SQL SERVER – Performance Tuning – Is It Really A Top Skills for a SQL Server Consultant? – Notes from the Field #059

[Note from Pinal]: This is a 59th episode of Notes from the Field series. I get over 100 emails everyday and out of 100 emails nearly 90 of them are really related to performance tuning. The emails I get is from various different IT professionals. There are quite a few application developers like (Dotnet, Java, PHP etc) who do application development everyday, but they are not always expert of SQL Server. When I read those emails I feel that the world indeed need plenty of SQL Server Performance Tuning consultants. I asked these questions to SQL Server Guru Brian Moran. He is a unique blend of person who knows the consultant’s business from technology and business perspective.

Today is Christmas Day and we have received a wonderful gift from Brian!

SQL SERVER - Performance Tuning - Is It Really A Top Skills for a SQL Server Consultant? - Notes from the Field #059 brianmoran

In this episode of the Notes from the Field series database expert Brian Moran explains in very simple words the reality of the SQL Server Consultant world. Read the experience of Brian in his own words.


December and January are times of the year when many people reflect on personal and career goals. It would be silly and naïve for me to pretend that I know what’s best for your career so take this post with a grain of salt. Maybe you want to be a fireman or an astronaut? I don’t have many words of wisdom if that is your hope.

But, I do have a lot of knowledge for data professionals who aspire to be independent consultants.

I focus more on the business side of running my consulting business these days so I’m not as technical as I used to be. But I was a SQL MVP for many years and was a pretty good tuning architect. I’ve been on the PASS Board twice and have been involved in the SQL Server space for almost 25 years. Over the years I’ve been part of the leadership team that built two successful consulting companies and I’ve coached and mentored dozens of technologists over the past two decades as they got their start in consulting.

SQL SERVER - Performance Tuning - Is It Really A Top Skills for a SQL Server Consultant? - Notes from the Field #059 59th-1 This post is for folks who love the engine side of being a database pro and want to be an independent consultant. I’m not talking to the BI folks or the other myriad of specialties that exist in #SQLFamily. But do you love the engine? I mean really love working with the core engine? Do you want to be a consultant one day?

World class and amazing performance tuning skills are consistently the on the short list of skills that I’ve seen successful independent SQL Server consultants have over the past 20 years. Are there other skills out there that allow a consultant to have a great career? Of course. You can do well with any specialty that is hard to master and that companies absolutely must have access to in order to be successful. HA/DR, consolidation, virtualization, security, and a wide variety of other topics come to mind. But here is one element of performance tuning that that tends to create opportunities for consultants to maximize their rates and have a successful career.

Top performance tuning consultants can have a pretty quick impact on a problem and companies often need access to the skill on short notice for critical needs. Sometimes tuners can solve a problem in minutes or hours. And long term performance tuning work is often measured in days or weeks rather than weeks or months that some other types of projects require.

Here is some basic math to think about. Let’s say you want to bill $250/hr. Is that expensive? Well, like any SQL question the answer is it depends. Let’s look at it this way.

  • Assume you can solve a critical problem for a customer in 20 hours. $250/hr for 20 hours is $5,000.
  • Imagine you are competing against someone who says they can solve the problem for $125/hr.
  • 50% less sounds like a big savings for the customer, right? But, it’s really only a net savings of $2,500.

Do you think many companies care about a difference of $2,500 when they desperately need to solve an urgent problem impacting critical business systems? Probably not. They probably care more about picking the person they believe is the best fit and most likely to solve the problem.

SQL SERVER - Performance Tuning - Is It Really A Top Skills for a SQL Server Consultant? - Notes from the Field #059 59th-2

But now let’s imagine that you are talking to a potential customer about a project that might take 6 months to solve working full time. That’s about 1000 billable hours. Let’s make the same assumptions that you are charging $250/hr and someone else is going to offer $125.hr. Now the 50% differential is rate yields a net savings of $125,000.

Will many companies care about saving $125,000 if they can? Yep. They sure do.

I find that many folks never fully think through this side of the consulting equation early in their career. IE, within reason companies, mostly don’t care about the rate for performance tuners as long as you are awesome and can get the job done. Don’t get me wrong. It’s quite possible to charge premium rates for long term projects and you can certainly be a successful consultant while, focusing on some other aspect of SQL Server. But almost 25 years in the business have taught me that loving performance tuning and wanting to be an independent consultant can be a match made in heaven.

If you want to get started with performance tuning and database security with the help of experts, read more over at Fix Your SQL Server.

Reference: Pinal Dave (https://blog.sqlauthority.com)

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