SQL Server ships with sane defaults, right? Well, sort of. SQL Server ships with pretty sane defaults for a single CPU socket server or for a development work station. Honestly, the defaults are good enough for many things, but there are a few gotchas. Changing these settings is quick, relatively painless, and can result in all around stability and happiness.
Maximum Degree of Parallelism
By default, SQL Server will use all available CPUs during query execution. While this is great for large queries, it can cause performance problems and limit concurrency. A better approach is to limit parallelism to the number of physical cores in a single CPU socket.
If you’re saying “What?” right now, don’t feel bad. Basically – on a SQL Server with two CPU sockets and a 4 core CPU with hyperthreading off, the
maximum degree of parallelism option should be set to 4.
Don’t believe me? Check out Recommendations and guidelines for the “max degree of parallelism” configuration option in SQL Server.
Cost Threshold for Parallelism
Speaking of parallelism – what about that cost threshold for parallelism setting? The default is set to 5, is that a Good Number®? Not so much.
The optimizer uses that cost threshold to figure out when it should start evaluating plans that can use multiple threads. Although there’s no right or wrong number, 5 is a really low setting. It’s appropriate for purely OLTP applications, but as soon as you add a modicum of complexity ka-boom!
I recommend starting with this setting at 50 or so and tuning up or down as appropriate. Make sure you measure for the critical queries in your application, of course.
Instant File Initialization
Technically this is a Windows permission, but whatever. By granting the “Perform volume maintenance tasks” permission to the SQL Server process, we give SQL Server a boost when it comes time to grow out data files.
The default behavior in Windows write a bunch of zeros whenever a user asks for space. If I create a 500MB file, Windows will write 500MB of zeros to disk to properly initialize the file.
By giving the SQL Server process these extra permissions, SQL Server can use a different API when requesting space for data files. These permissions tell Windows to mark the space as used and immediately hand it back to the calling program. In short – you can grow data files faster (which includes TempDB on system start up).
Free compression! If you’re using SQL Server starting with SQL Server 2008R2, you can flip a check box and get yourself some backup compression. This is a no brainer, really – backups are smaller, they take less time, and the restores even take less time. What’s not to love?
The Remote DAC
No, I don’t mean a DACPAC, I mean the dedicated administrator connection. When you connect through the DAC, SQL Server provides a dedicated connection, CPU scheduler, and memory; all of which make it easier to troubleshoot when SQL Server’s gone completely crazy. By default you have to be on the SQL Server’s desktop either physically at the console or else remotely over RDP. When I’ve got a runaway SQL Server, I know that I don’t want to wait for a sluggish GUI to respond to my commands.
Enter the remote dedicated administrator connection.
By enabling the remote DAC, a DBA can make use of the dedicated administrative connection from any computer that’s allowed to connect to the SQL Server – from your workstation, bastion server, or even your home PC over the VPN. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’ve got rights. Remote troubleshooting systems that are stuck at 100% CPU utilization is much easier when you’ve got dedicated CPU resources and memory at your disposal.
What are you waiting for?
Only one of these changes (Instant File Initialization) requires a restart, so get out there and start switching things up. (Your mileage may vary.)
Interested In Learning More?
In our classes, we cover the SQL Server settings you should watch and the tools that will identify even more settings to change. Read more about our training!