Yesterday was the SQL Clone launch livestream from the Redgate office in Cambridge, UK. I flew over on Monday, along with Grant Fritchey, to help broadcast a few sessions about the product. I’ve been excited to see SQL Clone for a few years now, ever since I saw a POC in 2015.
Having only one day to prep was tough, but family commitments meant I couldn’t arrive until Tuesday morning. A long night on a flight across the water, but I made it and landed in time to get to Cambridge before lunch.
The event was actually a three-peat, broadcasting the same sessions three times to cover various time zones around the world. A long day, arriving at the office around 6:30am and not leaving until after 8pm. It’s not that bad, as my sessions were spread throughout the day.
We had some fun as well getting ready. Grant and I did a short commercial, which made me chuckle when I saw it.
The sessions were based on some demos and testing we’ve done over time, and I think they showed some of the power of the SQL Clone product. We’ve got some intro videos, one of which is below, to help you understand how the product works. We’ve also been publishing lots of short pieces on specific SQL Clone use cases on the Redgate blog.
The behind the scenes was fun, with prep and rehearsals occupying a very long day for me on Tuesday. However, after our SQL in the City Streamed last year, everyone involved at Redgate has had some practice in how to setup and run a live event.
There’s a dedicated double conference room that we’ve turned into a broadcast studio, with lots of equipment and a small set. I’m especially glad we had four microphones for all the presenters. Switching mics with limited time is a challenge.
Last year we used a podium, but I’ve found that trying to work with demos on a small platform is hard. In various conferences around the world, I’ve found there isn’t enough space to easily type or maneuver a mouse in the typical space that a speaking podium offers. I asked for a desk, and sure enough, our engineers found one, raising it up to accommodate a standing height.
SQL Clone is sheep-themed, after the scientific work with Dolly the sheep. Our product marketing manager, Karis, was a good sport, donning a costume for a short promo video. I grabbed a short video and a few pix.
Early Wednesday, we started the event, to a small audience in Asia and a few early birds in Europe.
The flow is similar to a television broadcast. Our engineer will give us a few countdowns (30s, 10s), and an audible 5, 4, 3, then a thumbs up to start presenting. It’s slightly odd to present to a screen, and it does take some getting used to remembering the camera and not the people in the room are the ones that need your focus.
We also have multiple clocks and timers on various screens. Below you can see the view from the table. There is a monitor in the upper left that shows what the laptop is outputting. Since some people like PowerPoint’s presenter mode, we have to switch between extend and duplicate on the laptop. Seeing the output in front of you is handy.
To the lower right we have a monitor that has a countdown timer for this particular session. This is handy in keeping an eye on how much time is remaining in the presentation. I wish there were a scheduled end time as sometimes our start times are off, but I try to keep an eye on the start time and guess how much over I might go. In our case, the intro and Grant’s piece were short, so I could go over a bit. The one thing that would be nice is a negative count up once we hit zero. Right now the timer stops.
At the rear of the room we have a large clock on one screen that shows the local time. Since I know roughly when I’m supposed to start and end, that’s helps. On the upper right screen, showing the Windows background we put up a large Word document where someone can type questions from Twitter/YouTube/Slack, etc. They use a large font so we can read them from the stage area.
We have a series of buffer videos, ads, and transitions that are setup between live talks. Watching the engineers switch between audio and video, moving between different inputs is fascinating. Mechanical, and perhaps not so exciting if it were happening all day, but for a a few events a year, it’s neat. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can improve the process in the future.
The day started with Grant talking about the challenges of database provisioning. I’ve dealt with all he noted, regulatory issues, space, time, repeated work, etc. Until I started working with the SQL Clone team, I hadn’t realized quite how much of a hassle the copying and provisioning of databases can be. I’ve fought with storage admins for space, and with developers over the time it takes to copy and restore. SQL Clone makes this easier, and if you want to move faster, then you might find the space and time savings worth the cost of the product.
Or you might just keep dealing with the time and space issues. Your choice, and there are plenty of companies that are happy to spend your time and effort on copy/restore tasks.
Once Grant finished, it was my turn to show how SQL Clone solves some of these issues. I got to demo the GUI, self-service implementation and then discuss the code solutions with Richard McCaskill, our product manager. Hopefully I didn’t distract Grant, but it’s a bit boring to watch the same presentation 3 times when you aren’t involved and are just sitting in the room.
The PowerShell cmdlets for SQL Clone are the real power of this tool, allowing you to easily provision new images and clones for developers. I’ll have to write more on this, but we demoed a similar setup to one of our customers where they create a new set of databases on developer instances for new branches. That is very cool.
We had growing audiences throughout the day as we moved across the globe. If you watched, let us know if the time and length worked for you, as well as where you are. I think we’ll do more of these, and with the number of products that Redgate has, I bet we end up with some sort of broadcast every couple months.