May 232016
 

vmworld_2016I am extremely proud to announce my participation in the inaugural SQL Server workshop at this year’s VMworld US in Last Vegas on August 27th. If your SQL Servers are running in a VMware environment, this course is critical to your success!

The first business critical applications and databases pre-conference workshop will cover all pertinent aspects of best practices for deployments and ongoing management of MS SQL Server running in virtualized infrastructure. This deep-dive full-day workshop will be delivered by VMware technical SQL Server specialists working in concert with world renowned external SQL Server and Virtualization experts, including me! The attendee will experience a workshop rich with technical content to include subjects such as vMotion for Failover Cluster Instances, Availability groups, SQLaaS with vRealize Automation and Site Recovery Manager. The content will be focused on best practices for design, implementation and management augmented with anecdotes of successful customer implementations.

SQL Server professionals, listen up. If your infrastructure admins are attending VMworld this year, please let them know about this course. Training them in the intricacies of the VMware platform as it relates to SQL Server, and having the training come from SQL Server professionals, is going to make your virtualization experience better.

Register for VMworld here!

AND – It’s not just SQL Server! A terrific Oracle on VMware session is being held on the same day as well. If you are running Oracle on VMware, I highly recommend your administrators head to this session as well!

May 122016
 

SQL-GG-Side-CoverI’m pleased to announce the general availability of a new free ebook collaboration with James Green from ActualTech Media called “Modern Storage Strategies for SQL Server“.  Storage is so vitally important to SQL Server performance, but the intricacies of one side’s administrators are rarely known by the other. My goal for this ebook was to set out to educate SQL Server professionals on how the storage underneath their data actually operates, how to work with the storage administrators on topics specific to SQL Server, and show them how they can make the most of it to improve the performance and availability of their databases.

In This Gorilla Guide You’ll Learn:

  • The basics of SQL Server and database workload characteristics
  • Key considerations for storage architecture with regard to SQL Server
  • Useful tips for protecting SQL Server from disasters
  • Best practices for leveraging flash storage for SQL Server
  • How to modernize SQL Server by taking advantage of the latest updates to the platform

Download this free ebook today! Let me know what you think!

May 102016
 

PASS_VC_VirtualizationTomorrow I’ll be presenting a new session for the PASS Virtualization Virtual Chapter called “Virtual SQL Servers, Actual Performancetomorrow at 1PM Eastern time. Register for this free webinar today!

Presentation abstract: Virtualizing your business-critical SQL Servers should not imply that they will run slower than if they were physical. When properly architected and managed, virtual SQL Servers should be equally as fast as their physical counterparts, if not faster. However, if not properly constructed, silent and seemingly random performance killers can strike and significantly hurt your database performance.

This session is packed with many tips and tricks gained from years of experience for getting the most performance from your virtual SQL Servers. The major roadblocks to performance will be discussed and the knowledge gained will help you work with your infrastructure engineers so you can optimize the system stack for performance. Tools, techniques, and processes will be demonstrated to help you measure and validate the system performance of the key components underneath your data.

May 052016
 

sqlsatiowacity2016I’m pleased to announce that I’m launching my next round of all-day precon training session at the upcoming SQL Saturday in Iowa City on 6/10/2016 called ‘The Complete Primer to SQL Server Infrastructure‘.

The focus of the course is to help those new to the enterprise server infrastructure concepts become familiar with the concept and purposes of each layer of the architecture around their databases, and how this knowledge can benefit them as data professionals. Participants will gain exposure to all layers of infrastructure and virtualization underneath SQL Server, from storage all the way through to the SQL Server instance, and will learn how to review and engineer the entire stack with a strong emphasis on SQL Server performance.

The following topics will be addressed during the course:

  • Datacenter Fundamentals
  • Infrastructure Stack Fundamentals
  • Storage and SAN Concepts and Design
  • Networking and Interconnect Topologies
  • Physical Server Technologies
  • The SQL Server Virtual Machine
  • High Availability and Disaster Recovery
  • Performance Investigation and Tuning of the Entire Stack

A working set of the screens and configuration settings referenced in the session, together with the reference slides and documentation, will be provided to attendees, for strategic reference in working with SQL Server and the infrastructure underneath in their own environments.

I am really happy to be delivering this precon, and look forward to seeing you all there! Reserve your seat at this exciting event at EventBrite here. Tickets are available at just $125!

May 012016
 

SQL-Server-2012As Bala Narasimhan from PernixData and I discussed in a webinar last week, SQL Server 2005 hit end of it’s extended support life on April 12th of this year. Any existing SQL Server 2005 instances should be first and foremost in an IT organization’s agenda for modernization this year. If you still have 2005 instances in your environment, the organization is now at risk. If undiscovered bugs or other issues come out of nowhere and cause trouble, your only course of action is to upgrade. So, why wait? Start the process now!

If you need ammunition to help convince your organization about the need to upgrade, just look at the lack of official support. That fact alone should be enough to push the organization to upgrade. If you need additional help, take a solid look at all of the new and compelling features included in SQL Server since 2005!

As discussed in the webinar, a thorough checklist should be developed and scrutinized to help an organization through the upgrade process. Following such a checklist can help you identify and remediate any challenges that might come from the upgrade process.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s my personal high-level checklist of things to watch out for, and feel free to add to this checklist anything that matters to you and your organization.

  • Migration process
    • Side-by-side migrations are generally better than in-place upgrades.
    • In-place upgrades leave few roll-back strategies other than VM snapshots, while side-by-side migrations give you the chance to practice the migration and explore test copies of the application to look for any functionality changes.
    • Older installations of SQL Server 2005 could be 32-bit, or the Windows OS version could be 32-bit as well. Migrations help you finally get to 64-bit stacks and leave 32-bit in the dust.
    • What is your upgrade path? Backup and restore? Detach and attach? Replication? Log shipping? Determine your SLAs and select a migration strategy that fits the available migration window.
  • Target instance
    • Is the new SQL Server instance going to be out of support soon? Is it as current as either the organization, licensing, or application allows? Is it fully patched?
    • Can the target hardware (and hopefully virtualization layer) handle the features you intend to use? For example, In-Memory OLTP has higher than expected hardware recommendations, and your target hardware needs to live up to these expectations or else it might artificially hold back performance.
  • Performance expectations
    • Do you have ongoing performance baselines and benchmarks from the current SQL Servers to use for a performance comparison of the target environment?
    • Have you stress tested the target platform to determine if it can handle your workloads? Synthetic workload testing is a great place to start, but real-world testing can help you validate or rule out that the target platform will suffice.
  • Code upgrade
    • Have you performed a high level check of the code with the SQL Server Upgrade Advisor? It helps you review the code for anything that it may find that could break as part of the upgrade process that you should fix ahead of the upgrade.
    • What about SSIS packages, SSRS reports, and SSAS process?
    • Do you have any unnecessary garbage inside the database that is being migrated? For example, look for unused indexes, log or temp tables, or anything else that could be cleaned up before you migrate the database.
  • Application changes
    • Read the release notes for the target version of SQL Server. Then read them again.
    • Have you read the ‘breaking changes‘ and ‘behavioral changes‘ sections of Books Online? These documents contain great insight into any behavioral or other expected functionality in the engine that could change as part of the upgrade.
    • Is the application able to use the latest version of the connection libraries? For example, do you need to upgrade the SQL Native Client or ODBC drivers to take advantage of new SQL Server features?
    • Are any items in the new instances changing expected behavior of items such as query execution plans, ETL processes, long-running tasks, etc.? These can be identified well in advance with the test instance and validation processes.
    • Verify that the application functions as normal after updating the database compatibility level to current. Beware the 2014 cardinality estimator improvements, as occasionally I find applications that respond poorly to the changes and should be set to 2012 compatibility to maintain performance.
  • Upgrade process
    • Perform the upgrade process as normal, and validate that things appear as normal.
    • Once completed, perform the following tasks:
      • Check all logs (SQL Server error log, Agent error log, cluster log (if applicable), Windows event logs, and any virtualization logs to ensure that nothing of importance is lurking.
      • Run DBCC CHECKDB WITH DATA_PURITY to help with any database that has been migrated forward since the bronze age by checking for values that are not valid for the table column datatypes.
      • Change the database compatibility level to current (or as high as you can go).
      • Rebuild all user database indexes and statistics. You may need to even go as far as updating statistics WITH FULLSCAN.
      • Execute a DBCC UPDATEUSAGE to correct any borked page and row counts.
      • Take a backup!

In addition to the technicalities of the migration process, step back a bit and look at the entire architecture around the data. Is it time to revisit any areas of the design? Is the HA architecture overly complicated and Availability Groups can help simplify the design and reduce management overhead? Do we look at consolidating databases or instances? Is it virtualized? Is it time to check out Azure SQL DB or an Azure VM for hosting this data in the cloud? What databases exist on these instances that have not been accessed in years?

Take the time to revisit these architectural decisions as part of the upgrade process. It will usually simplify your architecture, reduce the management overhead, improve availability, and increase agility in the datacenter. The business wins and you can sleep more soundly at night!

Apr 222016
 

Next week I am participating in two exciting webinars that I want to share with you!

ScaleArc WebinarImprove App Uptime: Tips from MVP David Klee + Customer Case Study with ScaleArc
April 26 – 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern

Application availability is an “across the stack” problem – straddling the app tier, database, virtualization, and cloud infrastructure. DBAs, IT ops, and architects must do more to improve app uptime, particularly at the database tier, where failovers and maintenance cycles disrupt the app, impacting the customer experience.

Attend this webinar with Mouser Electronics’ Director of IT Operations Mark Price and me. Together, we’ll share their expertise on:

– Enhancements in clustering and Availability Groups
– Why these solutions can’t enable seamless failover
– How database-level buffering and acceleration improve app availability
– What IT can do across the stack to improve the customer experience

Get your questions answered on this live event – register here.

Next we’re going to talk about the reasons and challenges around upgrading to the latest versions of SQL Server with PernixData.

PernixLogo_smAvoiding Landmines when Upgrading to SQL Server vNext
April 27 – 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern

Upgrading to SQL Server 2014 and beyond gives you new levels of performance and flexibility. This is especially true if you are still on SQL Server 2005, which will no longer be supported by Microsoft as of April 12th, 2016.

But are you aware of the landmines that come with such an upgrade? Going in blind can cost you substantial time and money, which your business cannot afford.

Join this interactive video webinar where PernixData’s Bala Narasimhan and I will discuss how you can navigate the top challenges of a SQL Server upgrade, specifically:

– How to optimize storage to avoid database performance hits
– How to minimize SQL server licensing costs during (and after) an upgrade
– How to go virtual without sacrificing SQL Server performance
– Low cost options for in-memory computing

The webcast will feature a live Q&A. Register now or request an on-demand recording.

For more information, click here.

PASS_VC_VirtualizationAlso, on May 11th I’m presenting a new session called ‘Virtual SQL Servers, Actual Performance‘ to the PASS Virtualization virtual chapter.

Virtualizing your business-critical SQL Servers should not imply that they will run slower than if they were physical. When properly architected and managed, virtual SQL Servers should be equally as fast as their physical counterparts, if not faster. However, if not properly constructed, silent and seemingly random performance killers can strike and significantly hurt your database performance. This session is packed with many tips and tricks gained from years of experience for getting the most performance from your virtual SQL Servers. The major roadblocks to performance will be discussed and the knowledge gained will help you work with your infrastructure engineers so you can optimize the system stack for performance. Tools, techniques, and processes will be demonstrated to help you measure and validate the system performance of the key components underneath your data.

RSVP for this webinar today, and be sure to bring your questions!