Learning PowerShell as a DBA: First Steps and A Bit Of History

Apr 14, 07:26 AM

I am going to kick off a series of blog posts that I hope will help you understand the usefulness and power of PowerShell (or at least come away with some tips and tricks.)

Before I start showing off keyboard shortcuts or breaking down some of the peculiarities you may need to understand to get the full benefits of PowerShell, I want to talk a little about history and why the shell is good.

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Before there were modern graphical user interfaces there was the command line.

There were many types of machines leading up to the giant time share computers of the 60s and 70s (and even later in some cases), but back then it was fairly common to write a program ahead of time, encode them in punch cards or otherwise, and then use a shared “terminal” (sometimes just a keyboard or input device, usually at your place of business or school) to submit your work.

After that, you often would get you output either printed back to you or in more modern cases, could even see that output on a screen.

Very quickly on multi user machines it became clear that allowing direct access to the systems functions was not only dangerous, but difficult to use and prone to error. Many programs were written to solve these problems and ease the burden of a fairly complex task.

Heroes In A Half Shell

To facilitate the more “modern” terminals (maybe even supporting iterative input!) many different approaches were taken, and over time a large set of conventions and methods took over the idea of what a shell was to computer operators.

These predecessor programs actually have an out-sized influence on the applications of today, and many shells are descendants that contain some of the zany choices which had to be made due to hardware or software limitations of code 30 years or more ago.

As a result of this many people think that the shell is something from an earlier time or a place only hackers go, some of you may have tried to accomplish your goals but because the shell is so separate from the standard experience, it was probably slow going.

While the shell is definitely closer to the bare metal experience than many of us are used to, it at one time was designed to be the primary user interface, and most shells have many methods to help you deal with the problems baked into a command line interface.

If you’ve never used a shell before or you are familiar with other shells (bash, zsh, cmd, etc) I want to show you that not only is PowerShell not scary, but instead how it will remove drudgery from your day to day work and how using it doesn’t need to feel kludgy.

If you are a SQL professional like me, I want to show you how you can use features of PowerShell to:

  • Manage your ever growing code base and server farm.
  • Automate tasks which seem annoying (text processing!)
  • Reporting on multiple machines and transforming them into useful input.
  • Solve problems that used to take thousands of lines of SQL in tens of lines of PowerShell

Community

I also want you to know that there is an active community of people who want to help you when you run into problems. please come join us at the SQL Community Slack and head on over to #PowerShellHelp or #dbatools.

You can find me there talking as @ck, I would love to hear from you!

Acknowledgements

I also want to acknowledge a few people as this series begins who have helped and influenced me greatly in these endeavors:

  • Chrissy LeMaire – As the project leader for dbatools.io, she has shown tireless enthusiasm in showing the both the usefulness and fun that can be had when authoring PowerShell.
  • Rob Sewell – A tireless contributor and head of the dbareports project, his want to demonstrate and help those with less knowledge seems boundless.
  • Klaas Vandenberghe – A tireless supporter of quality code and best practices, Klaas has an encyclopedic knowledge of PowerShell, PowerShell publications, and more; he has always driven me to ask more questions about my code and methods.
  • Friedrich Weinmann – A PowerShell wizard and hyper contributor to dbatools, his deeper dives into some of the technologies and his advice have gotten me out of a few weird places.
  • Cláudio Silva – Cláudio’s constant pushing for more and better code to bring back to the community is always impressive, and his enthusiasm leaks through the screen any time I work with him.
  • Carlos Chacon for giving me the idea for this series of posts (though indirectly) I truly saw his enthusiasm at learning more about using PowerShell when he learned I wasn’t a PowerShell expert, but instead a SQL Professional like himself (with a lot less experience of course!)
  • Neal Stephenson for some great books and a great quote.
Constantine Kokkinos
---
---