Shop Talk: 2020-10-26

The Recording

The Panelists

  • Kevin Feasel
  • Mala Mahadevan
  • Tom Norman

Notes: Questions and Topics


We had two announcements. First, TriPASS board elections are coming up in mid-November. We have three positions up for election this year: President, VP of Marketing, and Treasurer. All TriPASS members in good standing of eligible to run, and the election will run from November 19th through December 3rd, for terms beginning February 23, 2021 through February 26, 2023. If you’re interested, e-mail (shoptalk at tripass dot org will work) and I can provide more details as needed.

Second, Mala gave us an update on the Azure SQL Championship, which is now winding down.


PASS Summit is coming up, from November 10th through the 13th. Registration is still open and you can use the discount code LGDISCWY7 to save some cash.

Data Platform Summit is also coming up, from November 30th through December 8th. Registration is open and you can use the discount code TRIANGLESQL for a nice discount.

SolarWinds Purchasing SentryOne

Our big topic for the evening was the announcement that SolarWinds intends to purchase SentryOne. SentryOne has a press release as well on the topic.

We talked for a little while about this topic, but I’m interested to see where SolarWinds takes the product. SentryOne isn’t perfect by any means—and I kind of threatened to get into why I’m not a fan of their user experience (or the user experience of any other third-party SQL Server monitoring solutions). Here are my notes for what would make for a good monitoring product:

  • The key question:  is my system currently experiencing problems?  How can I know?  What does normal look like versus the current state?
  • If we are experiencing problems, what is the cause?  Or what are the causes?
  • If I am not particularly familiar with this system but am knowledgeable in maintenance, what are the pain points I can most easily fix?
  • If I am not very knowledgeable with this platform, what should I look for?

Ultimately, a monitoring solution—like any other dashboard—should evoke an emotion: either anger (because something is broken and I need to fix it now) or happiness (because everything is going great and I can keep doing whatever it is I do). With most products, there are so many things going on that it’s hard to tell what you should feel, even if you are familiar with the environment and the tool.

Building a Free Monitoring Solution

While we were talking about third-party monitoring solutions, I wanted to call out the work that Shop Talker Tracy Boggiano has put into a free monitoring solution for SQL Server. I ended up converting this into a post of my own, so you might want to check that out as well.

Anders shared some concern around how third-party tools are generally better than first-party from the standpoint that at least third-party tools have support and (usually) documentation, whereas in-house solutions have nothing if the person who put it together leaves. I don’t completely agree with that notion, but you’ll have to watch the video for my argument against.

QDS Toolbox

I am excited to be able to promote the QDS Toolbox, a solution to make Query Store better. You can also check out my blog post for my thoughts in detail.

Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2021

The last topic of discussion tonight revolved around Robert Half’s Technology Salary Guide for 2021. The PDF is freely available and gives you an idea of salary ranges by job title.

One thing I found interesting is that Software Engineer, Software Developer, and Developer / Programmer Analyst have a fairly wide discrepancy in salary expectations: a Software Engineer at the median salary in the survey earns $123,250, a Software Developer $118,250, and a Developer / Programmer Analyst $109,500. That’s a $14K per year range for people doing ostensibly the same job, but I do have a conjecture regarding why they’re different. My conjecture is that you’re more likely to find people with the title Software Engineer at companies which build software products for customers, whereas you’d find Software Developers at companies which aren’t necessarily selling software to customers; those developers would be working more on back office or internal solutions. Meanwhile, Programmer Analyst is a classic term for employees in the government, where salaries tend to be lower (particularly at the state level). That’s a conjecture, mind, so it could very well be wrong.

On the data side, I was surprised to see the median DBA salary at $100,750; I would have expected DBA salaries to be at least as high as developer salaries. We do see Database Developer roles earning as much as Software Developers, so that’s about what I’d expect. Also surprising is that Data Scientist salaries seem to have dropped considerably, though I surmise the reason here is that there are a lot of newly-minted Data Scientists and people switching from Data Analyst job titles pushing those salaries down.

The salary tables include salaries in USD normalized across the United States, as well as weighting factors for particular cities, so for example, Raleigh salaries are about 4% above the quoted norm. After those tables, there are similar tables for Canadians in CAD. Surprising to me there is that Canadian salaries in CAD are about 75-85% of US salaries in USD, so there’s a huge price difference. A DBA at the 50th percentile in the US has an expected salary of $100,750 USD in the survey. A DBA at the 50th percentile in Canada has an expected salary of $84,000 CAD. Right now, the exchange rate is approximately 4 CAD = 3 USD, so $84,000 CAD * 0.75 USD/CAD = $63,000 USD.

Take all survey numbers with as many grains of salt as you need, but it’s an interesting way of getting a feel for the industry.

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