In 2020, we endured the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on health and life, and we also saw multitudes of businesses and organizations collapse. One of those casualties was PASS, also known as the Professional Association for SQL Server.
There couldn’t have been a bigger contrast between the end of 2019 compared to 2020. At the end of 2019, PASS had better financial reserves than ever before. The organization had just celebrated its 20th anniversary at the annual PASS Summit with more than 4,000 in attendance. Although the Summit brought in most of the organization’s revenue, 2020 was intended to launch a new PASS Pro membership tier that would help diversify funding. But by the end of 2020, attendance at the PASS Virtual Summit crashed so low that the organization found itself in too deep a financial hole to maintain operations. To the dismay of the global community, PASS ceased operations on January 15, 2021.
Although PASS was far from a perfect professional association, often generating earnest debates about how to improve it and the broader community, everyone active in the community was surprised and saddened by the loss. Speaking personally as one of the original nine founders and the president of PASS from 2004-2008, this felt like losing a loved one. For many of us, we still grieve.
Gone but not Forgotten
PASS provided many ways for the community to connect, share, and learn above and beyond the annual conference. Many of PASS’ channels and IP are gone for good, like the PASS website, PASS Marathons, PASStv, session recordings, and its other online offerings. (It is possible that these will resurface under a new owner). Toward the end of 2020, some grass-roots leaders foresaw the dissolution of PASS and began to prepare, such as Andy Mallon, a leader in the Boston SQL Server community. Andy wrote a great FAQ for local user group leaders about the liquidation of PASS and how to prepare for the aftermath at https://am2.co/2020/12/faqs-about-the-dissolution-of-pass.
On the other hand, the decentralized structure of PASS means that most local user groups, virtual online groups, and SQLSaturdays will continue with only slight changes. For example, many local user groups and online virtual groups have transitioned from PASS-hosted websites to sites such as Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com. Go to https://sqlugs.com to see a variety of user groups and https://datasaturdays.com/index.html for events that are comparable to SQLSaturdays or, in some cases, even direct spinoffs. In addition, if you need hosting for your user group website, you might want to check out https://daug.it.
What Comes Next?
Redgate Software announced in January that it has acquired the assets of PASS and Redgate said it plans to revive the Summit, continue SQLSaturdays, and make available the PASS library of content and training sessions. At the same time, Redgate is also encouraging you to participate in these other opportunities:
In addition, Microsoft has already put in place several umbrella offerings to support the broader community for the Microsoft data platform and grassroots, local user groups:
- meetup.com/pro/azuretechgroups—an association of 255 groups around the world focusing on all things Azure, spanning 53 countries and almost 400,000 members. Simply scroll down to see all the online and in-person events happening around the world.
- meetup.com/pro/azuredatatechgroups—this association is newly online as of the end of January 2020. As with the AzureTechGroups link above, this association is based upon the Meetup Pro platform and is sponsored by Microsoft for free to qualifying user groups.
- https://community.powerbi.com—the Microsoft data visualization community has focused much of their efforts at this site. Click on the “Upcoming Events” link to find a user group in your local area.
While all the conferences that I’m aware of have switched to virtual in 2021, you should know about these other conferences that focus on the Microsoft Data Platform in case you can attend. Note that these are not usually free events. They are:
- https://SQLBits.com—the largest non-U.S. conference for SQL Server professions, this U.K.-based event typically brings in more than 2,000 attendees.
- https://dps10.com—the Data Platform Summit is a large and rapidly growing conference based in India.
- https://www.devintersection.com/#!—a developer-oriented event with a solid line-up of SQL Server and Azure SQL topics. Still planned as an in-person event for June 2021 in Orlando, FL.
- https://vslive.com/Home.aspx—also oriented toward developers but has a strong track for data professionals. Several live, in-person events are planned for mid- to late-2021.
- And finally, Microsoft itself offers great SQL Server and Azure SQL training free online at their annual Ignite and Build conferences.
The community of Microsoft data professionals continues!