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HOLY COW. Amazon RDS SQL Server Just Changed Everything.

Platform-as-a-Service users (Azure SQL DB, Amazon RDS) often ask me:

OMG

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  • How can I move my data into the cloud? Can I just take a backup on-premises, and restore up in the cloud?
  • How can I use the cloud as inexpensive disaster recovery?
  • Once I go to PaaS, why can’t I just get a backup file with my data?
  • How can I refresh an on-premises dev server from cloud production?
  • How can I do cross-provider disaster recovery inexpensively, like have a primary in AWS and a secondary in Azure?
  • Why am I locked into just one cloud provider once I go PaaS?

Until now, the single biggest problem has been that both Azure SQL DB and Amazon RDS SQL Server don’t give you access to backup files. If you wanted to get your data out, you were hassling with things like import/export wizards, BCP, or sync apps.

Today, Amazon RDS SQL Server announced support for native backup/restore to Amazon S3.

This is a really, really, really big deal, something Azure SQL DB doesn’t support (and I dearly wish it did). I get even more excited reading this because now Microsoft has to do it in order to remain competitive, and that’ll make Azure SQL DB a much more attractive product for traditional DBAs.

Here’s the use cases that it supports:

“I’m on-premises, and I want to use the cloud as DR.” Just keep taking your full backups as normal, but use a tool like Cloudberry Drive to automatically sync them to Amazon S3. When disaster strikes (or preferably, when you want to test and document this process long before disaster strikes), spin up an Amazon RDS SQL Server instance and restore your backups. Presto, you’re back in business. (I’m glossing over all the parts about setting up web and app servers, but that’s a developer/devops/sysadmin problem, right?)

“I have big databases, and I want to experiment with the cloud, but can’t I upload fast.” Ship your USB hard drive to Amazon with your backups, they’ll copy ’em into S3, and then you can spin up RDS instances. Got more data? Check out Amazon Snowball.

“I’m using the cloud, and I want cross-provider DR.” Run your primary SQL Server in Amazon RDS, schedule regular backups to Amazon S3, and then use a cross-provider file sync tool or roll your own service to push those backup files from Amazon S3 over to Azure or Google Drive. When disaster strikes at Amazon (or if you just want to bail out of Amazon and switch cloud providers), just restore that backup somewhere else. Same thing if you want to refresh a local dev or reporting server, too.

“I’m using the cloud, but I might outgrow Platform-as-a-Service.” PaaS makes management dramatically easier, but both Amazon and Azure set limits on how large your databases can get. Putting your database in Amazon RDS or Azure SQL DB is basically a bet that your data will grow more slowly than their database size limits. If you bet wrong – which is a great thing because your data skyrocketed, usually indicating that you’re in the money – you have an easy transition into IaaS (self-managed SQL Server in the cloud) rather than the painful hell of dealing with data exports.

This right here changes every SQL Server cloud presentation that I give. It’s really that big.

[Video] Office Hours 2016/07/20 (With Transcriptions)

This week, Brent, Richie, Erik, and Tara discuss new Microsoft certs for data science, index rebuilds, replication, patching SQL server, and what to say to a manager that says he needs an active/active HA solution but has no idea what that means.

Here’s the video on YouTube:

You can register to attend next week’s Office Hours, or subscribe to our podcast to listen on the go.

If you prefer to listen to the audio:

Play

Office Hours Webcast – 2016-07-20

 

How should I manage a thousand database schemas?

Brent Ozar: Joe O’Conner asks, he says, “Any suggestions on tools or methodology for standardizing a schema to accommodate a thousand plus instances that may all be slightly different?” Joe, let me ask a follow-up question too if you can return back and ask, do you want them to be different or do you want them to be the same? That will probably influence the answer that we give you there.

 

Why is replication showing high CPU use?

Brent Ozar: Let’s see here, next up. James Kelly says, “In SQL Server 2005…” I’ve got to stop using last names because somebody is going to ask a question they’re ashamed of—like James Kelly—who has SQL Server 2005. Poor guy, god bless him. It’s not a bad database platform, it’s not horrible. It’s better than 2000 was. He says sp_replmonitorrefreshjob causes high CPU when suspended mode on the distribution database. What should I look into in order to reduce CPU? Tara, I’m even sorry I read that but you’re the only one here that would be remotely qualified.

Tara Kizer: Yeah.

Brent Ozar: You know anything about that? I don’t know anything about that.

Tara Kizer: I haven’t encountered that and I used replication for, I don’t know, ten years or so, what is meant by suspended mode on the distribution database? Is that when the jobs are not working?

Brent Ozar: I think he’s doing sp_WhoIsActive. I bet he’s doing sp_WhoIsActive.

Tara Kizer: Oh, but suspended doesn’t necessarily mean anything. “Causes high CPU…” Are you sure it’s that refresh job that’s causing the high CPU? If it is, I would start taking a look at the replication monitor and looking for what kind of latency you have in the queues. I would imagine you’ve got a large backlog and maybe that’s why it’s taking it a while to pull up the data.

Brent Ozar: That makes sense. So my webcam probably just froze. I all of a sudden got pouring down rain here, you could hear it in the building, just all of a sudden it pours down and immediately my internet dies. I’m like, oh, it’s going to be like that. It’s going to be like that.

Richie Rump: What kind of backwater [inaudible 00:01:41] are you in?

Tara Kizer: Yeah, I was going to say. Richie is like, it rains all the time.

 

Brent Ozar: Dennis says that MS certs are great at uncovering what areas you don’t know. Yeah, but also what areas you don’t need to know.

Tara Kizer: Or what areas you do know.

 

What do you think about the new Microsoft degree for data science?

Brent Ozar: Greg asks an interesting follow-up question. “What do you guys think about the new Microsoft certs for data science?” Did you guys see that new degree?

Erik Darling: Yeah.

Brent Ozar: Richie clearly saw it. Erik saw it.

Tara Kizer: I only heard about it, I haven’t seen it.

Brent Ozar: I didn’t look at it, I just saw the headlines and went, “Hmm, what?” So Richie, you made such a face. There must be a good reason you made that face, or a bad reason.

Richie Rump: Calling it a degree is weird to me. It’s just strange. I don’t understand it. I spent five years getting my four-year degree, so am I going to spend six years trying to get my seven-year MS degree? I don’t understand. I don’t understand it.

Erik Darling: Is it really that long term? I thought it was like hours.

Brent Ozar: Well, but it’s also the kind of thing you’re going to do spare time. It’s not like, I hope to god you’re not going to take out a loan and go do that kind of thing. Go spend $1,000 on exams or something.

Erik Darling: It was like $500 or whatever, or something. I don’t know, I didn’t read all the fine print.

Brent Ozar: There’s going to be like no training on it, third party for a while, because it’s all brand new. And that platform changes so fast. I’m like, I don’t get that. So I’m not keen on that.

Richie Rump: I mean basic stuff it doesn’t, but I mean is that what they’re going to teach? They’re going to teach me the basics of data science independent of their platform? Or are they going to say, “This is how we do it at Microsoft?”

Erik Darling: … golden hammer from Microsoft.

Brent Ozar: There was a statistics course in it, or like one statistics test. But then the rest was heavily Microsoft. Yeah, exactly. I was like… especially if, you want to know more than one toolset if you’re going to do the data science thing. In the database community, you can know just Microsoft and you can make a wonderful living for yourself. It’s fantastic. Data science is not—you don’t get to learn just one tool, you’ve got to learn a lot of tools.

 

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Brent Ozar: James says he’s waiting for his boss to get a credit card and register for the Senior SQL DBA class next week. Cool, very cool. We’re doing an online class there for four days.

 

Brent Ozar: Nate Johnson says, “SQL Server Management Studio 2016 says it won’t work with 2005 instances but it’s working okay for me. Have you guys used SSMS 2016 with 2005?” I will answer that one. No, we were doing La Cucaracha the day that 2005 was out of support. Erik was doing a countdown for that date. He could not wait. So we haven’t used it at all. Usually what that means with Microsoft is just that they don’t have it in their test matrix anymore. It usually works, there’s edge cases where it won’t but usually you’re okay.

 

Brent Ozar: Thomas says, “I think if you’re new, the certs are good because they show that you’ve been at least exposed to areas of SQL Servers. In my day job, I don’t do any analysis services, reporting services, or integration services so the certs will give me some exposure to them in an organized way.” You can die of exposure, you know that. That’s dangerous.

Erik Darling: Naked and afraid.

Brent Ozar: Naked and afraid, in indexes.

Richie Rump: Unsubscribe.

 

What should I do about an index rebuild that takes 90 minutes?

Brent Ozar: Michael Tilly asks a question that is really inconsistent, multiple parts, and a novella. So if you guys want to read into it, we’re going to read through it. Michael says he has a question about index rebuilds. He works at a large university, actually Brent’s alma mater—I don’t think you’re allowed to say that unless you graduate—and University of Houston for three semesters, so yeah. “I have a large students table…” 35,000 students a year, if I remember correctly. “That has many, many millions of rows of active and inactive students. I have a maintenance plan that does a nightly index rebuild on the…” Holy cow. “On the…” Yeah, already we’re shaking our heads. “It seems to take an excessive amount of time, 90 minutes. Right now we’re rebuilding it online. I’m thinking that maybe I should turn it offline. What should I do?”

Erik Darling: I think you should turn that maintenance plan off.

Tara Kizer: Off, yeah, why are you doing this?

Erik Darling: Because my whole thing with what you’re saying is like you probably get a whole bunch of students once a year.

Brent Ozar: What are you trying to say?

Erik Darling: I’m trying to say that you enroll students once a year.

Brent Ozar: Some of them graduate.

Erik Darling: Yeah, but you enroll students once a year. So like you add in a new crop of students and at that one point, your table might be fragmented. Then after that, you might have some dropouts, but you just change them to inactive. You don’t like delete them from the table. I can’t imagine the students table is getting heavily fragmented aside from enrollment and graduation. Or like even then, graduation is probably just switching to inactive. So I just can’t imagine a way for fragmentation to even accrue that much on a daily basis.

Brent Ozar: I think if they had an index on estimated completion or estimated graduation date, my record would have moved around a lot during the course of me being there. But I think for the rest of the people, not so much.

Richie Rump: So what can he do, Erik?

Brent Ozar: Oh, yeah, good point.

Erik Darling: You would have to go back. I wrote a blog post recently, no surprises there.

Brent Ozar: What?

Erik Darling: Peanut gallery, all of yous—it was about when you want statistics instead of an index but it touched a little bit on why index fragmentation isn’t really that important and up-to-date statistics are far more important. So what I would do in your shoes is I would stop rebuilding the index every night. I would stop rebuilding indexes pretty much in general and then just update the statistics daily and see how you fare. You’ll probably just end up in the same place now where performance is what it is because the statistics got updated, it didn’t reflect all of the fact that you were rebuilding the index every night and wasting hours and hours of your life and precious disk and CPU time.

Tara Kizer: And for the update statistics, because you have several million rows of data in that table, you could probably just get away with like a 20 percent, 30 percent sampling. You probably don’t need to do a full scan on that table.

 

How do I resync AGs when replicas have different drive letters?

Brent Ozar: Nathan says he’s got an availability group and they very rarely have to resync their dbs. They’ve added new databases and “we also have to start syncing those. But we’re not able to do a full sync because the drive letters don’t line up anymore. For example, I have some drive letters that exist on the primary but not on the secondaries. Is there a way to automate this process without doing backups and restores and joining them manually?”

Tara Kizer: You have to do a backup and a restore and say with move in order to get the different drive letters. So, no. There isn’t a different way.

Brent Ozar: Yeah, that blows.

Erik Darling: Rename your drives.

Tara Kizer: Yeah, rename your drives. Script this out so that it’s automated at least, you’re not having to do it manually.

Erik Darling: Yeah, there are actually a bunch of questions on dba.stackexchange.com about how to automate adding databases to availability groups. There are some, not like fully fleshed out scripts, but there were some pretty good outlines of scripts on there about how to get started but you are going to have to make certain considerations for the fact that you have different drive letters and that stuff when you’re writing your script.

Brent Ozar: I want to say there’s a trick with the SUBST command too. Like there’s this command line S-U-B-S-T that can let you make fake drive letters to point to other drive letters. Totally don’t quote me on that but just like google it to see. I’m sure it’s not supported but just as a fun trick.

 

Why isn’t Brent giving money to the University of Houston?

Brent Ozar: Michael from my fake alma mater comes back and says, “As it turns out, we do have constant fragmentation because we keep all our student history.” Yeah, I know because you keep asking me for donations which seems pretty stupid because I dropped out. Why would I give you money if I didn’t finish? He says, “As we constantly update the home address and phone number and other info, so lots of updates.” Listen, you’ve got to unsubscribe me. I’ve asked several times. That’s not true. Although you did bulldoze the dorm that I was in and I was a little pissed off about that one.

 

How do I change account owners on an endpoint?

Brent Ozar: Let’s see here, Thomas says, “We have a former DBA who granted the rights on the service accounts to an endpoint.” I think he used his own personal service accounts on an endpoint, like mirroring or availability groups. “I can’t drop his login without changing that. Is there a way to change which service accounts have permissions on an endpoint without dropping and recreating the connection? I tried ALTER AUTHORIZATION and that didn’t work.”

Tara Kizer: What’s the endpoint being used for? I mean can’t you just rebuild whatever that is? Is it mirroring? Is it an availability group? What is it?

Brent Ozar: Yeah, it should be a brief outage, right? Just recreate it.

Tara Kizer: Yeah, exactly, get a maintenance window for this.

Brent Ozar: Yeah, I like that. And you want to be patching anyway. I’ll also take the crazy thought of, “Why change it?” Leave it under his account. As long as you have the password.

Tara Kizer: Or maybe rename it so that it’s like a service account now and not someone’s—you know, because the [inaudible 00:10:26] will remain the same. So it will appear as a regular account at that point.

Brent Ozar: The service account formerly known as…

Tara Kizer: Yes.

 

More about synchronizing a thousand schema differences

Brent Ozar: Joe comes back with the thousand schema thing. Joe says, “Are there any suggestions or tools or methodology for standardizing to a single schema that will accommodate slight differences in a thousand plus instances without losing any data?” Wow.

Tara Kizer: It’s a thousand plus SQL Server instances and trying to get them all into one database with different schemas? I’m confused what the question is.

Brent Ozar: You know what I bet he’s doing, Erik. I bet he’s doing what your favorite ISV does. Yes, I bet, so we blog about this kCura Relativity, it’s a piece of software out there and customers are allowed to change tables but your deployment scripts still have to work. How do their deployment scripts work, like when they drop a new version of their app?

Erik Darling: The last time I did it, the deployment scripts were in a numbered folder and called by a C# program—by some program. Don’t quote me on the C#. But it’s tough because you have to specifically change only your indexes. The last thing didn’t go so well because there was some custom objects that they didn’t account for that I had to like go back and manually change. So I don’t know that I would recommend that process as an overall process. But, you know, they do alter tables directly from scripts and everything.

Brent Ozar: Run them in order based on their version upgrades. They also have dozens of developers to manage that kind of thing.

Erik Darling: Yep.
Brent Ozar: Lee asks, “I’m curious, why does the model database, the system database model, why does it have recovery set to full?”

Tara Kizer: Well that’s just because it’s the default for new databases so when you create a new database and you don’t provide all of the settings, it uses model as the template and it’s just the default that Microsoft has set. I really wish that they would switch it to simple. If they’re going to have everything be default to full, then how about you default to setting up transaction log backups too?

Brent Ozar: Oh, yes. Yeah, I like that. We should have a connect item for that.

Tara Kizer: Closed. Won’t fix.

Erik Darling: Immediately.

 

Why does my log file grow even in simple recovery model?

Brent Ozar: Lakshmi says, “I have a database in a simple recovery model and we make a lot of changes on say Friday nights. The transaction log grows to like 20 gigs, why is it that my log file is growing even in simple recovery model?” Did I say simple recovery mode at the beginning? That’s Tara’s hot point.

Tara Kizer: It’s one of mine, yeah. Everyone says “recovery mode.”

Brent Ozar: Yeah, simple recovery model.

Tara Kizer: You’re logging of your transactions doesn’t change based upon your recovery model. It’s still the same amount of logging. So if you have 20 gigabytes of data changed, or at least logging, it’s going to be the same with simple or full. It’s what happens at the end of the transaction is what’s different between the two recovery models. With simple, that is cleared from the transaction log after it completes, either rolls back or commits. With full, it stays in there until something backs up the transaction log. So the size doesn’t change based upon recovery model.

Brent Ozar: Some yoyo doesn’t BEGIN TRAN, your log is going to be growing for a while.

 

Does antivirus slow down SQL Server?

Brent Ozar: Matthew says, “Have you guys ever experienced noticeably degraded performance as a result of having antivirus installed on a SQL Server?”

Tara Kizer: Yes. Definitely. That’s why you need exclusions in place. At one point we had something like 46 exclusions on the database servers. I think it went even higher. I forget what the number was, 60s or 70s I think. But there’s a list of exclusions that you need to have in place on a SQL Server. It’s SQL Server executable, your MDF files, LDF, NDF, all these… There’s just tons of them and I believe that this is documented somewhere, what your exclusions should be. I don’t know where it is though.

Brent Ozar: There’s a KB article. If you Google/Bing whatever “SQL Server antivirus.” Then you site: support.Microsoft.com. If you site: in Google and restrict it to a single site you’ll get the answers just from the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

 

Where can I read about lifecycle management?

Brent Ozar: Graham says, “Other than Microsoft’s content,” so I guess we know how he feels about Microsoft’s content, “are there any good end of life or lifecycle management references for SQL Server versions?” Did you guys ever see any good database documentation around when you should upgrade or how to handle upgrades other than Microsoft’s?

Erik Darling: Most of the ones that I’ve seen reference a lot of Microsoft’s stuff, like using the Best Practice Advisor and the Upgrade Advisor and using those as sort of jump off points for what you should do from then on out. Microsoft does, at least I think, a fairly decent job for the Upgrade Advisor stuff, like giving you the scripted out things that you need to do your migration with.

Brent Ozar: Tara, with all the SQL Servers that you guys managed, how did you do processes for upgrades? Did you like write out, “Here’s exactly what we’re going to do” and which order, or was it like different every time you guys did a SQL Server?

Tara Kizer: When I was at QualComm and I was the primary DBA for a specific division it was really based upon what projects were in the pipeline and if we could get an upgrade placed into that project. If they were doing a major release, maybe we could get that database upgraded. I’m sure to this day they still have SQL Server 2005 instances out there. I’ve been gone from them for about three years but I’m positive just because how many there were when I left. There weren’t any 2000 but tons and tons of 2005. Some of them probably just get stuck there. Not all companies care about not being supported by Microsoft. So what if you don’t have any security hotfixes. If you have a secure environment, you may not care about that type of stuff. Companies really care about getting releases out, making their customers happy. Do they really care about the SQL Server version behind the scenes? The DBA team cares, you know, what do we have to support.

Brent Ozar: That’s why we still at the company we still run Windows 95 here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. It works really well.

Richie Rump: Well I’m on 3.11, that Workgroup edition.

Brent Ozar: I’ve been trying to get him to upgrade that Trumpet TCP/IP stack is just not…

Richie Rump: It’s an oldie but a goodie, man.

Brent Ozar: Oldie but a goodie, that Solitaire, no Minesweeper like 3.11.

Richie Rump: Hot dog theme, that’s what it is.

Brent Ozar: Oh my god, the hot dog theme is correct. So for those of you who ever get out in the community if you ever get the chance to Erland Sommarskog speak, Erland Sommarskog is a presenter in the SQL Server community and he usually uses the hot dog theme on his desktop. It’s just awesome. Comic Sans everywhere, pastel colors.

Tara Kizer: That would drive me crazy.

 

How often should I patch my SQL Server?

Brent Ozar: Adam asks, “What do you guys recommend for patching? What is a good balance of staying up to date with SQL Server patches while not just being on the hamster wheel continuously and doing constant updates? How often do you recommend patching SQL Servers?”

Tara Kizer: So based upon these large corporations that I’ve worked with, most of them want to do monthly patches. As the person who has to do the patches, I don’t want to do monthly patches because it is painful when you have to do 100 servers, 700 servers. We had a lot of servers that had to be patched. It wouldn’t just be one person having to do all this patching, it would have to be a team of people. It was disruptive. There was always some issue on some server that patches would not work, maybe failovers weren’t working that day. There was always some issue. It was just painful. It took way too much time. I wanted to do quarterly but large enterprises want to ensure that their environments are secure. Now, that goes against what I just said about SQL Server 2005 and not having security hotfixes—and these are the same corporations I’m talking about. But yeah, as one of the people on the patching team, I did not want to do it monthly. I would much prefer quarterly. Oracle doesn’t do monthly. Or, I should say, Oracle teams don’t do it monthly. I don’t mean just one company. It’s very common for them to do quarterly or twice a year. Why is it so important on Microsoft? I mean I realize it’s because of all the bugs there are as far as security goes.

Erik Darling: The really good thing about quarterly patches too is that it gives you some time to apply them to a development environment and let them burn it and make sure that they don’t do anything too funky. Because you know a lot of times a patch will get released and within the first 24 hours a lot of people will be raising their hands like, “It broke something.” So it gives you time to test things out as well. Quarterly is a good span of time to run across something awful.

Tara Kizer: Yeah, one of the companies I worked for, the patches came out on Tuesdays, “Patch Tuesdays” was what everyone called it for Microsoft patches. Then by Thursday we had to have installed, in production. I mean that was very aggressive. We ended up switching it to the following Tuesday, but still, it’s still very aggressive.

Erik Darling: So was that the “see you next Tuesday?”

Tara Kizer: Yeah. I mean, yeah, they’ve been installed in a test environment and maybe there’s some automated testing that has occurred on those, but that’s not enough time to burn those patches in.

Brent Ozar: That would suck.

Erik Darling: That’s horrible.

 

Should I use Desired State Configuration for SQL Server?

Brent Ozar: Graham says he’s trying to move to DSC, Desired State Configuration for SQL Server upgrades and migrations. I haven’t seen anybody successfully use DSC for SQL Server. Stack was trying to use it and failed. They had to give up on it and they have really bright PowerShell guys over there. I don’t think it’s quite there yet for SQL Server. It makes total sense for Windows, just not quite there yet for SQL Server.

Tara Kizer: I’ve never even heard of that.

Brent Ozar: The idea is you programmatically declare what you want the server to end up as and then Windows takes care of patching, installing the right features and getting it to that point for you. It’s not quite there.

Tara Kizer: Isn’t that what System Center Configuration Manager does? I mean it just knows what you’re missing.

Brent Ozar: Yeah, except you’re also supposed to be able to declare in code the whole state you want to get to, server names, what IIS tools you have installed, SQL Server features, where you turn things on and off. Yeah, it’s pretty tough.

 

Thanks for putting the Everything Bundle on sale

Brent Ozar: Lakshmi says, “Thank you, I just made my manager purchase the Everything Bundle from your training. Hope I can learn much more from there.” Well what are you doing on our free webcast? Go over to the good stuff. Here we’re just answering questions. These people don’t know what they’re doing. Go learn the good things. No, but thank you for picking that up. That’s awesome. We have a good time building that stuff.

 

Why does the Database Tuning Advisor only tell me to drop indexes?

Brent Ozar: Anker says, “Hi, I’m using the database tuning advisor in SQL Server 2014 for recommendations but it’s only giving me drop index recommendations.” [Laughter]… listen, I was trying to keep a straight face while asking this question. “Does the DTA ever provide any index suggestions too?”

[Laughter]

Tara Kizer: Why are you using DTA?

Brent Ozar: So why should he not use the DTA?

Erik Darling: DTA is craaaaazy.

Brent Ozar: How else are you going to get those?

Erik Darling: We have a tool called sp_BlitzIndex which is very helpful for finding missing index requests. There are some differences between it and DTA. Missing index requests are fueled by a process in the query optimization process called index matching. The stuff in the DMVs that gets logged is per query. The stuff that DTA logs is per workload. So you might have something in your settings that’s not giving you missing index requests for your workload that you can do both and you can click a bunch of stuff where you want suggestions, even for index views I found out recently. So that’s the difference between what they each do. But if it is only generating drop index recommendations and you have missing index recommendations enabled, I would really like to see what comes out of sp_BlitzIndex for you because that’s a wild time.

Richie Rump: Yeah, I have a blogpost that I was working on and it introduces a script that prevents the DTA indexes from being created.

Brent Ozar: So the blogpost, I don’t think it’s gone live yet.

Richie Rump: No, I was working on it. I haven’t loaded it yet. Still writing it. But the script is—I wrote the script. The script is great.

 

Nice video on the Dell DBA Days blog post

Brent Ozar: Greg Smith says, “Great video on the Dell DBA Days blogpost today.” We’re excited about that. We’ll all be down in Round Rock sweating through our shirts in August. We’re going to try and stay in the air conditioning.

Richie Rump: What else is new, Brent?

Brent Ozar:          What else is new.

 

What would you say to a manager who wants…

Erik Darling: There’s a really good question up top, if you don’t mind.

Brent Ozar: Oh yeah, who asked?

Erik Darling: It’s a Scott Kelly question. “What would you say to a manager that says they need an active/active HA solution but has no idea what that means?”

[Laughter]

Erik Darling: I think the most diplomatic way to handle that is to ask them to sketch out what that would look like and provide a budget for it. Then go from there because—just don’t walk into your manager and say, “You don’t know what that means.” Ask them to spend some time sketching it out, you know, a Visio diagram or just a whiteboard of what it would look like and how much he thinks it would cost. That’s where I would go from there if I was in your shoes.

Tara Kizer: This is a topic that I had to deal with a few times at one of the companies. Every few years management would be like, “We want to do active/active.” So every single time, we would go to the vendors and say, “What can we do to make this happen?” Here comes the price tag and we’d send it to management and they’d say, “Oh no, never mind.” It is very expensive. We’re talking two million dollars probably.
Erik Darling: In hardware, not just licensing.

Tara Kizer: Yeah, exactly. That’s several years ago last time I looked at it.

Brent Ozar: And Graham, if you get our download pack, if you go to BrentOzar.com and click First Aid up at the top, we have a download pack. We have a high availability and disaster recovery worksheet in there that helps you sketch out how much data you’re willing to lose, how long you’re allowed to be down for. One of the options is a zero/zero failover solution. It’s a million bucks and up. So just be honest and talk through it with the manager. The other thing I’d ask the manager is, “What’s driving that? What is that’s making you want that?” It may just be that they want cost savings or whatever and I’d say, “All right, so can you introduce me to someone else you’ve worked with at one of your past places who can help us design that?”

“Well, I’ve never worked with anything…”

“Oh, me neither. Sounds like it’s a good time for me to go to training.”

 

Are a lot of companies running SQL Server on Windows Core?

Brent Ozar: Let’s see. I had another question in here. Tom asks, “From what your team is seeing, have many companies started using Core installations yet? Windows Core.” Have you any of you guys seen SQL Server on Windows Core yet?

Erik Darling: Nada.

Tara Kizer: I started playing with it as far as what we would have to do to install everything and what does a database team need to learn. But this was back on 2008 Core and it wasn’t very good.

Richie Rump: Yeah.

Tara Kizer: Yeah, so we abandoned it and I’m sure that company is now using Windows Core because we really wanted to get to that to do Microsoft patching because there’s a lot less to patch on Windows Core than there is on the full versions.

Richie Rump: Yeah, same thing here. Where I was at a company and they were testing it. The IT folks really wanted to go Core and the DBAs were like, “Whoa, wait a second. I don’t know how to handle some of this stuff.’” They tested it and they were like, “Maybe not.” So, they abandoned it.

Tara Kizer: Was it Windows 2008 Core where it first was released?

Brent Ozar: Yeah, I think so.

Tara Kizer: Yeah. It was terrible. We were researching how to set like lock pages in memory via code. All of these things that you have to do on the database server when you need to set up a SQL Server. Once it’s there, you probably have some PowerShell stuff. But back then, it was just painful. I mean we figured it all out, but we decided we just didn’t want to support it yet so we were waiting for Windows 2012 Core.

Brent Ozar: If I remember right on 2008 Core you also had to enable TCP/IP through the SQL Server configuration manager. And even that [inaudible 00:25:39] goes through the GUI so.

Tara Kizer: Yeah.

 

Do we have to pay for the First Responder Kit?

Brent Ozar: Anker says, “Hi, I love using your scripts from the First Responder Kit. I want to use them in production to get performance recommendations but my manager stopped me in doing so after reading the license agreement of yours. Do we have to buy it from you?” No, it’s totally free. In fact, if you go to firstresponderkit.org it has the open source license on there. When you go to firstrepsonderkit.org go click on the GitHub link at the top right. It has a license that’s very normal for open source products. You are free to use it in any capacity that you want to use it as long as you keep that copyright in there. If you try to for example bundle it into a paid product and you don’t include that node of where it came from, then it gets a little sketchy but you can use it for—if you want to take over the world with SQL Server using Service Broker and linked servers, whatever you want to use it for, go knock yourself out.

 

How do I grant access to stored procedures for low-privilege users?

Brent Ozar: Nate says—this will be the last one that we take because he says, as soon as I see a question that says, “I don’t know if you have time left,” that means I probably should have read it before I do it. It says, “When I was a young boy…” He says, no, “If I had a stored proc that needs to be executed with a low level user but requires higher permissions and I don’t want to get the low level user…” He wants to give people access to run stored procedures but they need to be peons. What does he need to do? If you go to BrentOzar.com/AskBrent, that sounds like it’s an advice column. It’s not, it’s about a stored procedure but it has a little instruction on there on how you use certificates in order to grant permissions to users to run stuff. Really simple. Sounds horrifying but it’s super simple. That certificate word sounds awful.

Erik Darling: We’re probably going to change that URL at some point now, huh?

Brent Ozar: At some point I need to move all the rest of the documentation over there because people are going to go, “What do you mean Ask Brent? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Erik Darling: Yeah. Which one?

[Laughter]

Brent Ozar: You changed your name on here too now.

Erik Darling: I did, magic.

Brent Ozar: Oh my goodness. Wow. We look professional. Well thanks everybody for hanging out with us. We’ll see you guys next week at Office Hours. Bye, everybody.

Erik Darling: Bye-bye.

New Windows Clustering Course for SQL Server DBAs by Edwin Sarmiento

WSFC-SQL-LogoThe SQL Server community has been waiting a long time for an in-depth Windows clustering course on current versions of Windows.

See, AlwaysOn Availability Groups as well as good ol’ Failover Clustered Instances both rely on Windows clustering in order to manage uptime. If you’re going to do an AG or an FCI, you gotta know Windows.

Edwin Sarmiento, a well-respected cluster expert, has brought out an online course, and it’s big. I’m hearing great things about it from folks I know who have gone through it.

Go check out the launch specials he’s running. He’s been running deals that include his HA/DR deep dive course, Personal Lab course, and Azure HA/DR Hybrid Solutions course. If you’re doing clustering, you should go take a look.

Updated High Availability and Disaster Recovery Planning Worksheet

One of the most popular things in our First Responder Kit is our HA/DR planning worksheet. Here’s page one:

Page 1 - how our servers are doing now, and what the business wants

Page 1 – how our servers are doing now, versus what the business wants

In the past, we had three columns on this worksheet – HA, DR, and Oops Deletes. In this new version, we changed “Oops” Deletes to “Oops” Queries to make it clear that sometimes folks just update parts of a table, or they drop an entire database. We also added a column for corruption (since your protection & recovery options are different than they are for Oops moments).

When people first see this worksheet, they usually scoff and say, “The business is going to tell me we never want to lose data, and we’re never allowed to go down.” No problem – that’s where the second page of the worksheet comes in:

RPO/RTO cost range estimates

RPO/RTO cost range estimates

Find the amount of data you’re willing to lose on the left side, and the amount of downtime you’re willing to tolerate across the top. Where the boxes match up, that’s a rough price range of the solution.

In this version, we added an asterisk to a lot of supposedly synchronous solutions aren’t – for example, Always On Availability Groups don’t actually guarantee zero data loss. I still keep that sort of thing in zero data loss because most of the time, it’s zero data loss, but you just need to understand it’s not a guarantee.

I like printing those two pages front and back on the same piece of paper because it helps management understand that requirements and costs are two sides of the same coin. It’s management’s job to pick the right box (price range), and then it’s IT’s job to build a more detailed estimate for the costs inside the box. The third and final page of the worksheet breaks out the feature differences for each HA/DR option.

If you’re one of the tens of thousands of folks who’s signed up for email alerts whenever we update our First Responder Kit, then you’ve already got an email this week with these new changes. If not, head on over and pick it up now.

How to Contribute Code to the SQL Server First Responder Kit (Github)

So you’d like to fix a bug or contribute code to the First Responder Kit, but you’re new to Github. Let’s get started.

1. Open a new issue on Github.

Go to the Github issues list for this repo, and start a new issue. Here’s the example that I’m going to work on today:

Example of a Github issue

Example of a Github issue

In the issue title, put the name of the script, and some basic details so someone can see at a glance what’s going on.

In the body of the issue, put as much details as you can including:

  • Description of the symptom
  • What you wanted the code to do
  • What it actually did instead
  • Ideally, how you want to fix it

And submit the issue. If you’re going to work on it yourself, assign yourself to it if you have the permissions. (If you don’t, join the Slack channel, then hop in and ask.)

2. Get the Github issue number.

After you add the issue, the number will be in the title, and at the end of the URL:

Getting the Github issue number

Getting the Github issue number – here, #324

Now it’s time to work on some code!

3. Download the repository.

First, get a Github account and install the Github desktop app. While this can all theoretically be done through the web, it’s a bit painful.

Then go to the First Responder Kit’s page, and click the Clone or Download button at the bottom right of this screenshot:

Download the repository

Download the repository

That will open your Github app and let you pick where to save the files locally.

4. Make sure you’re in the dev branch, and sync it.

There are multiple active branches – you want to start in the dev branch where pre-release fixes are happening. If you start in the master branch (release), you’re likely to be working with older code, and your changes will get rejected.

Here’s my Github app:

Get in the dev branch and sync it

Get in the dev branch and sync it

At the top left of my screenshot, there’s a dropdown for branches – mine says dev. Make sure yours does too, and then click Sync at the far right:

Dev, Sync

Dev, Sync

5. Create a branch for your code.

In the Github desktop app, click on the new-branch button right next to the dev dropdown:

Creating a branch

Creating a branch

For the name, use the issue number from Github, plus a slash and your name. This indicates that it’s your code for that particular issue – remember that other people may end up working on this same issue.

Make sure you’re branching from dev, not master.

6. Write your code, test it, and check it in.

For code guidelines, check out the CONTRIBUTING.md file in the repo.

Test your code against a case-sensitive instance of SQL Server 2008 and 2016, the oldest and newest supported versions. Other testers will also repeat your work, and automated testing will kick in later, but trust me, you want to do a sanity check first. Don’t get your pants pulled down in public.

Then click on the “1 Uncommitted Change” button at the top of the Github desktop (and there may be multiple changed files) and review your changes. They’re color-coded as to which lines have been removed from scripts, and which lines have been added.

Only check in changes and files that relate to your issue. If you accidentally changed a file that you didn’t mean to, in the Github app, right-click on that file name and click Discard Changes.

Checking in your fix

Checking in your fix

At the bottom left is your check-in title and description.

The title should:

  • Start with the issue number, like #324 – this is Github magic to link to an issue
  • Include the names of the files that were changed – this is helpful to others when they’re scanning a long list of titles of check-ins
  • A brief description of the issue

Then click Commit, and click Publish at the top right to sync your changes with the rest of the world. This doesn’t merge your code with the toxic sewer that is the dev branch just yet – you’re still on an island by yourself, but at least other people can get to your code.

7. Announce that your code is ready for testing.

Go back to your Github issue, and add a comment (don’t close it) that says you’re ready for testing. Include any notes on how people can reproduce the issue, or know that your code works.

Ready for testing

Ready for testing

In the Labels dropdown on the right side, add the label ReadyToTest so folks can find your work easier.

Someone else has to test your code before it gets merged into the main branch, so it’s in your best interest to make it as easy and friendly as possible for someone to know that your code works.

8. Ready to merge? Add a pull request.

After someone else has tested your code, and you’re both happy that it works, open the Github app and click Pull Request at the top right:

Creating a pull request

Creating a pull request

The check-in title and description will flow into here automatically, and click Send Pull Request. The maintainers will take a look at it and make sure things are kosher.

Stuff you don’t have to do

Release notes and changelog – you’ll notice that the top of each script has a changelog, version number, date, and release notes. Those are added when we consolidate a group of pull requests into a single release.

Documentation – if you don’t feel like writing it, that’s totally okay. We’re happy just to get code in at least, and we understand that the kinds of folks who write code don’t always overlap with the kinds of folks who like to write documentation. If you write things like a new check for new SQL Server problems, just know that we may not merge your code in with the dev branch until it’s also been documented.

For questions about the process, hop into the Slack channel. If you’re not already a member, sign up here. And thanks!

Announcing Dell DBA Days 2016: The SQL

This August, we’re goin’ back to Texas.

Last year, we flew the team out to Round Rock, Dell’s HQ, and ran all kinds of SQL Server experiments in their hardware labs. We broadcasted a whole bunch of webcasts live on the net for you to watch and see what we learned.

This year, we’re going back again, and the lineup includes sessions on:

  • How to Measure SQL Server
  • The Unbearable Lightness of BEGIN
  • Downtime Train
  • Performance Overhead of TDE, Query Store, BPE
  • And everybody’s favorite from last year: Watch SQL Server Break and Explode

Head on over and register now for free. Space is limited!

Well, That Sucked: Laying Off Half the Company

Company retreat, 2016

Company retreat, 2016

I always wanna be honest with you, dear reader, and let you see how running a lil’ consulting shop goes. It’s been fun sharing a lot of our happy growing moments along the way. This one, though, is a lot less fun to share.

Yesterday, we had to let go of Angie, Doug, and Jessica.

The background: we basically sell emergency room services for SQL Server, and we’ve consistently been backlogged with work. In early 2015, we figured that me doing sales was holding the company back. If we hired a salesperson, we believed we’d be able to acquire more customers faster, and sell more work to past customers. So we hired Jessica, and staffed up on consultants.

This year, we’ve learned that a salesperson can’t really bring in more emergency room work (seems obvious in retrospect, but we were hoping for followup work), so I had to make a tough decision. I had to right-size the company back to where we’re regularly busy, maybe even turning some work away, just to make sure that we’re profitable overall. The training side of the business is still doing really well, and the company overall isn’t in trouble – but it would have been soon.

I’m bummed out, obviously, because it’s a failure on my part. These people are my friends, and I wanted to build a place where they could thrive for the rest of their working careers if they so chose. I’d always heard it’s tough to bridge the chasm between a 3-FTE consulting shop and a 10-FTE one, and now I really understand why.

Wanna keep in touch with them? Here’s their emails:

  • Angie Rudduck in Portland, Oregon – if you’re looking for an incredibly upbeat, fast-learning junior DBA or SQL Server support person, I’d highly recommend Angie. She did a great job streamlining our backup/recovery/CHECKDB education process.
  • Doug Lane in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – want to make your SQL Server faster, fast? Doug has been doing high end performance tuning for the last few years, and he’d be a huge asset to any SQL Server shop that needs a DBA who can build bridges between developers and SQL Server.
  • Jessica Connors in Chicago, Illinois – in the database world, salespeople often have a reputation for being slimy, but Jessica is totally different. She listens to your pains and matches you up with the right relief. She was a pleasure to work with.

The Top 10 Feature Requests for SQL Server on Connect.Microsoft.com

When a man loves a woman very much, he goes to Connect.Microsoft.com and upvotes her feature requests. I was curious to see what requests were resonating the most with folks, so I went through the list of feature requests sorted by votes:

1. Please fix the “String or binary data would be truncated” message to give the column name – by DWalker, 1136 upvotes. This one is a classic, and good news! On June 17th, Microsoft’s David Shiflet left a comment that developers are motivated to make improvements, and they’re discussing options for the new error message.

2. Add native support for JSON, as in FOR JSON or FROM OPENJSON – by Bret_M_Lowery, 1111 upvotes. This one’s actually already added in SQL Server 2016, but the Connect item isn’t closed yet.

Connect-logo-New

3. Add Visual Studio 2013 support to SSDT-BI – by David McClelland, 731 upvotes. I don’t know enough about SSDT-BI to know where this is at.

4. Add full justification in Reporting Services – by inDigeniCa, 653 upvotes. Lots of angry comments on this one, and doesn’t appear to be making headway.

5. New virtual table “errors” like the deleted and inserted tables – by danholmes, 593 upvotes. Given that the MERGE statement is pretty rough, a virtual “errors” table that we could use in triggers would be really handy.

6. OVER clause enhancement request – DISTINCT clause for aggregate functions – by Itzik Ben-Gan, 514 upvotes. Started back in 2007, there haven’t been a lot of comments on this one, just folks upvoting it.

7. Scalar user-defined function performance is bad – by Andrew Novick, 510 upvotes. I’ve seen so many companies burned badly by this when they encapsulated code in reusable functions without knowing it causes queries to go single-threaded.

8. CREATE OR REPLACE syntax – by BAnVA, 463 upvotes. Unfortunately, the details page link errors out for me on Connect at the moment, but I’m guessing the comments point to SQL 2016’s new drop-if-exists syntax. I would argue that that’s no replacement, but I gotta hand it to Microsoft that they did take a relative action on it.

9. Expand synonym to other entities (database, linked server) – by Aaron Bertrand, 409 upvotes. Synonyms are slick tools that let you move a table to another database, leave a synonym behind, and let your app keep right on trucking without noticing.

10. Regex functionality in pattern matching – by Simon Sabin, 402 upvotes. Regular expressions are powerful ways of doing text matching. I’ve seen folks roll their own with CLR code.

If the highly-voted Connect items are what shape the next version of SQL Server, it’s time to exercise your voting finger. Check out the rankings and make your voice heard. Microsoft is listening – and if you want proof, check out this month’s release of SSMS. Those developers are on fire fixing Connect requests.

We’re open-sourcing the sp_Blitz* scripts.

We’re proud to announce that our First Responder Kit is now on Github, and it now uses the MIT open source license.

What This Means for Users

Good news: it’s still free, and now it’ll be updated even more often. If you’re subscribed to update notifications, we’ll still email you monthly when we release new versions.

Today, we’re not announcing a new release – because we’re in the midst of testing a whole bunch of breaking changes:

  • Parameter names are now all @PascalCase with no underscores. (They used to vary between procs.)
  • Parameter functions are more consistent – here’s the documentation. Right now, this documentation page is kinda long and unwieldy, and we’ll be splitting that up too over time.
  • sp_AskBrent is about to be renamed – although I have no idea what to call it, and I’ll ask for your help on that one in tomorrow’s blog post.

If you want a stable, high-quality set of code, get the latest release zip. Don’t work with the source code directly unless you’re in a testing environment, because it will break.

What This Means for Consultants and Software Companies

Our prior copyright license said you couldn’t install this on servers you don’t own. We’d had a ton of problems with consultants and software vendors handing out outdated or broken versions of our scripts, and then coming to us for support.

Now, it’s a free-for-all! If you find the scripts useful, go ahead and use ’em. Include sp_Blitz, sp_BlitzCache, sp_BlitzIndex, etc as part of your deployments for easier troubleshooting.

What This Means for Contributors

The contribution process is now way easier:

  • Search Github issues to see if anyone has requested the feature you’re considering (including closed issues, because sometimes we close stuff that isn’t a good fit for these scripts)
  • Create a new Github issue so other users can discuss your proposed changes
  • Fork the project to a local copy – this gives you your own working version that you can test locally
  • Test your work on case-sensitive instances – ideally, on at least the oldest and newest supported versions of SQL Server (today, 2008 and 2016)
  • Create a pull request to offer your code back up into the public repo, and moderators will test your code

Bonus: if you’re working towards Microsoft MVP status, you can include open source contributions in your list of community activities. Since these tools are now open source, you get more credit for your work.

Head on over to the Github SQL Server First Responder Kit project, and if you’re interested in watching what happens, click the Watch button at the top right. You’ll get emails as people add issues and create pull requests.

Wanna talk about it live? Join SQLServer.slack.com, and we’re in the #FirstResponderKit channel.

SSMS 2016: It Just Runs More Awesomely

Step 1: configure SSMS to only show file names on the tabs. Click Tools, Options, Text Editor, Editor Tab and Status Bar, and set all of the tab texts to false except file name. After all, not like all this stuff fits on the tab.

SSMS tab name configuration

Step 1: SSMS tab name configuration

Step 2: while you’re in Tools, Options, click on Tabs and Windows. Check the box for “Show pinned tabs in a separate row.”

Step 2: Put pinned tabs in a separate row

Step 2: Put pinned tabs in a separate row

Step 3: start new windows for your favorite utility queries, and save them with the right names. For example, I have a window open just for sp_WhoIsActive, so I save that as sp_WhoIsActive.sql. It doesn’t actually have the sp_WhoIsActive CODE in that window, just a simple EXEC sp_WhoIsActive.

Then pin those tabs – click the little pin on those windows, and voila, they show up in their own row:

Presto - named, pinned tabs in their own row

Presto – named, pinned tabs in their own row

Go get SSMS 2016. It just runs more awesomely.

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