SQLSkills.com Immersion Event
Published: 6th May 2014
I’ve been wanting to attend one of these ultimate training courses from Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp for a long time now and finally I managed to get the time off, the money together and book myself on.

Therefore at the beginning of this month I was out in Chicago partaking in some of the most intensive, yet enjoyable, SQL training money can buy.

I was attending IE1, the first of 4 (speaking to Kimberly revealed that the exact number and content was likely to be different next year, but it’s currently 4) of their courses.

I quickly found that they call them Immersion Events for a reason…

These are not for the feint hearted and not for all levels by any means as, to get the most out of them, you need a very good understanding of how SQL Server works.

I’m not saying don’t attend if you don’t feel you’re at that level, just that your brain could end up exploding if you’re new to SQL and you try to take everything in.

If you already know some internals, you’ve followed their blogs, you’ve watched some Pluralsight courses, then this will be the best chance you’ll ever get at filling in any blanks, having the remaining dots joined, and learning some snippets that you didn’t know existed.

I arrived a couple of days early so I had the pleasure of spending a whole day in and around Chicago getting over my jet lag and seeing some sights (I’ll post pictures if I ever remember to copy them from the camera to my PC).

By Monday morning the jet lag had lessened (waking at 3am wasn’t quite right, but closer at least) and I headed off for class.

There were a few pleasantries as Paul and Kimberly arrived, but then it was straight into headache country with Paul launching into the layers of SQL Server, their interaction with each other, followed by the exact makeup of a data page on disk in the most intricate detail.

This was followed throughout the week by modules on Locking, Versioning, Index Internals, Fragmentation, Log File Management, Statistics to name just a few. It was a relentless attack on your brain, filling it with so much information that you’d spend the following weeks going back over the material again and again to ensure that it completely sinks in.

However, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

There’s always something new appearing that you didn’t know was there and for which your head instantly finds a use in a real life example, and there’s no limit to the questions you can ask knowing all of them will be answered completely and accurately.

Paul’s love of internals comes through when he’s talking about every single byte in a log file, why it’s there, where it’s come from, what it does… you get the impression he genuinely feels the world would be a sadder place without each and every one of them.

And then there’s Kimberly… I would defy anyone to find any part of SQL Server that she seems anything less than thrilled to talk about, and it comes across in all her modules.

Therefore yes, it’s hard, it’s intensive, and it WILL hurt your brain… but you learn it, it’s enjoyable, and yes, I’d definitely recommend it and I’m intending to go to many more over the next 12 months until I’ve completed the full set.

You come away with every scrap of material you could want in order to help you learn the content, test things out, and see the features working.

I’m pretty good on my internals, I know what I’m doing, and I went on this course purely to fill in some blanks and as a pre-cursor to their next level courses (as they recommend this one first as an opener) and yet I still came away at the end with a full pad of hand written notes I’d taken alongside the ring binder they provide including every single slide they present all week (it’s a LARGE binder), and a link to a zip file containing support material for the whole course such as demo scripts (loads of them), white board drawings, white papers, support documentation… it’s incredible just how much they’re willing to help you learn.

In summary, I can’t say enough good things about it and I would recommend it to anyone serious about getting to the highest of levels of knowledge and skillset within SQL Server.
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