Meet Our SQL Storytelling Winner

#SQLCruise Alaska: Class is In Session!
#SQLCruise Alaska: Class is In Session!

The Brent Ozar Unlimited® crew sailed on SQLCruise Alaska last week. Brent, Jeremiah, and Kendra each taught a session (or two) on the cruise. There was much talk of transactions, performance killers, and SSDs. There were lessons on backups, PowerShell, and boat drinks.

As a sponsor, we got to design a contest for the cruisers. We decided that above all else, we wanted to hear each cruiser tell us a story.

The rules: The story could be on any topic, and it could be a story of success or failure, of glory or defeat. The story needed to be told aloud to the group in person and take less than three minutes.

When it came time for SQL Storytelling, everyone gathered round on couches and the tales of technology began. We heard stories about power outages, about sql injection, about attempts to back up tempdb (don’t try this at home, kids), and even stories about sausage!  We enjoyed every story. It was the best contest ever.

For our grand prize winner, we selected a story we loved. It was thoughtful, perfectly timed, and told with friendly humility, grace, and a little bit of mystery. Our winner received a shiny new Kindle Fire, and we are sharing her story with you here on the blog.

How I Became Friends with the VMWare Administrator

By Darcy Williams (twitter)

As a DBA I’m often challenged by developers, application owners and vendors but on this occasion it was the VMWare admin. I had heard some rumblings around the office about a puzzling SQL Server.  It seems the VM folks built a high end lightning fast machine to host their SQL Server database but to their surprise the application was painfully slow.

Darcy Williams and her boxer, Harley
Meet Darcy Williams and her boxer, Harley

Several months passed and the mystery remained unsolved.  I heard they were planning an upgrade to the VMWare application during my on call weekend and Saturday afternoon my pager went off with a message to call the VM admin.  Seems he had been up most of the night working on the upgrade.  He said the database was so slow he would be up until 3am just to finish the updates and was there anything I could do?  I felt bad for the guy and thought for sure he would be up all night since I have no idea how to speed up his VMWare Server.

He seemed desperate so I thought I could run the “what we are waiting for DMV” just to cover all the bases.  I was skeptical because I’ve ran it before and it usually generates more questions than answers but surprisingly this time it worked.  One of the top wait types was related to mirroring and I thought the Primary server might be slow because it was waiting for transactions to be committed on the Mirror.

I explained to him how mirroring works and that it needs to complete the transaction on the Mirror server before returning control to the application.  We paused mirroring to test the theory and ran a few update statements.  The mystery was solved because the updates ran incredibly fast.

Turned out the VM folks built two completely different servers. One was blazing fast with all high end components and the other with less than par hardware, slow disks and minimal RAM.  The following week the Mirror got a much needed face lift to match the Primary and the end result was a blazing fast application and happy customers.

Do You Have a Story?

We love Darcy’s story because it celebrates the simple glories of life as a DBA. We think this story may remind you of your stories.  Sometimes when that pager goes off, you solve big problems and make a real difference. Stop and enjoy those achievements, and share your story to help others.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • This is a perfect illustration of the importance of talking with your peers, as well as how simple solutions can make big impacts. Well done, Darcy! 🙂

  • Mohammed Moinudheen
    June 8, 2012 9:53 am

    This is an excellent story which shows us the importance of calmness in tough situations. Also, another point is there is no use blindly doing any upgrade without proper root cause analysis. If Darcy had not identified the issue there would have been no gain in just upgrading the VMWare application.

    Good job really 🙂


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