVN so we get source control on SSRS reports and SSMS sql scripts.

    Lots more where these came from …


    • Priya.Sinha
      Posted February 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks a lot Jonathan for your ideas.

      Actually, your SQL Server Security tool idea was also suggested few people internally . I am not sure at this stage if any team has committed to this or not. I have posted all your ideas to internal forum also. We will let you know what tools we come up with after the ‘Down Tools’ week.

  4. Jonathan Allen
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    A PowerShell snap-in for the SSMS IDE? Remove the need for PowerGUI or other interdaces. Provide intellisense and SQL Object suggestions… Combine with SQL Prompt snippets idea. Go on. You know you want to .. . .. . B)

    • Priya.Sinha
      Posted February 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Jonathan. It is really a good idea. I am pretty sure that this will be very useful for power users. I have passed your idea in internal forum.

      • Jonathan Allen
        Posted February 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        It might even encourage me to use PowerShell too!!

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