Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chicago: The Travels of a SQL Server Consultant

As regular readers of my blog will now as part of role as a SQL Server consultant and SQL Server trainer I get to travel a fair bit. Well last week I was off on my travels again on a multi-stop tour of the mid-west USA. Taking in Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Chassell way up in the Upper Peninsular (UP) in Northern Michigan.

South Chicago from Willis Tower

So we landed in Chicago late on Friday and took in some of the sights on Saturday. We ventured up Willis Tower (formerly Sears tower) to the Sky Deck. This is the tallest building in the USA and until the late 1990s it was the tallest building in the world. It is currently the 7th tallest building in the world.

North Chicago from Willis Tower

From the Sky deck you get some great views of the city the dark tall building in the centre of the photo is ‘Big John’ or the John Hancock Centre.

Willis Tower SkyDeck

The Willis tower also has  glass ledge that you can walk out onto and get some great views of the city (And get your picture taken). As you are walking on a glass ledge you can see the 103 storey straight down to the street. This was no issue for me but Mrs Ellis, who is not a fan of heights, declined the chance to stand on the ledge

Art Institute of Chicago

In the afternoon we visited Art Institute of Chicago. There are some great works of art in this building and Mrs Ellis and myself had a great time wondering around here.

Chicago Skyline at Night

After we left  the art gallery it was starting to get dark and as it was the Saturday before Thanksgiving it was the evening of the traditional Christmas parade on the Magnificent Mile. (Michigan Avenue). This is the event where they turn on the Christmas lights in Chicago’s main shopping district. Lisa and I walked up Michigan Avenue, the street was closed to traffic and there were 1000s of people lining the streets waiting for the parade to start. We decided that it was a bit cold and a bit busy for us to hang around on the street so we decided to head up the John Hancock Centre to see the city lights. We have been up to the observatory before but that was a few years back and since then they have added a cafe bar to this level. We had a few drinks enjoyed the view and headed on back to the hotel.

Rhys Farm

Monday we picked up our car and headed North our destination Chassell Michigan. Chassell is sat on Lake Superior, at the very north of Michigan. My good friend Rhys and his family live up there and we were paying them a visit and spending Thanksgiving with them. Rhys and I grew up together in South Wales and since he moved to the USA nearly ten years ago I have visited him and his family several times over the years. Chassell is small town just outside Houghton and Hancock. There was no snow on the ground when we got there so after we had taken his eldest to school on Tuesday morning we grabbed some breakfast and headed back to his farm. We took the pooch whose name is Hunter out for a walk as he showed me around his 80 acre estate. We had a great time at Thanksgiving watching some American Football and we also  hit the sales too

Rhys Farm in the Snow

The night of Thanksgiving we had a about 6 inches of Snow. This was the first real snow of the winter and since we returned home they have had a lot more snow.

Chevvy Tahoe

The snow wasn’t a problem though as we’d hired a Chevy Tahoe in Chicago and this was more than equipped for the conditions we were facing.

Cheesecake Factory Milwaukee

On Saturday we headed back down south spending the night in Green Bay before completing the trip back to O’Hare airport so we could fly home. On Sunday on our way to the airport we stopped just outside Milwaukee so we get some cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. If you love cheesecake you will love this place.

Mid-west USA

We visited some cool places on our little trip, we drove about 1000 miles in total and more importantly we got to see our friends who we don’t see enough of but he does live 5000 miles away so its not an easy commute. We had a great time. I love Chicago and no doubt I’ll be back some time soon. Still back to normal this week with SQL Server Consulting assignments to take care of back at home.

Visit my SQL Server Consulting page for more information my SQL Server Consulting services.

Visit my SQL Server Training page for more information on SQL Server Training courses that I teach through Learning Tree.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Back in the old days before this blog when I was publishing a website instead that has long been consigned to the website dustbin I had a newsletter. It had a few subscribers and was generally well received, since I moved to the blog platform back in 2009 I let the newsletter go along with the website, but as was approach the end of 2012 I have decided to start it again. I will publish a newsletter roughly monthly with keeping you informed with all the goings on here at

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Top 3 Books on Writing Transact-SQL (TSQL)

This weeks blog posts have been focusing on books that I have read, like and recommend for learning SQL Server 2008. I’m often asked what books do I recommend for learning SQL Server 2008 and I nearly always reply with a question “What area of SQL Server do you want to learn about?”

This post is dedicated to the book I like that have a Transact-SQL or TSQL (as is it commonly referred) theme.

  1. Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2008: T-SQL Programming (Pro-Developer)
  2. SQL Server 2008 Transact-SQL Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach
  3. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals (PRO-Developer)

If you have book on TSQL that is not listed here and you think it should be please let me know by leaving a comment below

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top 5 Books on SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence

Carrying on with book week and answering the question I’m often asked about what books I;d recommend to learn about SQL Server 2008 – This post is dedicate to the business intelligence stack.

  1. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Step by Step
  2. Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services
  3. Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  4. Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services (Wrox Programmer to Programmer)
  5. Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services Inside Out

As you can see there is not a lot of Analysis Services books in the list, there are few reasons for this, but if you do have an Analysis Services book, or any other business intelligence book for that matter then please let me know in the comments

Monday, 19 November 2012

Top 5 SQL Server 2008 DBA Books

I’m often asked about what books I would recommend for learning more about SQL Server 2008 and I always respond with another question, what areas of SQL Server do you want to learn about?

So this post is my top 5 SQL Server 2008 database administration books

  1. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Internals (Pro - Developer)
  2. Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting
  3. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Unleashed
  4. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Bible
  5. Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Administration

If you have a book that you like or would recommend on SQL Server 2008 database administration let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Develop a High Availability/Disaster Recovery Strategy

Develop a High Availability/Disaster Recovery Strategy – Protecting your company’s most valuable asset and keeping that asset available is a very important task for most companies. We can help you put in place a solid reliable backup strategy and implement SQL Server High Availability Features to protect your data and make it available when you need it the most.

  • How much data can you afford to lose?
  • How frequently do you backup your databases?
  • Do you keep copies of you backup’s offsite?
  • Do you make use of any of the SQL Server HA FEATURES?
  • Clustering
  • AlwaysOn Availability Groups
  • Log Shipping

Contact us for help on developing a high availability and disaster recovery strategy.

Check out our SQL Server consulting page for a full list of details.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

SQL Server Version Upgrade

SQL Server Version Upgrade - You have SQL Server running nicely with no issues or problems. The trouble is its SQL Server 2005 and you know you need to consider migrating or upgrading to a later version of SQL Server but you don’t know where to begin? We can help, having undertaken many SQL Server upgrades (2000 --> 2005, 2005-->2008 and 2008--> 2012) we have a wealth of knowledge that can help you upgrade the to the latest and greatest version of SQL Server.

Contact us for more information on our SQL Server version upgrade service

Check out our SQL Server consultancy page for a full list of details.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

SQL Server Virtualisation

SQL Server Virtualisation - Lots of companies and organisations are adopting a virtualisation first approach to the installation of new servers in their data centres. This can and will include SQL Server. Many DBAs perceive virtualisation as a bad thing for their SQL Servers fearing that performance and reliability will suffer. We can help and assist you when virtualising SQL Server. Ensure that the virtual environment is setup and configured so that SQL Server performance will not suffer and your SQL Servers will run happily on a virtual environment. We can help you convert (migrate) your existing physical servers to virtual machines.

Contact us for more information on SQL Server virtualisation

Check out our SQL Server consultancy page for a full list of details.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Site Update – Performance Tuning

Here at we offer a range of consulting services to help you manage and maintain your SQL Server environment, This weeks series of posts are highlighting these services

SQL Server Performance Tuning – We can help you improve the performance of your SQL Servers and help you answer the following questions

  • Why is my server slow?
  • How should I manage my database server to maintain performance?
  • What indexes should I create?
  • Is my code efficient?

If you are interested in our SQL Server Performance Tuning services please contact us here

Check out our consultancy page for a full list of details.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Site Update–SQL Server Health Check

Here at we offer a range of consulting services to help you manage and maintain your SQL Server environment, This weeks series of posts are highlighting these services

SQL Server Health Check - Your Company is growing and developing and you have noticed that your SQL Server is not performing as fast as you’d like. You have virtualized your SQL servers and you have noticed that performance is just not right. A growing and expanding  database environment can lead to unexpected performance issues and other problems. Without a clear plan to baseline performance, and efficiently deal with the complex elements of your SQL Server infrastructure, you run the risk of being left in the dark when issues arise or missing potential opportunities to increase efficiency and save costs. Do not fret help is here, we can pinpoint your issues and provide advice on to address them.

Check out our consultancy page for a full list of details If you are interested in our SQL Server Health Check services please contact us here

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Deal of the Week

Occasionally I come across  offers and deals that may be of interest to some of my readers. When I come across a deal that is worth sharing I will post it here. It will usually be technology related but it might not always be SQL Server related.

I will be updating the Deal of the Week page with these offers too.

This weeks offer is from Amazon (UK Site)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch Tablet - White (ARM Cortex A9 1.4GHz, 16GB, Wi-Fi, BT, Android 4.0)

Amazon are offering a cash back deal on this device too. With Christmas coming this could make a nice Christmas present if your other half/children/family/friends (delete as a appropriate) are interested in non-apple tablets.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Enable Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012

Configuring Hyper-V on a Windows Server 2012 is really simple and straight forward. Its a very similar process on Windows Server 2008 R2 too. If you want to do this on virtual machine then you need to setup the VMware Workstation so it hides the fact a hypervisor is already running from the Windows Server. See my previous post here on how to do this

Start Server Manager, under Roles and Features choose Tasks and select Add Roles and Features


This starts up a the Add Roles and Features wizard and hit Next



Choose a Role based installation


Choose the server where the role will be installed


Choose the hyper-v role and click Next


I will allow the installation to add the features needed for the hyper-v role


After the features have been setup we will configure a virtual switch


I’m going to configure hyper-v for Live Migration


I will accept the default settings for the location of the virtual machines, you can change this to whatever you wish.


Click next then click Install and the Hyper-V role will be installed. Note that this process does require the server to be restarted for the installation to complete

Thursday, 8 November 2012

GRE Solutions sponsors the Darts

This post is very much off topic so apologies if you were expecting a technology related post.

Tonight a darts exhibition will take place at the Oakfield pub in Cwmbran. Darryl Fitton the professional darts player with the BDC will be taking on the Oakfield’s finest.

If you are in the neighbourhood and fancy a beer or two come and watch….

This event is brought to you by

There will be a full report here over the weekend

Configure Hyper-V on VMware Workstation VM

When working with new technology, if you are like me you might like to setup virtual machines to learn the technology and its new features. I use VMware Workstation as my virtual machine hypervisor, installed on a Windows 7 laptop. With the release of Windows Server 2012 and the improvement in Hyper-V I wanted to setup a VM with Windows Server 2012 installed and then configure the Hyper-V role. Unfortunately ‘out-of-the-box’ Windows Server 2012 (or Windows Server 2008 R2) won’t let you do this as it detects the existence of another hypervisor.

The exact error is “Hyper-V cannot be installed: A hypervisor is already running”


In order to enable hyper-v on VMware Workstation you need to make a couple of small changes to the VM settings that will hide the fact the  Windows Server 2012 server is already installed on a VM.

Intel-VT or AMD-VT  should be enabled for the physical system

Edit the CPU settings of the VM and enable the Virtualize  Intel-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI check box


You will also need to edit the configuration file of the VM and add the following line

hypervisor.cpuid.v0 = FALSE

This option hides the fact we have hypervisor within a hypervisor and will allow the hyper-v role to installed.

You can use the above process for both Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

SQL Server 2012 Skills Upgrade–November

There are still some places available for Learning Tree’s SQL Server 2012 Skills Upgrade course  this November. The class is being delivered by Derek Meyer – a fellow member of it promises to be a great week.
If you are thinking of upgrading to SQL Server 2012 then this is the course for you.
You will learn

  • How to migrate from previous versions of SQL Server
  • How to build a High Availability Groups
  • Implement  user-defined server roles
  • Configure contained databases

You can attend in class or online you can enrol online here

Restarting and Shutting Down a Windows 2012 Server

I have been exploring Windows 2012 over the past week or so. Things look a little different to previous versions of Windows Server more on that later...This is just a short post to show how you go about shutting down or restarting a Windows 2012 server because on first glance it might not be obvious. There is a lack of a ‘Start’ or ‘Windows’ button in this version of the OS

Shutting down and restarting

  1. Open Server Manager
  2. On the left hand pane chose local server
  3. Click the tasks drop-down menu and choose Shut Down Local Server


This doesn't mean that you will be shutting down the server, you then get a screen like the one shown below where you get to choose what you want to do. Sign out, Shutdown, Restart etc


To me at least, how to do this was not immediately obvious so I thought it worthy of a post – I hope you find useful

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Windows 2012 Week

Over the past few weeks I have been doing some work with Windows Server 2012 and learned a few little tips and tricks that I’m going to share with you this week. Hence the title of the post. Windows 2012 Week.

This week we are going to be looking at

  • How to restart and shutdown a Windows Server 2012 box
  • How to configure a VMware Workstation virtual machine so that the Hyper-V role can be enabled
  • Enabling the Hyper-V role

There will be other posts but these will make up the short series this week.

Monday, 5 November 2012

SQL Street

I’m involved with with a new venture called  SQL Street is the place to shop for database experts.
Here’s a brief list of our skills
  • SQL Server
  • Oracle
  • Business intelligence
  • SharePoint
Everyone on SQL Street is an experienced instructor,  consultant or contractor, with  over 10 years’ experience in their specialist fields.

Who are we?

  • Derek Meyer.  was Derek’s brainchild and without his efforts and hard work thus far the site would not have got off the ground.
  • Gethyn Ellis (that's me)
  • Charles Kangai  (our BI guru)
  • Russell "SharePoint" Lewis
If you have any questions or regarding the site and the services we offer then feel free to drop us an email

You will still be able to find my blog here. It’s not going anywhere but will be syndicated at, so you can keep up to date there too.

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