Wednesday 3 August 2016

Writing Microsoft Official Curriculum for SQL Server 2016

SQL Server 2016 was a big new release, with a host of eagerly awaited new features. And like many people, we installed the various beta releases. But for this release we had a bit more of an incentive to try out all the features, including the corner cases, and generally put SQL Server through its paces. The reason? I was on the team writing the Microsoft Official Curriculum to accompany the new release. What a fun project!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m always conscious of the massive development effort that goes into a new release. We know from the blogs and videos released by Microsoft that there are quite a few development teams, managers, and others working across the globe developing SQL Server. What I don’t think about quite so much, is all the other activity that is required. The marketing, the training courses, and the pile of technical documentation that is also needed.

Microsoft Official Curriculum is just a part of the training documentation needed, but it was still a big job, with a team of writers, a dozen or more courses, with each course containing a dozen or more modules.  There was a lot of researching, a lot of writing, a lot of testing, and more than a few late nights. The team came from different backgrounds including data warehousing, SQL Server development, report writing, and programming. There was a great team spirit, with everyone happy to help who were struggling with something. There was also pressure to get everything written on time – pressure that wasn’t always welcome when something wasn’t working. With pre-release software it isn’t always obvious whether it is a bug, whether you have missed something, or plain and simply have made a mistake.

I wrote a number of different courses including part of the Upgrade Your Skills to SQL Server 2016 course. This course is designed for people who already know SQL Server, and just want to learn about what’s new. It was a challenging course to write because features were still in development, and the documentation was incomplete. And just occasionally something would change after a lab exercise or demo had been written, but before it was tested. It didn’t happen very often, but it did happen, and it added a bit of not always welcome added spice.

The module I enjoyed working on the most was security. In our digital and cloud world, security has become a hot topic, with cybercrime showing no signs of abating. The new features in SQL Server 2016 are much needed, and will help a huge number of organizations to better protect their data.

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