SQL PASS Community Summit vs. SQL Server Connections Conference

In the past, I have attended SQL PASS five times, and this past week, I attended my first SQL Connections conference. For those who have not been able to attend both, I thought I would describe some of the differences I found between the two.

Two Different Focuses

The SQL PASS Community Summit focuses on SQL Server DBAs and developers. SQL PASS is held once a year in the United States and once a year in Europe. It is a non-profit conference.

On the other hand, SQL Server Connections is a subset of a larger conference called Dev Connections. Dev Connections includes SQL Server Magazine Connections, ASP.NET Connections, Visual Studio Connections, and C++ Connections. SQL Server Connections (Dev Connections) is held twice a year in the United States. It is a for profit conference run by Tech Conferences, Inc.

Different Content

SQL PASS focuses on the administrative side of being a DBA, with a little less emphasis on the development side. Over 100 technical sessions are presented in four different tracks: Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence, Database and Application Development, Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment, and Professional Development. My impression is that there are many choices for both new and experienced SQL Server DBAs and developers.

SQL Server Connections has much fewer SQL Server-related technical sessions, about a third of what SQL PASS offers. It includes Business Intelligence, DBA, and Developer tracks. But on the other, when you sign up for SQL Server Connections, you can also attend any of the other sessions from ASP.NET Connections, Visual Studio Connections, and C++ Connections, in essence, offering you an even greater choice of sessions to attend than SQL PASS. Of course, if you are a DBA focusing in the administration area, you will have fewer choices than SQL PASS, but if you are a SQL Server developer, then you will have many more development choices to attend. Also, based on my impressions, the SQL Server sessions tend to be more technical than what a beginning DBA might want to attend.

Presentation Quality

The quality of the sessions were virtually the same between both conferences. Most were good to excellent, with a few exceptions (as you would expect). There is a lot of overlap between presenters at both conferences (for the SQL Server presentations).

Size

SQL PASS, which focuses only on SQL Server, had nearly 2,000 participants this year, while Dev Connections had over 2,500. But keep in mind that this Dev Connections total includes all of the conference attendees, not only those who attended SQL Server Connections. I couldn’t get any good figures on the exact number of people who only signed up for SQL Server Connections, but my best guesstimate, based on attendance of the sessions I attended, was about 400-500.

Microsoft Presence

Microsoft seems to have a much larger presence at SQL PASS than SQL Server Connections. If your goal is to interact with Microsoft SQL Server program managers and developers, SQL PASS has many more options to do so.

SQL Server MVP Presence

SQL PASS also has a much larger presence of Microsoft SQL Server MVPs. So again, if your goal is to interact with MVPs, then SQL PASS has many more options to do so.

Sponsors

I thought the level of corporate sponsorship between the two conferences was odd. SQL PASS (the slightly smaller of the two conferences) has about 2-3 times more sponsors than Dev Connections. In fact, I think there were only about 3-4 SQL Server-related vendors at Dev Connections, while SQL PASS has virtually all SQL Server-related vendors. If your goal is to meet with vendors and see demonstrations of their products, SQL PASS has more options to do so.

Location

The most recent SQL PASS conference was in Dallas (Grapevine), TX, and it will be in Seattle, WA next year. The most recent SQL Connection conference was in Las Vegas, NV, and will be in Orlando, FL next year. The conference facilities for both conferences were above average.

Food

No doubts here, SQL Connections (Dev Connections) had much better food and snacks. At the most recent SQL PASS conference, the food was generally poor.

Which Do I Recommend?

If you are a DBA who is new to SQL Server, or who focuses mostly in the administrative side of SQL Server, I recommend SQL PASS as the conference of choice. But if you are a SQL Server developer, especially one who works with other languages than T-SQL, then SQL Server Connections (Dev Connections) has more choices for you. Of course, if you have the budget, attend




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