I’ve been to a few Data Relay events now, two as Data Relay and my first was the event formerly known as SQL Relay, up in Nottingham. This was my second time in Bristol, it was a big improvement over last year.

The Keynote

Memories fade of the loud and crackly audio experienced during the keynote last year, replaced by the dulcet tones of Buck Woody, who graced us with his presence via recording from a hotel room in Canada. It was great fun to see this personal side of Buck, and he always entertains. Unfortunately, the volume slowly decreased as his keynote went on, the audio feed eventually going completely silent.

Microsoft are all about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning these days, as is SQL Server 2019 it seems, much of Buck’s keynote before he audibly disappeared was around these subjects. It was very interesting to see facial recognition techniques applied not to faces, but to whales of all things. Recognising the same whale from video footage alone, that’s pretty impressive stuff, to me at least. It’s also pretty scary when you think back to the facial recognition side, just how powerful that can be these days and how powerful it will become. Perhaps I’ve watched too much Person of Interest.

The Sessions

I’d made up my mind before the event started which sessions I would attend, but as usual, changed my mind on the fly throughout the day, for various reasons. Here’s the list of sessions I did attend:

  • Azure CosmosDB for Dummies (Mark Broadbent)
  • SQL Server Database Performance on Azure and AWS (dbWatch)
  • Containers and Clones (Alex Yates and Andrew Pruski)
  • Scala for Big Data: The Big Picture (Anna Wykes)
  • SQL Server and Kubernetes (Andrew Pruski)
  • Simple and Effective Dashboard Visualisation Techniques (Kevin Feasel)

If I had to pick one session which stood out to me, a real surprise on the day was the session about Scala from Anna Wykes, something and someone I’ve never heard of until this event.

Anna’s session was great fun, delivered to a fairly packed ballroom, which I believe is the biggest room at the event. The mind boggles at how much data her team is responsible for processing, and the speed at which it has to be processed. I came away with more questions than answers, which is to be expected, because I knew nothing about Scala! At the very least, I now know it’s good for fast data.

I was also convinced by Mr. Pruski to give Kubernetes and containers a try, in addition to the usual Hyper-V setup I like to have on hand. I’ve just received a new work laptop, so it seems like the right time!

I tweeted about this already, but I’ll say it here too. It was fantastic to see how great a speaker Andrew has become over the years, it’s truly inspiring.

The Social

The day came to an end all too soon, and within less than half an hour, the conference was containerised. Those remaining were now all across the road at the Prince Street Social, for the Data Bristol group meetup. Swift halves, water, or just a quick chat saw many move on to trains/planes/automobiles back home before you could blink, but a respectable number lasted the evening.

I caught the last train home, full of knowledge, questions, beer, pizza and a drop of whisky.

Through a series of unfortunate events, I managed to leave an organiser of the Data Bristol group stranded at Bristol Temple Meads train station. We both ran to the station for the same (our last) train, but didn’t see each other get on. He chose to stay behind to make sure I was alright, but I selfishly got on the train, for fear of being lynched by the wife!

The Data Bristol User Group

Hopefully he has a sense of humour, as I will no doubt run into him again at the Data Bristol User Group. If you haven’t already joined or attended this group, I highly recommend it. I’ve seen some awesome speakers and had great conversations at this group. The pizza is a cut above most too.

Until Next Time

I hope the Data Relay events continue for a very long time, they typically visit areas where there isn’t a big event of this kind. Thank you to the organisers for bringing this event to my doorstep!

A former colleague of mine once said to me of such events, “Hanging around with a bunch of other DBAs all day? I can’t imagine anything worse.”

Well former colleague, I can’t imagine anything better.

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